No Questions or Motions Allowed At UFT Retiree Meeting
To protect us from the scary, terrifying demonstration pictured below.
There are two major takeaways from this RTC meeting, the first I’ve attended. One is it was very deliberately designed to avoid any input whatsoever on the main issue facing retirees, (based on the preposterous assertion that the above demonstration was somehow dangerous)—Retirees worry that Mulgrew and other union bosses, under the guise of MLC, are trying to pull us out of Medicare and dump us into an Aetna Advantage plan. There was no time for questions or resolutions.
The second is that Michel Mulgrew claimed negotiations were going on between the city and the litigants on a compromise. To be charitable, that is a mischaracterization. Marianne Pizzitola explains what really happened right here.
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I’ll say one more thing here. It is disgraceful and blatantly anti-democratic that UFT bosses choose to abbreviate the meeting by shutting off all member input they deem unpleasant.
I’m at 52 Broadway for the Retired Teachers Chapter meeting. I’ve been handed two fliers. One is from UFT Unity, all about things they’ve contributed to in the past. They talk of pension reforms and the 25/55 (which followed the giveback-laden 2005 contract, though they appear to have forgotten that part).
They then boast that they’re giving us a premium-free plan that is as good or better than what we have. Somehow they forgot to mention that a NY State Supreme Court judge declared it would result in “irreparable harm.” for those of us they wish to dump into it. They also neglect to mention they are doing this to save money for Eric Adams, our contractual adversary. The other thing they forget is that we get neither voice nor vote on contracts, and how they presume to make changes without our input is not mentioned either.
Retiree Advocate, Unity’s opposition, also has a flyer. It boasts of the victory that we, along with NYC Retirees, won. We have thus far blocked our involuntary conversion to Aetna (which made its bones on slave insurance), and hope to continue Unity’s moves to diminish not only our health care, but also that of rank and file. It says, “We need an RTV leadership that is loyal to RTC members, not to union presidents who are so very, very wrong on retiree healthcare.”
I agree with that, and would go farther. UFT Unity is wrong on healthcare for everyone, both in-service and retirees. If Mulgrew and the other bosses think these programs are so fantastic, why not let us vote on them? The answer is too obvious even to bother with.
The first announcement from RTC Chapter Leader Tom Murphy is there are no signs allowed!!! Perish forbid members express their opinions contrary to those of the bosses, who have a huge screen available to them to post whatever they please. They are thoughtfully allowing people to carry signs outside (as though they actually control what people do outside).
Tom Murphy—5,363 people are watching online, and 296 of us are here. There is a major demonstration nearby that starts at 3, and is close by. They are therefore going to proceed with as much of the agenda as possible. Mulgrew can’t get here, he says.
Had hoped we would do Q and A but doesn’t think we’ll get to that. (laughter)
Says people wanted to have meetings on Tuesday, and due to popular demand, will mostly go back to that. (Today is Thursday.) Says there is demand for meetings on ID theft.
Says these meetings are not recorded, and material will be placed on website. Says technology has many pluses but also minuses, and not sure about resolutions in meetings. Evidently there are none today.
Says we will discuss what happens if Republicans win in 2024, and that Biden doesn’t brag enough. Speaks of highways and shovels and very interesting discussions.
Says over summer we helped other unions, cites Amazon. Says he helped nurses. Says they supported Actor’s Guild, SAG, Auto Workers. Are doing phone banks. City Council races (Do UFT candidates support Intro 1099, which would codify and save our health carer?)
Debra Penny—Says 17 Tier one, 4 Tier 2, 88 Tier 3 still working. 54 K Tier four 55K Tier 6. Says we try and improve tiers. NYSUT has fiX Tier 6 campaign. They contribute forever and cannot retire until 63. Tier four had 95 changes. Also want to improve COLA, based on first 18K of pension.
Says DOE and TRS had data breach. Affected millions. If you received letter, they asked you to sign onto IDX credit monitoring. (Someone is asking a question! I thought that was verboten It appears to me that, since the topic is not health care, Murphy is allowing her to spend as much time as she likes to run out the clock.) Says we reached a contract Michael Mulgrew is very proud of, (That makes one of us.) and if we were working last year, will get retro money and recalculation of pension.
Says someone in Florida office has a tan and UFT office is open 5 days a week. Mulgrew had office gutted and redone. Reminds us of pension letters asking if we are still alive. If you log onto TRS, will be a flag with alert of pension verification.
Murphy—How many are new retirees? We get applause. Asks if it took us time to decompress. Says we are, “Michael’s daytime army.” Working on para project to bring paras more fully into retiree chapter. (Oddly, Murphy’s fellow bosses tell the paraprofessionals’ elected non-Unity rep to just go to meetings and do nothing more.) Claims teachers hated paras until they got one, have been lifeblood of union. (Stereotype much, Mr. Murphy?)
Social Security cola is 3.2%, less than last year, but historically higher than 10 year average. Says we cannot let benefits like. Tribute to Vincent Speranza, WWII vet. Worked for UFT and CTU. George Caufield died.
Vince Gaglione speaks in tribute. Active in UFT and NYSUT, was friend and mentor for many. Strong advocate for contract and member rights, not afraid to disagree when necessary,
Murphy makes joke from Honeymooners, tells us how funny it is. Says various people will speak about George Altomare. Two vacancies on UFT Exec Board filled by Don Noble and Doreen Prinigan, at his suggestion.
Vince Gaglione—Says he got to know Altomare as part of Exec. Board. Was gentleman. Never said anything bad about anyone. Went to jail in farm worker strikes. Pushed union to boycott grapes.
Mariel Asaro—Chair of NYC Art teacher assn, committee—Met George through committee, own activism follows his. Glad we got to honor him while still with us. Hopes we always keep his vision and strength in mind.
John Yagar—Altomare was his HS teacher in 1970. Was always unruffled. Had gentle way with students. Had great discussions with him, was activist, teacher, musician and good guy. RIP.
Shelby Abrams—Altomare was important to me. Learned a lot about unions, fighting, speaking out. Was hard to organize paraprofessionals. George taught me how to speak to members, what to say and not to say. Said never get involved in office politics. Told paras to get teachers on their side. Didn’t want them, had to prove themselves.
Mel Aranson—Says without Altomare, would be no UFT. Used to be hundreds of teacher groups. Got nowhere dealing with city. George and others said teachers had to unite. Worked on an action committee, got elementary and HS teachers to agree about future. UFT formed March 16, 1960. Called for strike in May. City promised things, none of which occurred, November 7, 1960, teachers went on strike. Altomare was leader and organizer.
Altomare had a Delaney card for every school and borough. Knew which schools to approach. Carried out first public employee strike in NYC. Got real support from labor movement, Over 5K went on strike out of 45K. Those 5K won an agreement to discuss collective bargaining. Because of that, we are where we are today.
Struck several times more, last in 1975. Says we owe those who went out, because we haven’t had to do it again since them. Altomare was coordinator for all those strikes. Developed system with CLs, DRs, and borough reps. Reason why we have what we have and will improve in future. Thanks Vera Campbell for supporting him.
Video of Altomare singing Solidarity Forever. Murphy says it wasn’t loud enough and plays it again, filling more time. There are shouts from the crowd demanding we discuss health care.
During second rendition, cries of “Save our health care” clash with people singing along.
Murphy—moment of silence for Altomare.
Michael Mulgrew (remote)— Health care—met with City Council says one way or other court case will be decided. Mayor will only offer one plan and we need choice. Charming as always, Mulgrew talks of lies and craziness on part of those of use who support standard Medicare. Says conversations between city and litigants on compromise. Continuing process for in-service.
Says we will have better benefits package at lower price by negotiating from position of strength. Says if we leave it to hospitals and medical providers we’re in trouble.
Says at least they can get back to work with new speakers. Says one house bills attacked Social Security and Medicare. Says US DOE setting better policies.
Says we can’t let politics divide us, people in our union are repping outside organizations, will not be marginalized. Tumultuous time, everyone feeling pressure, issues with schools and teachers.
Government has to be in better place. Thanks us. Looking forward to Teacher Union Day. Says we can all get revved up about election cycle. Like Murphy, Mulgrew takes no questions from members. My take? He is doing Very Important Stuff, and beyond insulting us, wants nothing to do with us.
Murphy—We are adjourned. Will listen to George on way out. Video of Solidarity Forever plays again.
Photo by Bennett Fisher
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