Is NYC Heading Toward a Teacher Strike? How Far Are Teachers Willing to Go to Defend Layoff Rules?

 
 
 

The term “strike” means any strike or other concerted stoppage of work or slowdown by public employees.
PERB, Definitions.
  
As the flames of democratic revolution spread across the Middle East, from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya to Bahrain the forces of the far right seem to be seizing control across the Atlantic in the good old USA.
 
The billionaire Koch brothers are fueling the push to eliminate collective bargaining for public employee unions in Wisconsin. Republican governors and legislatures in Ohio and Indiana are following suit.
 
Too many workers, union and non-union, voted the Republican ticket and bought into the budget-cutting fever. Rather than demanding the benefits of unionized workers they supported stripping workers of benefits and bargaining rights.
 
In New York City the battle lines have been drawn, the Mayor has chosen unions, particularly the teachers union layoff seniority rights as the battleground.
 
As Fred Siegal and Sol Stern recount in the March issue of Commentary the masterful building of a mayoral legacy is fraying.
 
In his first two terms Bloomberg and teacher union president Randi Weingarten had a complex, special relationship that benefited both. Mayoral control in the first year and the renewal of the law in 2009 placed the school system in the domain of the Mayor coupled with a 43% increase in teacher salaries as well as pension improvements.
 
The Mayor and Michael Mulgrew, the new union president seemed to be continuing the relationship.  A charter school expansion law and a performance-based teacher evaluation law resulted in $700 million in Race to the Top dollars and an agreement to end rubber rooms and speed up the discipline process followed.
 
The past is the past and the Mayor has chosen to confront the union, he has thrown down the gauntlet.
 
A new, complex bill establishing categories of teachers to be laid off, starting with U-rated teachers was introduced by John Flanagan the Republican leader of the Senate Education Committee. (see full text here)
 
Flanagan, endorsed by NYSUT, the State teacher organization has been strongly supportive of teachers, however, the UFT opposed and defeated a 30 year Republican incumbent, but, the Democrats failed to gain control of the Senate. In the world of politics winning and losing have consequences.
 
In his February 17th 2012 budget speech  the Mayor presaged 4,666 teacher layoffs. The Governor shot back that teacher layoffs were not necessary.
 
The clock ticks.
 
The State budget will probably be on time, about April 1, the City budget is due by June 30.
 
Whether or not the State and City budgets will require layoffs is totally in the hands of the Mayor.
 
Will the threat of layoffs result in the legislature and the Governor accepting the Bloomberg teacher layoff plan?
 
Is there room for “a deal,” some change in the “last in, first out” law in exchange for a no layoff pledge?
 
If the Mayor loses in Albany will he “punish” the union (and the City) by laying off thousands of teachers?
 
If a deal is to be made who will broker the deal?
 
Will the Governor risk his prestige by involving himself in the mire of labor negotiations? Can Arne Duncan reach out from DC to bring the parties together?  Do Randi Weingarten and Mike Bloomberg still have that “special relationship?”
 
If the new law passes, and court challenges fail, is this a strike issue for the union?
 
The union has been battling the Mayor and his surrogates for over a year. Last year the courts threw out the closing of 19 schools, a major embarrassment for the Mayor. This year rallies, demonstrations and TV ads have been directed at the administration. The anger of union members is displayed at the monthly union delegate meetings and in the union newspaper. Will the anger and frustration bubble into a demand for teachers to take to the streets?
 
On the Republican side a cavalry charge of contenders jockey for the presidential nomination, all anti-labor, anti-public employee. On the Democratic side “school reformers” cozy up to the right wing anti-union crowd. The last mayor to try and build his reputation on the backs of teachers was John Lindsay, a forty-day teacher strike ripped apart the city and doomed Lindsay’s presidential ambition.  Have times changed?
 
Are the union demonstrations in Wisconsin and elsewhere the beginning of a labor revival? Or, the death knell of public employee unions?
 
As the Middle East is teaching us highly emotional issues are difficult to predict and to control.
 
When you toss a stone into a pool of feces you never know who’ll get splashed.

 

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10 responses to “Is NYC Heading Toward a Teacher Strike? How Far Are Teachers Willing to Go to Defend Layoff Rules?

  1. Apparently you’ve not familiar with the Taylor Law?

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  2. CC
    Teachers and their unions may have to decide whether the proposed changes in the seniority law are so serious that they are willing to endure Taylor Law penaties …

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  3. Bloomberg and Weingarten’s “special relationship” is an entirely too polite euphemism for the destabilization of the entire school system, rampant school closings, charter school invasions of public facilities, the creation of the ATRs, merit pay and the widespread weakening of the union at the Chapter level. There is seemingly no concession she will not consider in order to get a pat on the head from the oligarchs – her pal Bill Gates foremost among them – who are driving the hostile takeover of the public schools, the destruction of teaching as a career, and the union.
    Now Weingarten is traveling the country, pushing for accelerated processes to fire teachers. Stop her before she kills again!

    The first step in countering the lies and deception of the ed deformers is to stop deceiving ourselves, recognize our mis-leaders for what they are, and act in support of our interests, which in almost all cases coincide with those of our students and the communities we serve.

    President Mulgrew seems to making some tentative moves in that direction. He should move forcefully to remove the Weingarten albatross from around his neck and fight for a worthwhile legacy. Events in the Mid-West have revealed the ugly face of class conflict in the US. “Collaboration” with those who would destroy us serves no purpose, and only weakens us further.

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  4. Bloomberg would not be doing any of this if he thought for one minute there would be any concerted activity. The UFT is seen as vulnerable especially after the transit strike. The UFT leadership is just doing damage control trying to keep their jobs. Watch their messages….if you strike that is just what the Mayor wants. We need a change in leadership both in the Union and in the City. It’s coming!

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  5. Striking is ridiculous. Why, so we can all be fired? That’s just playing into the mayor’s hands. The mayor will be irrelevant after this year. Let’s just wait him out. Randi blinked. Mulgrew shouldn’t.

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    • You are the back part of a horse if you think this crap is just going to blow over. The Multimillionaires have been sowing these seeds for years and the economic climate created by their so-far-unpunished thievery of our invested monies is what they are taking advantage of at all cost.

      EVERYONE better get off their butt and join a protest or we are all doomed to terrible salaries and benefits, eviscerated pensions, the lack of any career in our beloved field, and the arrival of a new and greatly expanded class of working poor Americans.

      GET OFF YOUR REARS and go to a rally!! When there are 5000 marchers at a rally because the other 60,000 members have to work the second job, or beat the rush hour home, if you dont think the rich and the press count the numbers–YOU’RE WRONG.
      In the late ’60’s when the schools were shut down for days, the public got the message and the rich ran for cover. Now THEY want tax reductions for themselves and layoffs for YOU. Better get up and moving or suffer the consequences. Just the other day I saw FOX news spouting more BS. Did you know that 1700 people are on taxpayer paid leave from the classroom for UFT work? WHAT BS THEY ARE SELLING!! Talk to your neighbors and tell them that what they are hearing is BS. The era of the BIG LIE is upon us.

      UNFORTUNATELY for you, all of those who struck have aged out. Scared about the Taylor Law, you wimp? When WE struck, the law in place permitted them to FIRE us! Guess what? They couldn’t! There isn’t anyone to replace you (at least anyone who knows what to teach or how to teach). Oh, and by the way-DID YOU VOTE IN THE LAST ELECTION? Probably too busy working per session, or voting Republican because you believe they speak for you. The back end of a horse-remember?

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  6. Hi David, I’m sorry you felt the need to be so personally insulting when responding to me. I’d use my name, but I’m afraid as I’m a teacher. Yes, I am afraid to strike. I don’t want to play into the mayor’s hands. I still think he would love and strike. He would fire all of us without a moment’s hesitation and he would find some cheap and temporary people to take our places. The mayor doesn’t care about the kids, doesn’t care whose in the classroom teaching them as long as they are cheap and won’t need a pension down the line. I totally agree with you that we need to make our voices heard. I am very active and attend protests and give money to organizations that will help our cause. I just don’t think striking is the way to go.

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    • WAKE UP!! They are coming for you-YOU. Organize your school, stirr things up, DO SOMETHING BESIDES PRIVATELY BEMOAN YOUR FATE! Reread the post–we were eligible to be fired under the law at the time and we went anyway.
      The most relunctant teachers to go, in those days, were the wives of the well off-yep, you read that right. They went because they knew what awaited them if they scabbed after it was over. When people take a united action, and are undermined by those who cross a picket line, the scabs reduce the effectiveness of the strike, prolong it, and take food out of the mouths of the families of the strikers, AND NO ONE EVER FORGETS THAT.
      Too bad that the educators in this country don’t have the resolve to take a day off across the country as a gesture of solidarity. The KOCH’S of the country who are quietly funding this antilabor, pro-right propanda will take notice.
      I am disgusted with the apparent stupidity of the public at large, and you probably got more vitriole than necessary.
      Remember that with good education and student and parent effort IGNORANCE can be remedied but, with the current medicine and technology, STUPIDITY cannot.

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  7. Pingback: Sanity anyone? - eduskeptic

  8. This post brings up valid points. It is great to see such involvement in important issues and voicing of opinions. I think we can all agree that teachers deserve respect and hopefully this issue will be resolved as peacefully as possible while hurting as few as possible.

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