Sunday, February 15, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The January 9 meeting of the ATR support committee was well attended with a number of new people. There was a discussion on our successful November 24th rally, impending school closings, and where do we go from here.
Most importantly, we now have an ATR School Wide Survey. Please download it and get it around. The survey is available here.
We want to circulate the survey to every school so we can see if the UFT-DOE "Side Agreement" on placing ATRs is working. This agreement only creates some incentives for placing ATRs, but at the principals' sole discretion. Meanwhile school closings are continually creating more ATRs. Nevertheless, we are determined to see that as many teachers as possible are placed under this inadequate agreement.
For this, we need to know if any ATRs are getting positions. We also need to know if there are open positions in the schools that ATRs could fill, and if there are oversized classes which could be reduced in size and thus open up positions for ATRs. Classes are more overcrowded than ever yet there are hundreds of qualified teachers available to teach them.
The UFT chapter at Jamaica HS has written a dynamite letter to the state documenting that there are 14 ATRs who could be placed in the classes they are presently teaching and another 14 positions could be opened by reducing class sizes to the mandats of the state Contracts for Excellence. We need this kind of information for your school.
So please download the survey and work together with your colleagues to fill it out. Let us know what's going on in your school. We built our movement to support ATRs when hundreds of teachers signed petitions for the November 24 rally and made it an urgent issue. We have to get back to them to follow up. We're also concerned that with eight schools now slated to be closed in the near future, that means more ATRs being sent out into nowhere's land. We need to fight together with parents and students to keep the schools open.
It was decided to have a delegation bring specific problems to the UFT leadership concerning ATRs. We have several reports of schools where ATRs have been teaching classes since the beginning of the school year, yet their principals claim to know nothing about the side agreement. Also, teachers have noted the huge potential for age discrimination in the video resumes that the UFT is working on. And what ever happened to the UFT's age discrimination suit? There are questions about lack of information at the district level. We need a district-wide listing of available positions that ATRed colleagues can consult. The DOE has this information, but it is not pulled together and available to teachers.
There is a ruling on the situation of the RTR teaching fellows, who were to be fired if they didn't find a permanent position by December 5. The UFT got a court injunction until the arbitrator ruled, which he did last week. While he held that the DOE could not terminate the fellows on December 5, he only gave them until the end of the term, which is February 2. A number of RTRs have gotten positions as a result of their strong protests and organizing and the union grievance/court suit, but there are still several score facing the axe. We need to help them get positions.
So ... please print out, circulate the surveys, and keep building networks of teachers in the schools.
Ad Hoc Committee to Support ATRs
Monday, December 29, 2008
PLEASE HOLD THE FOLLOWING TWO DATES:
Friday, January 9th, 2009, @ 4:30pm: The next ATR Support Committee meeting will take place at
Sunday, January 11th, 2009, the UFT will hold an “ATRs Network to Work Conference,” which will focus on resume and interview skills building.
This conference, of course, is no solution -- ATR teachers need positions and a job freeze on new hires until all ATRs are placed who want to be. The October 15th resolution that included the ATR Support Committee’s amendment called for these actions. As of today, the DA Resolution uft.org page still does not display the entire resolution that was carried overwhelmingly by the delegates and reported on in the New York Teacher.
We are pleased to announce that members of the ATR Support Committee will be outside the “ATRs Network to Work Conference” handing out critical information regarding the ATR crisis, including its origins and how to build a resistance movement to push back at the NYC DoE’s corporate restructuring practices. In addition, we will distribute ATR Surveys as part of the second phase of our “Support the ATRs” campaign. These surveys will help us assess the effectiveness of the ATR Side Agreement and hold the UFT and the DoE accountable for it. It will also allow us to continue our effective grass roots organizing plan to educate and activate as many UFTers as possible regarding the ATR debacle. We are a 110 schools and growing. So join us on January 11th outside the conference and help us connect to a larger contingent of UFTers across NYC.
REMINDER: The next ATR Support Committee meeting will be Friday, January 9 @ 4:30 pm at
Thursday, December 4, 2008
After November 24…
(A Contribution to the Discussion)
Recent postings by Angel Gonzalez and Sean Ahern underscore a broader discussion that has gained force in the wake of our successful demonstration in defense of teachers being held in the limbo of the Absence Teacher Reserve this past November 24. After years of givebacks, as the UFT leadership abandons one gain after another while critical voices in the union are marginalized; in the face of a broad offensive to gut public education, which puts children last and ensures that no vendor is left behind, how can we take the readiness to fight that energized everyone on November 24 and go forward.
What gave the mobilization for the ATRs its energy was that it was a united-front action built by union activists which drew in several opposition groups, as well as many unaffiliated teachers – because we all understood the common danger and the need for a powerful response. The slogan, “If you’re not an ATR today, you could be tomorrow” summed it up. That’s why we fought for it to be an official union demonstration – this affects everyone. And that’s why teachers and other school workers turned out in a real teacher rebellion despite the best efforts of the UFT leadership to divert and derail the struggle.
As both Angel and Sean note, the ATR issue is the “tip of the iceberg.” It is the current point of attack of the privatizers and corporate “reformers” who are waging a frontal assault on public education. A few months ago, the issue was “merit pay.” Tomorrow it will be teacher tenure. But it’s important to see the big picture: that beyond the particular attacks, there’s a war going on here, a class war. And if it’s “one-sided class war,” as many have commented, that’s because of the role of the labor bureaucracy in keeping workers in check. It’s not about Randi Weingarten personally.
The united front is a method for common action. It is not the basis for building an on-going opposition to the present Unity Caucus bureaucracy, which is busy selling out what union gains are left. For that, we need leadership based on a class-struggle program, and that is what we need to build now. ...The full text of this posting is available on the site of Class Struggle Education Workers.
December 2, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The October Delegate Assembly (DA) resolution calling for a mass Nov. 24 rally at the DOE was initiated by ATR Ad-Hoc Committee members who were supported by UFT opposition caucuses (e.g. ICE and TJC) and many other delegates who understand that seniority is a sacrosanct union provision. The resolution called for a protest to support the ATRS: “THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the UFT will organize a mass citywide rally to show our unity and strength, calling on the NYC Department of Education to reduce class size and give assigned positions to all teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve who want assignments before any new teachers are hired.”
While Randi Weingarten initially signaled tepid approval for this friendly amendment to support the ATRs, she simultaneously threatened to cancel support--and move the body to reject it--if she did not agree with the argument (the motivator) for it as presented by John Powers. The DA did overwhelmingly approve the call for this “Support the ATRs” rally, with Ms. Weingarten’s subsequent approval.
Perhaps Ms. Weingarten’s reluctance to support such a militant mobilization, initiated at the grass roots, was due to the realization that the source of the ATRs’ predicament lay in our last contract, in which the UFT Executive Board negotiated away seniority transfer rights. For years, the UFT leadership’s strategy has been to lobby government officials for “favors” to our members in exchange for an endorsement from our union. This focus on intimacy at the top has contributed to our leaders’ becoming disconnected from our day-to-day reality in the classroom. Depending upon fickle politicians as opposed to the strength and conviction of our members has served to backfire on teachers and the students and families we serve.
The DA is the body that should direct the UFT Executive Board. If this is so, why do so many delegates feel that the Executive Board has to approve our decisions in order for them to be realized? In truly democratic structures, the leadership fulfills the will of the membership—not the other way around. Our DA saw an opportunity to seize the moment and affirm that reducing class size while also allowing our experienced teachers to continue to offer their expertise benefits students and honors the hard-won rights that our colleagues fought so hard for in years past.
As the Nov. 24 date set for the rally approached, and as rank and file members began to be energized with the feeling that together we were finally fighting back, the UFT Executive Board was quietly negotiating--what can only be characterized as a back-room deal--to temporarily stall the dismantling of seniority and tenure. It is unclear if the motivation for these discussions was to assuage the powerful City Administration who obviously did not approve of an angry rally exposing the outrage of the ATR fiasco, or to quell the spontaneous mobilization of so many members who felt that they were helping to construct a movement to defend our rights.
Ms. Weingarten’s proposal to alter the character of the rally into a silent candle-light vigil would have reduced us to a group of passive mourners, as opposed to a body of professionals rightly proclaiming what belongs to us, while exposing the City’s ill-conceived and costly indignation to which it condemns our ATRs. The DA was correct in indentifying the need for a mass rally, and strong member opposition to a “silent vigil” forced the Executive Board to back down.
A week before the rally, further attempts to squelch it materialized in the “deal” brokered by the Executive Board and the City—again only a temporary band-aid on a gaping wound. This agreement encourages, rather than mandates, placement of ATRs with an administration whose track record has shown unprecedented commitment to eat away at public unions’ power. It is tantamount to having the fox watch the chicken coop. The deal was characterized as a resolution to the issue by the UFT leadership, who decided there was no need for a rally after all.
It would appear that the threat of the rally was being utilized by the UFT leadership to maneuver this deal. This is corroborated by the fact that the Union made no genuine efforts to mobilize or organize in any broad way for this event. However, the passion of the members and our just cause began to take on a life of its own, beyond the leadership’s control. Teachers are tired of give-backs. We deserve more respect than that.
The final blow to this member-driven initiative was the Executive Board’s decision to call for a meeting to celebrate the band-aid “agreement” at Wall Street Headquarters, at exactly the same time as the rally! A leadership that truly supported its members’ needs and aspirations would have instead supported this rally. A subsequent meeting could have announced the proposed temporary stop-gap measure, with the recognition that serious errors were made in the 2005 negotiations—the framework that set these unfortunate events in motion.
Regardless, the ATR rally started at 4PM, bringing out over 200 spirited members -- thanks to the hard work of the rank and file organizers. Many speakers denounced both the City and the UFT officials who created this situation and allowed it to fester so long. Although Ms. Weingarten declared that the rally was unnecessary at the 4pm Wall Street “wine and cheese” meeting, she appeared with a bullhorn as the rally was winding down at 6pm (with about 75 people). She gave lukewarm thanks to the organizers, perhaps to assert a certain level of control or to save face, in light of such strong grass roots sentiment regarding what many have defined as a carefully crafted strategy to chip away at tenure .
When Marjorie Stamberg, a key rally organizer, approached the bullhorn to address the crowd, Ms. Weingarten refused to let her speak, chastising her “for what she did.” The crowd chanted: “Let Marjorie speak!” forcing Ms. Weingarten to relent. After Marjorie spoke, many members began to chant: “Restore Seniority Transfer Rights Now!” Clearly frazzled with the dissidence targeted at UFT leadership, the Executive Board’s contingent left the rally.
This rally was an excellent beginning in our hard battle ahead to restore our contractual seniority transfer rights, to protect tenure, and to bolster and defend our contract. In a truly democratic union, the leadership has faith in and responds to the will of the membership. The “deals” that have been made over the past 30 years to “save” unions have in fact resulted in the dismantling of Trade Unions and workers’ rights across this country.
We cannot abide continued UFT complicity with the City’s plans, which waste valuable qualified experienced educators--and over $75 million annually--while further diminishing the quality of education that our children deserve. Our communities have the right to know that part of this plan results in experienced and quality educators being replaced with less costly, less experienced teachers, thus impacting negatively on the quality of education for their children.
The lack of information, transparency and open debate in our union denies member input into critical issues about pedagogy and historic union rights. An uninformed membership gives even a well-intentioned leadership free rein to function as it pleases. As the economy worsens, we need to take a strong stand in defense of the rights of teachers and communities, rather than to facilitate the erosion of all that has been built over the years.
From the momentum generated by the ATR Ad-Hoc Committee, we could help to build a democratic movement within the UFT that recognizes that our strength derives from our members’ interactions, conversations and mobilizations. Such efforts will require a great deal of work, but the alternative is to passively stand by as we observe the destruction of quality education and ALL of our members’ rights.
We need to build the fight for a UFT contract that promotes and defends:
1. Seniority Rights
2. Tenure Rights
3. Smaller Class Size
4. Against All Merit Pay Schemes
5. Against the use of testing to rate teacher performance
6. Quality and Justice - Not Testing
7. No cutbacks
8. No more privatization schemes (Charter Schools and vouchers inclusive)
9. No layoffs and more.
Our current UFT leadership has not indicated its commitment to achieve these goals—it is up to the members to make this happen!
For more about the ATR Rally, the ATR issue, the current UFT-ATR agreement with the City and other comments go to:
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Hundreds of New York City teachers and supporters rallied at the headquarters of the NYC Department of Education headquarters at Tweed Courthouse on November 24.
They were protesting the DOE offensive, echoed by the media, against 1,500 teachers placed in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool due to the endless school "reorganizations" ordered from Tweed. Another 100+ first year Teaching Fellows are threatened with dismissal by December 5 if they do not find positions.
The teacher bashing is ultimately in the service of union-busting, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein take aim at teacher tenure.
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) agreed at an Oct. 15 Delegate Assembly to sponsor a rally to show support for ATRS and demand that no new hiring take place until ATRs receive permanent placements. However, a few days before the rally the UFT and DOE signed a side agreement to encourage, but not mandate, the placement of ATR teachers.
On the day of the rally the UFT leadership held an "informational session" at union offices at 52 Broadway while some 225 teachers rallied in support of the ATRs at Tweed Courthouse. After 1 hour and 45 minutes, the UFT leaders finally arrived.
To see photos, click on play button. For full screen mode and photo credits, click on symbol at lower right of slideshow once it is playing. To see all photos go to Support ATRs flickr site.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
This report was written on November 24 following the rally to defend teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).
Colleagues, I think we can be immensely proud of the rally we had tonight. It was empowering to hear so many teachers, social workers, counselors and all school staff speak at the "open mike" with their ideas, their stories, their struggle. Every single person who came played an important role in building it at their schools, their committees, and among their friends. It was a real teacher rebellion.
While we were rallying outside the Department of Education, the UFT/Unity leadership was drinking wine and munching cheese at the UFT and having the side agreement explained. (They even had people stationed at Broadway and Chambers re-routing teachers away from the rally and down to the UFT.) Hopefully, some ATRs will get positions from the agreement, but it does not change the basic structure, which continually produces ATRs. We will continue to struggle for a job freeze until all ATRs who want them have positions.
By our count, about 225 UFT members rallied outside Tweed, starting at 4:30 p.m. Without telling us, the UFT leadership had changed the rally permit to 5 p.m., starting at 52 Broadway! That didn't stop us. We soapboxed, marched around, chanted and organized. Our rally "M.C.," John Powers did a great job keeping it all together.
Later, much later, the "official" delegation from Randi's "informational meeting" arrived, which added another 50-75 people, including a number of rank-and-filers, who were very glad to join us.
Marchers return to rally point after circling Tweed.
Photo courtesy of Ivan Rowe
At this point, we started a spirited march around the DOE/Tweed Courthouse chanting. Facing shouted objections when she started to start the "official rally" while the march was underway, Randi waited till we returned from this walkaround. After she had spoken, and a couple others, I asked to speak, which was angrily refused. Teachers started chanting for me to speak, and Weingarten had to agree. So I was able to get the message of our rally out again -- that is was our grass roots organizing in the schools that has built this rally, and we need to keep up the struggle.
There were many chants and shouts of "Bring Back Seniority" directed at the Unity leadership--an understanding that it was the sellout of the 2005 contract which has in good part led to this mess we're in. After awhile, when the leadership kept repeating "Let Teachers Teach," the crowd chanted back, "Place ATRs!"
Dr. Lezanne Edmond
At our speakout, which lasted for well over an hour, there were many powerful voices. One of the first speakers was Dr. Lezanne Edmond, Ph.D. in education, literacy specialist and an ATR! She said "we have to stop making education a business and get back to the business of education." Among the speakers were John Lawhead from Tilden High School in Brooklyn, where they have lost many ATRs; Robert Bobrick who came with a group of teachers and students from Lafayette High School; Michael Fiorillo, chapter leader at Newcomers HS, colleagues from the "rubber room"; Christine Grassman from GED-Plus; Angela DeSouza from TAGNY, Keith Brooks from Restart.
Importantly, Dan Feldman spoke from the Teaching Fellows who are facing a December 5th "termination date" if they do not get assigned positions. (By the way if you know of any openings, please beat the bushes for them and inform us!).
There were speakers from ICE (Independent Community of Educators), Teachers for a Just Contract, Progressive Labor Party, and my group, the Class Struggle Education Workers, CUNY students from the Internationalist Clubs, the Support Committee for the Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico (FMPR). I'm sure I've left some people and groups out. The striking thing is that EVERYBODY wanted to talk, and did.
There was a class of 30 students with their teacher from the Harry Van Arsdale Labor Studies Program at SUNY, who came to observe labor struggle in action! They surely got a taste of that tonight!
Photo courtesy of Ivan Rowe
At the speakout, and again later, I called to "smash the Taylor Law" which keeps us from exercising labor's powerful weapon--the strike. That the main way the labor bureaucracy ties us to the bosses is through what Daniel De Leon called "the labor lieutenants of capital." We need a class struggle leadership, a break from the Democrats and Republicans, and a workers party and workers government.
Photo courtesy of Ivan Rowe
The union leadership wanted to have at most a celebration of their side agreement. Hundreds of union rank and filers showed we are determined to keep up the struggle, not just for the ATRs but for all the anti-union attacks coming down the pike in this economic crisis. So we have a lot of work to do. But today was a great beginning.
November 24, 2008
Video of the November 24 rally, Part I (26 minutes)
Thanks to David B.
Link to video of the November 24 rally, Part II (20 minutes)
Brief slideshow of the rally with part of Marjorie's speech.
From "Pseudo-Intellectualism" (http://dbellel.blogspot.com)