Archives For UFT

In Support of Tenure

July 23, 2014 — 4 Comments

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The attacks on tenure today have nothing to do with improving teaching and learning. They are designed to undermine teachers’ unions with the goal of silencing educators’ voices.  We firmly believe that in order for public education to succeed, teachers must have tenure, a protection that allows educators to stand with parents, for children.

 

Tenure is nothing more than due process, fair hearings with an independent arbitrator where evidence can be presented in order to protect oneself from false accusations. This ensures experienced educators have job security and encourages academic freedom. These are protections all workers should have. Tenure not only empowers teachers to advocate for children and public education, but also prevents educators from becoming “at will” employees and therefore positively impacts retention of experienced educators, which research shows is a significant factor for improving student achievement and adult outcomes. Tenure also unapologetically protects teachers not only from arbitrary firing, but from being replaced by less experienced and therefore less expensive teachers as well as potential cronyism.

 

We must only look to history for compelling examples of the importance of tenure. Tenure was first established for city teachers back in 1917 to stop political patronage. Reform mayor John P Mitchell wanted to stop Tammany Hall from giving city-paid jobs to supporters who helped get politicians elected. This ended the political machine cronyism that was rampant. It was later extended to teachers across the state as a way of attracting qualified professionals to the profession. There was a historic teacher shortage in 1945, brought on by the war, when governor Thomas E. Dewey and the 165th New York State Legislature decided to extend the opportunity for tenure to teachers all across the state.

 

At the heart of the attacks on tenure is an attempt to silence educators from speaking out against so called “reform” policies that more often privilege data and profits rather than children. Far too many public education decisions are made in corporate boardrooms and political backrooms, without the input of public school stakeholders. We, along with countless others, have worked to expose and change these policies and have become pro-union and pro-public education activists in the process.  Our efforts are possible because of tenure. Any erosion of tenure will silence a great many of our voices. This will surely quicken the damage that is being done to our public schools.

 

Attacks on tenure are cloaked in civil rights language and claim to defend children from incompetent educators. The reality is there is no evidence tenure harms children and in fact while states that afford teachers tenure have some of the highest student achievement levels in the country, states without tenure have the lowest.

 

 

The Movement of Rank and File Educators, the social justice caucus of UFT, a group of working public educators and parents, stands firmly for tenure and independently arbitrated due process rights, including seniority rights, for all educators.

 

Tenure allows teachers:

 

  • to remain in this profession, despite making substantially less money than professionals in the private sector.
  • to work without fear of being fired simply because they are older or earn more than less experienced educators. In districts or schools without tenure administrators are incentivised to fire experienced educators whose retirement plans and benefits cost more than those of less experienced educators.
  • to be protected from unfair or arbitrary attacks by administrators simply because they disagree with them or advocate for children’s and/or worker’ rights.
  • to advocate for the academic freedom to meet and see all children where they are, for who they are rather than follow narrow, scripted curriculum and ‘check box rubrics’.

 

For activists, tenure secures the basic right of free speech and allows us to speak truth to power, within our schools, our union, and more broadly without fear of retribution from those in positions of power who may disagree with us. Tenure allows us to:

 

  • speak out against high stakes testing, test based evaluation schemes, and developmentally inappropriate common core standards, all of which deprive our children of a good education.
  • take to the streets, courts, internet, and the airwaves to advocate for social justice, economic, racial, and social equality in our schools and society, without fear of reprisals.
  • blow the whistle on violations that harm our children including those committed against children with special needs who have been deprived of proper services.

 

Tenure allowed eight city teachers, including Sandra Adickles, to go down south on a voluntary transfer and teach at a ‘freedom school’ during the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Adickles’ bravery later led to a US Supreme Court decision making it more difficult for southerners to deny rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. Her trip, which was financed by the United Federation of Teachers, helped make America a more equitable and better nation -and it was made possible because Ms. Adickles enjoyed the protection of tenure which guaranteed that she would not be arbitrarily fired while she was gone.

 

Tenure is essential in protecting the best of our profession: advocacy and basic freedoms, both of which benefit not only teachers but children as well.  Critics who claim, ‘tenure is a job for life’ or ‘tenure protects incompetent teachers’ are misrepresenting the facts:

 

  • It takes several years to earn tenure in New York State
  • It provides only two job protections: 1) The school district must have cause for terminating a teacher and 2) an independent agent ultimately decides whether or not the teacher is fired.
  • Every single teacher in this state who has tenure earned it by having it approved by a site supervisor with the agreement of the school district.

 

 

Tenure has been under attack nationally and in New York City in recent years.  The number of teachers successfully completing probation has dropped to only 53%, with many having their probationary period extended to 4, 5 or even 6 years. Our union leadership has done little to oppose this shift. We in fact do not have a “tenure problem”, but we do have a teacher retention problem.  In 2013, 43% of teachers with 6-15 years of experience left NYC schools, in no small part due to the tidal wave of attacks on our profession, our children and our schools. real reforms we know will benefit our children including the need to advocate for solutions that strengthen the teaching profession and seek to support and retain experienced educators. Abolishing or weakening tenure will serve to do the opposite.

 


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The % of teachers denied tenure each year, 2006-2013 (chalkbeatny.org)

 

 

James Baldwin once said “The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk.” We agree, but we also acknowledge that tenure, more than anything else, allows us to work for that change.

 

 

Business Unionsim

By Mike Schirtzer

Teacher and UFT Delegate: Leon M. Goldstein High School

 

Like most classroom teachers, I didn’t attend last weekend’s AFT convention. In fact, few working teachers knew it was going on, or had reason to care. Our delegates represented none of what we believe in and nothing that happened there will make any difference in our classroom. There was no call for Arne Duncan’s resignation, no resolution for a repeal of the Common Core Standards, and no new strategies for increasing union mobilization or supporting our students. Actually nothing of consequence was achieved. Members will go back to their respective locals and continue the same methods: Chicago Teachers Unions (CTU) will the lead the fight against so called reform that hurts our children and profession, while the AFT/UFT leadership will go back to a style of unionism that ensures that none of my friends become any more engaged in union activities. Continue Reading…

On Wednesday July 16th 2014 we are hosting a summer series panel and open discussion on the history of groups that have competed for power and influence within the UFT. We will also examine the implications for MORE. More event Information here

Below are readings and video lectures from union/UFT historians on the background of the founding of UFT and Unity caucus, the ruling party of our union.

Suggested Readings

Democracy & Politics in the UFT, 1976 Edition

Democracy and Politics in the UFT is being reprinted in its original with no changes in order to provide a snapshot of the state of the UFT and education circa 1976 and how one opposition group approached these issues.Thanks to Vera Pavone, Ira Goldfine and Norm Scott for creating an online version of the pamphlet they produced almost 40 years ago.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/233191682/Democracy-Politics-in-the-UFT-1976-Ed

UFT/Unity Caucus Early History from “City Unions”

This chapter on the founding of the UFT and how Shanker consolidated power from the book “City Unions”. There is a lot of insight into how Unity has controlled the UFT since its inception.

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/158371024/City-Unions-chapter-8

 

 

Here we have a series of videos about the history of our union, it’s founding, some discussions on past caucuses and dissident groups, and the relationship between non-Unity activists and the union leadership.

Historical roots of the UFT presented by Michael Fiorillo and Peter Lamphere at the State of the Union conference (Feb. 4. 2012).

Michael: Teacher unions up to 1968 (22 minutes): https://vimeo.com/45094559

Peter: Post 1968 (15 minutes):  https://vimeo.com/45094560

Both videos plus the Q&A (1 hour):  https://vimeo.com/45094713

UFT Friend or Foe- from 2013 Summer Series- How non-Unity Chapter leaders and activists relate to UFT leadership

Norm Scott: http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/07/27/uft-friend-or-foe-event/

Vera Pavone http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-vera-pavone/

Ira Goldfine http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-ira-goldfine/

Peter Lamphere http://morecaucusnyc.org/2013/08/14/uftaft-leadership-friend-or-foe-series-peter-lamphere/

MORE Summer Series 2012- UFT Caucus History Since 1968 

Norm Scott http://vimeo.com/45705700

Michael Fiorillo http://vimeo.com/45698849

 

Join the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) for Summer Series 2014. Discussions exploring the past, present and future of teacher unionism. All are welcome!

Wednesdays 4:00pm-7:00pm
The Dark Horse
17 Murray St. NYC
Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC

July 16th
Who Runs the UFT? Why Are There Alternatives? A Historical Perspective 1960-2014

The UFT formed in 1960 as a merger of several organizations. By 1964 the Unity caucus emerged as the ruling party of the UFT, which they remain to this day. Throughout the union’s history various dissident groups and caucuses have contested this dominance. At different times these groups merged, ran joint slates, or disbanded. We will discuss why these groups formed and their differing visions and strategies. How is MORE related to this history? What can we learn from it?

Other Summer Series Events

July 30th
Life Under the New UFT Contract

August 13th
Lessons from the Chicago Teachers’ Union- Featuring Guest Speakers from Chicago

August 20th
UFT 101: Why Does Our Teachers’ Union Matter?

twitter.com/morecaucusnyc
morecaucusnyc.org
more@morecaucusnyc.org
press inquiries media@morecaucusnyc.org

 

 

MORE’s 3rd Annual Summer Series: Discuss, Debate, Educate!

Join the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE) for discussions exploring the past, present and future of teacher unionism.  All are welcome!

Wednesdays 4:00pm-7:00pm

The Dark Horse
17 Murray St. NYC
Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC

$5 Drafts & Well Drinks

July 16th

Who Runs the UFT?  Why Are There Alternatives? A Historical Perspective 1960-2014

RSVP Here and Share our Facebook event
The UFT formed in 1960 as a merger of several organizations. By 1964 the Unity caucus emerged as the ruling party of the UFT, which they remain to this day. Throughout the union’s history various dissident groups and caucuses have contested this dominance.  At different times these groups merged, ran joint slates, or disbanded. We will discuss why these groups formed and their differing visions and strategies. How is MORE related to this history? What can we learn from it?

July 30th

Life Under the New Contract
RSVP Here and Share our Facebook event

This fall we will be returning to a radically changed work environment, which educators are approaching with a mix of hope and anxiety.  How can school workers use the new contract to advocate for themselves and their students?  How can we activate new people, strengthen our union chapters, and empower ourselves at work?  Which members are more vulnerable under the new contract, and how can we support them?  MORE wants to campaign this year around tenure, paperwork reduction, ATR rights and chapter leader elections, and we need your ideas and energy!

 

August 13th

Lessons from the Chicago Teachers’ Union Featuring Guest Speakers from Chicago

RSVP Here and Share our Facebook event
In 2010, activists in the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) took over their union – successful displacing a conservative leadership with a team of organizers headed by dynamo Karen Lewis. This group would lead the CTU on its strike against Rahm Emmanuel that mobilized teachers and school communities. The strike electrified the labor movement, however Chicago is very different than New York City.  What lessons can we learn from Chicago?  Can we adapt the model of CORE to the conditions of New York City?

 

August 20th
UFT 101: Why Does Our Teachers’ Union Matter?

RSVP Here and Share our Facebook event

Are you entering the teaching profession or new to NYC schools?  Are you wondering what the teacher union is all about and what it means to you and your students? Is it something you should be active in?  Do educators, parents and students share common interests? Can unions be vehicles for social justice?  Meet with new and veteran teachers to discuss these questions and more in this introduction to teacher unionism

Here is the flyer for distribution MORE summer 14 Announce-1

 

"solidarity mean: uniting chapters, not setting them up to compete for merit pay by another name from management"

We do not consent to divide and conquer

"MISSING from the UFT contract- have you seen a class size reduction? Last seen in MORE's Contract NYC Educators Deserve"

UFT President Michael Mulgrew likes to tell union delegates that it’s either money or class size, not both… But neither?

"solidarity means not making 151 other municipal unions negotiate with the insulting pattern we'd set vote NO on the UFT contract"

"solidarity means not making 151 other municipal unions negotiate with the insulting pattern we'd set vote NO on the UFT contract"

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…

We are ALL ATRs

May 13, 2014 — 1 Comment

"we are ALL ATRs Don't let UNITY throw our brothers and sisters under the bus. vote NO on the UFT contract"

"MEMO to UFT President Michael Mulgrew from Movement of Rank and FIle Educators MERIT PAY ≠ Solidarity"

and a interest-free loan to the City is not retroactive pay