Archives For Labor

Dan Lupkin
Special Education Teacher/UFT Delegate
PS 58, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn


Lest we forget, the UFT leadership works for the membership- NOT the other way around.

Our dues pay for their salaries, their perks, and the UFT skyscraper at 52 Broadway. Our COPE money buys the “seat at the table” with the politicians, billionaires, and power brokers they say will save our profession. They push a TINA (There Is No Alternative) mentality on the membership, and when it comes to the 2014 contract, operatives (belonging to the UNITY caucus that has monopolized power within the UFT since its founding in 1960) have been sent out among the membership. Their message is that this proposal is the best we can do, so even if you have lots of problems with it, it’s better than no contract at all, so you might as well vote “yes”.

Most working teachers in NYC have been kept in the dark about how their union works, and how that relates to this contract, so perhaps it’s helpful to reframe the question in terms of dining in a restaurant:

Let’s say you sat down at a table, ordered, and were served a dish that looked, smelled, and tasted awful. Would you choke it down because that’s what you had been brought? Since you are paying the restaurant for the sole purpose of preparing you a tasty meal, most people would send it back and expect the restaurant to replace it with something better.

What if everyone’s meal was unacceptable, and the manager sent around the maitre d’ to explain to each table that the restaurant’s suppliers sold substandard meat and produce, so there was no way they could produce a tastier meal, but that surely, eating what they had brought you was better than no meal at all?
Continue Reading…

Teachers in St. Paul, MN are preparing for a strike authorization vote on February 24th.

The union is holding informational meetings in the lead up to the vote. If the strike is authorized, the union is required to give 10 days notice before calling a strike.

The strength and unity of the membership was evident on January 30th when “walk-ins” were organized at 55 of 62 sites with over 2500 of the city’s 3200 members participating along with parents, on one of the snowiest mornings of the year.

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers has done extensive outreach to parents and other community members for months, holding open meetings, and even open negotiation sessions, to discuss contract demands and involve teachers, parents and community members in shaping their demands. As in Chicago, the union has put forth its own blueprint for “The Schools St. Paul’s Children Deserve.” As a result, the SPFT has gained immense support. Parents recently helped to start a Facebook page called “I Stand with SPFT” that quickly grew to 900 members. On February 18th, hundreds of teachers and community members rallied at a school board meeting and many parents provided testimony in support of the teachers’ demands. 

The Saint Paul Federation of Teachers is fighting for reduced class size, increased staffing (more nurses, librarians, social workers and counselors), access to pre-k for ALL students, and less standardized testing to allow for more genuine teaching.

MORE calls on all UFT members to stand in solidarity with the St.Paul teachers and students by following their struggle and taking action.

For more information, visit the St. Paul Federation of Teacher’s website at: http://www.spft.org/

You can also follow the St. Paul Federation of Teachers on Facebook,  join the “I Stand with SPFT” page and post messages of solidarity to show your support.

In addition,  you can call the  Superintendent and school board members of St. Paul and urge them to come to an agreement with the St. Paul Federation of Teachers to lower class sizes, increase staffing and provide universal access to Pre-K.

Valeria Silva – Superintendent supt.silva@spps.org 651-767-8152

Mary Doran – Chair mary.doran@spps.org 651-387-2361

Keith Hardy - keith.hardy@spps.org 651-200-5032
John Brodrick - john.brodrick@spps.org 651-645-7500

Anne Carroll - anne.carroll@spps.org 651-690-9156

Jean O’Connell - jean.oconnell@spps.org 651-295-1623

Louise Seeba - louise.seeba@spps.org 651-335-4263

Chue Vue - chue.vue@spps.org 651-291-8569

Finally, you can sign a petition in support of the St. Paul teachers here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/st-paul-public-schools?source=s.fwd&r_by=4379504

nysut-logoIn April, the New York State Teachers Union (NYSUT-the state association of teachers unions that the UFT is part of) will be having elections. Since UFT/Unity has a great deal of power in NYSUT, MORE was asked by statewide activists in the Port Jefferson Teachers Association to get involved.

We are excited to announce that we will be running for the 6 At Large positions on the Board of Directors that represents the NYC schools’ district (UFT) at the state union level. Our candidates are Julie Cavanagh, Lauren Cohen, Michael Schirtzer, James Eterno, Francesco Portelos, and Jia Lee.

We will be campaigning for our statewide union to take a stronger stand against test-based teacher evaluations, for more union democracy, and for building an active rank-and-file membership that works in solidarity for improved working and learning conditions.

For most of the past five years, the city of New York’s workforce has been losing ground.
Starting in 2009, Mayor Bloomberg refused to negotiate new contracts for all city workers, effectively establishing a wage freeze while the cost of living in NYC continues to rise. Just over a year ago, city workers brought this city back from Super-storm Sandy.
We keep this city running every day.
We’re working harder and harder for less and less.
Not all New Yorkers have had to make such sacrifices. Since the massive financial crisis in 2008, and subsequent multi-trillion dollar federal bailout, WallStreet has made billions in profits – $24 billion in 2012 alone. Likewise, New York’s real-estate industry continues toboom, greased with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks. If we simply made the 1% pay their fair share, we would be able to fund city worker’s contract demands and restore Bloomberg-era funding cuts to much needed city services.
We Demand:
  •  Mayor DeBlasio negotiate full retroactive raises for all city workers and grant raises in line with the increased cost of living in New York City.
  •  The Municipal Labor Committee, the coalition of unions representing municipal workers, take a unified position and make these demands to Mayor DeBlasio during negotiation

Please take action now by:

1. Sign and share the online petition here 

2. Print the paper petition out and gather signatures at your workplace here

3. Like our FaceBook page and spread the word to your friends 

To NYC Municipal Labor Committee,

As you begin contract negotiations with the new de Blasio administration, the undersigned implore you to mobilize the full power of a united NYC public sector work force to put forward a powerful message.  After years of effective pay cuts, we expect and deserve not just a new contract, but one with retroactive wage increases and no givebacks.

NYC municipal workers have been working under worse conditions and for less pay than at any time since the recession of the 1970s.

Still, each and every day, we keep the city running. The deadly Superstorm Sandy showed the world, once again, the heroism of our nurses, firefighters, sanitation, transit, and other city workers, who saved the stranded and worked tirelessly to get the city back on its feet.

Why, then, are we losing ground?  Mayor Bloomberg has refused to negotiate new contracts for municipal employees.  With the cost of living on the rise, the net effect has been an across the board wage cut.  We are among the nearly half of New Yorkers — 49 percent — who are paying rents that federal benchmarks consider unaffordable.  Basic necessities increase as well.

Not all New Yorkers have had to make such sacrifices.  Since the massive financial crisis in 2008, and subsequent multi-trillion dollar federal bailout, Wall Street has made billions in profits – $24 billion in 2012 alone.  Likewise, New York’s real estate industry continues to boom, greased with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks.

To put it plainly, public sector and working-class New Yorkers have been subsidizing the billion dollar profits of Wall Street and the real estate industry with their tax money.

We are the teachers who put in extra hours helping kids learn. We are the health care and social workers taking care of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.  We keep the garbage off the streets, we take people to work and to school, and we respond to every emergency.  We earn what we receive, unlike the billionaires who treat our city budget like their personal ATM.

The city CAN afford retroactive pay for city workers and not cut back on other services. The city has run budget surpluses of over a billion dollars for over half of the last 8 years, even after factoring in the estimated $3 billion in tax breaks businesses receive every year.  Small increases to taxes on high-end real estate, financial transactions, and other taxes on New York’s 1% could turn the pending municipal crisis around.

The fate of New York City’s municipal workers is of critical importance for all New Yorkers.  Underpaid and unemployed workers need subsidies to survive.  As our standard of living decreases, it strains the economy, hurts our families, and makes it harder to do our jobs.  If we fight for a just contract, and stand in solidarity with other important campaigns, like the low-wage workers who are fighting for a $15 minimum wage, then a rising tide can raise all boats.

New York City today is a tale of two cities.  If mayor-elect de Blasio genuinely wants to tackle income inequality, we urge him to start at the bargaining table with city workers.

Fairness, and good economic sense, demand full retroactive pay raises and full cost of living adjustments for all New York City municipal workers.  

Sincerely,

Movement of Rank and File Educators- The Social Justice Caucus of The United Federation of Teachers

Portland Solidarity

January 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

Support our brother and sister educators in Portland, Oregon in their struggle!

http://www.pdxteachers.org/

"Burnside Bridge to Brooklyn Bridge the struggle is the same MORE stands in solidarity with the Portland Teachers"

United We Stand

alt="capybaras agree NYC educators need a new contract"

Too long without a contract!

Raun J. Rasmussen, Executive Director

Joseph S. Genova, Chair, Board of Directors

Legal Services NYC

 

Dear Mr. Rasmussen:

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), the Social Justice

Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers, stands with the members

of Legal Services Staff Association (LSSA), our brothers and sisters

of UAW Local 2320, who were forced to strike on May 15th for the first

time in nearly 20 years.  We urge the management of Legal Services NYC

to immediately negotiate a fair contract with its staff, so they can

return to the work they hold dear of providing critical legal

protections to New York’s low-income families, many of whom are our

fellow school workers, students and their families.

We stand with the LSSA as colleagues in providing vital services to

New York’s working families. Just as we fight for our members’

professional dignity and respect, we support the LSSNY workers’ stand

for dignity and respect. Just as we insist on a better educational

environment for ourselves and for the students whose lives we touch,

we want to ensure the LSSA have the resources and support they need

to continue to be the best advocates possible.

We support the strikers’ fight for their rights to family sustaining

wages and benefits.  The current offer demands significant,

financially unnecessary cuts to health care coverage and retirement

benefits, and freezes salaries at current levels, despite a steadily

rising cost of living in New York.

MORE strongly urges you to avoid a prolonged strike by offering your

staff a contract that reflects the value they bring to your

organization and to the ongoing fight to protect New York’s most

vulnerable workers.  We stand in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters in

their struggle.

 

 

TMLOGO.NORTHLAND

 

 

Our friends at Labor Notes are having the premier union conference and workshops in NYC this Saturday.
Labor Notes is an organization that is dedicated to rank-and-file members, local union leaders, and labor activists who know the labor movement is worth fighting for. They encourage connections between workers in different unions, workers centers, communities, industries, and countries to strengthen the movement—from the bottom up. MORE’s own Julie Cavanagh will be in attendance and making a brief speech, as well as many other members of MORE. We encourage you to register for this great chance to learn union and community organizing from experienced activists.

Register Today: New York City Troublemakers School, May 18 

Join us for a day of skill-building workshops, education, and strategydiscussions to put some movement back in the labor movement. 

Click here for details and registration (just $25, with lunch included.)

With Cablevision technician Lawrence Hendrickson on CWA’s struggle for a first contract, intensive care nurse Julie Semente on her union’s effort to stop the closure of Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital, and Chicago Teachers Union member Nate Rasmussen on their strike last fall and the continuing effort to rescue public education in Chicago.

Also with Josh Freeman on Lessons from New York Labor History; Dave Newman of NYCOSH on an Organizing Approach to Health and Safety; Labor law expert Robert Schwartz on Just Cause: How to Win Discipline Cases; and a discussion of After Bloomberg: A Union Agenda for New York City.

Plus workshops and panels on:

  • Beating Apathy
  • Dealing with Difficult Supervisors
  • Secrets of a Successful Organizer
  • Roots of the Public Sector Budget Crisis
  • Raising Wages for Low-Wage Workers 
  • Labor-Community Alliances Done Right
  • Using Direct Action to Get Results   

 

When: Saturday, May 18,  9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where: The High School for Health Professions and Human Services, 345 E 15th St, Manhattan (between 1st and 2nd Aves.)

 

For more info or to register, click here. 

 

Questions? Suggestions? Need child care? Contact Samantha Winslow,718-284-4144samantha@labornotes.org. 

What Is a Troublemaker’s School?
  
Wondering what a Troublemakers School is?  They just had one in Portland, Oregon, and here’s a report.TMLOGO.NORTHLAND

Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. This has been MORE’s stance since our inception. We understand that there is a relationship between the erosion of our rights as workers and the erosion of quality education in our city over the past 10 years.

A few days ago, on the UFT website, Michael Mulgrew used our slogan in a piece defending his actions in the ongoing battle over teacher evaluations in New York State. Unfortunately, using our slogan is not the same as believing it. His actions surrounding the evaluation controversy cast serious doubt on whether he considers the learning conditions of our students at all, let alone the working conditions of the teachers he is paid to represent.

By examining the origins of this evaluation fiasco we can see just how much Mulgrew, along with the rest of our union’s leadership, take into consideration our students’ learning conditions. What we consider a fundamental belief is clearly nothing more than an empty slogan to the ruling Unity caucus.

It started in 2010 when New York State won its application to the federal government’s Race to the Top program.  Race to the Top is the brainchild of President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. According to the State Education Department’s press release, New York State was selected for Race to the Top because the state passed legislation promising to make the following four school “reforms”:

 “(1) establishes a new teacher and principal evaluation system that makes student achievement data a substantial component of how educators are assessed and supported; (2) raises New York’s charter school cap from 200 to 460 and enhances charter school accountability and transparency;  (3) enables school districts to enter into  contracts with Educational Partnership Organizations (the term for non-profit Education Management Organizations in New York State) for the management of their persistently lowest-achieving schools and schools under registration review; and (4) appropriates $20.4 million in capital funds to the State Education Department to implement its longitudinal data system.”

Michael Mulgrew was on board with these proposals from the beginning. The same press release quoted above also thanks “United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein for appearing with us in Washington to help successfully make the case for New York.”

On his support for Race to the Top Michael Mulgrew, the man who cares about student learning conditions, is on the opposite side of the issue from the nation’s leading civil rights organizations. In a report released shortly after Mulgrew’s trip to Washington, a consortium of civil rights groups released a report that criticized RTTT for its “approach to education funding that relies too heavily on competition.” Furthermore, the report pans RTTT’s focus on opening up more charter schools:

“The largest national study found that charters are more likely to underperform than outperform other public schools serving similar students. And there is even less evidence that charters accept, consistently serve, and accommodate the needs  of the full range of students. Charters enroll 54% fewer English Language Learner (ELL) students, 43% fewer  special education students, and 37% fewer free and reduced price lunch students than high-minority public school districts. Thus, while some charter schools can and do work for some students, they are not a universal solution for systemic change for all students, especially those with the highest needs.”

Michael Mulgrew’s immediate and enthusiastic support for NY State’s RTTT application is just one reason why we are not convinced that he is concerned for our students’ learning conditions, especially as it relates to our students who are most in need.

New York’s approval for RTTT grant money required the state and the union to work out a framework for a new teacher evaluation system. That framework was worked out last year and included the following components according to UFT Vice President, Leo Casey:

 60% (Measures of Teacher Performance)

a) 31% Supervisory Observations (Based upon “research-based” rubrics like “Danielson”.)

b) 29 % Other Measures such as Peer Observations and Portfolios of Artifacts of Teacher Performance (Exactly which measures to be used would be worked out locally via collective bargaining between unions and school districts.)

40% (Measures of Student Learning)

a) 20% Value-Added Growth from State Standardized Exams

b) 20% Growth on Local Assessments, such as Performance Assessments (Exactly what those assessments are to be worked out locally via collective bargaining between unions and schools districts.)

What Casey barely mentioned in his defense of the framework is that a teacher rated “ineffective” on the 40% part measuring “student learning” will be rated ineffective overall. Furthermore, only 13% of those rated “ineffective” will be allowed to appeal such a rating. We believe that a framework of this nature seriously undermines the learning conditions of our students.

Education historian Diane Ravitch explained how this system sacrifices student learning conditions for the sake of standardized exam scores:

“This agreement will certainly produce an intense focus on teaching to the tests. It will also profoundly demoralize teachers, as they realize that they have lost their professional autonomy and will be measured according to precise behaviors and actions that have nothing to do with their own definition of good teaching.”

Indeed, this framework brings to New York State a testing regime that has been overtaking the nation for the past decade. It is a regime that tests students at both the beginning and end of the school year in several subjects, if not all subjects. Teachers, with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, will be forced to toss aside everything their professional experience tells them about how students truly learn for the sake of preparing their students for exams.

This has downright brutal implications for our students. A child who starts Kindergarten under this new regime will have been tested hundreds of times by the time they graduate from high school. Their curriculum will be little more than a regimen of test-taking strategies aimed at getting them to fill in what private testing companies consider the “correct” bubble. The full learning experience that includes critical thinking, reasoning, researching, abstraction and civic engagement will be lost.

Considering the fact that President Obama sends his daughters to the prestigious Sidwell Friends, a school with exactly the type of full curriculum described above, a school free from the incessant battery of standardized testing overtaking the country, forcing everyone else’s children to sit through 13 years of narrow, myopic, simplistic, test-taking curricula is tantamount to educational segregation.

Race to the Top is creating a two-tiered education system: one for the wealthy and one for everybody else. We see Mulgrew’s complicity in the RTTT program as a betrayal of the teacher’s duty to defend student learning conditions.

In the same takedown of the framework to which Mulgrew agreed, Diane Ravitch goes on to say:

“Evaluators will come armed with elaborate rubrics identifying precisely what teachers must do and how they must act, if they want to be successful. The New York Times interviewed a principal in Tennessee who felt compelled to give a low rating to a good teacher, because the teacher did not “break students into groups” in the lesson he observed. The new system in New York will require school districts across the state to hire thousands of independent evaluators, as well as create much additional paperwork for principals. Already stressed school budgets will be squeezed further to meet the pact’s demands for monitoring and reporting.”

Thanks to Mulgrew’s support for requiring principals to use a research-based evaluation rubric (which really is little more than code for “Danielson”), the teaching profession promises to be reduced to a series of mechanical steps as teachers struggle to receive enough “checks” to be rated “effective.” Even the most skilled and veteran teacher, one whose experience informs their teaching style, will be forced to ignore their professional judgment when it conflicts with a supposedly “objective” observation rubric.

This will have the net effect of depriving children of the best our teachers have to offer.

When Diane Ravitch and Long Island principal Carol Burris criticized the framework to which the UFT agreed, Leo Casey attacked them as “alarmists.” He claimed that collective bargaining at the local level would prevent all of these things from happening. Over the past year, the vast majority of school districts in New York State have fully worked out a teacher evaluation system based upon the Race to the Top framework that Mulgrew fully supports. Time will tell if Leo Casey was correct about collective bargaining’s ability to cushion RTTT’s blow for our students and teachers.

Meanwhile in New York City, Michael Mulgrew and the Department of Education were unable to agree on a new evaluation system before the January 17, 2013 deadline. The main issue that divided the two sides was a “sunset clause”. Mulgrew agreed to a system that would have to be reapproved in two years, which is twice as long as most local unions in NY were willing to concede. Mayor Bloomberg, on the other hand, wanted an evaluation system that would remain in perpetuity, something that no other NY school district has implemented.

This prompted New York State Education Commissioner, John King, to threaten to withhold millions of dollars of Race to the Top funds from New York City. He also threatened to “take control” of Title I funds reserved for the neediest of our city’s children if Mulgrew and the city did not work out an agreement. As of now, both the UFT and DOE are still negotiating.

However, if negotiations fail, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would push a law through the legislature empowering the State Education Department to impose a new evaluation system on New York City by force. This is a measure for which “reformer” groups in New York State have been lobbying over the past year. In response, Michael Mulgrew signaled his willingness to accept whatever system the SED sees fit to impose, something that puts him on the same side as the reform groups that have pushed for the dismantling of public education over the past 10 years.

Mulgrew’s acceptance of a proposed evaluation from the state is in direct contradiction to the framework that he agreed to last year, the framework that would allow many details of the evaluation to be collectively bargained at the local level. This is the part of the framework that Leo Casey said was essential to preventing many of the bad affects RTTT would have on our students’ learning conditions. When Ravitch and Burris contended that the framework would turn our schools into test-prep factories and deprive our children of the best our teachers have to offer, Casey called them “alarmists”. Collective bargaining would ensure that our students would have access to the best possible education, he responded.

Now that local collective bargaining is in danger of failing, Leo Casey is making the rounds stating that Governor Cuomo is not really threatening to impose an evaluation system but, rather, have the state act as an independent arbitrator. He says the SED is not going to impose a system on our schools. They will merely impose “binding arbitration.” Furthermore, Leo Casey hinted at the idea that MORE does not understand “collective bargaining.”

Our response is that we understand collective bargaining very well. We understand the concept of an “independent arbitrator” being empowered to break an impasse between a union and its employer through “binding arbitration.” We understand an independent arbitrator to be someone with no stake in the dispute between labor and management so their decision in “binding arbitration” will not be prejudiced against one side. The SED’s ability to remain independent is doubtful for the simple fact that they are also management.

As management, they are appointees of Governor Cuomo who does have a stake in this fight. As a governor whose designs on a run at the White House are a well-known “secret”, Cuomo has a deeply vested interest in being able to brandish his credentials as an “education reformer” in 2016. Mulgrew’s willingness to accede to any system the SED sees fit to impose is tantamount to surrendering our collective bargaining rights, the very same rights that Leo Casey assured us were essential in preventing the type of “alarmist” scenario outlined by Ravitch and Burris.

The implications of categorizing the fiat of the state as “binding arbitration” are dangerous. What is to stop this or any other governor in the future from imposing something on our schools under the guise that it is “binding arbitration”? Furthermore, this evaluation framework will alter many provisions in our existing contract, especially as they relate to observations and tenure. Allowing the SED to unilaterally change this through “binding arbitration” sends the message that provisions in our contract are not binding and can be changed at will depending on where the political winds are blowing.

The main reason we have a contract is so we as teachers can speak up when our students are being hurt by bad policy. Race to the Top is bad policy. The framework to which the union agreed last year is bad policy. Allowing the SED to unilaterally reform what both our students’ learning conditions and our contract look like is bad policy.

As we can see, Michael Mulgrew has been on board the Race to the Top program from the start. He has supported it despite the fact that every major civil rights group in the nation believes it hurts our neediest students. He helped negotiate a framework that would make standardized testing and narrow observation rubrics the end-all, be-all of teacher evaluations. This will make the curriculum as taught in schools an anemic affair, especially when compared to the curriculum of Sidwell Friends and other schools reserved for the wealthiest Americans. It will deprive veteran teachers of the tools that they know for a fact work with their students, since what their experience tells them and what the “Danielson” rubric tells them will surely often be at direct odds.

He failed to fight for the integrity of collective bargaining, despite the fact that collective bargaining was held out as the antidote to turning our schools into test-prep factories. Now that he has proven willing to abandon collective bargaining, does this mean that the students in New York City have no assurance that testing will not be the centerpiece of their education experience?

He has allowed a dangerous precedent to be set by categorizing SED directives as “binding arbitration”. He has allowed the governor to unilaterally alter key provisions in our contract, provisions that ensured teachers a measure of protection in speaking up for the rights of their students.

Does Michael Mulgrew believe that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions? His actions surrounding this Race to the Top evaluation fiasco demonstrate that he is willing to sacrifice both.