Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

UFT Members Spoke: The UFT Leadership Couldn't Do Any Better Than This

 Accountable Talk yesterday:

Technically, the contract passed with 77% of the vote of UFT members. I predicted 75%, which was the exact percentage of teachers who voted yes. School secretaries, paras, and social workers, who are not subject to many of the provisions that regular teachers are, voted almost 85% in favor of the contract, thus skewing my numbers. Well, no one is perfect.


 The question here is--what's next? I'd be willing to make another prediction--that we could flip flop the voting results and come up with a pretty good estimate of the number of teachers who had to swallow hard to vote yes on this contract. I'd wager that at least 75% of you really hate this contract--either you voted no or you voted yes because you thought this was the best that your union could do.

And if you are in the latter group, you are sadly correct. This contract is probably the best that Mulgrew and Unity could have done. Which is why they need to go.

The NY Times this morning:

The contract, brokered between city and union officials, passed with more than 77 percent of the roughly 90,000 votes cast, union officials said Tuesday night. Michael F. Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, spent the last month lobbying hard for his members to accept the deal, saying it was the best they could expect.

He faced the most skepticism over two facets of the deal: that the retroactive raises, which total about 8 percent, would be paid out over several years, instead of immediately; and that it promised to reduce health care costs by $1.3 billion. The union said that it could reach that goal by finding more efficient ways to deliver care.

But many teachers said they worried about a provision in the contract that could require them to contribute to their premiums for the first time should the savings come up short.

But few expected the deal would be voted down. The union has rejected a contract only once before, in 1995, when they were asked to accept a two-year wage freeze. After some modifications, teachers approved that deal.

On this contract, teachers mostly agreed with Mr. Mulgrew that this was the best they could get. Some who voted yes also described it as an embrace of Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom they consider friendlier to labor than Mr. Bloomberg, whose emphasis on test scores and pay freezes had raised their ire.

“The last mayor was not very pro-teacher and wasn’t interested in our well being,” said Suzette Freedman, a third-grade teacher at Public School 75, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, who voted for the contract. “There’s not really another option.”

A fourth-grade teacher at the school, Elizabeth Jarrett, said she voted no, as a sort of protest, because there seemed to be so many outstanding questions, particularly about the financing. “But do I think we’re going to get anything better?” she said. “Absolutely not.”

This blog yesterday:

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.

Don't think the 77% yes vote means all is well in the UFT, the membership is happy with their leadership and it's kumbuya from here on out.

The contract passed with 77% of the vote because many UFT members calculated that this was the best deal that the current leadership could get, that there was nothing in the zeitgeist that said the geniuses who got this agreement deal with the most labor-friendly mayor in a long, long time could get anything better if it were voted down.

But as we can see from the Times article, as you will no doubt hear in your own schools, there is major resentment, anger and frustration over a whole host of issues - from the contract to the UFT leadership to the Common Core to the APPR teacher evaluation system to the treatment of teachers by the DOE and school administrations.

The key to building on that resentment, anger and frustration is convincing UFT members that effective action can be taken to make those issues better for the rank-and-file.

Many UFT members rightly have no confidence in the current UFT leadership to do this.

Now it's MORE's task to convince these UFT members that the MORE caucus can.

Even then, it will be a hard task to take any power away from the current leadership.

They are an entrenched, corrupt power - and they have thousands of retiree votes to keep them that way.

Nonetheless, it is now important to start building on the resentment, anger, frustration or resignation people have over current conditions and make some headway toward taking away some power from the current UFT leadership.

That task starts today in your schools.

Every time circumstances remind teachers in your building of how many rights the UFT leadership has ceded away in the past four contracts, every time administrators attempt to exploit the staff, every time a teacher is unfairly or unjustly treated by a school administration and the UFT leadership does nothing to stop it, remind your colleagues that there is a better way, there is action that can be taken in two years for change.

The message going forward needs to be - this current UFT leadership can't do any better than how they're doing now.

Isn't it time we put into place a new leadership that can?


  1. I will say this time and again. Most UFT members support the Unity leadership and the vote reflects that. Unity has a ground game - hundreds if not thousands of people in the schools and the advantage of full-time staffers. Only a ground game can challenge them. That takes people out in schools doing stuff.

  2. The only test to judge if this was indeed the best is to see what happens with other city contracts. deBlasio is starting to show his true colors and this is evident by the closing of Jamaica High School when the pleas of the community and community leaders feel on deaf ears, and how he was involved in the WFP endorsement of Cuomo. Maybe the reason he was so silent during the Charter Ads against him was because it took the pressure off of him to deliver on his promise even if it made him look weak. I am thinking the reports about his weakness during the campaign were not exaggerated.

  3. Said it before and I reiterate it now. DeBlasio is no friend of the teachers. He used his tale of two cities to get elected. He will sway with the breeze, once again we have been color blinded. The uniformed unions will end up with a better deal than Mulgrew brokered plus they have had their 4+4% for years already.
    Bunch of sheepie little girls those teachers. And that's what Mulgrew banks on. It is also what he and the special reps, and the DRs, and the VPs, and the borough reps take to the bank on your back rank and file.
    As long as I am a good girl and keep sucking up, it'll be ok for me. As the fascism becomes more deeply entrenched, will you accept all that is dumped on you?