Monday, October 15, 2007

Rubber Room Randi

The NY Sun reports that United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is feeling the pressure from factions within the union to do something about the 700 teachers currently relegated to the 11 "rubber rooms" around the city.

Rubber rooms are where teachers accused of various misconduct charges sit awaiting their hearings.

Some teachers have been sitting in the rubber room waiting two years or longer for their due process.

Some teachers in the rubber room do not even know what specific misconduct charges have been brought against them because the NYCDOE is "protecting the investigations against them."

According to a recent complaint made by the UFT, rubber room conditions are so bad that many of them lack proper toilet facilities and contain exposed electrical wiring.

Weingarten, who has made all kinds of concessions to the mayor and the chancellor in recent contracts - including adding extra days, adding extra time, changing the grievance process for letters in files, bagging the seniority transfer system, and bringing back bathroom duty for teachers - claims she is ready to end the "public detente" between the union and the city and file a lawsuit over the rubber room controversy if the DOE doesn't react favorably to new rubber room guidelines she plans to send to the city next week.

The NY Sun article notes that plenty of union members are skeptical of Weingarten's new-found anger over the issue:

Ms. Weingarten's promise to ramp up pressure on the issue of rubber rooms comes as she is facing more pressure to act from inside her union and beyond. Factions have formed within the union to fight on behalf of teachers in rubber rooms, making suggestions ranging from hiring more staff to defend teachers to issuing subpoenas of state agencies on their behalf. One group, the Teacher Advocacy Group, plans to picket the union's Lower Manhattan headquarters Wednesday following a delegate assembly meeting, a retired teacher who is advising the group, Norman Scott, said. The group will carry signs charging that the union has "dropped the ball" on protecting teachers.

An independent filmmaker has also added to the fire with a documentary called "The Rubber Room," which several teachers said has generated interest from such high-profile outlets as Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."

Some in the union ridiculed Ms. Weingarten's push for compromise, saying it will not resolve what they described as the UFT's failure to provide teachers in rubber rooms with strong legal representation. "They need people that have some kind of understanding and background in employment investigations. They have nothing," a teacher who was placed in a rubber room and who is also a lawyer, Jeffrey Kaufman, said.

Now to be fair, the UFT has provided teachers in the rubber room with some legal representation - they have hired somebody with paralegal experience to join Weingarten's new anti-rubber room team. Two journalists from the NY Teacher have also joined it.

Gee, the person with paralegal experience ought to have Klein and Moneybags quaking in their union-busting boots.

Count me as also unimpressed by Ms. Weingarten's new-found anger over the rubber room issue.

Clearly she is unhappy with the bad press she's gotten both in and out of the union and figured she had to do something to make it look like she's doing something.

But given her track record of concessions and surrender on almost every important issue to come up during Bloomberg's term - from conceding total control of the school system to Mayor Moneybags to surrendering decades of hard-won job protections in recent contracts - she is clearly trying to create the appearance that she is doing something about the rubber rooms while actually doing nothing.

That's how she got the "public detente" between the city and the union established in the first place - by making it look like she is fighting Bloomberg and Klein while actually making concession after concession on important issue after important issue.
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