Monday, August 31, 2020

UFT Sets Negotiation Deadline As Solidarity Caucus Files Injunction Tomorrow Morning

<stops eating doughnut>

For the first time in 18 years, the UFT's Executive Board authorized the leadership to call a strike vote. The unanimous vote from the 300+ member Executive Board specifically authorizes UFT leader to EITHER conclude negotiations OR ask for a strike vote from the union's  Delegate Assembly. The DA is set to meet tomorrow afternoon and will be inclined vote for whatever the leadership asks.

Today's vote came after a long day of unanswered questions with the anti-union members of the press reporting that UFT President was talking to members of the business community (and that Mulgrew did not at all look like he was about to go on strike), while members of the actual union openly expressed frustration and resentment at being used as pawns in someone else's game (see tweets below).

The vote allows the union leadership to do pretty much what every leadership has been doing since the start of this pandemic: Whatever they hell they want and, while it leaves school teachers across the city waiting one more day to learn the outcome of the game that is being played, one caucus leader and long-time union activist received a one-line reply to his long, detailed email from a high ranking UFT official late in the day:

Thank you for sharing ...


To date seventy (70) school staff members have lost their life due to the spread of COVID
To date zero (0)  union staffers and officers have lost their life due to the spread of COVID.

I, for one, am grateful to know there is someone with whom I can share my thoughts.

(Editor's Note. It was nice to learn ... from the anti-union press .. via a talk with business leaders ..... that we probably we may not have to go on strike. I like not going on strike. It's nice. Truth be told, this whole pandemic has taught me that unions should be like a good expensive balsamic vinegar; always there in pantry incase you need it, but never on your mind until you do. And let's face facts, when the chips are down, the UFT is more than happy to oblige).

In the meantime, the Solidarity caucus is filing an injunction in court in the name of five of those pawns .. actual school teachers in New York City .. who will put their families at risk of extreme sickness or death should they return to work. From the Solidarity Press release:

Alarmed at what they have concluded is a dangerous and unsustainable safety plan, public school educators affiliated with the second largest caucus of the United Federation of Teachers have begun efforts that they hope will lead the largest school district in the nation delay a return to in-person instruction “until the City of New York has determined it safe to conduct indoor activities and the State of NY has removed all bans on large group events, as per Executive. Order No. 202.3 filed by Governor Cuomo from March 12, 2020.” The Solidarity Caucus helped fundraise for this litigation through small donations from other UFT members and community members using GoFundMe. At present the caucus has fundraised over $5700. They have retained Bryan Glass, a well-known and respected labor and education attorney in the New York region.

I'm sure the UFT will find the best the deal they can. I'm sure, when it arrives, that they'll assure us that it was the very best deal they could make under the circumstances. I'm sure we'll mostly be fine when we go back and I'm absolutely sure that any voices expressing dismay will be quickly quelled with the sudden magical appearance of UFT Unity loyalists on social media -folks who don't know how to defend a teacher but who sure as hell know how to ridicule them- shaming them into silence.

<goes back to eating doughnut>

Thursday, August 27, 2020

UFT Scores A Pretty Good Deal -Maybe

It's all over the internet today that the UFT and DOE finally reached an arrangement about working conditions. On the not so good side, it's fairly complicated and there is a short period of time to (re)create school schedules around it. On the plus side, it reduces the class size by 1/3 and makes sure remote only teachers and blended teachers aren't given any extra work to do. 

You really have to read the full MOA in order to understand this work place rule thing. The DOE and UFT had a major challenge: how do the blended students learn on days they are not in. The solution was to combine every two classes of students and add a third teacher. Pretty clever! 

Under the arrangement, the schedule for three teachers would look something like this:

(Regular) Teacher 1 - 34 students (total)

(Regular) Teacher 2 - 34 student (total)

(Remote Blended) 3 - 0 students. 

The remote blended teacher posts work (and does mini-lessons for no more than 30 minutes) for the 68 students (total) on the days those students are not in attendance. It's actually 68 MINUS anyone who is in school. All three teachers share all of the parental contacts and grading. 

When you look at a full high school teacher's roster, the arrangement looks more like this:

(Regular) Teacher 1 - 170 students (total)

(Regular) Teacher 2 - 170 student (total)

(Remote Blended) 3 - 0 students. 

The remote blended teacher posts work (and does mini-lessons for no more than 30 minutes) for the 340  students (total) on the days those students are not in attendance. It's actually 340 MINUS anyone who is in school. All three teachers share all of the parental contacts and grading. 

Many folks are on social media crying about the 'remote blended teacher' actually has 68 students per class and 340 students total. This isn't true. Those folks obviously aren't math teachers and, in their frustration, they have invented 340 extra students. They misread the rules. It's as simple as that. 

In the meantime, the Remote Blended Teacher position is the premiere role to go for when you get back. I mean, they really should let you stay home but that's a whole other conversation.  For now, remote blended teachers work out a schedule with their supervisor. They are set up in a classroom of an office. They do their 15-30 minute 'mini-lessons' every day and they grade only 1/3 of the work. 

For those who really 'get' the system in the DOE, that remote blended teacher spot is for you. Oh, yes!!

Don't like tech? That's fine. The regular blended teacher gives work and mini lessons for 340 students but only scores/grades work from less than a usual teacher roster. So that's a but easier as well. 

'Would any of this work in my school? Um .. no. Most of my admins are just don't have the skillsets to manage something like and the one who is far too busy. Also the teachers in my school are especially gratuitous and even a bit toxic. So they'll probably say something like "nah. I'll grade just my assignments". But if you're someone who knows how to assert themselves or if you're in a school with good people, then the blended remote teacher assignment is for you. '

If this plan were released in May, it would be pretty exciting. As it stands, it's released in late August and, unless the DoE compels every school to change their program (for a 4th or 5th time) to fit this new plan, then most schools will just ignore it. 

But .. if you're school can switch over and if the people in your building are knowledgeable and competent enough to willfully make the switch, then this is a pretty good plan. 

And anyone who tells you otherwise is nuts.  

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Biggest Sickout In the History of New York City

A heated presidential election?

Social unrest and turmoil? 

An Impending recession?

Unacceptable terms from a mayor who is seen as screwing it all up?

A possible New York City Teacher Strike?

I'm sure that sounds like 2020 to you.  And this year does, in fact, have all of those components. But I'm actually describing 1968. 

During that year, the sitting president announced that he wasn't going to run and the leading candidate was murdered in Los Angelos. During this same year, millions of Americans found themselves facing job loss due to an impending recession and let's not forget the turmoil of America's most famous year.  This was the same year that the mayor, John Lindsay, supported community schools at the cost of basic due process rights for teachers, causing the most famous teacher strike in New York's City history.

That strike was difficult. The union, after making the decision that they had to go (Fred Newman had been fired without due process and the community board refused to acknowledge it) needed to convince all of the other teachers (across five boroughs) to walk out as well. Most did. We didn't lose due process.

That strike lasted for 36 days. This one won't last that long. 

I would imagine teachers in 1968 showing up, picketing around their school during their ninety-minute or two-hour shift, maybe attending an end-of-day rally and going home. Between those appearances, they probably had to scrimp for food and gas in the car and then call all of their friends when they got home to find out how their day had went. When it was all over, teachers had to make up those days for no money. They worked the day after Thanksgiving,  the day after Christmas, the day after New Years and missed most of the vacation days just because the terms of the settlement included making up for the lost days. 

That generation had it rough. 

Ours? Eh ....

Look, the last prediction I made was that they would close schools and that was right. So let me make another prediction: There *will* be a job action next month. They mayor (who, like Lindsay is a 'profile in weakness'. he micromanages. He bickers. He pits subordinates against each other and, after seven years of dealing with the governor's pettiness,  rarely communicates outside of what has come to be a very tight circle) will not avoid opening schools. He promised a nurse in every school, but he didn't say when.  He promised everyone would be safe, but he he hasn't said how. And let's not forget, a lot of people got sick because he kept those buildings open last Spring. But he is bending over backwards to try to look as though he meeting some demands. But the UFT's demand that everyone test negative before they enter a school is one demand that he may not be able to meet. The tests are taking too long to process and, thanks to the mayor taking so long to get us to this point,  there is no way close to one million people can be tested in tine. So I put the chances for a job action of some sort at around 80% as of today.

But what, exactly, will be our action? 

Shanker had to convince thousands of teachers to get up, leave their house every day and report to their picket site. Mulgrew will be asking us to stay at home. 

Now this is for many reasons! One reason, obviously, is COVID. But another reason is that it isn't exactly illegal to tell us to not report to a place where it is unsafe. In order for the Taylor Law to be evoked, the mayor would have to file an injunction with the courts here in the city. If there isn't a hearing then, there will be one on appeal. It seems pretty clear the UFT will bring evidence that one or more schools aren't safe. And if the court refuses to issue the injunction, then it isn't exactly a violation of the Taylor Law). (Read section 210 - 212 here and see for yourself). 

But no one in New York City is stupid enough to call a teacher strike because schools aren't safe and then ask us to report to our schools to picket. It's just, I'm sorry, really, no one is that stupid. We'll all be remote picketing this time through.

All of this will happen over the period of several days, not several weeks. The mayor wants school to start. The union wants school to start. Hell, I want to school to start. We all need school to start. So here is the way it is going to go: either the mayor, or a court, will decide to keep the school buildings closed for a while longer as the city does what it should have done last Spring (its job). Once the buildings are safe, we will all (er most) go in and perform the duties that we love so much. 

But we will be in our homes while it is happening. We will be watching it on TV. We will be zoom conferencing, group texting and keeping ourselves glued to social media as it is happening (you know. Just like we all do now 😃 )

And, if my prediction is right, what will happen on September 8, 2020 (or soon thereafter), will be nothing short of the largest sickout in the history of New York City. Tens of thousands of New York educators (or more) will simply not report. Remote teachers will not log in. In-person teachers will not walk in. The buildings aren't safe. 

We will all stay home, watching all of it. The heated election, the social unrest, the slow coming recession, a bungling mayor -and our own "strike". That is how solidarity will look in the year 2020. 

And, with any luck, it will all be resolved by that (very important) Friday. 

From Gene Mann -period.

 I don't typically repost words from Unity UFT folks. (It's nothing against them. They seem like fine folks I just typically don't). But this, from Unity's Gene Mann is simply too good to not post. 

You must be aware that schools are slated to reopen with the assurances of Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Carranza that everything will be safe.  You also know that the UFT can’t accept promises as guarantees of your health and safety. (See the President Mulgrew’s letter below).

The schools cannot without adequate supplies, protocols, and testing.


If those conditions cannot be met, you shouldn’t go to work.


Even if you have been granted a medical accommodation, you shouldn’t work. 

(Your accommodation is only good until December 31st. You need to be

assured that you will be returning to a safe environment. You need to be

mindful that, if you weren’t a member of a union, you wouldn’t have been

offered an accommodation at all.)


You will be meeting with your Chapter Leader and District Representative in the next week. I’ve appended a schedule for some Queens high schools.

At that meeting you will be organizing for a series of urgent actions which may culminate in a strike, our first in 45 years.

I may be called upon to contribute to some of those meetings, as I have at other times this summer, as a strike veteran.  On those occasions folks expected that I would explain the facts and fables about striking and thereby violating the Taylor Law.

That’s the last thing I want to talk about.

This is not 1975.

This is not about wages, and class size, and building assignments.

This is 2020.

This is about lives.

I’ve spoken to some Chapter Leaders who want to survey their members.

No. (“Hey people, would you be interested in a strike?”)

We must unite around the belief that we will do anything, even breaking the law, to protect ourselves and our families, our students and their families, our colleagues and our communities.


         Chapter Leaders have asked what to say to members who won’t support us.

         In 1975 what would you have said to someone who weakened your ability to bargain for decent wages and working conditions? (You may recall Marco, in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge: “Eddie Carbone, you have stolen the bread from the mouths of my children!”)

         In 2020 what will you say to someone who says to you (without a face covering, of course) “I don’t care about you or anyone else. I’m not going to risk the possibility of a fine or other penalty and certainly not get in the principal’s bad books.”

Not printable.

         That’s where we are.  Everything else about 2020, the Year of Novel Coronavirus, has been novel.  In the past two years you have beaten back Cuomo’s Constitutional Convention and weathered Samuel Alito’s horrible opinion in the JANUS case.  Now it’s time to stand strong.

It is a matter of life and death.

Monday, August 10, 2020

UFT Group Takes Legal Action to Block Schools From Opening

In my last post, I mentioned the UFT's second largest Caucus; UFT Solidarity and the petition they have have to get schools' chancellor Carranza to resign. While taking a pass on it myself, I did link to it in the event that any reader may want to sign on.  (I'm opposed to it because I feel his equity agenda is just too important. I don't foresee the city having another school leader who is willing to speak so strongly against school segregation and I hope to see him return to that work after this crisis. But the petition has just over 1380 signatures as of this writing and, if you are so inclined, you should consider making your voice heard). 

Today comes news that the group has begun legal action to stop the opening. They will be seeking an injunction to stop the schools from opening on the grounds that the DoE has not been able to make them safe and are seeking teachers to join their legal suit:

A well-known educational lawyer is interested in pursuing legal action necessary to file an injunction against the City to prevent NYC school buildings from reopening in September. Many members are concerned about the working and learning conditions our children will be subjected to and are considering pursuing legal action. This form is to gather the names and information of people interested in the case.

Word has it that Bryan Glass is the "well-known lawyer". You won't find a single attorney with a higher profile -and a better track record for keeping the city's DoE honest- than Bryan Glass. This is an attorney who has challenged them in the city courts, the state courts and the federal courts and has won on every level. If it is true that he has agreed to look into the possibility of filing an injunction, then the group stands a very good chance of having their concerns heard in court. 

This, as well as any court action, is nothing to laugh about.

You sign up to join their legal suit on the Google Form here. The form does ask for information that some have already commented is way too confidential. I understand this. I can say this: I have seen desperate attempts of groups to collect  person's data in the past and understand the discomfort. But I know some of these folks, including where they are coming from, and do not feel this is a reason for anyone not to sign on. 

The court systems in the United States, and in New York, are the most robust anywhere in the world and can provide a powerful check on any government action. The city DoE is prevented by law from taking any action against you in retaliation for joining a complaint. If you do not feel the DoE has made it safe enough for schools to open, this may be your best and most responsible chance to do so. Some teachers prefer to avoid fear mongering wherever they can and aren't the type to attend a rally where they are asked dress up like dead people and bring along a cardboard coffin. Of that group of teachers, some of them prefer to have their grievances resolved before a court of law. If that's you, you should consider signing on to the suit.

  The ICEUFT Blog covered the letter the the group produced


Friday, August 7, 2020

Cuomo Says "Open" As Relief Bill from DC Almost Fails. Consequences?

Cuomo punted today. Instead of making an affirmative decision one way or the other, he simply held to the health guidelines and said that districts have the OK to move ahead. But the decision -including the political consequences- has been left to the mayor. The mayor is many things. Scared of the camera is one of them. So he may close yet.  Anyway if you are here, then you have probably read that story. 

The bigger news today actually comes from DC. Months ago, folks said that 'if the HEROES Act doesn't pass, The DoE won't have enough money to open". It was, according the people saying this, as simple as that. We need money. 

Well Congress' efforts ended in failure today. The HEROES Act (now known as the Republican HEALS Act) fell through today. Apparently, the deal is dead.

Bipartisan talks aimed at finding a deal on a fifth coronavirus bill collapsed on Friday, all-but-guaranteeing Congress and the White House will not be able to reach a compromise despite a steady uptick in cases and lingering economic aftershocks. 


Mnuchin said he was willing to hear “new proposals” from Democrats. But after meeting almost every day since last Monday, the GOP negotiators said there were no plans to meet this weekend, marking the clearest sign yet that they will not get an agreement.

 The White House intends to issue Executive Orders to help with at least some of the crisis ...

"[Meadows] and I will recommend to the president, based upon our lack of activity today, to move forward with some executive orders," Mnuchin told reporters.... 

Mnuchin added that the president’s orders would address expired unemployment insurance benefits and eviction protections. It would also extend the current suspension of student loan payments and defer federal payroll tax payments. Members of both parties have opposed the payroll tax cut.

What isn't being discussed is the president sending money to states to help with their budget deficits. Cuomo has said New York needs as much as $30 billion. 

So, if those people who were saying that we will not have enough money to open schools were *not* full of it, then we won't open.

If you are in that camp, I would not get your hopes up. I think those people may have been full of it the whole while. 

I would, however, point out that if there is no funding from DC, then the state and the city may be strapped for so much cash that they may ask for teachers and others to agree to help. This could mean furloughs, a loan from our pension or some other giveback -or we may face layoffs (the mayor has promised 22,000 layoffs if there was no money. Let's see if they revisit that tomorrow or Monday). This may give the union enough leverage to work out a deal to delay the opening .. 

.. and, yes, it may also mean that a buyout may be on the way .. This are the things that cash strapped governments do. So, if they were really cash strapped, these are the things that will come down the road.

... or it may not. The DOENuts moniker was thought up when things were nuts. This is way beyond nuts...

Meantime, if you are so inclined, the union's second largest group of teacher -the Solidarity Caucus- has begun a petition drive to ask the chancellor to resign. It is as gutsy a move as anyone here in New York has made and I respect it. I, myself, can not bring myself sign on just now (through all of this, I am still a general fan of his equity agenda and I do not believe another chancellor will be around championing these things for a half a generation at least). But as of this writing the petition has earned just over 1,000 signatures. 

The union doesn't operate quite like a city agency. They are duty-bound to remain within their consensus and when the second largest group of teachers in the union (as tallied from last year's election) starts making noise and drops a petition, it is no small thing (I understand a different caucus dressed up like they were dead and brought some cardboard coffins to a rally or something. That probably worked out great for a press appearance and to get more people to join. This is great but events like that generally tend not to make a dent within the union itself. A petition from the second largest caucus -personally led by the former presidential candidate Lydia Howrilka- may, in fact, change the course of the union. You can sign the petition here  And, if you are so inclined, you can read the Solidarity press release here

I have taken a deeper look into this caucus and it has a lot of good solid educators leading it and is itself a nimble strong group of New York City teachers. I'm happy to offer my own help to them and am glad that one of the leaders of the only group I will hang with,  James Eterno, is as well. They'll be fine and are going to make an impact.

Meanwhile, the petition of high school teacher (and friend to this blog) Kevin Kearns to remain in remote is still active and is moving toward 10,000 signatures. You can find that petition here