The Chief Leader civil service newspaper covers UFT election. The Chief-Leader is a New York City-based weekly civil service newspaper that focuses on municipal government and its labor unions while also covering issues affecting New York State and Federal employees.
You can subscribe to The Chief here: https://classadz.vdata.com/ChiefLeaderCirc/SelectOption.aspx
Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015 5:30 pm
With an officer election six months away, two coalitions of union activists have begun forming slates to challenge United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.
Last month, two dissident slates—the Movement of Rank and File Educators and the New Action Caucus—announced a plan to run a joint team of candidates to challenge the union’s leadership and gain executive-board seats. Staten Island Teacher Francesco Portelos, an activist who has sued to open School Leadership Teams to the public, is also running for president on the UFT Solidarity Caucus ticket.
Won Twice in Romps
They figure to be uphill challenges. Mr. Mulgrew was first named president in 2009 as a handpicked successor to Randi Weingarten, who stepped aside to lead the American Federation of Teachers. In 2010, Mr. Mulgrew was elected over James Eterno by a tally of 41,521 to 4,075. Three years later, he received 35,913 votes compared to 5,708 for MORE candidate Julie Cavanagh. Retirees have played outsized roles in the three-year elections.
The officer election is expected to be held next April. The dynamic between the Mayor’s Office and the UFT has changed considerably since the most-recent vote, as the union has a much closer relationship with Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña than with their predecessors.
Mr. Eterno, who taught for 28 years at Jamaica High School in Queens before it was closed by the Bloomberg administration, is now a Social Studies Teacher and union delegate at Middle College High School. He said he would be a candidate on the joint slate, but couldn’t yet disclose which position he would seek. Its nominees will be disclosed this month, he said.
“Evaluations of Teachers based on student test scores has got to go,” Mr. Eterno said. “Not 20 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent or whatever percent; it should be zero percent.”
The New Action Caucus endorsed Mr. Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus during the past few ballots. MORE objected to the contract reached in May 2014 between the UFT and the de Blasio administration on the grounds that its terms were less generous than what they felt Teachers deserved.
Mr. Eterno said in an interview that the back pay was staggered more than necessary. The first lump-sum payment, which is equivalent to 12.5 percent of the money Teachers have accrued since 2009, was given to members Oct. 1. The remaining back pay will be distributed through 2020.
“Now the city has a $5.9- billion surplus; they certainly could have afforded to have given us the retro money from 2009 to ’11 now instead of making us wait,” he said.
“We’re optimistic that this is going to be an opposition slate that does better than we’ve seen in decades,” he added.
Voice for the Discarded
Mr. Portelos said his Solidarity team, which is still coming together, is trying to advocate for educators who feel they have been cast aside by the Department of Education, including those in the Absent Teacher Reserve and probationary Teachers who are dismissed by administrators before they are granted tenure.
“Our thing is: go out there, speak to the Mayor, collaborate as much as possible, but if members’ rights are going to be attacked, if students are going to be neglected, then we’ll definitely increase the knob on activism,” Mr. Portelos said.
The Staten Island Teacher pointed to supportive Facebook comments that tell “a different story” of a disconnect between the union’s leadership and its rank-and-file members. He said it was too early to quantify the slate’s support, but counted about 100 active members, a number that he said sounded low, but was high compared to other groups. “Our name is being pushed out from The Bronx to Staten Island,” he said.
Both he and Mr. Eterno said their slates would encourage parents to opt their children out of standardized testing. Though New York State United Teachers actively campaigned for their members and for parents to opt their kids out of exams in April, the city Teachers union was more muted.
“It’s a democracy,” Mr. Mulgrew said in an e-mailed statement.