Long time UFT leader and insider Michael Mendel has retired and the union leadership, probably using member dues or COPE money, gave him a grand sendoff. In an invitation only event, speaker after speaker sung the praises of what Michael Mendel meant to the union and its members. Interestingly some DOE members were invited such as head of Human Resources, Larry Becker, or should I say his co-conspirator on the secretive ATR committee? Absent from this event were the over 2,000+ ATRs who's invitations must have been lost in the mail. This list of lost invitations included the countless teachers guidance counselors, and social workers who were forced to retire because they couldn't handle the weekly rotations and the uncertainly associated with going to different schools on a weekly basis. My fellow blogger and friend JD2718 wrote an interesting post that put Michael Mandel in a very good light and would consider him a "hero". However, many others might have a very different opinion and some may even consider him a "villain". What is the legacy of Michael Mendel? It depends on who you ask. Let's look at some of the issues that bring into question Michael Mendel's legacy.
First, he was a major factor in the union's terrible 2005 contract that was laden with "givebacks", a reduction in "due process rights", and more time for a raise that barely kept up with the inflation rate at the time. While Leo Casey and Randi Weingarten were publicly criticized for the horrible 2005 contract and took much of the heat. Mr. Mendel was part of the negotiations and must shares blame for it.
Second, he was a stern defender of the very same 2005 contract that resulted in the ATR crisis, elimination of seniority transfer rights, and Civil Service bumping rights, reimposing lunchroom and hall duties, and the elimination of the right to grieve letters to the file.
Third, he failed to fight the DOE's flawed "fair student funding" that swelled the ranks of the ATRs with senior teachers and was insulted when people would ask why the union allowed such a travesty to happen.
Fourth, Mr. Mendel, it turns out, was the primary UFT representative in the DOE/UFT secretive ATR committee (Amy Arundell was the other UFT member). However, few beyond the leadership knew of his role on the committee and when ATRs wanted to know who was on the committee and who to send comments or complaints to it was referred to the District Reps. Why were the people on the ATR committee and their decisions shrouded in secrecy with no input from the affected ATRs?. Did Mr. Mendel talk to any of the ATRs to get their opinion? I know of no one, including myself, that he ever reached out to find out what the problems were. It has only become known recently to some of the ATRs that Mr Mendel and his DOE co-conspirator who was the DOE Human Resources Director Larry Becker, were on the ATR committee and who jointly came up with the ridiculous and failed weekly rotation that has disillusioned many an ATR.
Finally, where was Mr. Mendel when reports of principals using teachers who were uncertified in the subject area that they were teaching in were coming to him from various Districts? How about the many unfilled vacancies that when reported by ATRs and Chapter Leaders that were not responded to?
Michael Mendel was an advocate and a loyal union man but when it came to the "teachers in the trenches" and especially the ATRs he had some serious shortcomings. A "hero"? No way. He was secretive, unapproachable to the members, and didn't reach out to the ATRs but he certainly was not a "villain". Have a very nice retirement and a long life Mr. Mendel.