Wednesday, February 8, 2023

UFT Contract Teach-Ins Raise Profile with Members and gets good ratings, Some Talk - strike prep (shhh) in schools, Report on Jan. 29 Pep Rally - and other News

Don't tell anyone, but s-t-r-i-k-e was mentioned at some chapters taking part in the UFT contract Teach-In. Taylor Law spies were monitoring and if you uttered the word you will get a two for one penalty. A NO vote on a contract doesn't mean a strike but why not scare the city and show the UFT membership is ready and willing if necessary?

Best union discussion I've heard forever...  comment on the pre-teach in PEP rally.

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2022

Over a week has passed since the UFT contract Teach-in on Jan. 30 and the previous Sunday evening Jan. 29 fabulous and historic EONYC Prep rally chaired by Daniel Alicea. Daniel is doing some amazing things with his web site on The Wire by offering a wide range of people space to publish. Support EONYC. The slides are here.

Reports coming in are that the contract Teach-in was a success, as was the PEP rally the night before with about 90 people on the zoom and another 100 or so on the FB stream and included a panel from across the spectrum of the UFT. In a number of schools salaries and health care were big items. And there was some talk about strike. And some anti-Mulgrew sentiment. But there was interest and we give the UFT kudos for engaging.

Due to Mondays being a long PD day, some schools did the teach-in later in the week, as MS 53 (Daniel's school) did. The UFT did promos - and pre-training that 900 people attended and held a noon Jan. 30 press conference in front of the Whitney Museum which got some good press coverage - and also some criticism as to the optics of using a fancy spot instead of a gritty school - there are reports that 700 Queens school held an event. Kudos to Queens UFT Borough rep Amy Arundell for pushing this plan aggressively and enthusiastically.

The great Work-Bites reporter Bob Hennelly had UFT officials on WBAI:

Bob's guests are Vice President for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Janella Hinds, special education teacher Faiza Khalid, and UFT Borough Representative in Queens Amy Arundell on the UFT building rank and file solidarity at contract time.Listen here. (They go on at the 31:30 mark). Note- Janella Hinds of a Secretary Treasurer at MLC in addition to being VP high schools. Hennelly knows his stuff on healthcare.

In addition, UFT contract committees met in person during that week after school. It was a pretty busy week and Yes, Virginia, the oppo people have been supporting the leadership initiatives on the contract while maintaining the right to be critical.

James Eterno commented a few days before:

Nick Bacon had some advance advice for how the Teach-in should run:

UFT: Let’s do those contract teach-ins right today

Contract teach-ins start today. As I wrote last week, I’m in favor of the teach-ins, albeit with some modifications. I support them to the extent that they help members learn, think, and build some organizing infrastructure around our contract. I oppose them to the extent that the timing is odd (though better late than never) and the materials designed for them resemble propaganda to pre-organize members for a potentially undeserved ‘yes’ vote.  Luckily, at this point, we have some new materials. The good folks over at MORE published a much better version of the UFT’s official powerpoint. It looks to resemble the original powerpoint well enough that it could be switched out without any new planning. And, James Eterno over at ICE-UFT published an awesome article thoroughly analyzing the flaws with UFT leadership’s explanation on what we ‘do and don’t’ have power to bargain over. (Spoiler alert: we have way more power than union leadership would have us believe). I’d frankly print out that article and read it with your chapter. You might also take a look at some sample contract demands like New Action’s and share those with your chapter.

 I wonder if the leadership didn't open up a pandora's box by getting people involved while telling them about all the things they can't negotiate. James takes these apart one by one.

Pensions when they negotiated 55/25 - 25 years of service-55-year-old retirement was put in the Contract in Article 4C:? Healthcare? Did we miss something when healthcare was part of the 2014 and 2018 contracts? I guess tenure is off the table but how about negotiating on those stupid binders and go back to the days when you just get tenure without the bullshit? (A point well made on the Jan. 29 panel.) James' points to

  • Student Discipline. What is the UFT talking about that this is not negotiable?

Let's start by reading Article 9 and part of Appendix B of the Contract. Student discipline is there and subject to negotiation.

Here are two instructive slides from MORE touching on historical matters:



I was proud to vote NO for the 1995 contract (which Randi negotiated) and the renegotiation helped reduce max salary from 25 to 23 years (the original tried to raise max from 20 to 25) and ICE helped lead the battle against the 2005 contract that took away so much of what we had won and opened the door to the spread of the Bloomberg/Klein cancerous attempt to destroy the public schools.

Since the cone of silence covers the contract committee meetings, I know nothing about UFT demands, but do get stories about which UFT officials running these sessions have been effective and ineffective. Surprisingly, I heard some good things about Mulgrew at last week's big meeting. Less arrogant and more willing to engage on some issues.

My guess is there will be a pattern set of 2-3% and the city will toss in an across the board one-time inflation signing bonus. Will there be improvements in the rest of the contract? I doubt there will be much if any, like in the non-monetary areas like grievances and to counter the monarchical principal. But healthcare will be the issue and I'd read the contract and appendix over and over before voting YES.

A serious discussion of the contract breaks out

I wanted to go back to the Prep/PEP rally the night before on Jan. 29. Hosted by Daniel Alicea of Educators of NYC with a truly great panel representing all elements of the UFC coalition and including a Unity Caucus chapter leader - leadership was invited but declined or ignored the invitation. The panel was fabulous -- no rhetoric but debate. Eterno was a fountain of info. My buddy Mike Schirtzer was there offering a middle ground. Marissa from Unity was a star. Alex and Olivia from MORE made a lot of sense and Ibeth and Luli from ICE/Solidarity added substance and on the ground knowledge. And Aixa is always a breath of fresh air. And Melissa whose chapter voted down the last contract is one of my faves. Nick from New Action is an emerging star.

I got this response from a retired long-time chapter leader:

Hey - That was great! Best union discussion I've heard forever...

EONYC posted this on The Wire: Powered by Educators of NYC

On Sunday, January 29th, various union leaders and activists met for a candid and rich online discussion about our UFT contract fight, the upcoming teach-ins, and what meaningful actions should be taken.

It is worth a watch by chapters and individuals who want to get a sense of perspectives from across the UFT union political spectrum – MORE, Solidarity, ICE-UFT, New Action, and Unity.

Watch the video.

Some Unity affiliated people thought this would be a "let's shit on the UFT" session but it wasn't. An honest talk. Daniel began brilliantly by asking the panel to tell us what they love about the union. That set the tone. It was like a patriotic celebration for 15 minutes. I have to go back to listen because it's been over a week and brain cells are going to neuron heaven or hell every day, but I remember some fascinating talk about what a NO vote might mean and what strike prep would mean -- no, not a strike but getting members ready and sending a message to the city that they should not take things for granted. A credible threat will get a better contract. This has been a key to the MORE platform and they have been mocked by Unity which tries to scare people by saying MORE wants a strike when we all know a strike run by Unity would be a disaster - It was eloquently explained by some MORE panelists that they are talking strike prep to lay groundwork and try to sell the idea that if pushed too far, people may just be willing to take a 2 for 1 hit like we did in 1975.

I would have liked to have seen better ways to include the participants to get a better sense of rank and file sentiments (vs the more activist group). One soon to be retiree said she always trusted the UFT but the healthcare debacle has created doubt. I hope we see more of these events. And Donate to EONYC.

Inside the oppo there has been talk about the idea that constant trashing of the leadership, rather than organizing people, can lead to a sense of hopelessness, especially if people don't see a viable alternative to Unity. And frankly, there's a lot more to do - including getting information deep into the membership so the average UFT is getting another view.

One recent retiree said this:  losing trust in the union for the first time - Unity tries to blame opposition and takes no responsibility for their actions. 

There is a danger in always attacking the leadership without a plan for an alternative. Arthur has been on the attack, fundamentally having lost trust and he calls for new leadership. He said of the Teach-in:

A [contract] teach-in could be a great thing. But it's based on the premise that leadership is actually interested in what we think. I am not persuaded that's true. I therefore do not believe this teach-in, however genuine the sentiments of its creators may be, is done in good faith. I believe, and the evidence bears out, that leadership goes behind our back to make stupid deals that benefit no one in rank and file. I believe, therefore, that leadership needs to be replaced. And if by any chance I should get a voice in any teach-in, that will be my message to my union brothers and sisters.... The UFT Contract Teach-In, NYC Educator
LeRoy Barr made some controversial comments at an Ex Bd meeting regarding the opposition.

LeRoy Barr: Do you think we are trying to harm the members? 
        Ronnie Almonte, HS Ex Bd, UFC:  Assume best intentions.

Hmmm. Unity doesn't assume best intentions of the opposition and I spoke to LeRoy afterward - like do they think people like me oppose going into Medicare advantage for political reasons and not because I feel my health is endangered? 

Nick addressed this issue: Understanding the ‘Politics’ of the UFT’s Progressive Opposition

Members of Unity Caucus commonly claim that the High School Executive Board or its members have political motives. This was brought to a certain climax on Monday, Jan 23rd at the second January meeting of the UFT Executive Board with the word ‘political’ being used in response to a resolution that would have committed the UFT to fight the introduction of premiums to GHI. This post will probably seem like ‘inside baseball’ to most readers, but I think it’s worth analyzing what is meant by members of Unity Caucus when they claim opposition unionists are acting politically. I also think it’s worth assessing whether or not such a claim is true.

Read it in its entirety. And I will leave you with some further links:

Healthcare Updates: Medicare Advantage Thefts
Fred Klonsky:

No comments: