Thursday, October 23, 2014


NY Delegates Meeting
By Marjorie Stamberg

 Punchlines from tonight’s D.A. --  ATRs, Philly teachers
This was the first Delegate Assembly of the 2014-2015 school year.
 Two important points came up after Mulgrew's president's report, which I would characterize as the UFT bureaucracy's enchantment with Chancellor Carmen Fariña.  "Remember all those years with that moron up the street?” said Mulgrew (referring to Joel Klein and the Bloomberg years). Now with a “friend” in Tweed (“call me Carmen”), and the new contract, he said, "teachers have a voice" and the chancellor is telling the principals, "teachers aren't the enemy, they're soldiers in your army.”  Well, the brass and the troops have a very different standpoint, especially when we’re facing a war on teachers and public education.
Plus Common Core, MOSL (Measure of Student Learning, i.e., teacher evals tagged to student test scores), Eva Moskowitz, the ever-expanding number of charters, ATRs, to cite a few of the burning issues.  
Mainly, Mugrew was tracked on UFT phone-banking and doorbell-ringing to get out the Democratic vote in various states and upstate NY (as if that will do us any good, with Cuomo and Obama leading the charge on teachers). The union in the hands of this crowd, far from leading workers' struggle, acts as a pressure group whose fortunes rise and fall according to the requirements of capital.
Two salient points:
Gloria Brandman for MORE put up a motion for an ATR functional chapter. She motivated it extensively, pointing out that the ATRs aren’t going away, that they are denied rights as UFT members, cannot run for union office, can only vote in chapter elections in the school they happen to be in that week in their trek from school to school. 

But as usual whenever a hot issue comes up, the Unity apparatus mobilized to keep this off the agenda at the next meeting.

The UFT leadership has been telling us since 2007 this is a temporary situation.  The reason we have teachers in the ATR pool at all is that the UFT sold out seniority transfer rights in the 2006 contract. And now when they can’t make charges stick against teachers, they ATR them. 

Meanwhile, schools are still closing, including the large comprehensive high schools like Jamaica HS, which has resulted in some of our most experienced and effective teachers wandering like nomads across the city from school to school. And with de Blasio capitulating totally on fighting Eva Moskowitz on charters, the number is sure to grow.

Leroy Barr, UFT assistant secretary and co staff director, speaking against Gloria’s motion was demagogic and just plain wrong.  He argued that the ATRs have full rights because the chapter leaders in whatever school they land for the week will take care of them and treat them like equals. Huh?

How is not having representatives to speak for their interests at the D.A., the union’s highest body, not having a chapter to discuss urgent matters, and not being able to run for union office full rights?   A substantial number of delegates voted to place the issue on next month’s agenda. But there was never any doubt it would fail after the Unity machine fell into line against it.

Mulgrew later said the number of ATRs is down substantially from last year.  I asked, “what’s the number?”  He said in the 300-400 range.  
Philadelphia Schools and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Philly teachers and schools are under attack, as the Republican governor Tom Corbett, in cahoots with the Democratic mayor Michael Nutter, got the school board to break the teachers contract and impose huge contributions on health care, as well as threatening some 5,000 layoffs.  Meanwhile Philly schools have been heavily charterized.  AFT president Randi Weingarten went to Philly for a teachers’ rally last week and the union filed a court suit which won an injunction to put a stay on the union-busting plans.

So there was a motion for UFT to stand in solidarity with Philly teachers. Michael Friedman from P2G spoke in favor of the motion.   I then spoke in favor but wanted to put some teeth in it.  My points were:

  • Corbett is a nasty right-wing governor, for sure. In addition to attacking the teachers, he has just signed into law a special bill to deny free speech rights and silence America’s foremost political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the famous black journalist, author of Live From Death Row, has been unjustly imprisoned for decades.
 [This is now referred to as the “Mumia Bill,” pushed by the Philly Fraternal Order of Police.  This law silences any prisoner in Pennsylvania whose words allegedly cause the prisoners’ alleged victims “mental anguish.”  It was rushed into law 11 days after Mumia gave an eloquent commencement address quoting John Dewey and Paulo Freire to grads at Goddard College where Mumia earned his degree (while in prison).   This is a blatant violation of the First Amendment.]

  • I said the attack on the Philly teachers’ union came not only from Republican Corbett but was a bipartisan drive of both Republicans and Democrats. That there should be a strike by all of Philly labor against these attacks.  I wanted to amend the UFT’s motion of “solidarity” to read “solidarity action” with Philly teachers, saying the UFT should state that “layoffs make us sick.”  (Like in Wisconsin where the whole 2011 mobilization was sparked by a Madison teachers’ sickout).  Mulgrew jumped on the last part, saying you couldn’t make an amendment if you were speaking in favor of a motion, you had to get recognized to make an amendment.  But the point got out.

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