Monday, August 31, 2020

The Great 2020 NYC Teacher Strike - Or Not - August 31 Edition - NO STRIKE RESO AT EB

Norm here - Monday August 31, 2020 - 8 PM - Phew - I've been updating all day so don't notice the meandering mess of this post. I'm sure new info will be coning in constantly.

The UFT Executive Board did not vote for a strike today - we got an inkling in an earlier report: MAYOR TALKS UFT STRIKE AT PRESSER; LAYOFFS OF CITY WORKERS ON PAUSE FOR NOW

This just in:
The UFT Executive Board gives the union leadership the authority to continue negotiations with City Hall and the DOE on a school opening plan that meets the safety criteria set forth by independent medical experts; or, if negotiations fail, to bring a strike authorization vote to the Delegate Assembly on Sept. 1 starting at 3:30.
They are going to give negotiations another day. Maybe they can get air freshioners -- you know those little Xmas tree things you put in your car. I can see someone running in at 3:29 with a deal.

Read Arthur's EB report:

Still Negotiating, but UFT Can Ask for Strike Authorization Tomorrow

So -  the Delegate Assembly will meet tomorrow and depending on ongoing talks with de Blasio, may vote on a strike reso tomorrow. 

Don't hold your breath but if there is one, with Unity Caucus control and the support of the opposition, which is salivating at the idea of a strike, these votes are a slam dunk. James Eterno's headline yesterday had the essence: ICEUFTBLOG PREDICTS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR JOB ACTION AT UFT EXECUTIVE BOARD AND DA THAT MIGHT NOT SAY MUCH ABOUT WHERE THE UFT MEMBERSHIP IS AT ON THE ISSUE

But if I had to bet, I say NYET - Yes, Putin interferes in UFT affairs too.

And this just in from

The latest post from MORE which definitely wants to strike:
Contact Tracers: Reopening Schools Will Endanger NYC Communities Again - New York City Test & Trace Corps workers stand in solidarity with the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) in their refusal to return to schools
Prematurely reopening schools will undoubtedly lead to spikes in infections across our communities, including among teachers and school staff who are tasked with in-person responsibilities. For us in the Test & Trace Corps, reopening schools could potentially lead to an increased rate of transmission that would effectively reverse the progress we have made in this City... The city’s current plan to reopen schools in early September contradicts the goals of our work: to limit the spread of COVID-19 within communities and ensure the health of all New Yorkers.
It's signed:  Anonymous NYC H&H Contact Tracers, Members of DC37
This could be one or a thousand people -- I get no names but....
I wrote about the disaster of contact tracing a few weeks ago
#EdBTTTS Back to School and Contract Tracing: Ever...

My right wing buddy Mike Antonucci always seems to be able to read between the lines and chastises the Intercept for reporting misinformation on a strike vote today citing only one MORE member as a source.
NYC Teacher Strike: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Smoke? -
...it reached the point this morning where a reporter asked Mayor Bill de Blasio whether the city was preparing for a strike in light of the UFT meetings.
“The UFT has spoken to this over the weekend and made it clear that a strike vote is not planned,” he replied. “I’ve spoken to [UFT President] Michael Mulgrew. It’s clear to me that it’s not on the agenda for this meeting.”
I’ve been doing this long enough to know that you have to parse every official statement from a teachers union. My reading of all this is that a strike vote is not yet on the agenda, and that no specific resolution has yet been put forward. But UFT doesn’t call representative meetings for nothing. It’s pretty obvious they want to discuss immediate future strategy, and that could include authorization for a strike or other job action, which could be placed on the agenda rather quickly if that’s what the representatives want to do.
But the press has been waaaaay out in front on this. They don’t have a single source claiming to have, or to be working on, a strike authorization resolution. In fact, they have multiple denials that anything of the sort yet exists. If a strike authorization vote occurs today and tomorrow, they can pat themselves on the back for a scoop. But if I ran a story with so little to back it up, I would be criticized, and rightly so.
When  people have a dog in the race don't always look for accuracy.

I have believed for 45 years the UFT will never strike. I still haven't been proven wrong:

I wrote this Nov. 2018-  Memories of 1975
I firmly believe there can be no major gains without a credible strike threat. But I don't believe we will see that here in NYC unless there are catastrophic cuts -- like a severe depression and attempts to cut current salaries.... there are people in the UFT today who are saying the leadership should get the membership strike ready because the West Virginia and other red state strike are an example that UFT members might be ready to follow. The Taylor Law penalties is one reason why that won't happen here until NYC teachers are eating dog food like teachers in the red states.
So I began to waffle. Well, it's supposedly dog-food time in the guise of risking lives by the very act of going into a school, an economic depression where there is talk of cutting salaries and mass layoffs - the trifecta. Maybe there is some behind the scenes deal on the table trading some flexibility on opening schools for no layoffs.

Still, I don't see a strike with so many unknowns. There is  enormous suspicion and distrust of de Blasio and Carranza, their incompetence so far (which I've chronicled here), and the great anger over the decision in March that led to many deaths of DOE employees. I used the hashtag #EdBTTTS: Everything de Blasio Touches Turns to Shit. Mulgrew didn't fare very well when he supported the initial decision to keep schools open and, faced with a possible sickout, deB caved and closed schools but teachers were required to go in for training.

More unknowns:
  • Teachers with exceptions don't have to go in and they make up 25%. Will they strike?
  • What about picket lines? If there are none then walking in is easy. Thus the union has to try to make sure there is at least a few people picketing at each school. Will people who are worried not only about going into schools but getting there be willing to picket?
  • What about the portion of teachers who are OK with going in? There is a body of people who believe it is their duty no matter what to serve the kids, many for social justice reasons -- the poorest kids get the least out of remote learning, especially with parents who work and must go in.
There was a deterioration in Mulgrew's  relationship with de Blasio -- I heard a rumor in late March that they met and were heard screaming at each other. Mulgrew has paid a political price inside the UFT but he has moved the ball as he saw the ineptitude at the DOE and I did not disagree with his measured policy of letting the game come to him and it has to some extent - the CSA and parents in many districts have been pushing for a delay. Pressure to delay is building.

Parents are going nuts:
Concern and Frustration Over Lack of Detail on School Reopening Worry Southern Brooklyn Parents and Educators
“This feels like the same information we are given over and over,” a mother typed in the chatroom. “The lack of details this close to the opening - and the fact that everyday the goal posts seem to be moving - is troubling.
I have doubted there would be a strike due to the political nature of the leadership which has been anti-strike for 45 years and has conditioned the membership to fear Taylor Law penalties and is seemingly trying to switch horses in mid-stream -- mixed messages for sure. James reported earlier at ICEUFT - DAILY NEWS REPORTS CITY AND UFT ARE TALKING which has good, bad and ugly aspects since we don't know what kind of backroom deals are being made. The strike talk is most likely only a show as Mulgrew sends out mixed messages. Could they pull off a strike or are the powers that be laughing themselves silly over the very idea?

A wild card is Cuomo who punted to deB on closing schools but still holds all the cards. Is there some kind of backroom deal between him and Mulgrew to screw deB? Don't blame me for conspiracy theories - I got it directly from QAnon. The latest from Cuomo is an indication where he is heading -- and it ain't in DeB direction.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised a warning flag for schools that are expected to reopen in person in some capacity in less than two weeks, forewarning that clusters of COVID-19 cases that have been popping in colleges will inevitably happen to some degree when K-12 starts the new year. And the more dense an environment -- like New York City -- the riskier the proposition.
Now I have had mixed feelings since I don't have to go in. The numbers of infections look low but do we even trust how the numbers are being thrown at us? De Blasio has a one size fits all plan for every school when the numbers vary widely by zip code. Jeff Kaufman sent me this link and the poorest areas have the highest rates: 
Data Check: Recent COVID-19 Infection Rates Vary Widely By Neighborhood

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor of Education Richard Carranza recently remarked how the city is at 1-2% infection rate citywide, and how that number is going to be used to determine the reopening of the city’s public schools – currently set to open if infection rate remains below 3% citywide.
Well, NYC is a big city and a very segregated city, and while elementary school children tend to stay in their neighborhoods, middle and high-schoolers travel significant distances across neighborhoods, so I was interested to see how well we are doing on the neighborhood level in containing the virus. The city shares this data in aggregate, cumulative numbers, which are really not telling you much about what is happening week to week or month to month as people catch the virus, get tested, get well or die.
https://bklyner.com/coronavirus-map-brooklyn/?mode=list
And I was texting with a chapter leader of a very large school who also suspects the numbers and he pointed me to a podcast with an interesting take:
Osterholm mocks the idea that one size fits all makes sense but de Blasio is a osfa advocate - like treating all restaurants equally - those with small spaces and those with massive rooms for indoor dining. Check out the podcast.

Leonie tweeted:
How fast are the results though? And what do they show about where and how the virus is still being transmitted?
There will NOT be a general membership vote, which I believe is the first time in the history of UFT strikes that will not happen. Therein lies a problem for the leadership - jeez, what if a strike vote fails or wins by a slim majority? In the old days there would be visits to every school to drum up support. Randi did that in 2002 with a strike vote even though we all knew it was a PR stunt.

Does democracy count? Not much anymore nationally and in unions (and I include caucuses). Jonathan Halabi, long-time Ex Bd member for a dozen years (but no longer) wrote to the leadership asking for a vote for reasons beyond democracy:
I understand that there is consideration of strike authorization votes at the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly.
I also understand that there may not be a membership vote. I hope I am mistaken.  That would be a serious error.
There is the issue of democracy. but I think that is relatively minor.
But the issues of member engagement loom large. Organizing a vote increases member engagement, and member buy-in. It also provides real-time feedback from the field. Are chapter leaders organizing? Is there resistance? What are the issues? 

The activity around organizing a vote makes a strike more effective. 
For members who are already on board, it makes a smaller difference; the vote increases enthusiasm.  But for members on the fence, skipping the vote sends the message that the leaders don't trust the members, or don't care what they think. It will harden the pockets of resistance.
I don't know if support in the field is at 95%, 85%, 75%, 65% or 55%... but even at 85% we need to win more people over.
A membership vote makes us - and any potential job action - stronger. 
I hope that I was indeed mistaken - that a membership vote is planned. But if that is not the case, I would thank you to consider the matter carefully,

Jonathan Halabi
Since there won't be a membership vote and Halabi's points are valid, it makes me more inclined to doubt the leadership is going to strike. Is the leadership afraid of the outcome? In fact are they afraid of the membership itself which may be totally unpredictable?

You bet they are as the middle managers - the District Reps - mostly communicate with chapter leaders in the UFT top down structure and rely on them to pass on the views of the rank and file in the schools. They don't always get it right as even many chapter leaders don't have strong organizations in their own schools. The neglect of organizing by the UFT chickens may come home to roost as the union tries to go from zero to 60.

Strike membership votes in Chicago and LA over the past year were overwhelming in favor (over 90%). But they spent months preparing the membership with meetings and propaganda. The UFT? Until Mulgrew talked strike two weeks ago, Nada - and therein lies the rub for the UFT in managing a successful strike. But they are ramping up just in case.

Jeff Kaufman made the great point about the UFT in the 70s and now. The leadership and staff were battle hardened strike vets while the current crew have spent their time managing the membership to tamp down militancy. But I see some good signs with the energy of independent Ex Bd ex-MORE members Arthur Goldstein and Mike Schirtzer and Mindy Rosier.

Luckily for the union - and I say this with  much irony - MORE Caucus has been organizing since March - and has done a much better job than the UFT -- there were 1000 participants in the MORE strike prep meeting on Saturday with people waiting to get in, with multiple zoom meetings each week, rallies and marches.

Ironically, the virus crisis and Zoom has enormously helped MORE grow exponentially -- 1000 people were at their strike Prep meeting on Saturday with people in the waiting room. It has been hard all these years gathering people in one space in person. Zoom has been a savior for MORE organizing and they finally are implementing local district organizing which I had been screaming for from MORE's earliest days. Kudos to them. There is a rally in district 15 coming up and they've been holding district level zooms that are well attended. (A dist 13/14 [my former district[ meeting had 160 people the other day.) This represents the first big threat to Unity at the ground level that I've seen in a long time. Let's see if MORE can make hay post epidemic on broader issues.

At most the UFT has been holding meetings with chapter leaders and delegates and asking them to hold meetings in their schools -- the usual top down unmass action the UFT engages in. They are planning a week of action: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1IH7Nx0sBv4_5hl57HTVDWB8hwvk4C0P9ezQRADDjNO4/mobilepresent?slide=id.g934a24817f_0_19

You judge if you think it will have an effect and if rank and file other than the most active participate.

If the UFT leadership doesn't strike and gets a lousy deal expect an explosion from the activist portion of the union and their supporters. 

There will supposedly be a town hall with Mulgrew on Wednesday about the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DOE - if there is not a strike. Reports are the MOA has many flaws with massive remote class sizes. If they agreed to that, then what?

In addition to MORE and to a lesser extend Solidarity Caucus, James Eterno at the ICEUFT blog has also been a pressure point with his large readership. Eterno comments:
What is going on in the schools behind the scenes will most likely still be a  mystery after the DA. That 80-90% yes vote won't mean that much but if I am wrong and there is anything greater than a 20-25% no vote because of independents (people who don't belong to any caucus) and/or a Unity revolt, then there is likely a significant portion of the membership who are opposed to any job action. 
My antennae are detecting both enormous enthusiasm for a strike from the left wing for reasons beyond the safety issue (I will delve into the ideology behind striking in a follow-up) but they are getting a lot of support even with trepidation from people who just plain fear going into schools.

On the other hand some are telling me that there is no interest in their schools for a strike and when the union shows up they turn off, as they always have. Too many UFT spokespeople have little ability to connect with rank and file. And hearing the strike rah-rah so suddenly after 45 years of scaring people with the Taylor Law is problematical.

Is the leadership feeling some pressure from MORE and the ICE blog and was Mulgrew's move towards striking based in part on that pressure? I'd say partially but also due to this error in not calling for schools to be closed earlier in March and his lack of push back when teachers were told to go in for those extra three "training" - LOL - days the week of March 16. The number of school personnel who died not soon after is the lingering after effect.

In 1975 thousands of us massed outside the DOE headquarters at 110 Livingston Street and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge. The current leadership is in a quandary in terms of a mass march. How do you argue the dangers of  going on to school and then engage in a mass action? Well, there are answers to that - like the protests here in NYC have not led to a spike in cases and going into a school itself is indoors. Like how does de Blasio not let indoor dining open but schools are OK?

Strike Penalties are on their minds - loss of tenure is not in Taylor Law

In my 2018 article and subsequent ones I talked about the letter I received from the chancellor on Dec. 1 1975 with my penalties. Item 1 was loss of tenure for a year which I consider more onerous than two for one penalties, though these certainly curtail the idea of a long strike which allows the city to wait out the strike. I guess we lost tenure then but it didn't seem to matter. Did the DOE just toss that penalty in on their own outside the Taylor Law? There are no signs in the law about tenure. I even got an email from the chapter leader of my old school (the last time I taught there was almost 25 years ago) asking about the Taylor Law penalties, which I've written about here, here, here. In the latter piece from Nov. 23, 2018 I dug down into expectations of the UFT leadership.

There are so many balls in the air over going back to school and the potential UFT strike for full-time remote learning, trying to disentangle it all has led to such overload that I end up retreating into escapist reading and TV. But I have been getting calls and messages for some insights and have been dragged away from my reveries.  Right after I hit PUBLISH I will revert to fantasy land.

The best reporting on the UFT and DOE is coming from James Eterno at the ICEUFT blog. Check it every day.

ICEUFTBLOG PREDICTS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR JOB ACTION AT UFT EXECUTIVE BOARD AND DA THAT MIGHT NOT SAY MUCH ABOUT WHERE THE UFT MEMBERSHIP IS AT ON THE ISSUE

And Arthur Goldstein at http://nyceducator.com/
Exposing the de Blasio and Carranza plans
Magical Blended Teachers

And Jon Halabi: https://jd2718.org/

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