Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

UFT Contract Vote: Predictions And The Roadmap For The Future

Expected to be announced today:

The teachers union’s new $9 billion contract with the city is expected to be ratified Tuesday.

The secret ballots of more than 100,000 eligible members of the United Federation of Teachers will be scanned by the American Arbitration Association in lower Manhattan.

Union officials hope to announce the results by mid-afternoon.

Urban Ed thinks the contract passes with a slim margin, somewhere between 60-40 and 55-45.

James Eterno weighs in:

Virtually everyone thinks the contract will carry with the teachers.  If it is defeated I would be very surprised.  I would also be astonished if it gets 84% approval like the TWU contract did recently. Considering the resources we don't have and what we are up against, anything over 35% would be a success for the opposition forces as I see it.  We'll know later today what happened.

And Megan Behrent of the MORE Caucus explains where to go from here whether the contract is approved or voted down:

As ballots wait to be counted at the American Arbitration Association, much of the media as well as the union leadership anticipate the vast majority of UFT members will vote “yes” to ratify the contract proposal. If that is the case, Mulgrew and the Unity caucus will be quick to declare victory for their “historic” contract.

But regardless of the final count, we need to look beneath the surface of the vote to understand what it reveals about the state of our union. Over the past few weeks, MORE has been part of a groundswell “Vote No” campaign, but rank and file anger was much broader and deeper than those active in any caucus.


Ultimately, the key question is how do we build a movement that can draw lessons from our ‘Vote No’ campaign, and encourage a new group of activated members to join MORE in the struggle for union democracy and reform.

Demoralization is one possible response to the ratification of this lousy contract; but organization is far more powerful.

Whatever the final results on the contract turn out to be, the key question remains. How do we save our union and revive a tradition of rank and file activism that puts the struggle for our schools at its center?

We know that if this contract is ratified, in 2018 we will be faced with more of the same, as we will once again be told that there is no money– especially since the majority of retro payments occur in 2019/2020 AFTER the proposed contract expires. The more important question is where will MORE be? Who will be running our union? Our schools? What kind of rank and file base will have? Will we have greater reach and more capacity to fight for the contract we deserve?

We are at an important historical juncture in the battle for our schools: there is a growing national movement for union reform, against standardized testing and against the education deformers. It is this movement that has inspired a growing opt out movement among parents opposed to testing, inspired teachers to boycott administering soul sucking standardized tests, and inspired a growing number of educators to demand more from our union and more from our schools. It is the same movement that has given confidence to people to vote no on this contract. This is a potentially powerful movement that can transform our unions and our schools.

The 2014 contract agreement became the receptacle for a lot of anger and frustration for what has happened to schools, teachers, and the teaching profession over the past decade or so here in NYC.

I think it is important to build on that anger and frustration and turn it into fruitful action against the education deform agenda that is destroying the public school system, the children in that system and the teachers who teach there.

Megan Behrent points out how important it is we build on that anger in a fruitful way, avoiding the trap of demoralization by organizing to take back our schools and our union.

Certainly we can look to Governor Cuomo's re-election campaign and begin to take out some anger and frustration on him.

Our union leaderships ensured that the Working Families Party would not run a candidate against Cuomo from the left, but that doesn't mean teachers, parents and other critics of Cuomo's education reform agenda cannot coalesce around a pro-public education ticket.

Howie Hawkins/Brian Jones Green Party ticket can be just that ticket.

And of course the UFT election is two years away and building on the anger and frustration UFT rank-and-file have displayed the past month to mount a substantial challenge to Michael Mulgrew and his Unity caucus.

Lastly, I'd say building relationships with parents and working together to take on deform, as CTU has done in Chicago, can go a long way toward building a groundswell of support for teachers and public schools in the coming battles against the corporatists looking to privatize the school system for their own benefits.


  1. Newsday has a story about NY's Alphonse and Gaston, Cuomo and Skelos. In it Skelos mouths off against Cuomo for caving in to political pressure from the extreme left WFP. Political Theater at its worst, so no surprise about any results by an ill informed teacher electorate.

  2. Michael FiorilloJune 3, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Demoralization is a strategic asset for both the so-called reformers and Unity Caucus.

    Don't give them the satisfaction...

  3. The real key elections are next year for chapter leaders -- Unity recruits them immediately and captures 75% of the access to the schools, which basically determines the outcomes in the UFT elections a year later. So if people are seriously thinking of challenging Unity, focus on the chapter leader elections in your schools first. Get rid of Unity CLs who are not doing the job ((some are excellent CLs) and at the very least try to get someone with an open mind who will not be seduced by the Unity lure (and loyalty oaths). Having someone who will actively join with MORE is even better.

    1. I'm not sure if I'm insulted or honored because I've been Chapter Leader for two years and nobody from Unity has ever tried to recruit me. It's probably because I always speak up when I think something isn't right (I argued with Leroy Barr during my first CL Training about the new teacher evaluation and I've gone up to Mulgrew many, many times when I think he's wrong about something or other)...BUT, let me tell you something... I am much more on the side of Unity since this contract vote than I was before. I just see so much negativity from the "anti-contract" bloggers and facebook posters. I can't embrace that type of attitude. Over the years I've been there for the rallies and protests against Bloomberg's school closings. It was an awful time and I'm sorry that we weren't able to stop him from closing so many schools, but now I'm so happy that we finally have a new Mayor and Chancellor who, even if not be "perfect", believe in our public schools and want to make them better. I'm not crazy about Danielson or the APPR and what I consider too many observations, but at the same time, I do want to improve my teaching. I want to make more of a difference in the lives of my students' and their familie. I want to make my school community better and I want to be an effective Chapter Leader. I see working with and through the UFT as the way to make that happen. I volunteer for UFT community projects and events, I've applied for our school to become a Community School, and if this contract is ratified I'm going to try to make the best of it. I've already recruited over 15 teachers to serve on the PD and MOSL Committees for next year if the reconfigured time becomes a reality. I have about 5 years or so before I'm eligible to retire and I am going to do my best to make it count, not waste it trying to "take Unity down". Over the years I've met a lot of the bloggers and MORE people and I like many of these people and agree with some of the things they say. I'll still attend rallies and protests, particularly those aimed at Cuomo's flawed educational policies, but my focus will be on making my school more successful. I'm not going to tell the rest of you what you should or shouldn't do but I'm at peace with my decision and believe that this is the best way for me to finish out my career as a NYC Public School Teacher.

    2. "Over the years I've been there for the rallies and protests against Bloomberg's school closings. It was an awful time and I'm sorry that we weren't able to stop him from closing so many schools..."

      Mary, I hear a lot about the evil villain Bloomberg, but I'm still not sure why the union leadership kept silent during his triple re-election in 2009 against Bill Thompson. though changes weren't assured if Thompson became mayor, I am tired of the "blame Bloomberg" argument when UFT leadership had a hand in helping his election.

      Our union leadership is out of touch and looking out for only themselves and their reformer friends. They prove it time and time again.

    3. I will not begin to defend those actions or inactions. I will also not defend anything Randi Weingarten has done or continues to do ... I'm not a fan of hers and I don't consider her a real teacher or a real leader.

      I don't think you can lump Mulgrew and Weingarten together. They're very different. I also think the new Mayor and Chancellor will be good for our public schools, teachers, and teachers. We can sit around and complain about how we didn't get everything we wanted in the contract or we can step up and try to make our schools better. Both optimism and negativity are contagious. I'm going to choose to be optimistic and hope for the best. I've already had over 15 teachers volunteer to be on our PD Committe and MOSL Committee in just the past 2 days!

    4. Mary- I respect your decision to go this way. I think more teachers think your way than people want to admit. I believe you will be proven wrong over time - just as the 2005 contract promised little consequences for the ATRs - but led to a slew of closing schools - which the UFT backed until late 2009. History does count and it does repeat itself. Hopefully you get your 5 years in without having to face some awful truths. Like global warming, the charter appocylypse is coming - and the only response the UFT has is to believe they will be able to unionize them (i had this very conversation with a UFT flounder today at the vote count.)
      A democratic union is not where you get to talk to Mulgrew one on one but a place where one party does not occupy 100% of all positions. That does not lead to a strong union. If you feel comfortable with that in your remaining years, enjoy!

    5. Thanks Norm and even if I don't agree, I respect your decision to keep fighting Unity if that's what you and others want to do. I've been following your blog and other blogs for years now and I still agree with a lot of what you have to say. I also appreciate all the videotaping you've done over the years to document the fight against Bloomberg/Klein. I've been looking at some of those videos lately and reposted a few about Patrick Sullivan and Charles Barron. But now I'd rather put my effort into trying to make my school better and maybe on the side try to make Mulgrew/Unity become at least a little more democratic. I'll continue to speak out and who knows, maybe if they do something I really don't like I'll even find the courage to speak out DURING the DA.

      Have a good night! See you around!

      *Correction to my earlier post.. second "teachers" should have been "students"

  4. I also was thinking, all this anger and outrage towards the new contract needs to be taking a step further. All UFT elections are important. Fellow members need to stop just being dues payers. UFT membership must make UFT Leadership accountable to us. This contracts is theirs! Lets make the next one OURS!

  5. WOW ...... 77% ratification.

  6. Mary,

    Take a look at New Orleans if you are in need of a crystal ball.

  7. Mary,
    There's more to come for your crystal ball:

    Why is our union lining up on the side of the oligarch/plutocrat fence? Because they're hoping to be protected by them, certainly not to better the lot of the rank and file.