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That Anti-union Billboard in Times Square: Consider the Timing

January 13, 2014

On January 8, 2014, the Center for Union Facts (CUF) (a misnomer) produced the following five-story billboard in Times Square (New York City):

Randi billboard CUF

This is not CUF’s first swipe at Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In December 2013, CUF launched a similar ad– a full-page ad in the New York Times– attempting the same discrediting of Weingarten and, by extension, AFT. In response to CUF’s December attack, I wrote a post in which I include CUF’s history as one of several nonprofit shells run by Rick Berman, who has used these “nonprofits” to pay his own company handsomely for nothing more than corporate-funded hits on organizations that are interfering with profits of said companies.

In short, Berman is a corporate whore to any companies willing to pay him to peddle propaganda on those who threaten the profit margins of the paying companies. As an added touch of cowardice, the companies “donating” to Berman’s shells are undisclosed.

And so, following a New York mayoral election in which winner Bill de Blasio is making news for considering charging NYC charter schools rent— charter schools that are not necessarily required to offer their teachers inclusion in collective bargaining agreements– NYC is witnessing anti-teacher-union propaganda.

CUF gets more mileage out of posting a picture of Weingarten in NYC than local union, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew because Weingarten is more easily identifiable to the public than is Mulgrew.

The CUF goal is union-bashing. Someone has paid CUF expressly for this NYC anti-union campaign.

I have a pretty good idea who.

This CUF anti-AFT propaganda campaign is carefully timed. The New-York-based United Federation of Teachers (UFT) endorsed de Blasio’s mayoral nomination. Mayor DeBlasio has been elected. He is turning his attention to charging NYC charters for their public school space. (Charters like to play the “public-nonpublic” card to their advantage. Looks like when it comes to rent, de Blasio is seeing the “nonpublic” side of that card.)

Furthermore, it is no secret that NYC charter madam Eva Moskowitz is not happy with de Blasio. Prior to his election, on October 8, 2013, along with other charter operators, Moskowitz closed her schools and forced her students, their parents, and her Success Academy faculty, staff,  and administration to march across the Brooklyn Bridge in protest of both a possible moratorium on charter co-location with existing traditional public schools and the enforcing of the stipulation that charters pay for the use of public space– a requirement indulgently sidestepped by NYC school chancellors.

That’s right: Even if the school decides to close for a political march (ahem), teacher participation can be mandated, as noted in the following comment posted on education historian Diane Ravitch’s blog:

This is a comment signed Concerned Charter Teacher:

I work at Success Academy and thought you might be interested in the following. Just heard that we are planning a pro-charter parent march on October 8th. Our schools are being closed for the morning. Teachers, parents, students, and central office staff are being required to join the march. Other charter schools are joining as well. Several emails from senior leadership make it clear that the event is not optional. It seems very unethical that adults and children are being forced into this political statement, but I don’t know what, if anything, can be done. [Emphasis added.]

Such mandated nonsense does not happen to unionized teachers.

It is no wonder, then, that Eva is staunchly anti-union. Her perspective on the matter is candidly revealed in this series of over 100 emails between Moskowitz and former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein during 2006 through 2009 and obtained as part of a public records request.

In the exchange, Moskowitz is constantly leveraging her SA schools by scoping out *free* space in traditional public school buildings.

For Moskowitz: Collective bargaining, big “no”; free space, big “yes.”

NYC charter school teachers have conditional access to collective bargaining. Consider this information from the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) website regarding charter schools and collective bargaining:

Must a charter school participate in collective bargaining agreements in the school district in which the charter school is located?

Under certain conditions. If a public schools converts to a charter school, the employees who were eligible for representation will still be subject to the collective bargaining agreement for the local school district. Charter schools that are not conversion schools, and which have more than 250 students in the first year of the school, will be deemed to be represented by the same employee organization that represents instructional employees in the school district where the charter school is located. For up to 10 charter schools approved by the SUNY Board of Trustees, the requirement described in the previous sentence may be waived regardless of the school’s enrollment. Charter schools with fewer than 250 students during the first year of operation are exempt from mandatory union representation. Charter schools that are not conversions of existing public schools are not bound by existing collective bargaining agreements in effect in the local school district. [Emphasis added.]

May charter school employees be represented by a union?

Yes, charter school employees may be represented by a union. If the employees of a charter school are not represented by a union, the charter school must afford reasonable access to any employee organization. It shall be an improper practice if the charter school does not remain neutral in a representation vote by employees.

Based upon the information above, it is clear that charter operators have some major escape clauses from having to offer their teachers union representation.

A primary issue negotiated by teachers unions is the length of school day and school year. The same NYSED document notes that charter schools set their own hours– so long as those hours are at least the same as the traditional public school day:

The public schools require a minimum school year of 180 days, and a 5 or 5-1/2 hour day. Is there a minimum requirement for charter schools?

No. The length of the school year and day is determined by the charter school. However, the law states that the charter school must “provide at least as much instruction time during the school year as [is] required of other public schools.”

Without collective bargaining, teachers are at the mercy of the charter organization for length of school day (this Moskowitz SA school has an 8 3/4 hour day). In some cases, the “day” never ends. Consider this SA parent’s comment regarding mandatory teacher accessibility:

There is also an open communication lines between teachers and parents. I have every one of the teacher’s cell phone number and email address because the school policy states that there both parents and teachers have 24 hrs to returning phone calls or respond to emails. [Emphasis added.]

Thus, SA teachers are afforded no personal life. All of the SA teacher’s time belongs to the school–nothing is too much to require of teachers when coveted test scores are at stake:

. . . [regarding high stakes tests,] Moskowitz says her teachers prepped their third-graders a mere ten minutes per day … plus some added time over winter break, she confides upon reflection, when the children had but two days off: Christmas and New Year’s. . . . After some red-flag internal assessments, [Director of Instruction] Paul Fucaloro kept “the bottom 25 percent” an hour past their normal 4:30 p.m. dismissal — four days a week, six weeks before each test. “The real slow ones,” he says, stayed an additional 30 minutes, till six o’clock: a ten-hour-plus day for 8- and 9-year-olds. Meanwhile, much of the class convened on Saturday mornings from September on. 

The day before the scheduled math test, the city got socked with eight inches of snow. Of 1,499 schools in the city, 1,498 were closed. But at Harlem Success Academy 1, 50-odd third-graders trudged through 35-mile-per-hour gusts for a four-hour session over Subway sandwiches. As Moskowitz told the Times, “I was ready to come in this morning and crank the heating boilers myself if I had to.”

 “We have a gap to close, so I want the kids on edge, constantly,” Fucaloro adds. “By the time test day came, they were like little test-taking machines.” [Emphasis added.]

Teachers and students at the mercy of a woman whose drive is to create “little test-taking machines.”

This is not a woman who wants teachers (or students) to be able to say, “We have a right to have time off from school. We have a right to have a break, to forget about tests for a while, to rest….”

But no. “Good” teachers do not collectively bargain and instead trade their freedom for Ever Higher Test Scores.

“Bad” teachers believe that they are entitled to a school day that actually ends– and unlisted phone numbers– and freedom to refuse participation in political marches– and winter breaks that really are “breaks.”

I must be a “bad” teacher.

Did Moskowitz pay CUF for these anti-union ads?

I have no definitive proof, and CUF protects those who pay for its underhanded pot shots from being publicly connected to the CUF dirty work.

Let’s just say that cookies are missing from the jar, and Eva has been hanging out in the kitchen with a glass of milk.

  1. Hannah permalink

    What else can be said? This is becoming more and more inhumane to children, teachers, and our whole future. A country of work-aholics… no life balance… nothing will ever be “good enough.” It’s time for Americans to be human BEINGS instead of human DOINGS.

  2. Hannah permalink

    The whole plastering Randi’s face on the bulletin board with vitriolic propaganda is beyond disgusting. I don’t like everything that Randi does, but this tactic is just MEAN… to her, and to teachers in general. When did politicians lose their conscience? There’s always been some corruption in politics, but now I wonder if there’s any politics left in the corruption. Politicians used to be voted in based on their character… now they’re voted in based on how well they can s***w over the opposition. … a governing body of bullies… SMH

  3. For those not in NYC, the NY Post has been plastering the worst photos they can find of Randi with attacks on the union for over a decade. We are used to that. Do they have an impact? Check the results of the mayoral election. The more outrageous – and maybe desperate – the deformers get the more converts we win. Behind the scenes though the charter lobby is going wild here to defray any changes on the part of de Blasio and there are concerns. Bloomberg shoved 42 schools into co-locations in October and de Blasio can turn those back but so far no signs yet with time running out. Next Board of Ed meeting is Jan. 22 and the Mayor has not yet announced any appointments. I think we need to worry less about this joker and more about keeping pressure up on our side on the new administration to reverse the impact of the Bloomberg deforms. They broke the system so badly – yes some bad stuff but much that was good — putting humpty dumpty together again will require more than a hundred king’s men.

    • FLERP! permalink

      So is the PEP the same as it was last fall, minus Sullivan, and plus Farina as a non-voting member?

    • EllenLubic permalink

      ..and the NY Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns inBloom data mining company…follow the money.

      Mercedes, I cannot thank you enough for publishing so much information.

  4. Stephanie permalink

    Wow. This is simply appalling. Thanks for continuing to expose the attack on teachers and kids! Will share this piece.

  5. Yutaka permalink

    Have you done any posts on unions (or lack thereof) in LA?

    • Yutaka, I have not written about LA and “missing” unions.

      I will keep the idea in mind.

      Thank you.

  6. If you are accusing me of uncritical support for Weingarten, then you haven’t been following my writings.

    This post is in support of unions. It is not a blanket endorsement of Weingarten’s decisions.

    • John, thanks for the clarification. And I appreciate your kind comments regarding my writing.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Schneider Critiques Anti-Union Billboard in Times Square | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. The PR ads against Teachers and Public Education | Dolphin
  3. What do IRS Form 990s tell us? Public education is being wrested from the public! | Dr. Rich Swier
  4. Vergara v. California Part One: Thoughts on Hannah Arendt, a New Totalitarianism and Completing The Circle of Domination | Raginghorseblog

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