Positive Alternative Leadership

February 15, 2013 — 12 Comments

Educators are facing unprecedented attacks on our profession and our schools. 

We have worked over three years now without a contract and with no transparency in the negotiation process.

Approximately half of our colleagues leave the schools after five years. In New York City, our anti-union mayor trumpets the denial of tenure to 55% probationary teachers. Abusive principals use tools like the Danielson Rubric to harass teachers. Educators struggle every day under the burden of data binders and prep for high stakes tests that are used against students and teachers, turning a joyful vocation into drudgery.

Our union’s leadership has failed to organize a serious defense of our working conditions.  The Movement of Rank and File Educators stands ready to provide new leadership to mobilize and involve our membership in a fight to make teaching a job worth having again.

MORE Fight-Back for Improved Working Conditions

Tenure – Mobilize our chapters in defense of untenured teachers. Negotiate to restore the right to grieve letters in our files. Improve due process and whistleblower protections.

Evaluations – Reject any new evaluation system based on junk-science “Value Added Models,” high-stakes testing, or arbitrary, cookie-cutter rubrics that demean the art of teaching.

Job Security – Restore seniority transfer rights, preferred placement transfers, and SBO transfers.  Place all ATRs in open jobs before making any further new hires.

Paperwork – Create rank and file committees in our schools to rigorously enforce article 8-I in our contract that should prevent the DOE from asking teachers to write entirely new curricula, complete excessive paperwork, and engage in mindless data-gathering.

Class Size Reductions – Create smaller class sizes for more effective teaching to engage our students.

LESS Top-Down Bureaucracy

A Member-Driven Union – Member input and approval in important decisions like the evaluations deal.

Union Democracy – Delegate Assemblies and Chapter Leader meetings should be working bodies that decide on actions to help defend schools under attack; fighting closures, forced co-locations, and abusive administrators.

Chapter Organizing – District organizers should be elected, not appointed and should organize schools that lack a UFT presence.  They should also mobilize and support existing union chapters against attacks at the school level.

Accountability – Union leaders’ pay should not be more than that of rank-and-file teachers.  End the second pension for union bureaucrats.

MORE (Movement of Rank and File Educators) is the Social Justice Caucus of the UFT- New York City’s Teachers union. We are a positive alternative to the current union leadership.
http://morecaucusnyc.org /  

To join our MORE-Discussion GoogleGroup list email [email protected]

Follow us on Twitter @MOREcaucusNYC

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12 responses to Positive Alternative Leadership


    I find it annoying that MORE continues to post half truths. Let’s look at some of the points you mention in this last post of yours.
    1. No transparency in negotiations. Did you sign up for the 300 member negotiating committee? It was open to all members of the DA. And I certainly hope that someone that is running for a position of leadership has the understanding that negotiating in the press serves no one except those that control the press.
    2. Seniority transfers. If you pay attention when President Mulgrew speaks, you would have heard that the precentage of tranfers that occur now is dramatically higher than when we did not have the Open Market.
    3. Member Driven Union/Union Democarcy – have you taken the time to answer the surveys the UFT sends to member so as to help the leadership make decisions that affect our work environment? Don’t ignore those surveys – it’s how the Rank and File can make their voice heard.
    4.Chapter Organizing – Several thought come to mind. How many other unions spend money to send new Chapter Leaders on training weekend – at no cost the the Chapter Leader. Also, there is a bi-partisan organizing committee that support Chapter Leader and tries to strengthen the union. Ask Michael Shulman and the other members of it.
    5. Second Pension – just STOP now. Are you going to also demand that anyone that leaves the DOE with a pension and goes into a new career that gives pension options to give up that “second pension”. Would you?

    I say it again, MORE gives LESS. Get the facts straight!!!


    I recently transferred to a school in which 70% of the members are untenured. Most of them are now in their third year. When I started in 1999 a senior teacher was assigned to me as a mentor and I she was very helpful. Informal mentoring of new staff by senior teachers was just part of the culture of the school and there was a much higher percentage of senior tenured teachers on staff than there seems to be at schools today. Bloomberg, with help from Weingarten, wrecked this culture and we have a much higher turnover among new teachers and senior teachers are being pushed out. Aside from apologizing for Weingarten’s collaboration with Bloomberg, what specific steps apart from contractual changes could the UFT take now to heal the damage that the corporate reformers have wrought?

    I think that creating closer collaboration between chapters and school based parent and community groups, restorative justice practices as opposed to “zero tolerance” is the basis for defense of school communities at this time. A “strong” chapter and union in this day and age is one that recognizes this and seeks to create a new type of supportive culture for the work we do. This is a dramatic shift from the old thinking which I don’t think can be resuscitated. Such new types of chapters exist. I saw one last night at the DOE hearing in Mott Haven. They aren’t Unity, but they aren’t MORE either.


      Sean Ahern – “what specific steps apart from contractual changes could the UFT take now to heal the damage that the corporate reformers have wrought? ” – Is there any doubt the UFT, led by Michael Mulgrew, is going to pull out all the stops to replicate it’s political string of victories (from Avella over Padavan, Joe Addabo’s re-election, a Democratic Senate majority, the overwhelming majority of UFT endorsed slate of candidates elected) to elect a Mayor who recognizes our worth? And hold the electeds who benefitted from our endorsement to their promises to our membership? Political action is a vital step towards not only a Contract but preserving and enhancing our rights. There is no reason to have any confidence in MORE’s ability in this regard – they have no track record. The UFT has a long record of outreach and ties to community and civil rights organizations (despite the misrepresentations on this site), led by many UNITY caucus members. MORE speaks of the deplorable practice of extending or denying tenure – all of which are legal under current statute. To change laws, you have to have the ears of the lawmakers.


        The next time an elected hack, invariably a Dumbocrat, does anything to earn the votes and money we handed over to get him elected it will be the first time. Educators for Obama anyone ? So stupid they should all have their credentials revoked and go teach in charters praying to a Geoffery Canada mural 5 times a day.


    I would like to know where exactly does MORE get their “leadership” skills from? Idealism and theory are very good in the classroom, but on the field, where is the actual experience? All I hear is negativity without solutions. Half truths, without all the facts. I am still waiting to be awwed! Its not happening yet. Someone in another post commented that the union leadership did not volunteer after Hurricane Sandy. I found that highly disturbing considering the fact that I was volunteering all day right next to them! Where was that person? All MORE has proven is that they are good at telling one point of view or to be more precise, their point of view.
    MORE’s lies and half truths must stop. MORE is definitely LESS!


    >>>Paperwork – Create rank and file committees in our schools to rigorously enforce article 8-I in our contract that should prevent the DOE from asking teachers to write entirely new curricula, complete excessive paperwork, and engage in mindless data-gathering.>>>>

    Good point. I lobbied for *years* to get a district-level Paperwork Reduction committee established ( Art 8-I, Sect. 1. BTW, people should actually READ THE LANGUAGE) only to be repeatedly stonewalled by the unelected UNITY DR then in charge. When I approached him face to face at the DA… after a number of emails on the topic went unacknowledged…. it was like I was speaking a language other than English. “PaperWHICH?” “ReductionWHAT?”

    He quickly gathered his wits. We didn’t NEED a paperwork reduction committee, he explained. The UFT had everything under control. There was a lawsuit making it’s way thru the courts… the outcome of which surely end “excessive paperwork” as we then ( This was about 3 years ago, I’d say.) knew it.

    I went home that night and googled every possible phraseology that might elicit a reference to the UFT being involved with a suit the subject or object of which was paperwork reduction. Finding nothing, I emailed DR ( “Flash”, I decided that he needed a name.) again. No response. ( Don’t these folks know how to click the “reply” button ?) Meta message: “Leave me the fuck alone.”

    So I left the UNITY DR alone ( Maybe I’ll need him someday for something *vital*, I reasoned, not unreasonably. Something URGENT. Better not antagonize him.) for a while and continued… as did everyone else in the district…. to spend hour after unnecessary hour producing meaningless, superfluous and redundant paperwork for NDBUS. ( Nightmarishly Dysfunctional Bureaucratic Swamp – the hideous offspring produced by a marriage of two separate, nominally antagonistic yet alarmingly similar hierarchical entities ).

    End of Part One. Hang-on . The story has a somewhat encouraging if not entirely satisfactory ending. And I actually will commend *some* elements in the Unity leadership for going…. well…. not “above and beyond the call of duty”, exactly; but acting as they *should* act to enforce the contract as written. At least with respect to this issue.

    So I dropped it for a while. Then


      Then… around March 2011…. my writing hand beginning to throb, the fingers on BOTH hands seeming to strike the keyboard with increasing inaccuracy ,( Is this what early carpal tunnel feels like? I fretted uselessly.), I decided to pick up the paperwork gauntlet once again. I wrote to the UFT Special Ed VP in March of 2011I as follows:

      “I’m a Special Ed teacher … and a UFT Delegate.  We are DROWNING in paperwork.  I am told by administrators to anticipate that it will get worse. 
      Our contract with the DOE reads as follows:
      ‘Committees composed equally of representatives of the Board and the Union shall be established at the central , district and division levels to review and reduce unnecessary paperwork required of employees.’ (ARTICLE 8, SECTION I; # 1)
      Is there, in fact, a committee  established ( in my district) as described? If so, when does it meet? Where does it meet? Does it issue minutes or summary reports for public consumption? 
      Can I  participate in the activities of the committee(s) ?
      Our District (Rep.) … has not responded to emails pertaining to this topic.
      Again, we are DROWNING in paperwork.
      Can you help us?”

      The Unity Veep’s reply was a bit indirect but the upshot was : yes, all districts, including mine are supposed to have paperwork reduction committees and she would see to it that the district rep ( our old friend “Flash”) would take the necessary steps to get this going.

      “About time”, I muttered to myself. The date on the CBA is October,2007. We were now in March, 2011. But, grateful for the confirmation that I *wasn’t* crazy after all, I looked forward to the chance to participate in a process that promised to free-up more time for the teachers I represented. So that they’d have at least SOME time to actually, you know, *teach*.

      But we weren’t out of the woods yet. If the DOE’s wheels grind notoriously slowly, waiting for the UFT to implement its OWN part of the CBA is “like watching (educational) paint dry.” April came and went. As did May. Instinct ( and experience) told me it was time to act.

      In June I wrote the Unity Special Ed Veep as follows:
      “It’s been a long time — over two years — since I asked this question originally: ‘Is there an actual paperwork reduction committee in (my district) as described by the contract?’” (Yes, I was back to square one. But at least I was somewhere again.)

      The VP replied the same day. It was as if we were communicating for the first time. “I have copied …….. (“Flash”; alas, still my DR); he will give you the updates to the status of the …. paperwork committee.”

      June passed. As did July. Still no sign of life from Flash. On August 21, I wrote the Unity Veep as follows:
      “Still haven’t heard from (Flash). In fact, I’ve *never* heard from (Flash), despite the fact that I began asking him about this… at polite but regular intervals … over two years ago.”

      (Was there something going on here that no one was telling me? My mind raced. Did Flash even exist? “Getta hold of yourself, pops. You saw him yourself at the DA two years ago. Remember?” )

      I calmed down but I was getting tired of playing this game. I know in the DOE cultural taboo-hierarchy, going over someone’s head is *way* up there on the gravity scale It… second only perhaps to going public… is the penultimate transgression. “Man have been HANGED for less,” as Bette Davis screams in All About Eve.

      Screw it. I was getting too tired to care anymore. After not hearing back from Unity Veep regarding the apparent disappearance of Flash, I wrote President Mulgrew on Sept 7, 2011 as follows:

      “Perhaps at this point you should intervene. I’ve been trying to get a simple answer to what I thought was a simple question for about three years. The contract says there are “paperwork reduction” committees established at the district level. I’m in District ____. I’d like info re. my committee:

      1. When does it meet.
      2. Are there minutes from these meetings and can I access same?
      3. How can I participate?

      Michael, we are drowning in paperwork. Please help.”

      The next day, I received my first email ever from my DR. The uft is setting up a paperwork reduction . Would I be interested in participating?

      OK, denizens of ( and visitors to) the MORE blog, here’s the point: we dealing here with systemic problems. It is not about the *people* per se, who are running the union. I’ve met most of them and they seem like fine, well intentioned, and at least in some cases, exceptionally bright folks. But it seems unlikely in the extreme that these same people are going to be able to change an entire culture… that is, an established, ingrained way of thinking and of doing things… when they are so very much a part of it.

      Let’s look at the facts of the case I’ve presented here

      1. The contract is written in 2007, and includes as part of its expressed purpose a section the aim and design of which is to free teachers from hundreds of hours of clerical work that in no way enhances their instruction and in no way benefits their students. (Detracts significantly from both, actually.)

      2. Up until 2011 ( at the earliest) no one in a position to do so bothers to lift a finger to implement that contractual design. And the person or persons who are in a position to do so choose play an elaborate game of hide and seek instead.

      Draw your own conclusions. My conclusion is that there is something profoundly wrong. It’s ingrained, systemic and cultural. People enmeshed in the culture, who came up through it, are now a part of it. It’s in them, and they’re in it.

      It’s going to be very hard for folks like that to truly fix what’s wrong with our own UFT… much less embody the kind of catalyst we need to transform a corrupt, hostile, and profoundly dysfunctional Department of Education.

      Your move, folks.


    “Common sense” should tell us that doing more of the same and expecting different outcomes is a form of insanity, yet this is the received wisdom coming from the Unity leadership and that is why I joined MORE because at least they are trying to sound the alarm.

    At the recent DOE hearing that I attended in District 7, located in Mott Haven, South Bronx, the poorest congressional district in the country, 350 parents, staff and students gathered to voice their protest against the phase out of a middle school, the expansion of a charter and the strangulation of what is by all measures a successful vibrant 6-12 commmunity based school, The Bronx Academy of Letters.

    UFT VP for the middle schools, Richard Farkas, thanked the folks for coming out to protest and urged them to hold on to their dreams but sadly informed them that the deal is done, the PEP is a rubber stamp and all we can do is wait for the next mayor who presumably will be a democrat. This is the received wisdom emanating from 52 B’way.

    Can we talk grown up for a moment?

    The plans being enacted for close outs and charter expansions across the city go through 2017-18; the structure of public education in NYC has been blown apart by the corporate reformers; a historic about face in teacher diversity as a result of Bloomberg’s affirmative action for whites hiring and firing policies proceeds apace; the percentage of child poverty in NYC increases every year and the gap between rich and poor in NYC is among the largest in the world. Bloomberg has intentionally pushed off contracts with city workers to further tie the hands of his successor. This is not a pretty picture for working people even if a Liu or a DiBlazio, the best of the lot, were to win office. The front runner, Quinn is a continuation of Bloomberg (who was and remains essentially a Clinton era democrat). But oh yes, I forget, Unity leaders will have Quinn’s “ear,” just like Weingarten had Bloomberg’s “ear” when she gave Shelly Silver (whose “ear” we also had) the thumbs up to pass mayoral control.

    While Unity leaders will once again get to whisper in “ears”, the downward spiral in working and learning conditions, the rape of the public sector by corporate parasites will proceed, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. Unity will have their “ear” and the working members of the UFT along with the rest of the poor and working class of NYC will have the same boot on our necks. Teachers have it good compared to the families of the students we teach for the most part. We have a union, we have a pension, we have health insurance. We are relatively insulated from the most dramatic decline in living standards experienced by working people but hardly immune to it. Will the UFT join with the people to change the direction of this city and nation or are we to rest content with “ears?”


      How do you propose to change laws without political power and influence? Why do you think Bloomberg gave over a million to elect NY State Senators? A million on a school board election in LA? Millions all over the country? To get the recipients of his money to do what he and the rest of the reform movement want to do, privatize schools and destroy public sector and private sector unions. Why do you think State Senator Flanagan, among others, sponsored bills that would only affect the NYC school system’s teachers while ignoring the rest of the state? He took money from Bloomberg? An unprecedented amount of money was poured in by “reform” groups, Dean Skelos and the Republicans to defeat Joe Addabo (to make a statement about how they weren’t going to allow the Avella – Padavan UFT victory to go unpunished) – which, I might add, was defeated by the hard work of many UNITY caucus UFT members. We don’t have their money but we do have many members, “boots on the ground” to fight the 1% – the UFT, led by UNITY caucus leaders like Michael Mulgrew, organized and created these political victories. You are already seeing the fruit of this as more and more (no pun intended) of the candidates and current electeds move away from lame duck Bloomberg’s policies. Even he knows it – notice how he is moving towards attacking styrofoam and did not mention the UFT once in his State of the City speech. Bills are being introduced for a moratorium on school closures and limits on mayoral control. Who do you think sponsored those politicians who are putting in those bills? It wasn’t MORE behind it, that’s for sure. Creating a majority of Democrats in the State Senate, electing virtually our entire slate of candidates who were sponsored in elections – this is a pragmatic, “grown up” way towards defeating the enemies of teachers, labor, and yes, the economically disadvantaged children and parents we serve. What is MORE’s plan? You want to bring back the seniority transfers, right to grieve all letters, more protections for non tenured teachers, end of the ATR. How are you going to do this? This is never said anywhere by you guys, you say you’ll educate people, and organize them, and fight these battles, but how? In negotiations, you have to give something to get something. The only thing the other side currently wants is to end the ATR making us de facto at will employees. Mulgrew refuses to do this. The evaluation agreement would have included paperwork reduction and teacher committees / expedited grievances at the school; this was blown up by Bloomberg. The stance of Mulgrew has made it manifest to even John King that Bloomberg is at fault. HE is being blamed for all this – Mulgrew has turned this around and now the public sees BLOOMBERG as the problem, not the evil teachers union. The SESIS arbitration victory was a tremendous push back against excessive paperwork, it will cost DOE millions, money in member pockets and a lesson that they will be punished for their excesses. The UFT has a stipulation from PERB on Danielson use in observations and is grieving teacher autonomy in lesson planning. What has MORE done? Whine, complain, Monday am quarterbacking, name calling, declaiming ivory tower ideology.


        So you are saying the UFT doesn’t have enough political influence? What have you guys been doing all these years? Not COPING I imagine.
        Every single thing you mention is something you gave up. You created the ATR. You do not want to bring back seniority transfers. Leo continues to brag about the open market system. You do not want to end mayoral control. You support politicians who want to close our schools. You support the charter movement and refuse to address the tact that all of you backed the co-locations of 2 UFT charter schools with the public school in one of these being closed. The current procedure of rating teachers you are all complaining about is YOUR plan which groups I have been involved with for 40 years have been pointing out — a broken grievance procedure that you established and supported. Remember how you took away the members’ rights to grieve letters in the file? Sure you won a SESIS “victory” which took a year of people suffering under a system that was so patently unfair. We have advocated for penalties for such open violations and an expedited — how about 2 weeks — grievance procedure. I can go on. You guys are really beyond belief.


        Norm, Maybe you should watch the timeless classic (now available on video) America Rock (School House Rock) I’m Just a Bill. It explains how a bill becomes a law in a way that even MORE guys like you could understand. If you don’t have a “friend” to sponsor a bill, enough support in committees, both houses, enough support to overide a veto from the executive, you can’t pass a law. Arrayed against unions are billionaires with far more monetary resources than Cope, other special interest groups, and a million other factors. You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much political influence, and political alliances are the most fleeting of all. Yesterday’s enemy can become an ally, and the enemy of your enemy can sometimes be your friends. You offer a simplistic, childlike, black and white version of reality and wish fulfillment. You want a law passed, a rule changed and voila your wish is granted. You say no and it doesn’t happen. You see the UFT as an uncaring Goliath when with the enemies we are facing we are really a determined David. We have survived a decade against a determined enemy with virtually unlimited resources with our pensions, tenure and rights intact. Of course there have been losses and trade offs: there have also been gains. That is collective bargaining in this environment. You want to bring back the things you itemized above; fine. What would you give up to get them? From an opponent across the bargaining table that wants not to negotiate a favorable deal from a management perspective but to turn you into an at will employee with no pension and no security. The traditional alternative and the ultimate weapon is to strike, which is illegal for us, the penalties are draconian, and it does not appear that anytime soon the membership is willing to take the kind of Russian roulette brinkmanship you promote. Virtually anything you can do to create a “slow down” is interpreted as an illegal action. Bloomberg would love a strike, he would rip up the contract and dictate the 8 page agreement Klein wanted. This is not Chicago, as you said; it is not illegal for them to strike, and their membership has it so much worse than us in terms of job security that they had little to lose and everything to gain by striking. How well did the bus strike work out for the workers? What is your plan to bring back all these wonderful things and advocate for new wonderful benefits? What resources will you need? Will you buy guns or butter? You advise people not to contribute to COPE, which funds our lobbying of lawmakers. Time and time again, people who are posting on this site ask you to explain your battle plan, none of you guys will explain it. That is because you have no plan. Mulgrew is standing firm, he has turned around the argument that we are at fault over evaluations, won on SESIS, all the candidates for Mayor are pandering to us, favorable bills are in the pipeline to help teachers and children, supported by people Mulgrew helped elect. The Mayor’s last chance for a parting shot at us in his State of the City turned into a declaration of War: on styrofoam and plastic packaging. We are poised to make solid gains in the near future because of Mulgrew’s leadership. What have you guys done? What do you want to do? How will you do better than your opposition? Cue the crickets; awful quiet, you have nothing to say.


    I guess CommonSense isn’t so common any more, at least now that Norm has readjusted his trouser seat for him. If I am voting for someone to rep me at the table I am voting twice for Norm, CS sounds like the owner of an Educators4Obama hoodie or two.

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