Saturday, April 20, 2024

Retiree Advocate (RA) Shows Some Muscle at UFT Retiree Meeting: Mulgrew, Tier 6, Paras and Happy Retirees

UFT's Tom Brown kept declaring how happy UFT retirees are. I maintain it is Retiree Advocate retirees who are the happiest because we know we are figthing the machine that wants to change our healthcare and enjoying the battle. To me, the Unity crowd does not look all that happy. Maybe a bit depressed over the possibility RA can win the chapter election and their gigs at the UFT.

Check out the updated Retiree Advocate web site:

Saturday, April 20
Being ordered around by a 70 something and an 18 year old.
I'm taking a few minutes off from my wife ordering me around to prep for the 30 people coming for Passover on Monday night. The young cousins bring pot and that's the only time each year I take a few puffs. I start the seder stoned and then tune out. 
I'm also on 4 days of video duty (Thursday, Friday, Saturday night and Sunday matinee) at the Rockaway Theatre Company for these final weekend of the spectacular Urinetown 
which  saw for the 5th time last night - with two more to go.
I'm not a spectator for this weekend as I get to follow directions from an 18 year old college freshman film student who is one impressive young lady. I love learning from teenagers. And by the way, let me say that media has been trashing today's youngsters while the theater loving teens and young 20s I meet and work with are amazing. (Our stage manager is 21 and our sound guy about the same age.) My message to parents: Get your depressed child into a theater program.
Last Tuesday, the morning of the Retiree chapter meeting, I posited: Expect The Usual Fiasco, but I actually had fun - before and after the meeting. During, not so much. This post is about the before and after and a bit about during. I'll post the Mulgrew part later, but if you can't wait, here is Arthur's meeting report from remote.
A bit over 200 were there in person --- a usual crew of Unity loyalists who shun us when we try to hand them a leaflet, but it seems about half the people are not. There were over 4k on line. There was some noise when people pushed back against Mulgrew. It resonates with the online crowd to hear some pushback.  
Our Retiree Advocate crew showed up before the meeting to hand out our main leaflet - check it out here - along with RA buttons and did so with verve and enthusiasm. Bennett was called upon to ask Mulgrew a question and a few other voices were raised, but let me not get ahead of myself. I view these meetings as organizing efforts to grow the retiree oppo base and we inch forward.

 Many people put on our buttons and signed up for our emails. We always meet some new people at these meetings
and we find very receptive people. 
We also handed out the notice we were having a meetup after the meeting at a local bar, where we ended up with almost 20 people. Only a little over 200 attended the in person, so that is not too shabby - and others told us they would have come but had some priors. Over the past year at the RCT meetings we have added people and lots were wearing our buttons. Some joined us at White Horse Tavern afterward for food and refreshments. Unfortunately I was due for a blood test for my newly discovered diabetes the next morning and had to avoid the beer.
Here's our chapter leader candidate Bennett Fischer saying a few words. I can't say enough about how capable Bennett is in almost any arena he takes on. I have enormous confidence in him -- but also our 10 officer and 15 chapter exec bd (I am the only one I have no confidence in) candidates. Plus the other 275 delegate assembly candidates who we are having a zoom with tomorrow night. If we win, it will be a new chapter in the history of the UFT.
The biggest Unity crew I've ever seen at an RA meeting also handed out a leaflet. I felt bad for them having to hand out a leaflet on how great a leader Tom Murphy is and they looked depressed doing so. 
Our organizing efforts have forced Unity to put out their own leaflet where found out for sure Tom Murphy is really running, and they actually had 5 people distributing, including former HSVP John Soldini and retired para rep Shelvy Young Abrams. But RA has about a dozen doing the work, a sign that if we win we will have an activist chapter driven by members.
Unity Caucus with Murphy leaflet.



The leaflet was LOL at points -- word was out that there were some people contending to replace him but he threw a bit of a fit and Mulgrew supported him. It's the king who decided in monarchies. Murphy's 75K retiree consultant  NYSUT gig might be threatened.
 Arthur has a few words on the Murphy leaflet:
The notion that Murphy is an independent thinker is absurd on its face. Clearly, the Unity notion of serving the union means fawning over Michael Mulgrew and stroking his fragile ego. (In fairness, Murphy is quite good at that.)...Murphy is a “guardian of civility.” Let’s first address the fact that it’s not true at all. Murphy shows blatant contempt for opinions that vary from Michael Mulgrew’s. He refuses to let passionate members speak at meetings. Then he marvels that members shout at him. (Why do people raise their voices when Tom doesn’t allow them to speak? Go figure. It’s a great mystery.)

The Tom Murphy/ UFT Unity Campaign: Hubris, Insinuation, Misdirection and Lies

Murphy is running a platform of civility -- don't dare call out during our meetings and if you have a postage sized sign he will be uncivil. Remember this?

Paras on agenda

Retired Para Chapter chair Shelvy Young Abrams is being handed a big role in the Unity RTC unit -- to try to organize and mobilize the 7k para retirees into a force of resistance to the growing influence of Retiree Advocate and she has a chance since few retired paras have gravitated to the opposition. The whys are worth examining -- maybe at an ICE meeting.

Tier 6 -Suddenly (I'm Tier 1 - I say, Smirking)

Aside from the Mulgrew appearance, which I will address in the follow-up to this report, we heard from UFT Treasurer and TRS pension rep Tom Brown, always an entertaining speaker, listed decades of UFT/Unity achievements and continuously pointed out how UFT retirees are the happiest people in the world. I almost broke out into song:
Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let's sing a song of cheer againHappy days are here again
Brown was followed by current Unity TRS candidate Christina McGrath - Unity has had to put out leaflets for her to counter our campaign for Ben Morgenroth. Before Ben was a candidate, he was pushing the UFT to do more to change Tier 6 --- and he has made Tier 6 reform a major part of his campaign. So of course Unity, which has done barely anything on Tier 6 for a dozen years, suddenly wakes up and McGrath was chosen to make a presentation on the changes they are asking for. 
RA's Bobby Greenberg asked a seemingly innocent question. I'll paraphrase:
It's nice to hear how many great things we've done over the decades. Congratulations. So if we've done so well, and everyone should be in Tier 1 but we'll take Tier 4. How did we go from Tier 1 to Tier 6? Or even Tier 4 to Tier 6? 
How uncivil of Bobby to dare bring up such a major failure of COPE and UFT Leadership which sat on its hands in 2012 when Tier 6 was foisted on us. Leadership realized that Ben and New Action had seized on the fact that 55% of UFT members are Tier 6 and that is a major campaign issue Unity is trying to get out from under. Ooopsie.
  •   fumfering" --> "A Yiddish word meaning to "mumble", most often used to mean to be evasive; can also mean to putter aimlessly or to waste time."
I won't even waste your time with their lame response.

The Unity crowd was not only caught flat-footed in 2012 but actually told their people it wasn't all that bad. Now that 55% of UFT members are in Tier 6, and people like Ben Morgenroth are raising it time and again, they see the political danger, so they are putting on a campaign to make people believe they are fighting for them.

Daniel, in a brilliant feat of investigative reporting, lays waste to them with this post on The Wire. Here is a segment.

Mulgrew, and his Unity Political Machine, did nothing to STOP Tier 6.

They rolled over when it was proposed in 2011. And when finally enacted in 2012. Now, we are left to pick up the pieces. Struggling to glue back and fix the damage they allowed to happen.

... we are in the struggle of our lives to try to FIX Tier 6 because more than 10 years ago he did nothing to STOP TIER 6.

Lost in Mulgrew’s trademark verbal acrobatics and rhetoric about trying to FIX Tier 6, along with his snail’s pace, piecemeal lobbying campaign, is the fact that he dropped the ball. We’re here because he failed to organize us to use our collective union power to STOP the agenda to deplete our pension benefits. 

We were NOT caught off guard. Bloomberg and Cuomo telegraphed their Tier 6 intentions. It wasn’t a surprise. It was a long time coming

For the ten months before its passage in April of 2012, there were no organized UFT rallies. No large scale, coordinated lobbying campaign coming out of 52 Broadway. Not even a single UFT resolution was passed against it by the executive board or delegate assembly during the year before Tier 6 was enacted. Next to nothing in Mulgrew’s web communiques to members before — and only after the legislature passed the new pension reform.

There was no major UFT-centered action, mobilization or pushback whatsoever to STOP TIER 6 — which still threatens the financial futures of a generation of educators today and has led to a mass exodus within our profession. 

You’ll find little to nothing in the mainstream press archives containing any public remarks by Mulgrew against Tier 6 prior to its passage. No prominent mentions about it on our union website during this time. He skirted his fiduciary duties and let Dick Ianuzzi and Anthony Pallotta of NYSUT be the primary mouthpieces to speak out against the proposal while the UFT communicated little about a ‘Stop Tier 6’ fight. All while it posed an existential threat to our UFT union family

In fact, in early 2012, when Mulgrew shared his annual January testimony to Albany’s legislature about the proposed budget, Mulgrew only dedicated a small fraction of his time to say he only had “strong reservations” about the “idea that we need a new pension tier.“ 

Strong reservations about the idea? That’s it? 

That’s it. Mulgrew shrugged.

Unity insiders have confided, in hindsight, that they believed Mulgrew when he told them behind closed doors that the defined pension benefits were in jeopardy. They say there was a sense of inevitability about the looming draconian changes and so they maintained a business as usual posture.

Perhaps Mulgrew miscalculated that if Albany gave Bloomberg what he wanted, Bloomberg would finally negotiate contracts with the city’s unions once again? If so, the gamble failed miserably as Bloomberg left office while the city’s labor contracts, including ours, remained expired.

Even in more recent years, we’ve heard folks like UFT treasurer and TRS teacher-member Trustee, Tom Brown, continue to downplay the severity of the Tier 6 giveback, as evident in a 2022 executive board meeting where “Brown and other Unity-elected members made the argument that Tier 6 was essentially fine, better than what (the mostly non-unionized) rest of the country has, and that improvements are being made anyways.”

Brown went on to falsely claim that “Tier 6ers don’t have ‘less net compensation’ than Tier 4ers.”

After Tier 6 passed in April of 2012, Mulgrew, to his credit, refused to receive an award with Bloomberg and Cuomo at a SOMOS gala, shortly after. Something about the optics of attending a party and being really mad.

Daniel follows in the footsteps of the great James Eterno, who in March 2012 nailed the Unity leadership on Tier 6 with this post on ICE:

 James pretty much said what Daniel says a dozen years later:
No spin from NYSUT or Leo Casey or President Mulgrew on the legislation to stick anyone hired in April or thereafter with a Tier VI pension...No spin from NYSUT or Leo Casey or President Mulgrew on the legislation to stick anyone hired in April or thereafter with a Tier VI pension...What about those COPE contributions?  We don't seem to have much influence with the legislature these days.

For those yet to be hired, the legislature and governor wiped away virtually all of the pension gains we made over the last thirty years.  A new teacher or new state employee will have to work until they are sixty three to receive a full pension which will only be 55% of final average salary according to what I read.  Final average salary has been increased from the average of the last five years of employment instead of three.

I remember when I started working and all of the people who were on Tier I told those of us who were on Tier IV how horrible our pension was.  Now we will have to face the Tier VI people and tell them they are in it for the real long haul if they want to make teaching a career. It is the same for other civil servants across New York State.
It struck me that in 2012 James talks about those who were about to be hired. Now over half are in Tier 6 and have been hired since then - think of the massive turnover in a dozen years.

I'll get to the follow-up on the Mulgrew part of the meeting, the following day's DA whee Unity rejected reform of the dental plan.

Great news for the next RTC meeting on May 21: Randi will be there. Oh, the joy!

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