Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Friday, January 25, 2013

Anger At The UFT Leadership Is Building In The Rank And File

The UFT leadership are a smug bunch.

They've been in power for a long time and the swagger they exhibit whenever they deign to come and talk to the rank and file makes me think that they think they're going to be in power for a lot longer.

Now I wouldn't bet against the Unity caucus staying in power in perpetuity or at least until the neo-liberals complete their privatization job on the NYC public school system, but I got an eye-opening look into something this week that I haven't seen much of in my 12 years as a UFT member - genuine outrage, anger and frustration aimed at the UFT leadership.

I graded Regents exams this week with teachers from a dozen different schools around Manhattan.

Many of them expressed outrage over the DOE, anger at Bloomberg and Walcott, and frustration over the latest ed deforms that are wreaking havoc across the system.

But there was also a lot of fire and brimstone aimed at Mulgrew and the UFT leadership for their collaboration with the deform movement and the DOE.

One teacher said, as we were talking about all the ways the UFT has caved to Bloomberg and the DOE since the infamous 2005 contract, "I can't think of one thing that they've really said no too that ended up really being no."

And it's true - they say there's too much emphasis on high stakes testing, but then they help develop the APPR system; they give the okay on the Teacher Data Reports with the assurance that the numbers will never see the light of day in public and when the DOE decides to publish them in the media, they half-heartedly fight that with ineffective lawsuits and the TDR's end up in the papers with names attached.

One teacher, now working in high school but then working in a middle school said "I can't tell you how angry that made me, when they published the Teacher Data Reports - angry at Bloomberg for doing it and angry at the union for not stopping him from doing it."

Someone else told a story about working in one of the SIG schools and how unhelpful and indeed toxic the union people were, almost as unhelpful and toxic as the DOE and network people were during the turnaround battles.

"All they wanted to do was sell us on the Danielson rubric and tell us how great it was.  But we were telling them that the administration was using it as a weapon against us and they didn't want to hear it.  They only wanted to hear how great the Danielson rubric was."

Someone else concurred.  "Yeah, the union people never really want to hear from you.  They want you to listen to them, not the other way around.  And that makes me really, really angry.  Why am I paying union dues?  What am I getting out of this?"

Someone said "Dental insurance?"

And everybody laughed. "Yeah - and shitty dental insurance at that!"

Someone else complained about all the perks the core UFT people get and wanted to know why they were getting those when so many rank and file members are fighting for their jobs.

Now I hear this kind of anger, outrage and frustration toward the union leadership in the blogosphere all the time and I express this kind of anger, outrage and frustration myself toward the union leadership on this blog all the time.

But to hear this same anger, outrage and frustration toward the union leadership in person from a whole swath of people from a dozen different schools was very informative for me.

It means that the swaggering bullies in the UFT leadership had better watch out.

There is a huge amount of anger, outrage and frustration out there already and we haven't even gotten the APPR system yet with the official use of the 57 page Danielson rubric which you had better do well on or you're "I-Rated," and the Student Learning Objectives that require 170 folders with a dozen pieces of Common Core work graded per semester which you also had better do well on or you're "I-Rated," and the value added measurements based upon test scores which you had better show growth on or you're "I-Rated," and the additional meetings and paperwork that are going to come as a result of the APPR system.

Just wait until that stuff comes to fruition.

My sense is that Mulgrew and his Unity hacks think they can bullshit their way through the APPR fallout just the way they have bullshitted their way through the odious '05 contract and the '07 extension to that, just the way they bullshitted their way through all the closings and the turnarounds, the TDR reports and the naming of names in the papers, and now the evaluation negotiations.

Experience says the UFT leadership are correct - they will be able to bullshit their way through APPR no matter how bad it is and maintain their power and privileges and double pensions.

But the anger, outrage and frustration I saw at the grading sessions this week leads me to believe that the UFT leadership will have a harder time bullshitting their way through the APPR fallout than they have over the other stuff in the past.

First, because all this stuff has built up - the odious '05 contract, the TDR's, the school closures, the co-location fights, the increase in "U-Ratings," the SIG mess, the Leadership Academy principals and the horror that is the ATR pool.  There is a lot in the pit already and when the APPR fallout hits, the pit is going to be close to overflowing.

And second, because we are now seeing anger, outrage and frustration aimed at the UFT leadership from teachers who used to be pretty apolitical folk but have found themselves politicized by the crimes perpetrated on them by the Tweedies that the UFT either ignored or couldn't do anything about.

Somebody mentioned MORE today during this discussion (not me, btw) and everybody at the table said they would be open to hearing from someone new, someone who would be willing to stand up for teachers rather than sell them out, somebody who would be more interested in political issues that mean something to teachers rather than just public relations opportunities to aggrandize themselves and further their own careers.

I'm not naive enough to think the Unity people won't win this coming election - Mulgrew will probably win another overwhelming "victory" that will put a smirk on his face and the double "g's" in his swagger.

But the same person who mentioned MORE at the grading session mentioned how Julie Cavanagh is an appealing leader who really could give Mulgrew a run for his money in the future.

I think that is right with one qualification - the future is farther off than this next UFT election.

We haven't hit bottom yet in the NYC system. 

There is more horror to come, as Bloomberg attempts to go out causing as much chaos and destruction as he can.

And the state has some horrors up its sleeve too with APPR and the VAM.

I think after a year or two of that kind of devastation, the anger, outrage and frustration at the smug, swaggering Unity guys is going to be at a fever pitch and that will give some new blood - hopefully MORE - a real opening to do to Unity what CORE did to the entrenched CTU leadership.

If that happens, I will remember what I heard today from those teachers from a dozen different schools as they told their Tweed horror stories.


  1. Good luck because even if the teacher anger boils over at Unity, which it eventually will, Unity has an insurance policy, the retirees and non teaching UFT members, to keep them in power. If they won without the teacher vote, do you think they would be humbled? I don't either.

    1. You're right about that, of course - but the fix was in in Chicago too. They can manipulate the vote for a long time and rely on the retirees and the hacks. But if the active membership actually turned on the leadership, the retirees wouldn't be enough in number to save them. That's why they'll probably try other ways to manipulate the vote before it's all said and done.

    2. Chicago was still much more democratic than here in NYC. Retirees can't vote and there is a run-off if you don't get 50%. On first round CORE actually finished a bit behind the UPC with each about 1/3 of the vote and 3 other caucuses spliting the other 1/3.
      In the runoff they all threw support to CORE. Here winner take all makes the process a much longer slog. But that is not the worst thing if a group like MORE really gets it together with a long term view of taking the battle to the schools and building support one school and one district at a time. The only place UNity was ever challenged seriously was in the Manhattan HSchools where most CL were anti-Unity and elected an opposition District Rep for a decade -- which was why Randi killed DR elections. Now DRs main purpose to control and coral and prevent opposition from organizing.

  2. Our school's DA will be voting down any new evaluation deal that uses flawed data and utilizes DOE "gotcha" hit squad tactics. Also, every teacher in my small school will be voting MORE. (I have personally spoke to each and every teacher and they are fuming mad at Mulgrew.

    1. That's great to hear - We're trying to do the same in my school. And I certainly saw that this week at Regents grading.

  3. I can tell you from firsthand experience, they really don't want to hear any complaints from the ATRs, just don't want to be bothered with us.

  4. I can't stress enough how important it would be to get names and schools and recruit people to hand out MORE election lit to break the Unity monopoly.
    Our best chance to win seats on the Ex Bd is in the high schools where Unity and New Action team up against MORE. 15,000 HS teachers did not vote in the last election. If we can get out this vote for MORE we can win at least a share of the Exec Bd but we need a mass of people to reach into every high school.
    Email me offline with any names and schools and contact info. The election starts on Feb. 6.

  5. I too experienced similar comments marking the global regents yesterday. In fact, the most vocal opponent was from a teaching fellow who called the whole system corrupt and full of S. With a very strong candidate that Unity will have a hard time labeling a Trotskyist, Julie Cavangh should receive a much greater percentage of the teacher vote this spring.

  6. MORE is getting attention on Staten Island. Many at the US Global Regents marking sessions are deciding NOT to throw away vote this time. Hopefully this anger spreads like wildfire,

  7. @Norm Scott - Just emailed you with some information about distributing MORE literature at one of the few remaining LARGE Queens High Schools. Looking forward to your reply.

  8. RBE one benefit of not being trusted to grade our own students' papers is that the marking sessions are bringing together many members who would not have a chance to find out that the horror is indeed systemic. I'm going offsite Monday for PD and will be talking to others about MORE. Everyone should speak to their weekly ATR; they have a very wide lens into school practices and know how far the UFT has thrown them under the bus.

    1. You're absolutely right, harvey - I got some emails and somebody already reached out to me. We got to meet people and hear stories that we ordinarily wouldn't have heard otherwise. It's interesting, but the DOE was trying to use this test grading exercise as a bludgeon to humiliate us. We aren't to be trusted grading our own students, we have to be watched by Tweedies, etc. But at least at my site, many people had a good time meeting others and sharing stories. The Tweedies may not realize this, but they may have done us a bit of a favor by bringing us all together like this

  9. hanks for all the kind words about MORE. We are fighting for our teachers while trying to defend our children from "reform" driven by profits not the best interests of our students, their parents, or our educators.

    If any bloggers/writers want to join our social media team please email
    If you have checked out lately you will see how much it has improved due to having 4 of NYC's top teacher bloggers working with us, but we need even more help during the election

    We need help getting people to distribute our petitions so we can appear on the UFT ballot and to get out literature at your school
    email if you want to help

    Let stand up and fight back together. We love the UFT and want to save it, that's why we are running.

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