Trust is defined in the dictionary as "a firm belief in the reliability, truth, the ability of strength of someone". In other words trust is earned when that person or group gains the confidence, respect, and the belief from their associates. That brings me to our union leadership. I have one simple question. "Do you trust the union leadership to represent your interests"? While the question is simple, the answer is more complicated. While our union has generally protected the rights of their members through "due process", they are unresponsive to the many issues that affect the members the most important, a safe and secure environment. Let's go back through history, starting with Randi Weingarten as UFT President and see how our union leadership eroded our benefits and classroom autonomy and therefore, the trust of the members.
Probably the root of all our existing problems was the terrible 2005 "giveback" laden contract. That resulted in the elimination of the following:
- ATR pool
- Removal from payroll for "probable cause" accusations
- Added time and days
- Reimpose circular six requirements
Even the so-called benign 2007 contract had "givebacks". PIP+,was implemented which was a de facto termination program that saw over 90% of the teachers in the program either being terminated or forced to resign or retire. Furthermore, the categories of "probable cause" was expanded, meaning more educators being suspended without pay or health benefits even before their 3020-a hearing! An erosion of our "due process" rights.
Randi's Going Away Party:
In the summer of 2009 Randi Weingarten was leaving for the AFT Presidency but her parting gift to the members was to browbeat the Delegate Assembly to approve a reduction of our TDA interest from 8.25% to 7% so that the members could get back the two days before labor day, something she should have never given up in the first place in the 2005 contract. Further, the vesting period for health benefits was increased to 15 years as well for employees hired after that date. Had the entire membership voted, as they should have had, the members would have probably rejected Randi's proposal.
Bloomberg outsmarts Mulgrew:
Despite the State requirement that approval of a teacher evaluation requires a new contract. Mayor Michael Bloomberg outmaneuvered UFT President Michael Mukgrew and got his teacher evaluation without negotiating a new contract. Rather than taking court action and probably winning, our disconnected union leadership claimed victory instead. The union claimed victory because they got the State to approve all 22 components of Danielson and the use of artifacts instead of the DOE's insisted seven components and no artifacts. Of course three years later our very same union leadership claimed victory again when the Danielson rubric was reduced to eight components and no artifacts. While our union leadership keeps claiming victory their members keep losing.
Michael Mandel's Blunders.
Because of fair student funding and the rise of the "leadership academy principal" the ATR pool remained stable at between 1,300 to 2,000 ATRs, almost all veteran teachers. Enter UFT Vice President, Michael Mandel and chief propagandist Leo Casey, the two unaccountable UFT representatives on the secretive ATR committee. Both UFT representatives deliberately failed to discuss the issues with ATRs and made decisions based on their own political considerations and not what's best for the ATRs they were supposed to represent. Michael Mandel, without talking to the ATRs he was supposed to advocate for, proposed to the DOE the infamous rotation system because he believed principals were getting ATRs to fill vacancies for free. Had Mr. Mandel asked the ATRs, they would have been told him that most of them liked being in one school for the year and felt part of the school community and yes, some were picked up permanently the next year because they were able to show the Principal how good a teacher they are. Instead, Mr. Mandel proposed a weekly rotation and the DOE jumped at the chance since it helped demonize the ATRs as unwanted teachers. Finally, both UFT representatives failed to stop the field supervisor pilot program when it was proposed in Brooklyn and now we have field supervisors for all rotating ATRs. Finally, it was those two unaccountable UFT leaders who agreed to the DOE proposal to make all high school ATRs Borough wide rather than by the community district.
The first contract negotiated by President Michael Mulgrew made winners and losers of different UFT members. Winners were retirees, "newbie teachers" who received an extra bump in their salary, and ATRs near retirement who took a buyout. Losers were UFT members who resigned, were terminated, and died before the end of the contract. Moreover, ATRs were made "second class citizens" and the 25% who won their 3020-a termination hearings became "untouchables". While most of the ATR provisions have sunset this school year, the DOE still maintains two ATR lists and only recommends principals hire from the list of ATRs from closing schools or excessed programs and not those who won their 3020-a termination hearings. Finally, the fear of losing $50,000+ of deferred lump sum payments are causing some teachers under 3020-a charges to retire rather than risking the chance of being terminated in their 3020-a hearing.
Michael Mulgrew's Shortcomings:
Michael Mulgrew has linked hands with the racial arsonist, anti-Semite, and tax dodger Al Sharpton against fellow union members, the police, while failing to support UFT members against vindictive and incompetent principals by claiming the CSA are fellow union members. What a hypocrite! Furthermore, Michael Mulgrew has shown to be a poor negotiator by splitting the UFT membership between winners and losers and failing to change the hostile classroom environment despite his claim that their is a new tone at the DOE. I guess we are all tone deaf. Lately Mr. Mulgrew an opponent of the "opt out" movement has threatened the members who support the movement that it could result in NYS losing federal funds, which he knows is untrue. Moreover, who can forget how as a supporter of Common Core, threatened to punch opponents in the face, of course Mr. Mulgrew is not subject to those inappropriate standards. Finally, Michael Mulgrew has shown to be arrogant, disconnected to the membership, and pits his personal views ahead of member needs. Let's not forget that one of Michael Mulgrew's first acts was his failure to call Mayor Bloomberg's bluff on layoffs and actually gave up our sabbaticals for the next yeart and allowed the ATRs to be rotated, despite the Mayor losing the "last in, first out" fight.
Trust must be earned and not awarded simply because 75% of the membership didn't decide to vote does not automatically bestow trust, just the opposite. Its good deeds,open and transparent discussions, confidence in the ability to lead, and fairly represent all the members that earns that trust Unfortunately, our UFT leadership has fallen far short of earning that trust from the membership by their very actions of secrecy and unaccountability..