Monday, November 16, 2015

UFT Delegates Report

Report-back from the UFT DA -NY City Teachers Union 
Nov. 12, 2015   
By Marjorie Stamberg


Fracas on the First Floor at 52 Broadway

            Before we even got into the meeting, we had to face down three burly goons who surrounded us in the lobby and demanded that all United Federation of Teachers members handing out flyers go outside the building.  This exclusion attempt did not work, as we stood our ground and would not be moved out of our own union hall.
These guys refused to say who ordered them to throw us out.  They muttered something about “building management”; they got in our face and tried to push us out the door with our flyers. I would say this was a foray to “test the waters” and see if UFT oppositionists could be pushed out of talking to members and leafleting inside our own union hall. We couldn’t and wouldn’t.

            Norm Scott has reported on the fracas, see  (Video: Taking a Stand Against UFT/Unity Attempt to Ban Lit Distribution in Lobby of 52 Broadway)  and has a note on the history of Unity Caucus’ undemocratic measures against oppositionists. I can only add cell phone cameras may not be a game changer, but they come in handy.   

            What leaflets were being handed out?  MORE Caucus had a resolution in opposition to the Buffalo receivership. Adult Ed teachers had a flyer against the huge cutbacks in ESL and Basic Ed services for adults, and the ongoing vicious  harassment of teacher in that unit. My group, Class Struggle Education Workers, had a flyer denouncing the UFT/AFT endorsement of Clinton and against both Clinton  and Sanders support for corporate “education reform”.  All of which are extremely relevant to teacher delegates.

President’s Report
President Mulgrew started his report by noting that an “incident’ had occurred down in the lobby. He blamed it on building management. (Who they?  We own the building!) He said since it is our building, UFTers could hand out flyers in the lobby during the D.A. (like, duh!). 
Then he began his report.

National:  the tide is turning in our favor after the years of teacher bashing, Common Core testing mania and other markers of the corporate privatization drive. Mulgrew lauded that Hillary Clinton made some lukewarm criticism of the charters.

The Supreme Court Friedrichs’ case is the biggest threat to public workers unions around the country right now. The court’s aim is to throw out the agency shop for public employees. Mulgrew said there will be a co-ordinated campaign of SEIU, AFSCME, AFT and UFT to fight it.  How will they fight it?  They will be filing an amicus brief with the court and seek the support of attorneys general in the states to support it. (This is pretty lame in response to this attempt to financially gut the unions — more later on this).

Statewide, the biggest challenge is Buffalo receivership, where a new NYS law was passed to override the Buffalo Teachers Federation collective bargaining agreement. Their plan is to starve schools of funds then close them,  push out teachers, and unilaterally lengthen the school day and year. Two motions came up at the DA to support Buffalo teachers in this fight:  one put up by UFT VP Janella Hinds, and another by MORE caucus.  The two authors agreed to collaborate on a single motion for the next DA. What we really need to do is what they are doing in Brazil right now, where teachers, students, parents and people from the community are occupying a number of the several thousand schools slated for closing.

 Part 154 Instruction --  Servicing of ELLs. Mulgrew said Bloomberg gutted ESL instruction. Now new changes in the state regs have devastated ESL services, cutting back stand alone ESL classrooms, and even ESL teachers in the content areas if the content area teacher has 12 ESL credits. Mulgrew stated the new regs are a disaster and physically impossible to comply with.  For more information, see the informative piece by Arthur Goldstein of Francis Lewis High School – who posts on NYC Educator blog. He and ESL teacher Aixa Rodriguez had an interview on Spanish Telemundo 47 explaining the devastating cutbacks.


Success Academy:  Eva Moskowitz got caught out when the press reported on Success Academy’s  Fort Greene “got to go list” of students who will be constantly suspended, and their families harassed, until they are forced out of the school. At the DA, a motion was passed to call for a state investigation into disciplinary conditions and high rate of suspensions at Success Academy and for a moratorium on new Success Academy Charter Schools.

Q&A:  Questions included the UFT’s position on abusive principals, the advantages of the new contract’s PROSE schools (juggling working hours, such as a long 4-day week for teachers in some pilot schools); the state’s Common Core commissions, the procedures for getting rid of metal detectors at some schools; what should be done to support ATRs in a building.


Friedrichs v California Teachers Association Supreme Court case. 

Friedrichs will be a watershed battle for public workers – it is aimed squarely at bankrupting teachers unions across the country.  And labor’s response to this is pathetic, electoralist, and losing, before the battle is even engaged. Since this issue is a big deal, I want to go into it a little here. Believe me, it will affect you.

I spoke on this motion, put up an amendment and was able to give my “cheese-head” speech. (Green Bay Packers fans wear headgear that looks like a slice of Wisconsin cheddar cheese. It’s the “dairy state,” right? During the union battle there, we picked up a button saying “Solid Dairy Forever”!) My point was about the (negative) lessons of the huge Wisconsin labor battle for collective bargaining rights. Remember all those thousands of teachers and public workers in Madison in the freezing cold winter of 2011 – ringing the capital by the thousands, day after day for weeks? This struggle was sold out on the eve of a general strike when the Wisconsin AFL-CIO labor bureaucracy spiked it in favor of a “recall vote” against Republican governor Scott Walker. The recall failed as did the whole electoral capitalist game of Republicans v Democrats.

And now they want to repeat that capitulation, only bigger, in Freidrichs. If you’re not following this case, or even if you are, here are the bullet-points:

 ·         The Supreme Court solicited this case from a small group of right-wing California union-busters who want to outlaw the “agency shop.” The union shop was targeted by Taft-Hartley in 1947. Specifically the teachers unions which have been the main target of the so-called “education reformers.” The union-busters have been unsuccessful so far, so now they’re trying to bankrupt us through the courts.

·         The overwhelming majority of teachers sign up with the union when they start work, recognizing that it’s there to defend their rights. Agency shop means that if you don’t join the union, you pay a fee in recognition of all the services the union provides (contractual salary rates, health care plans, no lunch-room duty, a six-hour-fifty-minute school day, etc.).

·         Union dues and fees are deducted by the DOE from our paychecks. The union should have never allowed the employer to be the overseer of our funds. There’s a class line here, and the boss and the government are on the other side. We need to go back to the union shop, collect our own dues, and build union power through hard class struggle.

·         You cannot beat this onslaught through “hard work in the political and legislative arenas” as the UFT motion stated. This can only be stopped in the streets.  That was the crux of my amendment. Particularly because the  Supreme Court is not elected and not subject to legislative control, we need a nationwide campaign of massive mobilizations of union power. The amendment passed, but unless we pull this fight out from under the labor bureaucracy, Friedrichs will mean a terrible defeat for public sector labor. Think PATCO air controllers, under Reagan, which led to years of defeats. And this is being done under the Democrats!

 The rest of the meeting was pretty much bread and butter resolutions.  A motion was passed divesting union pension funds from companies with a big carbon footprint. Mulgrew announced that the union no longer has any investments in hedge funds. The billionaire hedge fund operators, of course, are funding oodles of charters because they have “good cash flow.”

That’s it for now.

*As one of your UFT delegates I report-back on the monthly meetings.  These reports are "my take" on the meeting. For official minutes, let me know and I'll send them along to you.

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