Archives For UFT elections

Why We Need MORE

March 2, 2013 — 29 Comments

A MORE member and campaign volunteer shares her experience

As an activate participant in our UFT MORE Caucus I volunteered my time after school to place MORE leaflets in the mailboxes of teachers within the NYC public schools This would permit the teachers, and staff to have a CHOICE to allow them to make an educated decision for the upcoming Spring election and to have representatives that are in favor of having a fair and just contract, enforce a democratic process to our members, to have a voice in their school and community and most of all having our students in the fore front of all of our decisions. My experience, as I placed MORE Leaflets in NYC public schools within my own community in South Brooklyn, I have had quite a different encounter at each school!

The familial, safe, and comfortable atmosphere within the three elementary schools, was conducive to the students learning environment and was evident on the beaming happy faces of the staff, teachers and most of all the children!

I displayed my ID, signed in and presented my letter from the UFT to security, stated my intent and my letter of approval to submit campaign literature into the members mailboxes. I was directed to the main office where the mailboxes are located. As I navigated my way through the building, I observed teachers speaking with parents, assisting students with homework or assignments, discussing lessons and changing their print rich hallway boards and classrooms. All of these activities were after school hours, and I was personally assisted by a staff member and brought to the main office. I spoke to a UFT rep who was there about the importance of an alternative to our UFT, and was encouragd to place the leaflets in our members mail boxes. I met some teachers and had a lovely,civilized conversation about the importance of MORE. 

My experience was similar with the other two local elementary schools, and I was able to place information about MORE into our union members mailboxes. It is essential in a democratic process for our teachers, staff, parents, students and community to be informed about an alternative in our union that has their best interest to motivate and activate positive change

Expecting the same warm, comforting and familial culture I had at the elementary schools I was in for a rude awakening! As I approached the building of a local intermediate school there were three young ladies waiting in the frigid winter weather to be picked up from school, and it was evident that once school is over there is no turning back, the building became an empty abyss, void of students, teachers or any evidence of life within this social institution. I showed my ID informed security of my intentions to place UFT leaflets in the members mailbox, signed in and was directed to go to the main office which was 100 feet from security. As soon as I walked into the main office, the mailboxes were immediately to my left and I began placing our MORE leaflets in our members mailboxes. Within minutes the principal came up to me infuriated, agitated and in a condescending tone with pointed finger demanded what I am doing. I calmly stated why I was there, showed her the letter stating as a UFT member I am authorized to place information in our members mailboxes. She then stated ” This is MY HOUSE and no items go into the mail boxes without my authorization” I showed her the MORE flyer in which she read, I requested she make a copy of my authorization letter and I will contact my UFT representative so I may place the leaflets in the mailbox. She stated again this is ” Her House!” and removed the leaflets I had already placed in our members mailboxes I then assisted her in the removal of our MORE leaflets, and I stated I will come another time with her being notified prior to my arrival. She was clearly agitated, and request I leave flyers and she will have her UFT Chapter Leader place them in the mailboxes, I left a few and when she saw the small pile stated I have “60 teachers you certainly do not expect ME to make copies” I stated ” I would not expect her to do anything of the sort!”. She then used an analogy(with a condescending, pompous tone and finger pointed) stated I would not be allowed to go into her home and place items there what makes you think you can do it here1. I left a few flyers, thanked her for her time, and contacted my UFT immediately after this hostile confrontation. I intend to go back to that school, with MORE flyers, it seems to me that the public schools with hostile, agitated, unfriendly and even barbaric administrators are the schools that are in MOST need for MORE. The schools that have this type of environment are not conducive to teachers, staff, community and most of all our students!!! Our young people require MORE…expect MORE and demand MORE for a dignified, safe, decent, friendly and academic environment that is best for them.

Our schools are there for our children! As an educator, parent and a member of this community I look forward to a future with MORE that is best for our parents, community and most of all OUR CHILDREN!!!

We must have change for a better future!!!

Colleen M. Adrion

Educator Leon M. Goldstein High School

We have an update; the writer went to the same school again this past Friday to distribute literature. Security called the principal and refused entry. The principal came to the door and said, “I can’t be bothered with this”. She walked away and came back with a person who identified himself as the chapter leader. The chapter leader said he would distribute the material. Our volunteer politely declined asking that she do it herself, he once again said “no” and our volunteer promised to be back. There have been reports that this chapter leader is affiliated with another caucus, if this were the case it would be an unfortunate obstruction of union democracy that all our UFT brothers and sisters frown upon. We have notified UFT election personnel, they have been very receptive and said that she would be allowed entry soon because they were alerting the Office of Labor Relations.

No matter what caucus the chapter leader is part of, if any, there should never be a reason to obstruct democracy. Chapter Leaders knows full well that any UFT election representative has a right to access our member’s boxes during the election. Hopefully this issue is solved soon. Unfortunately this is not an isolated case; school administrators throughout the city have denied access to our election volunteers. MORE is calling on our UFT leaders to instruct the DOE/Chancellor Walcott to send out a notice to all principals that any UFT member should be granted full access to members’ boxes during our election season. In the spirit of fairness and democracy we hope the UFT leaders will comply and request this immediately.

If you enjoyed this please read other testimonials on why members joined MORE

MORE’s Campaign Video

February 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

We want to spread this video far and wide, let’s make it go viral. Take a few seconds to share the video link on Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, forums, education news sites, and whatever other web sites you frequent.  Please encourage your friends, family  and colleagues to do the same. Let’s build MORE together!  Share this link, spread the news about a new Positive Alternative Leadership of OUR UFT!

Here is the link to copy and paste:

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. /  

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

Follow us on Twitter @MOREcaucusNYC

It’s a pivotal question in any election: Are you better off now than you were before the last election? If you are a UFT member, the answer must be a resounding “No!” Under Michael Mulgrew and Unity, we have seen a steady deterioration of our rights, our living and teaching standards, and our prospects for the future.

Let’s start by examining what Mulgrew has done for us. Even if you look at the UFT’s own biographical sketch of Mulgrew’s career, his accomplishments are few. Among the positives is the elimination of the old rubber rooms, which were admittedly an atrocity. While this is an improvement, it remains true that teachers brought up on charges can now languish as paper pushers in schools for many months or longer, hoping for a fair and expedited hearing. The UFT claims that it was Mulgrew’s “persuasive negotiation skills” that help avert Bloomberg’s threatened layoffs, but in reality the teaching corps has shrunk significantly under Mulgrew’s watch, with the city eliminating some 5,000 teaching positions through attrition, with an attendant rise in class sizes to their highest levels in recent memory.

Now, let’s examine the status of teachers today under Mulgrew’s leadership and see how he fares.

First, ask yourself: Are you better off financially under Mulgrew?

While it’s easy to forget, the fact is that Mulgrew has never negotiated a contract for teachers. Our last contract was signed in 2007, two years before Mulgrew took office. That contract expired in 2009, and teachers have not gotten a raise in all that time. Unity often blames this on the poor economic environment in the city, but the truth is that all other city agencies got a 4% plus 4% raise over two years while UFT members got nothing. The city has long insisted on “pattern bargaining”, in which all city unions get the same increases, yet teachers were denied that pattern under Mulgrew. At present, three years later, we are still waiting for “fact finding”–the process that brought us the dreaded 2005 contract with its longer working day and erosion of seniority rights. Our union seems content to kick the can down the road to a new mayor, which will mean at least another year before we see a new contract. One thing is sure, however; we will never get all the raises denied us nor the retroactive money owed us if we sit on our hands.

Second, ask yourself: Are you better off in your classroom?

Teacher’s Choice has gone from a high of $260 to our current low of $45 a year, meaning teachers are either doing more with less or making up the difference from their own thinner wallets. As mentioned above, class sizes have risen pretty much across the board. Observations, both formal and informal, have become more frequent in recent years, and they are often conducted using the Danielson Framework, a 57 page rubric that Unity has endorsed but which is not supposed to be used for evaluations at this point. Abuses of Danielson are frequent. Common Core standards have been imposed upon us despite the fact that the state has not developed a curriculum to teach it. Lessons must be planned to align with the Common Core, but the CCLS have never been shown to improve student achievement–it is simply another untested “reform” being forced on teachers so that we can teach to the test.

Third, ask yourself: Are you better off in terms of job security?

The new teacher evaluation system has been Mulgrew’s baby from the start. He collaborated with the state in order to grab $700 million in Race to the Top funds, none of which seems to have reached city classrooms. In fact, the state has used that money as a bludgeon to get the union to accept a flawed evaluation system, denying the city $250 million in funds because the mayor refused to agree to a sunset clause that was already twice as long as many other agreements accepted by the state. Mulgrew was ready to sign off on the deal before the mayor blew it up, but the deal was fundamentally flawed to begin with. For one thing, a large percentage of a teacher’s score will be based on the “value added” methodology which has a margin of error of 57% in a single year, and can vary as much as 90% over two years. Education experts such as Diane Ravitch have branded VAM as “junk science”,  yet it will be used to rate teacher effectiveness. Another huge  “gotcha” in the deal is the transfer of the burden of proof for teachers rated ineffective. In the current system, U-rated teachers must be proven to be incompetent in order to be dismissed. Under the proposed new system, “I” rated teachers will be presumed incompetent and it will be up to teachers to somehow prove that they are competent. This shift of the burden effectively eliminates tenure as we know it. In addition, far more teachers will be rated ineffective than ever before. In the recent Delegate Assembly meeting, Mulgrew predicted that 7% of teachers will be found ineffective each year, meaning that they will be essentially teaching for their career the following year to avoid dismissal. Unity claims that “I” rated teachers will get a “validator” in the second year to ensure fairness, but this sounds suspiciously like the current  PIP+ system that frequently rules against the teacher. Rather than embrace this system, Mulgrew should be fighting to strengthen teachers’ rights and ensure that any new system is fair, objective, and preserves tenure.

Finally, ask yourself: Will you be better off in the future under Mulgrew?

Many of the issues that concern teachers most have not been addressed under the current Unity leadership. School closings are a constant threat. These closings lead to teachers being shoved into the ATR pool, which seems to have become a fact of life for many of our colleagues. Not only has our union not pushed back hard enough against charter schools and co-locations, it has actually opened and continues to run two charter schools of its own, which only adds legitimacy to the ed reformers argument that charters are the way to go. As a result, we can expect an even greater push to privatize public education going forward. Class sizes have risen and will continue to rise even as the purchasing power of our stagnant paychecks continues to shrink. Perhaps worst of all, despite nearly a dozen years of draconian rule under Bloomberg, Mulgrew and Unity have still not come out against mayoral control of our schools.

MORE is offering a different vision–one that will lead to a better present and future for our teachers. We oppose any evaluation system based on flawed junk science, as well as the continued emphasis on high stakes testing that narrows the curriculum and hurts our kids. We favor a transparent negotiation process to reach a fair contract with retroactive pay and no givebacks. We support returning qualified ATRs to the classroom and will work to prevent school closings that hurt communities. We will lobby to limit class sizes. We oppose the assault on tenure and the continuation of mayoral control.

We believe that an informed and active membership is the key to effective unionism. We believe that teachers are the true professionals, and that we must fight against corporate takeovers of our schools. Finally, we believe that education must be a collaborative effort, including teachers, parents, and communities, and that it should not be driven by profiteers, union busters, and so-called education “reformers” whose goal is to take the public out of public education.

So, before you cast your vote in the upcoming union elections,please ask yourself: Are you better off now than your were three years ago? If not, you want MORE.