Mulgrew: “Impose Evals on Us”

February 24, 2013 — 12 Comments

A recent update from the UFT sent out to school Chapter Leaders reads:

Teacher eval impasse will go to binding arbitration if no agreement reached by May

“Given the city’s failure to meet the state-imposed Jan. 17 deadline, which cost our schools $240 million, the governor added an amendment to his budget submission on Thursday that empowers state Education Commissioner John King to act as a binding arbitrator to settle any elements of the agreement that have not been finalized in negotiations by May 29. In that event, after reviewing position papers and hearing oral arguments by both sides in May, Commissioner King will establish New York City’s new teacher evaluation plan by June 1.”

In this same email to chapter leaders, Dr. King was referred to as

“a lifelong educator who is serious about education, who has approved more than 700 evaluation plans across New York State”

Of course, teaching for three years, receiving public funds to run  charter schools and being an appointed bureaucrat does not meet our definition of ‘life-long educator’.  But of Dr. King’s work, UFT President Mulgrew has said

“We’ve seen the kinds of plans the state has approved and we are comfortable with them because they are about helping teachers help kids”.

The fact that there is no evidence that these plans have helped teachers to help students is a point that has been made time and again. In fact, with the increased testing that will be required, this plan can have only a negative impact on our students’ education.  But that this evaluation will be imposed notwithstanding our collective bargaining rights is a point that, while we’ve made in the past, we feel we must make here again.

To be clear, the assertion of the union’s leadership that the ultimate decision will be rendered by Dr. King (and that that is OK) is deplorable to the extreme. MORE has, in the past, described this move as “Surrendering Our Collective Bargaining Rights” and has been attacked by the Unity Caucus, the caucus of Michael Mulgrew and the current union leadership, for saying so. MORE knew very well that Unity’s response (that part of Collective Bargaining is the ability to turn to an arbitrator to settle disputes between labor and management) was without merit when applied to this scenario.

We knew this for two reasons: 1.The process of arbitration depends on relying on a fair and independent arbitrator (Dr. King, who is responsible for creating much of the current education policy in New York State, is anything but a fair an independent arbitrator) 2. Any responsible union, lead by people who care about the status of their members, would seek only a fair and independent arbitration process.

The bold arrogance revealed by UFT leadership of the Unity Caucus in this Chapter Leader update leaves even us a bit  taken aback. It  does, however, afford us the opportunity to examine exactly how Unity has sold out our collective bargaining rights by taking a closer look at exactly what a fair and independent arbitrator is and detailing how Dr. King is in a position to act as anything but a fair and independent arbitrator over this issue.

Most arbitration cases between the UFT and the Department of Education, binding or otherwise, are handled by the American Association of Arbitrators. That organization was founded in 1926 and is the nation’s leading organization for settling collective bargaining disputes between labor and management. Recent UFT cases arbitrated by the AAA include the 2012 UFT/CSA victory that stopped the mayor from closing twenty-four schools and excessing half of the staff from each of the those schools and the recent UFT SESIS victory which allowed special education teachers to be paid for the forced overtime incurred during the 2011 and 2012 academic year.

It is with good reason that the UFT has turned to this organization to settle disputes in the past, as the AAA sets a very high standard for exactly who can and cannot be an arbitrator. In order to become an arbitrator on the AAA’s Labor Panel, one must be on a list called the “Roster of Neutrals”. This roster only accepts applicants who meet a very high level of standards. Among those requirements are a list of basic qualifications. Let’s review those requirements and ask whether Dr. King meets the standard of being a fair and independent arbitrator.

1. Experience.  Applicants “must have a minimum of 10 years senior-level business or professional experience” and have “hands-on knowledge about Labor Relations”. Dr. King was twenty-eight years old ten years ago and was leading Roxbury Prep Charter School in Massachusetts  As this is a non-union charter school, it cannot be said that Dr. King developed a ‘hands-on knowledge’ of Labor Relations during this time and he cannot be considered to have developed ‘senior-level’ business experience. Yet the Unity Caucus premises that he does.

In addition, the AAA demands that its applicants have “training and experience [specifically] in arbitration”. Dr. King, who attended the nation’s leading universities developed a vast amount of training in education and education policy over the course of his career, but not in labor related arbitration. Therefore, it can easily be concluded, by anyone except the Unity Caucus of the UFT, that Dr. King does not possess the training or the experience to be an arbitrator.

2. Neutrality In order to be an arbitrator, applicants must meet the AAA’s high standards of neutrality. These standards include “freedom from bias” and an ability to “evaluate legal principles”. Most specifically, arbitrators “cannot be an active advocate for labor or for management.”  Doesn’t his current status as the Commissioner of Education, a leader in the education reform movement in New York State, and his past status as founder of the UncommonSchools  network of charter schools (a charter network that hires non-unionized teachers) clearly demonstrate that he is not free from bias? Our union leadership does not seem to think so.

Let’s take a moment to examine whether or not Dr. King is an “advocate for management with regard to this matter.  He was the Deputy Commissioner of Education when the system was negotiated and debated (and ultimately ratified) by the state’s legislature in 2010. He has written all of the regulations and guidelines around the creation and implementation of this system as it will exist in the state’s 694 school districts. He has had the singular power to approve or deny the teacher evaluation agreements that have been reached between school districts and their union. And let us not forget that Dr. King was the one who insisted that a teacher not be able to earn an effective rating on the new system unless his or her students perform well on standardized tests (a system that has led to the outcry of how forty (the amount that objective measures will be worth) will equal one-hundred percent of a teacher’s rating (see here)).

What kind of union would attempt to convince their membership that the very person who has been responsible for creating, revising, approving and implementing this new evaluation system can possibly be a fair and independent arbitrator in a labor dispute?

Only the leadership of our union. Only the Unity Caucus.

Leaders of the Unity Caucus, in their zeal to accuse the Movement Of Rank and File Educators of not understanding the basic principles of collective bargaining, have failed to admit that arbitration itself hinges on the training, the experience and the non-bias of the person who is acting as the arbitrator of an issue. Why have they hidden this obvious truth? Only two possibilities can explain: 1. They do not know what fair and independent arbitration is. 2. They simply do not care.

As troubling as this is, our examination has thus far centered around one type of arbitration; the grievance arbitration. There is a basic difference between a grievance arbitration (such as the ones mentioned above) and a contractual arbitration. Grievance arbitrations, which address alleged breaches of the contract, occur quite often. However what is before us, what the UFT Chapter Leader update identified as ‘binding arbitration’, is a contractual binding arbitration; a decision that will allow major parts of our contract to be altered. The UFT has stood firm in not allowing binding arbitration to determine its contract for decades.

But, of course, this is a different UFT.

The issues over which the Unity leadership is going to allow Dr. King to ‘arbitrate’ (a role he is clearly not qualified to fill) address a broad swath of present and future working conditions for teachers across the city.  For instance, Under what circumstances can a teacher be fired for incompetence? Who, if no future agreement can be reached, will decide how teachers are evaluated after this agreement sunsets in one, or two years?  These decisions, the Unity Caucus believes, would be better left to Dr. John King; Commissioner of NYSED, than to the collective bargaining process that has been established.

But, of course, truth is that the Unity leadership knows full well what a real arbitration process is. A much more accurate (and truthful) way of describing what is about to happen is to call it out for what it is: Imposing an agreement. This is how UFT spokesman Peter Kadushin identified it:

“The UFT would prefer a negotiated settlement with the Department of Education, but … is supportive of the state imposing one if an agreement cannot be reached.”

Perhaps Mr. Kadushin should be writing the Chapter Leader updates?

We do not want our union to surrender our rights of collective bargaining –not to SED, nor the courts nor the governor. Like teachers in Chicago and Seattle, we believe that educators have the power to organize and to fight. The Unity leadership may tergiversate over this issue until the cows come home. But we see their actions for what they are and the Movement of Rank and File Educators believe that teachers do not have to surrender. In fact, it is the last thing that we should do.

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12 responses to Mulgrew: “Impose Evals on Us”


    We should fight to the end…….

    southbronxschool February 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    I would like to believe there is some method to Mulgrew’s madness, perhaps akin to the Muhammad Ali rope–a-dope. Sadly, it is just wishful thinking.


    As each day passes, I get angrier and angrier at my once great union. They sold us out and now they are one step away from putting the final nail in our coffins. There will soon be no need for the UFT anymore as all of our hard earned, collectively bargained rights have been thrown out the door. The UFT is now nothing more than a paper tiger and will soon be an insurance/welfare fund management organization.


    It’s one thing for the state to impose junk science evaluations on NYC teachers that violate the existing UFT contract, it’s quite another for the officers of the UFT to call this attack on working and learning conditions an “arbitration.”

    Cuomo and King are engaged in union busting, privatizing and have picked up the club from Bloomberg to ensure that his successor will continue the corporate education reform policies.

    The Unity Caucus leadership of the UFT is misrepresenting the true state of affairs in the hope that an apathetic membership will stay that way. Some “Unity.” Some “leadership.”

    We need organizers and critical thinkers, not bureaucrats and sycophants, to defend public education and teacher unionism. We need honesty, not howling absurdities that mask the true state of affairs.

    Is this too “radical” an alternative for the working teachers of NYC to demand from their leaders? Join with your fellow teachers and help create a new school based leadership and grassroots culture of democracy and activism in the UFT and in our school communities. Please consider joining the Movement of Rank and File Educators today.


    As always, teachers will get the shaft with binding arbitration. No evaluation system until discipline is resolved in our schools. If you can get rid of an ineffective teacher after 2 years, then students rated unsatisfactory in conduct for 2 years must be sent to 600 schools for chronically disruptive students.


    Unity is saving face. There is probably a new evaluation system in place already. Unity has been in power too long. Look at the 2005 contract, Unity surrendered many hard fought gains over the years. The Union hierarchy must return to the classroom and see the conditions they have helped to create. Disgraceful.


      The fact that we have already negotiated the percentage of our evaluation that would be geared toward testing, leads me to believe that any evaluation system reached would benefit teachers. Unless ur not teaching


        I invite you to visit my classroom where you can determine for yourself whether or not I am teaching. While there, I will be happy to instruct you as to exactly how the testing you mentioned in your comment is hurting my students and will DARE you to explain to me how that could possibly help a teacher who cares about the future of his students.
        Unless you don’t care.

        I’m at nycdoenuts at whenever you care to set up a date.
        Unless you don’t care.


        Please realize that these so called evaluations will be used to drive senior teachers out. You can be great with one class and literally fall on your face with another. How do you evaluate teachers in non-academic subjects?


    Hey Ed: Art, music, PE, etc. will all have state/city created tests, student portfolios, and all the other mumbo jumbo nonsense that regularly tested subjects have. Nobody will be exempt when the new evaluation goes through. Lastly, teachers will be competing against each other in regard to their test scores. The teacher in the next room that you used to share your lessons with will soon be your “enemy” as you both duke it out in the ed-deform arena of “no excuses”.


      You’re correct. The membership must also be chided for constantly voting Unity Caucus in. I retired 11 1/2 years ago after a 33 year memorable stint in the NYC school system. Unity should be demanding that first we tackle lower class sizes and the removal of chronically disruptive pupils from schools. Then, we’ll talk about a new evaluation system.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. MORE Statement on Evaluation Plan | morecaucusnyc - June 3, 2013

    […] The dropoff in voter turnout in the recent UFT election was already a sign of a disengaged and passive membership.  The new evaluation system and the way it was imposed are likely to further demoralize the rank-and-file and increase their cynicism toward the union.  The UFT surrendered our collective bargaining rights by turning over the key issue in the next contract to the State Education Department, calling for a biased state official to impose evaluations on us. […]

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