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When Mulgrew’s confident

October 15, 2021 pm31 11:53 pm

He jokes. He interacts with people. He throws speakers off by asking them how they are as they begin to speak. And he interacts with a variety of people.

When Mulgrew feels shaky he sticks tightly to a script.

Wednesday afternoon’s Delegate Assembly was tightly orchestrated. Mulgrew was not confident.

And the way things are going, expect Mulgrew to continue to closely follow his script at Delegate Assemblies.

President’s Report

Mulgrew motivated the Adams endorsement during his report.

This is from Goldstein’s notes:

As CL I had three principals. Greeted with open arms when they came it. ‘Worked with two, failed with one. Happy we have good plans. Want to move ahead. We need a partner to help us with Tweed. If we want to have a partner, we have to ask if you want one. This delegation will make that decision. We can say we don’t want a partner but I don’t recommend it.

This is from Eterno’s notes:

We give mayors open arms. As chapter leader, it worked out twice and once it did not. We are happy we have a Bronx Plan. We need a partner to help us with Tweed Courthouse. Do we want a partner? Up to this Delegation but wouldn’t recommend it.

Speaker for, speaker against? That’s not how it happens at the UFT.

Approaching the new mayor, offering to work together, that’s one thing. And it would be the right thing to do. But endorsing him goes further. The endorsement allows Unity to give COPE money to Adams, money Adams does not need for this campaign. I wonder how big the attempted bribe will be? And what happened to our solid reasons for opposing Adams in the primary?

Mulgrew also addressed healthcare. In fact his strategy was to prevent anyone else from speaking about healthcare, and if they attempted to, to answer with anger and invective and shut them down.

Medicare Advantage Plus–This year in service plan comes up. We have a health care crisis in this union. Fight is to keep what we have and try to expand. Nothing is free. Will be a struggle for entire MLC. 

I know the name Medicare Advantage is bad thing. Most are horrendous. Not recommending Joe Namath plan, which is terrible. We knew, within three years, we’d be looking at major retiree premiums. We don’t like premiums. We don’t want to pay for things we’ve earned, and it’s used against us in contract negotiations. 

We tried to work with them, but hospitals ripping us off. We got surprise billing legislation in NYS. I have to argue with people who charge 500$ to take temperature. We found out that a group can form its own Advantage plan. Not like anyone else’s in country. Three years from now, will be seen as nothing but a success. People yelling at us about it will take credit for it. –


In-service health plan coming up. We have a healthcare crisis in this union. Fight to keep what we have and expand it. Kick relatives who say we have free healthcare. The entire MLC does healthcare together. Medicare Advantage is usually a bad thing but we are not recommending Joe Namath’s Medicare Advantage. He was a great quarterback. We knew we were looking at major premiums for our retiree healthcare. It is used against us. Unions can’t talk about wages because there’s been a 10% increase on premiums. Hospitals ripping us off. We’re in a medical crisis. Nobody considers costs. $500 to take someone’s temperature. Hospitalization costs keep going up. The entire workforce of NYC formed our own Advantage plus plan. In three years, people will all like it. Keep writing as that friction keeps the system going in a bitter place just like with the operational complaints.

– ICE Blog

He was rebutting arguments that he had no intention of allowing to be made.

Question Period

The Question Period can be tricky for Mulgrew. He does not want to be seen to be calling on only his people. Too obvious. But he’d really prefer questions he knows in advance, or that are friendly.

This time, most of the questions were seeking information. Real questions. MOSL, Regents, Observations, all real questions. Someone took a swipe at de Blasio, and Mulgrew joined in. Could have been a planted question – or not. Taking shots at de Blasio is a common recreation.

But two hard questions slipped in – one about the New York Health Act (NYHA) – one about School Nurses.

The NYHA is New York State’s version of single payer. We supported such a move, on paper, until it looked possible, then swiveled to oppose it. Mulgrew and the insurance lobby fought hard against it this year. And that’s what the questioner asked – why if we used to support it did you now oppose it? Not a friendly question, but a serious question that deserved a serious answer. Instead Mulgrew raised his voice in anger, and claimed the NYHA would cost UFT members money. Our lawyers told us so, he said. And he ended with a fascinating rhetorical flourish – demanding that his opponents supply facts, not rhetoric, while himself spewing rhetoric without facts. In any case, Mulgrew’s supporters got the message – answer questions about healthcare with anger.

The school nurse question was not hostile, but it was hard. Nurses are being split between schools. There are 400 schools without nurses. What can we do to get more nurses hired? Mulgrew was caught without any sort of answer – but he changed the question. He raised the division between UFT and DC37 nurses (but where have we been addressing this division?). He mentioned how positive Eric Adams has been on this issue (but nothing specific, and once again motivating the endorsement resolution that was coming up later). And then he talked about safety agents. All interesting, perhaps, but the member asked what we can do to get more nurses hired. Mulgrew elegantly diverted the body from the question that he was not prepared to answer.

New Motion Period

This is tough. This period is time-limited at 10 minutes. So what? So this is the only time that members who are not on the Exec Board get to bring new business before the Assembly. When Unity is confident, they let stuff come up. And keep it off the agenda, or put it on, as they choose. They control enough of the DA that they usually get their way. But Unity was not confident.

The New Motion period is 10 minutes. Mulgrew can play this to limit it to 2 proposals coming up. Other times he’s let it get to 4, or even 5. At the other extreme, we saw Mulgrew limit it to just 1 reso last November. I was #2 on the agenda, and Mulgrew milked item #1 for 7 minutes, then rambled for 3 more, just to prevent me from addressing the DA.

This Wednesday Mulgrew was feeling very shaky about healthcare. The motion he did not want the delegates to debate would have required that changes to health care be discussed by our membership before our leadership supported them at the MLC. The motion had been widely distributed in advance – everyone, including Mulgrew, knew the content. And there were dozens of delegates ready to introduce the motion.

So Mulgrew avoided calling on them. And because he does not know everyone at the DA, he called on people he knew. There was a resolution to support a woman for City Council speaker. Not only did Mulgrew know exactly what that resolution was when he called on Carmen Romero, when the reso came up, he spoke in favor. And then he called on a delegate who motivated celebrating 9/11 even when it falls on a weekend.

Peter Lamphere raised a point of order, that Mulgrew was calling just on Unity people, and Mulgrew angrily ruled Lamphere out of order. Mulgrew slow-walked the 9/11 resolution, and declared the New Motion period out of time – which was of course his plan from before the DA. Peter once again spoke out, asking to extend the motion period. Mulgrew shouted him down, and ruled the motion out of order (it was not) without allowing the body to decide.

If I had been there, I would have walked out at this point, along with dozens of other delegates. But I was not there. I stayed on the line, listening.

Special Orders aka Resolutions for Voting

With healthcare safely off the agenda – Mulgrew motivated an implicit “we did good going to Medicare Advantage” in his report (though there has never been a Delegate Assembly vote). Mulgrew was angry and hostile to a hard question about our healthcare policy. And Mulgrew prevented a healthcare resolution from being debated – with healthcare off the agenda, Mulgrew could focus on endorsements – especially the tricky one – getting the UFT to back Eric Adams after this spring when the UFT had bashed the guy.

A unity speaker motivated. Followed by Three Unity speakers in favor. One speaker against. I thought Ilan did a fine job, but I also had pressed the button to speak against, so I was surprised to hear them announce that there was one speaker against (there were at least two). But letting me speak was not part of the plan.

And there was a plan. Each of the four speakers – Elizabeth Perez, Brooklyn Borough Rep, Seung Lee, Unity Exec Board Member, Kenny Achiron, retired, longtime Unity supporter, and Marv Reiskin, former Political Action Director – each was a reliable quantity. And each was speaking from prepared remarks. This was orchestrated, planned to go off smoothly. They weren’t confident, they were worried. And they clearly did not want anyone to talk about the money $$$ Unity plans to give to Adams to make him like them.

Who is Choreographing Unity’s DA Plans?

Back in June I asked:

How tightly will Unity control the discussion? In May, every resolution had Unity Speaker for, Unity Speaker for, one independent delegate against, Unity Speaker then vote. Someone orchestrated every word. Unity has always controlled discussion, but after losing that vote in April they were full-throttle paranoid. Was that a one-time, and they will relax? Or has Unity assigned a DA Choreographer as a new category of patronage job?

Same pattern Wednesday: Motivator, Unity Speaker, Opposition, Unity, Unity (that’s 4:1, not exactly Roberts Rules on attempting to alternate)

Mulgrew lost a big vote in April. Why? Pretty clearly because Mulgrew’s behavior was bothering delegates. He was shutting people up, and congratulating himself about how clever he was – Mulgrew behaved like an annoying ten year old boy, and delegates responded by voting no on stuff that they may not have cared about,. That “no” vote was a referendum on Mulgrew’s behavior and and demeanor.

But Unity seems to have drawn, at least in part, the wrong lesson. The right one was to say “Mikey, stop being a dick.” But instead they are responding by demanding much tighter control of exactly who speaks at the DA, and what they say.

I don’t know who the Unity choreographer is. But it’s pretty obvious that the choreography is happening. And like Unity planting questions during the question period (I’m not sure who runs the “speaker group” anymore. It used to be LeRoy) it is frustrating for me as a sometimes opponent of the policies being pushed, but more importantly, embarrassing to me as a proud UFT member.

Healthcare is a hot issue

It looks like healthcare is a tough issue for Unity. When the PSC and the Chief reported on the negotiations for Medicare Advantage, and Unity had not even told retirees that such negotiations were underway… Unity has been on half a year of damage control. People are getting booted from Unity-run websites, and blocked from following Unity accounts on Twitter. They are on a war footing. They lost 30% of the Retired Teacher Chapter vote, highest ever. And they have clearly decided that they will shut down any attempt to discuss health care at the Delegate Assembly.

For those who trust Unity, it means that they will stay silent on this issue, and vote not to allow debate, even if they feel a bit queasy about messing with Medicare.

For those who don’t trust Unity, it means much more digging into the Emblem Advantage plan, and reporting facts, not rumors or propaganda sheets. It means reviewing the conduct of the negotiations.

Besides the bigger political questions, there are smaller, personal questions: join in, or opt out. These deserve a close look as well. It is possible that the plans are horrible, that Unity is perfidious, sneaky, vile, but that a retiree may be better going with Emblem Advantage. I don’t know. What I am saying is that it is worth looking closely.

There is also the New York Health Act, which must be carefully dissected. It was not all roses, clearly not. But how is our leadership not working to shape the bill? And instead siding with big insurance to block it? That needs a much closer look.


When Mulgrew let the Medicare Advantage negotiations hit the news before the UFT Leadership told retirees, well, he kind of guaranteed that this would be a huge issue. Which is not going away. And when Mulgrew screwed up a simple DA endorsement he kind of guaranteed that Unity would want assurances, perhaps in the form of a script, that he would not screw up again. And the combination means that we will continue to have scripted DAs, and that part of those scripts will be a Unity commitment to prevent discussion of health care.

Which only means that people who think this can be a better union should seek every opportunity to raise the health care discussion.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Sean I Ahern permalink
    October 17, 2021 am31 9:36 am 9:36 am

    As a former delegate and CL, now retired, thank you for this critical review of Mulgrew’s performance at the October DA. It is with grave doubts that I accept Med Adv in retirement. Unity is motivated to do whatever is necessary to stay in office and in the past they relied on the senior teacher and retiree vote at election time and favored their interests in negotiations. Unity apparently has shifted gears and as Mulgrew stated, they don’t want skyrocketing retiree health costs to crowd out their options to negotiate increases for active members. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Mulgrew now implies that the UFT will be negotiating for the active members this year and claims that retiree health benefits are secured, at least until the next contract is negotiated. My suggestions to active members for the upcoming year: 1)fight like hell for a decent contract, 2) oppose Adam’s support for charter schools and lifting of the cap in Albany, 3)join with the growing movement to end mayoral control which comes up for renewal in summer ’22, and for retirees, 4) Develop a deeper understanding of the health care crisis, the various options for both active and retired members, and proposals for a way forward that go beyond Unity’ prime directive of getting re-elected.

    • October 17, 2021 am31 9:46 am 9:46 am

      5) work outside the union for the passage for Medicare for All – on the state level if available, but preferably on the federal level.

      In the meantime, I’m sorry that retirees are being forced to make unfair choices. No shame in going with Mulgrew’s Private Advantage, if it’s the better choice for you at this moment.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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