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Some notes from the Contract Recommendation DA

May 9, 2014 pm31 12:07 pm

Apologies for the slight delay. The Delegate Assembly was Wednesday (2 days ago) and I planned to write yesterday afternoon, after class. However a friend who works (worked) in a charter school called – she needed to be picked up with her things right away. She’d just been fired. Zero notice. Apparently her sixth day out since September interfered with “educational continuity” while changing teachers after the 8th grade state tests are over does not.

Not much to say about the DA

By getting the date set prematurely, Unity guaranteed that delegates and chapter leaders had not had much of a chance to dig into what was in front of them. In fact, many in the room were seeing parts of the agreement for the first time. Even today, no details have been published about the healthcare deal, and the language involving salary (base, and retro) has not been published, though tentative payscales are on the UFT website (I don’t know if they’re visible to members only, or the whole world.)

Healthcare? Mulgrew swore, and Artie Pepper, the head of the Welfare Fund, swore that the deal was good, (see the last paragraph) that members would not pay, that savings would be found administratively… I don’t think they would risk their reputations by telling a lawyer-style falsehood on something as big as health. But remember all the misdirection while they were selling the 2005 contract? Until we have the agreements in writing, there is no way I will recommend a yes vote. From the New Action leaflet:

Imagine your son came to you and said he needed to update his health care, and found a plan that he was going to sign up for.  “Have you read it?” “No, it won’t be available for a week” “Do you have to sign up right away?” “No, I have a month” “Then why don’t you wait a week, and read it first?” “But my friends, who I trust, tell me it’s fine”

When we sign something important, we read it first.

Discussion

Because delegates had not had a chance to read, digest, ask questions, it seemed reasonable that most of the DA time was devoted to Mulgrew explaining the contract. Of course there is a problem with the setup – Delegates should have had another week or so to read, digest, ask questions. As a result, there was insufficient time (30 minutes) for the number of questions in the room, and only 15 minutes devoted to debate.

Sexual Misconduct

There are changes to the contract language about sexual misconduct. Mulgrew explained that this was to modernize the language to include “sexting” and doing what former US Representative Anthony Weiner did (“Weinergramming?”). Also, to add public lewdness, but only when it is directed against children (apparently directing a stream against a wall, or off a podium, is also considered public lewdness – that’s been intentionally excluded.)

Then Mulgrew went on to boast about the UFT’s zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse. He didn’t bother adding that our zero tolerance policy includes suspending teachers without pay on an accusation of sexual abuse. Suspend them? Of course. Without pay? That only serves to pressure innocent members to take bad deals – who can afford to fight? – especially when the DoE drags out cases.

Any suspension should be paid. If there is a swift 3020a, the teacher will be separated from the system quickly enough. But why should the teacher who is charged then cleared have to do without a single check? Who pays our innocent member’s bills when his union says it is ok not to pay him?

Procedure and Debate

The debate was poor. Mulgrew violated Roberts Rules, calling on two speakers for the resolution in a row. James Eterno called a point of order, and the parliamentarian told Mulgrew he was wrong. Even after that, while there was mostly alternating, Mulgrew managed to call Dolores Luzopone and Kenny Achiron back to back.

Back to Eterno. He makes a point, Mulgrew interrupts to say that he’s wrong. Did James have a right to speak without being interrupted by the chair? Absolutely. Should he have complained? No, he should have gone on. But he fell for the bait, and ended up in a pissing match over procedure – when that happens, and one guy is on the floor, and the other on the podium, who do you think gets wet?  And that was INSTEAD of political discussion. The rest of the debate was briefer than it was memorable.

Motion: Send! Recommend? Send and recommend?

The motion was to send the motion to the membership. No. Even though Mulgrew and Assistant Secretary LeRoy Barr said about ten times that we would send this to the membership, the actual resolution by LeRoy was to “send and recommend” the deal to the membership. Mulgrew also once said “send er um recommend.”  And there might have been one more time.

Is the difference real?  Arguments from the floor implied that by voting yes, we were just letting members decide. That’s kind of what “send” means. But recommend means that the full force of the UFT will be brought to bear in the schools, getting members to vote “yes.”

Did the officers state that the motion was to “recommend”?  Yes. Did they state it in a way that was likely to leave delegates thinking that they had voted to send it to the members for the members to decide, and not that they had also voted to devote UFT resources to producing a yes vote?  While you might think so, I can’t speak to their actual intent.

Congratulations

In other matters, congratulations to Francesco Portelos for beating his 3020a charges. They still fined him $10,000, but against the odds he’s got his job. Sometimes we have no choice but to stand and fight.

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