Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Executive Board Takeaway May 7, 2018

I'm a little shocked that this body can work together, but this week showed me that it's possible. When you are 7 people pitted against 95, it's not precisely a walk in the park. I've been doing this twice a month for two years now, and it wouldn't be much of a stretch to become cynical about it. But this was an odd week.

About a week ago I was walking my dog in the park, and I called Janella Hinds. I should've been tipped off that the week was going to be odd when she picked up the phone and said, "This is Janella." I mean, who expects a VP to answer her own phone? I suggested we write a resolution against the mayor's awful ideas about sexual harassment victims being a bunch of whiners. I was shocked, particularly in this "Me too" era, that the mayor would get up on his hind legs and utter such blatant stupidity. So was Janella, but she wasn't sure if a resolution was the way to go. I told her I didn't care which way we went, but we ought to make a statement.

A few days later she said let's write a resolution. This was the second time I was involved writing a resolution with Janella. Both times, I wrote a draft, and she sent it back to me much improved within ten minutes. This is pretty hard for me to admit, because I'm a little vain of my writing, and I've had long and enduring fights with editors. But there's no argument to be made when the words come back better.

Now here's the thing with UFT--I have no idea what the process is once someone like Janella submits something. But I was very sad when they cleaned up my semi-gratuitous swipes at investigators. Janella had left them in, but the UFT editing department, whoever they may be, appears to value diplomacy. They made them a bit nicer than I did.

Still, I was happy with the final wording of the resolution.

Robert Levine, who appeared in lieu of Mulgrew, actually touched on the incompetence of OEO. He said they have six months to issue a ruling, that they could exceed it in exceptional circumstances, but that they always exceeded it. This, to me, says everything you need to know about the Bloomberg leftovers who populate de Blasio's DOE. They are wildly incompetent and utterly indifferent to rules. And make no mistake, these boobs are the ones who advise principals. That explains a lot.

I was reminded of a now-retired member in my school was up on charges for a thing he was alleged to have said. It was years ago and I don't even remember what it was. I do remember that we were brought into the principal's office, that I noted the untimely nature of this complaint, and that I told the then-principal that a letter in file was not possible. The principal came back with something called a "Non-file letter." I advised the member that this letter, for the purposes of the school, did not even exist and ought not to be acknowledged.

OEO then put this member through 3020a, which resulted in a six-month suspension without pay or benefits. This was a pretty harsh result for something in which OEO clearly screwed up. Of course, they always screw up, but nonetheless I was quite surprised they could pull that off. Levine tells me, now, that it was improper, but the hearing was in the hands of NYSUT lawyers. I can only hope they didn't miss anything, but it was years ago.

This week represented a sea change, for me at least. The last resolution I brought was about class sizes. Howard Schoor said he'd be happy to meet about it but never answered my requests for a meeting. I gave up on meeting and brought the resolution. Some Unity guy got up and hacked the guts out of it by removing all references to class size. Although it passed, it was very hard for me to understand how a class size resolution with no actual target could be effective.

This was a much better process. Though not much of my original language survived, we condemned the mayor's ridiculous statement about a "hyper-complaint dynamic," stated his proposal for 11 additional investigators was woefully insufficient, and demanded the mayor provide full and fair investigations. I may have been more direct in language, but certainly asked for all of the above. The words are different, but the demands remain.

As far as language goes, Kate Martin, the newest of New Action, found some sentences that didn't make sense. We were all surprised she was a math teacher as opposed to an English teacher. She said to me, "Look at all the English teachers around me who didn't catch this when I did." Being one of them, I decided not to comment. 

This was an example of us working together, a model I hope. This was an example of teachers having a real voice in union, an example I'd like replicated on a regular basis. The resolution we passed is below, in its entirety. I'm afraid I haven't got the exact edits Kate made, so the last resolved is a little rough. Still, the idea is there.

Resolution to Support the Eradication of Sexual Harassment in the NYC Department of Education

Whereas, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined sexual harassment in its guidelines as: “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment”; and

Whereas, sexual harassment is absolutely unacceptable and harmful to school communities; and

Whereas, many in our society are speaking out about the negative effects of workplace sexual harassment and calling for the creation of workplaces that are safe for all employees, regardless of gender expression, age, appearance, or other indicators; and

Whereas, 471 complaints of sexual harassment were filed by employees of the NYC Department of Education between 2013 and 2017 with only seven substantiated; and

Whereas,  before expressing support for the New York City Council’s Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act, Mayor Bill de Blasio unfairly attributed 98 percent of sexual harassment complaints to a “hyper-complaint dynamic,” and

Whereas, by mandating training on appropriate workplace behavior and requiring reporting of incidents of sexual harassment in city agencies, this legislation will  all workers feel safe in their workplaces across our city; and

Whereas, the United Federation of Teachers strongly supports vigorous, just and timely investigations of cases involving sexual harassment, and

Whereas, based on previous investigations, we have reason to question the fairness, speed, comprehensiveness of investigations; be it therefore;

Resolved, that the United Federation of Teachers finds the mayor’s proposal for 11 city investigators to be woefully insufficient, and be it further;

Resolved, that the United Federation of Teachers demands a full and fair investigation of every allegation of sexual harassment, and be it further; 

Resolved, that the United Federation of Teachers demands all such investigations be expeditiously by unbiased and independent parties at the city’s expense.
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