Monday, March 03, 2014

Epic Fail at UFT Leadership

I've been speaking to heads of other locals, and they're pretty shocked when they hear we've gone over five years without a raise. They tell me if that happened where they are, they'd have been voted out. Of course, where they are, it's not customary for over 80% of their members to sit out elections.

Now of course Unity-New Action stalwarts will say, oh, it's Bloomberg, it's not our fault, what could we do, blah blah blah, but it is in fact, the job of leadership to negotiate contracts, and this they have not done since 2007, if I recall correctly. They said this was the last contract they'd have to negotiate under Bloomberg, and who would've anticipated they'd be correct and sit through his entire third term without getting anything done?

Actually, it's the job of leadership to anticipate such things. When you have a megalomaniac billionaire mayor with no hope of becoming President, someone who will drop 100 million for reelection just as easily as you or I might buy a cup of coffee, you have to wonder what he will do next. Clearly leadership did not anticipate he might just decide to buy himself a third term.

They did have leverage, of course. A UFT rep came to my school and told hundreds of UFT members that leadership was very smart, and made a very strategic decision. There was a new law, they told us, the APPR law that made sure all teachers would be rated by junk science objective measures. This was necessary, of course, because the current system was inadequate and principals could rate teachers any way they wished. It was much better to use junk science multiple measures. That way, any teacher who got two negative ratings could get a one-way ticket to Palookaville a validator who could better determine whether or not a teacher had to prove a negative a plan for helping the teacher get lost improve.

The important point, though, was that in order to follow the new law the union helped negotiate, we needed a new evaluation plan. In order for Mayor Bloomberg to get us that plan, we had to have a contract, so all teachers would get their raise. But when Mayor Bloomberg decided not to give us the contract he'd granted other unions, and made a threat to lay off teachers, the union said, "Hey, why not forget about laying off teachers and just send ATR teachers all over the place week to week? We'll get our DA to rubber stamp it."

At the DA, UFT reps told me the DOE would never be able to send ATRs all over the place week to week. They were too inept, said multiple DA reps, and surely that was the Unity-New Action line. Turns out they were wrong again.

Not only that, but they decided to negotiate an APPR plan in absence of a contract. Members in my school ask me to bring that UFT rep back so they can scream at him. Personally, I fail to see that as a productive use of our time, but I understand how they feel. I went with three delegates to vote against the APPR plan, as I don't believe in junk science at any percentage. We'd have lost overwhelmingly of course, as the DA is dominated by UFT Unity reps who vote as they are told. People who vote as they are told, in the UFT, are known as "activists."

Turns out, Bloomberg decided to take his ball and go home, and whatever was negotiated is top secret to us lowly members. Leadership says it was better than what we got, and we're left to hope they're more reliable than the guy who came to my school and promised us a contract.

UFT leadership made the astounding determination, based on what I have no idea, that Reformy John King was an unbiased arbiter, and that he would make a fair decision. Thus, all UFT teachers are now observed  4 to 6 times, though neither UFT nor DOE wanted that much observation. I have the feeling that if you wanted to sell me a car for a thousand dollars, and I wanted to pay five hundred, John King would either make me pay two thousand or have you pay me to take it.

In any case, we got a system, and Michael Bloomberg immediately boasted to the press that he'd gotten the most draconian system in the state and that he'd given nothing whatsoever for it. And what's worse is he was absolutely right.

Here are the facts:

1. UFT leadership failed to procure a contract.
2. UFT leadership, despite a long history, failed to anticipate the intransigence of Michael Bloomberg, and
3. UFT leadership, despite having a hand in writing the APPR legislation, is the only leadership in the entire state that failed to negotiate an APPR agreement.

Not the proudest record, if you ask me. And the old, old song, "It wasn't our fault," is hardly what we need from leadership.
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