Saturday, December 24, 2016


Report-back from UFT Delegate Assembly of December 14, 2016*
By Marjorie Stamberg

New York -- President Michael Mulgew opened with comments on Trump’s cabinet choices: The Labor Secretary, Puzder does not believe in the minimum wage, the head of the Environmental Projection Agency thinks global warming in a hoax, the education secretary doesn’t believe in public education, Exxon Mobil is the secretary of state, and so forth.
There was a slide show on Betsy Devos, who has almost single-handedly destroyed the Detroit public schools. She got the job after Eva Moskowitz turned down the job, because she woudn’t take the pay cut. On the state level, there is a proposed Constitutional Convention – we must have a “Vote No” campaign because if they have one, they will use it to destroy collective bargaining and pensions in New York State. Also vouchers are not legal in New York State – they will want to change that.  Probably they won’t be overturning the new ESSA (federal education program) immediately.
Around the country, the election of Trump, who vowed to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants (after the Obama administration has deported more than 5.5 million) has caused great consternation, anxiety and fear among immigrant students, their families and teachers.
I raised a motion, “NYC Schools Must Be a Sanctuary For Immigrant and All Students” which has been put forward by my group, Class Struggle Education Workers. The resolution (attached) calls for setting immigrant defense committees in the schools, and for the union to take action to stop deportations.
Prior to the meeting, we handed out about 400 copies as the delegates streamed in.
After Mulgrew’s report, followed by Q&A, they opened the floor for resolutions.
I was called on first, and followed the procedure for “motions for next month’s agenda”: first present the motion and then be the speaker “for.”
I told the delegates that I would not read the “whereases” because they were basically to inform the members of current New York law regarding immigrant rights, and to document the specific threats made by the incoming Trump regime. 
I then began to read the “Resolveds.”  I didn’t get past the first one, which said that the UFT should state that “police and immigration authorities will not be allowed on school premises under any circumstances.”
At this point, a Unity retiree popped out of his chair to cry  ”point of order” that the whole motion supposedly violated the Taylor Law. This is typical of the Unity machine. Anything that smacks of real struggle triggers a Pavlovian response among the bureaucratic hacks who act as constables for self-enforcement of the Taylor Law, which they regard as a godsend to block mass action. In any case, what the motion called was an on-going assembly of teachers, students, staff and parents to shut down the schools in the face of actual deportations.
The “point of order” was ruled out of order by the chair. I then continued to read the “resolveds” in the motion.
Then I motivated the resolution, saying that our November D.A., held the day after the election, was very powerful, because delegate after delegate spoke of their passion to protect the thousands of immigrant students in NYC schools. (Over half of all public school students in the city come from homes where a language other than English is spoken.)
I said we need to make the schools a place of sanctuary, welcoming for parents to come with any concerns or threats made to them, we need rapid response teams and phone chains in place to respond immediately to any threat of deportation. And we need to organize across the schools to actually stop the deportations if they occur.
I noted that the migra in NYC would quite likely not come into the schools where we will protect the kids; they were much more likely to break down doors in the dead of the night.  I said I know people have some worries, that “we can’t do this because of the law,” and “we can’t do that…”  But, I said, we are the biggest union in NYC, we have powerful allies like the TWU, we have strength, and we need to do what we need to do, because we are not going to let our students be dragged out of the schools or out of their homes.
There was considerable applause as I finished.
Howie Schoor, the convener of the Executive Board, then spoke against. He repeated that the UFT couldn’t just stop ICE (the immigration police) from coming in, we had no right to stop them, we couldn’t shut down the schools, because that violates the Taylor Law and would lead to teachers getting fired.
A chapter leader said to me, “Hey, I’d be willing to get fired for that, what’s wrong with these people?”  But in fact, you don’t get fired for violating the no-strike, slave-labor Taylor Law, but you get fined.
The vote was taken, the delegates duly voted it down, having received their cue from Schoor’s diatribe. I looked toward the section of the hall where a lot of oppositionists sit and saw about 30 or so cards raised to vote “yes," I’m not sure how many total in the hall.
Mulgrew said it was voted down, but then added that even though some of the “resolveds” weren’t doable under any circumstances (says who?), and probably a violation of the Taylor Law, that he had already told the DOE that if they try it there will be arrests of teachers, that this is a decision every person needs to make themselves, but that he as UFT president was prepared to take the consequences because “I will not let kids be dragged out of our schools.”
What UFT officials will actually do is another matter, but here they have at least verbally made a commitment of sorts, and it’s up to us as educators to stand with our immigrant students, which is why we need to mobilize all of labor, together with parents and students and everyone who defends democratic rights.
Other points of note at the D.A.
•    Opt Out Campaign.   In the Q & A, a delegate asked whether we could be penalized under ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) if the number of students who “opt out” of high-stakes testing goes above 5 percent. (ESSA is the latest federal education program, following “Race to the Top” (Obama/Duncan), which followed Bush’s “No Child Left Behind.” 
The answer from Mulgrew was yes, we the NYC schools could lose pot-loads of money if that happened. This was a not-so-veiled barb against the Opt Out campaign which the bureaucracy in the past has suggested would “hurt children” if we lose the Title 1 federal funds. (This is the standard UFT leadership response to why we have to swallow Common Core or whatever national mandate, because otherwise funds will be withdrawn.)
•    NY State Constitutional Convention   The UFT is campaigning big time for a big “No” vote in November when the electorate will be asked to vote on whether to have such a convention.  Apparently, the voters are asked to vote every 20 years on whether to have one.  If people vote yes, then every law in the NY State constitution can be up for a change.  The right-wing intends to use this method to outlaw collective bargaining, impose-right-to-work anti-union laws, take away pensions and many other items
•    Argument in the Executive Board over the “Resolution Calling for Respect for All People.”
E-board members from the Movement of Rank-and-file Educators/New Action slate (who now have the high school seats) were incensed about the machinations over this motion. The motion talks about opposing racist, anti-immigrant, anti-gay speech, discrimination or harassment in the schools, particularly in the current atmosphere, but beyond “action committees” to vaguely “defend our values” doesn’t specifically call for doing anything concrete.
The motion in question starts with two whereases: “”Whereas, the presidential election campaign rhetoric targeted communities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identify and religion, and displayed abusive behavior toward women, has threatened the nation’s promise that all people are worthy of respect” and
“Whereas, the presidential election campaign rhetoric has outlined an education agenda overtly hostile to public schools and teachers, promising to prioritize vouchers and charter schools at the expense of public schools”….
At the D.A., Peter Lamphere (MORE)  put up an amendment to change “Whereas, the presidential election campaign”… to “Whereas, the Donald Trump election…” Peter said that was the initial wording of the motion in the E-board, and that the leadership changed it behind their back to take out the reference to Trump.
This sparked furious responses from some delegates and LeRoy Barr (secretary treasurer) about how a “lot of UFTers” voted for Trump and we have to win them back to the right path, and we can’t be hostile and we can’t insult them, etc., etc. When I asked out loud to people around me, “A lot of people? Who?” Delegates snapped back “Staten Island.”
So, the line coming down from the AFT tops is that the union is going to go out of its way to avoid criticizing the Trump administration as such: where they can’t work with it, they go to court, and meanwhile they dance around the issues where they can. However, it will not be possible to duck a fight over school vouchers, more charters, national right-to-work legislation, attempts to eliminate collective rights and defense of immigrant students, which are core issues for the Trump regime.
So here you have the “mainstream” Weingarten-Mulgrew business union bureaucracy trying to avoid direct confrontation with Trump, and the MORE/New Action “opposition” wanting an anti-Trump popular front with the capitalist Democratic Party. What we need is a class struggle workers party.
•        Coming January demonstrations:  Mulgrew said the UFT just learned that the Trump & Co. will forbid any demos around the Washington Mall (no word as to where they will be permitted, maybe in Maryland?).  If people want to go to Washington, Mulgrew said the AFT will provide buses. The UFT will probably demonstrate at demos in NYC; they might go to DC, but were non-committal at this point.
          Mulgrew ended the meeting, wishing everyone happy holidays and a good rest because “when we come back, it is war.”
*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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

HOD Dec Meeting

HOD Meeting December
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting last week saw two resolutions passed.

The first was entitled CTU Resolution to Support the Standing Rock Sioux.

The resolves state the CTU will officially stand in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's opposition to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) across the Tribe's ancestral lands, waters and sacred sites, and calls on the US Army Corps of Engineers to obtain consent from the Indians before taking any federal action regarding the pipeline that would harm the ancestral lands, water and sacred sites and that the CTU will call for an immediate end to any and all aggressive actions in which police forces are using water hoses, rubber bullets, tear gas cannons and mace against peaceful water protectors.

One delegate added to the resolution giving financial support to the Dakota protesters in which teachers can send money.

The second resolution passed unanimously is the CTU Resolution to Defend Targets of President Elect Trump's Attacks. The CTU will condemn hateful, racist and xenophobic rhetoric promulgated by the President elect, not participate in divisiveness created by politicians by labeling undocumented immigrants as good or bad immigrants, not participate in pitting black and brown communities against each other, provide trainings to CTU members on how to support undocumented youth, not support ICE raids and deportations even if federal funding is cut, oppose efforts to create a Muslim registry system, advocate that all public and charter schools in Chicago become sanctuary schools, support the ACCESS Bill, join the Immigrant Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and support rallies, marches and other actions that further protect students and families.

In our next report you will read our correspondent and delegate from New York recap the NY HOD meeting in which their union fought back against supporting an anti-Trump resolution to protect the undocumented immigrants here.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Privatize Clerks

Now CPS Wants to Privatize the Clerks!
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) now have the clerks in their sight to privatize their services. 

Just like when CPS privatized the engineers, which certainly didn't help the schools when engineers were no longer under local control of the principals, their jobs outsourced which results in reduced pay and benefits, and more schools to service for less.

The staff at Hammond School were asked to sign a petition to immediately eliminate the new requirements for personal payroll management through Kronos Self Self-Service.

The teachers object to the unfair practice of forcing teachers to manage and monitor their own payroll, including benefit days, absences, and leaves. The petition was prepared by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and passed out at the last House of Delegates (HOD) meeting last Wednesday, that states "we object to the harms this will cause to Clerks around the system as positions are eliminated and combined."

The petition also states that time is taken from instructional preps, lunch, and or personal time at least once a week, including training, no hard copies or further instruction was provided prior to installation of the program, no technological support for staff, and staff and faculty are being asked to perform technology tasks outside the realm of instruction, thus creating excessive paperwork for teachers.

The new contract just ratified states that CPS must not issue excessive paperwork to the teachers, however, critics say the language is vaguely worded in the contract and thus can be exploited by CPS.

In addition, the union petition states the instructional material has been inadequate and the new system creates stress, unease and fear of lost pay.

"This unnecessary and onerous system will deprive educators of time necessary to prepare instruction, mentor students, and attend to the needs of our classroom," the petition states. 

CPS is already piloting this program in a few select schools, some located on the North side. Word out there is teachers don't like it.

One of the things teachers will have to do is fill in the paperwork when they are absent, or late that the clerks currently do.

We at Second City Teachers encourage all schools to bring signed petitions back to the union and have it presented to the Chicago Board of Education meeting to state we do not want our valuable clerks privatized!

Monday, December 12, 2016


Hi, I’m a university president,
After I triple student tuition costs which will lead to low enrollment, I’ll cut staff, and, at which point, I’ll continue to financially cripple our university, and then, I’ll complete my tenure which will include a million-dollar plus bonus simply because that’s how this works, and then, just a few months later, the mayor will appoint me to the board of the public schools, and,
in case you don’t believe me, I am real – Google it.  

Samuel DuBois is a poet, writer, and photographer. He was born in Chicago, and raised on the city’s south side and in the Gary, Indiana area. He is an editor of Coordenadas Zine. He won the Nopales con Cielo Award for fiction/non-fiction.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


By Stephen Wilson

MOSCOW -- Many years ago, the current Minister of Education, Olga Vasilieva, recalls that on a trip to America she attended a special memorial remembrance ceremony devoted to those American soldiers who had died during the war in Vietnam. The experience evidently held her in awe. She stated : " When I began to murmur something to a 
companion,a young school boy who was holding a standard threw a glance at me and silently drew his finger over his mouth signaling me to be silent.
I couldn't imagine Russian boys of that age behaving in such away."
The Minister had been recently interviewed by a journalist from Argument  and Facts. Like many other Russian politicians , she was expressing sentiments such as 'Why can't Russians be as patriotic as Americans ?' . Some Russians have even gone as far as to suggest Russian schools should emulate American by getting their students to sing the national anthem on a daily basis.
During the interview, the Minister then gave a moralistic talk on how young people should be genuinely, and not superficially patriotic. Like many Russians, she wonders whether the younger generation are either less, or more patriotic than the previous. Unlike some who recall the wartime exploits of young children who sacrificed themselves by throwing themselves with a grenade to stop tanks,
 and lament a perceived decline, the Minister leaves the question open.
The comments indicate that some Russians have a more complex and ambiguous attitude to Americans. In a word, many are inconsistently Anti - American. They don't all mock Americans as idiots who imagine Russians walk about the streets with bears.
But are Americans as patriotic in the sense which Olga Vasilieva perceives?
For many people narrowly and crudely reduce patriotism to absolute loyalty to the state. This view claims in the words of Pushkin's play 'Boris Godunov' that:
'History is made by the Tsar and nobles, while the people remain silent'.
But not all Americans blindly stand to attention to sing the National anthem in American schools. If they don't perform this ritual, it does not mean they are unpatriotic, but on the contrary , could even be affirming a more solid and deeper patriotism. Daniel Ogen, from the Blackfoot Indian tribe told me a sad story which dates back to his childhood days of the 1960's. He told me:
"One day I came to school in a very angry mood . I had just heard the news that my brother had been killed while serving in Vietnam. When the teacher asked us all to stand and sing the national anthem, I just refused to stand up.
 The teacher went mad and shouted at me to stand up and come here but I refused to move from my desk. So the teacher came up to me and tried to physically drag me away from the desk. But because I clung on to the desk with
 such strength he could not wrestle me off . So he sent for two other teachers to try and wrestle me off. None of them could drag me off. So they all ended having to carry away the desk out of the classroom with me gripping on to it !'
I still wonder how Daniel managed to cling on to that desk with such stubborn diehard tenacity. But I'm sure the sentiments expressed by the Minister of Education about the homage paid by young Americans at the remembrance
ceremony would have been appreciated. While visiting Russia , he was sick of many Russians taunting Americans as thoughtless and ignorant idiots.
He was at pains to inform them that there were many unheard of voices in America . Not all Americans go around chewing gum and incessantly or otherwise pretentiously smiling.
But if you seek to identify an example of American patriotism then you should look at the action in South Dakota, where American native Indians and their supporters went out and fought the construction of an intended oil platform over sacred land. They fought to defend the graves of their ancestors against companies who see land as merely a commercial asset. . They risked life, limb, and liberty against a well-armed police force. They have won a victory against
 the oil company because the army decided to halt construction. So patriotism means more than just silently respecting the dead at religious services .It implies fighting to protect the graves of your ancestors.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dakota Pipeline

By Stephen Wilson
A charming Lithuanian Folk tale tells how a young man rode out to graze his horses at night. Later,he fell asleep on a little path. But when he began to doze off , someone came up to him and violently pulled off his overcoat thus wakening him up. He rose up and looked around but saw nobody. He went
asleep and again, but someone pulled and flung his coat away. This time he cursed and went to sleep in another spot. When he slept he had a dream where a voice warned him : "Man, Don't go to sleep on a path that everyone travels on ! That means that ghosts walk there by night. A living person should n't lie down there. "
Practically all the Folklore around the world retain stories conveying the same moral : " Never . ever build a road ,or house or pipe-line over the graveyards or places where the dead lie buried. Any one who is rash or impudent enough
to push his luck, will suffer misfortune. For instance, in Moscow, in a district called Ostankino , the Russians built houses, palaces and a theatre over an ancient graveyard. Local people constantly complain of illness, lingering fatigue and suffer premature deaths. In Sokol, where an old First World war graveyard was demolished in the 1920's and 30's , local residents claim the walls in their houses crack , things break and ghosts constantly disturb them.
It is unlikely that the company, Energy Transfer Partners , who intend to force through a 3.7 billion Dollar projected Oil pipe line from the Bakken Oil field in North Dakota to a refinery in Patoka Illinois , near Chicago, will heed the warnings of old Folk-tales. The company has remained
intransigent and are arrogantly pushing ahead with construction even in the face of an appeal by President Obama to temporarily stop the construction never mind opposition from American native Indians and environmental
The local Standing Rock Sioux tribe and thousands of Native Americans claim the project threatens to violate their sacred burial grounds as well contaminate local drinking water. Should any pipe accidently burst then the impact on the land would be devastating. They claim at least 11 burial ground sites would be threatened. Since April 2016 when 200  
horsemen descended upon a site and set up a camp of resistance, there has been a bitterly prolonged struggle between the two sides.
The American native Indians have presented a more than convincing case that this land belongs to them according to past agreements and treaties and that the pipe line project is patently illegal . Unfortunately, their case was rejected by an American court thus needlessly intensifying an already heated dispute.
What has shocked and angered the whole World is how American Law enforcement has attempted to violently crush the revolt. Given the -heavy response of the law, it is a wonder noboby has been killed yet. The police have 
wantonly used tear-gas, rubber bullets ,water cannon and lethal concussion grenades. Anyone who lived in Belfast during the 1980's can testify how dangerous Rubber bullets can be as they killed peaceful demonstrators as well as school children. One young protestor , Sophia Wilansky , was hit on the arm with such a grenade despite the fact she was fleeing rather than challenging the police. She might now lose one of her arms !
The police claim that the protestors were throwing rocks at them and refusing to obey the letter of the law. But whose letter of the law are they observing?
The native Indians can reasonably argue that the real trespassers on this land are not themselves but the police and the soulless oil companies whose greed has rendered them stupid. They have more money than brains !
They are also violating sacred land which is just not done .
The people fighting against this pipe line are finding the struggle daunting.
As many as almost 300 people have been arrested.
Ladonna Allard ,a member of the Standing Rock Nation , stated:
" They are going under the river 500 yards from my Father's grave, my aunt who I buried last week". Another protestor denies allegations that the protestors are aggressive . Rose Stiffen insists that "We are innocent people, women , children and elders".
The American Native Indians can take heart from the fact that a new site on Facebook gathered 1 million signatures against the proposed pipe-line.
However, the struggle relentlessly goes on.