Tsunami of Support for Dimino

At the Common Core Task Force “We’re not listening” tour last week, PJSTA President Beth Dimino warned that there would be a tsunami of opt-outs coming to New York State this spring.  Well over the weekend there has been a tsunami of support for Dimino in the wake of reprehensible attack on her by the statewide Unity Caucus.  We will have a run down here on some of the support for her coming in from all corners of the state…


NYC Educator- NY State’s Unity Caucus Launches a Despicable Attack Against PJSTA President Beth Dimino

Let’s be further clear that there is a movement to kill union and it is in no way supported by Beth Dimino. It is enabled, however, by our history of concession to reforminess. Look at the UFT 2005 Contract. Look at Michael Mulgrew helping to craft the APPR law. Look at him praising the Heavy Hearts legislature for making it worse. Look at Bill Gates addressing the AFT Convention. And those are just a few of the low lights.

When you cannot muster a proactive argument, logical fallacy is one way to go. What’s truly pathetic is that this is what our leadership chooses to put forth as their voice. Among teachers, there are quite a few thinkers, quite a few creative and passionate souls. Judging from what passes for argument among leadership, and how they choose to treat people who speak their minds, they haven’t got the remotest notion what a creative and passionate thinker even is.


She has a vision for what the public schools and a powerful teachers’ union should be like and she goes about achieving her aims in a way that gets you on board even when she doesn’t have a patronage mill of jobs at her disposal.  Beth is the union leader that Unity fears because she is that good at what she does.

Ed Notes Online- Stronger Together Threatens Randi/Mulgrew Power: What is Behind NYSUT Unity Attack on Beth Dimino

Chatter has been coming in to Ed Notes about just how much of a threat Stronger Together, the statewide opposition caucus to Unity in NYSUT is viewed by Randi Weingarten and her liege Michael Mulgrew.

Some Blog Comments

Harris L. from the ICEUFT Blog- I’m proud to be a member of Stronger Together and proud to be a friend of Beth Dimino.

Sean Crowley from the Ed Notes Online blog- Couldn’t be any happier. Unity and Co. and their fake union stooge movement lashing out with this errant punch at a real unionist like Beth and a real Caucus like ST can only boomerang on them. And from what I’m reading the Unity slugs are catching it square in the teeth.

Roseanne McCosh from the Ed Notes Online blog- Thanks, Unity. You saved me from myself. I will no longer fact check and I will believe every word you speak or write is the truth. I will now withdraw my support of ST and donate 100% of my pay to UFT COPE. Beth in bed with the Koch brothers, you say. How scandalous! And I will start a petition to have Beth tarred and feathered for her treacherous ways. Seriously…. who do these jackasses think they’re convincing? I never bothered to cancel my COPE contribution of a lousy $5 per month but I sure will now. Not many members in my school belong to COPE but I will actively seek them out and explain why they too should cancel. Is this the result you were looking for Unity? Unity gives money to politicians who screw us with their votes and Beth called them out on it. Unity uses that money to weild power but never uses that power to do right by the rank and file and Beth calls them out on that too. They act as if they’ve taken the high road. PULEEZE! What balls! If only they showed those big balls when it comes to fighting the real enemies—-like Randi Weingarten and her buddy Bill Gates or Hilary Clinton and her buddy Eli Broad. 

Some Tweets






So Unity Caucus seemed to think that this would help them with the ir VOTE-COPE drive.  I wonder how that’s going?



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Unity’s Attack on Dimino & Reducing VOTE-COPE

A few days ago, New York State’s Unity Caucus, the controlling caucus of NYSUT and the statewide extension of the UFT’s Unity Caucus, published a piece on their blog attacking PJSTA President Beth Dimino.  In the post Dimino is accused of  working for her own political gain while attempting to “squelch the voice of educators, SRPs, those working in higher education and health care professionals.”  The post goes on to label her “anti-union” and accuses her of siding with the Koch brothers and “other right winged-politicians” with the goal of killing the union.

The comically misguided post is clearly an attempt to discredit a respected labor leader with a well earned track record of being outspoken in her defense of public education and unionized teachers.  From trying to paint her as being on the side of the Koch brothers to the use of the word histrionics, whose use is rooted in misogyny, the Unity henchman was clearly trying to paint Dimino as a voice who should be ignored.  The reason surely being that Ms. Dimino’s ability to speak truthfully about the leadership of our parent unions, NYSUT, the AFT, and the NEA, has caused an increasingly large number of members to reduce their contributions to NYSUT’s political action fund, VOTE-COPE.

Ms. Dimino’s track record as an advocate is fairly well known.  She has been a vocal and visible proponent of the opt-out movement.  She is a conscientious objector, refusing to administer New York State tests.  This video of her lambasting former NYSED Commissioner John King has made her fairly well known in public education circles.  She has spoken all over the state as an advocate for teachers, students, parents, and communities.  I am sure Long Island Opt-Out founder Jeanette Deutermann or our friends at NYSAPE would vouch for Ms. Dimino as somebody who works tirelessly for teachers, students, and public education in general.  If you don’t believe me you are welcome to ask them.  None of these things tend to be characteristic of the circles that the Koch brothers travel in.  None of them are synonymous with anti-union activity.

Let’s now contrast Ms. Dimino’s record with that of the Unity Caucus.  Unity Caucus, for nearly the entire existence of NYSUT, has benefited from being the only party in a one party-system.  The caucus has always chosen the presidents and each of the other officers.  When they decided you were out, then you were out, as they have always been able to use the 800 UFT-Unity delegates as a voting block to elect who ever they have wanted to or to enact any changes within NYSUT that they have decided to.  You may be wondering why 800 people always have to vote the same way?  Well that would be because the 800 Unity-UFT delegates have signed an oath pledging to vote as they are told to.  Currently, every NYSUT officer and every member of the UFT’s executive board are members of the Unity Caucus.  Let’s take a look at some of their greatest hits from just the past few years…

  • Most recently, Unity Caucus has been using their twitter account to advocate for #TeachStrong, the newly formed group of ed deformers that our national unions have inexplicably partnered with, including Teach for America and Educators4Excellence.  These are the same groups that have helped to finance legislative changes that have done tremendous harm to teachers over the past several years.  Unity Caucus members will make the argument that “the tide has turned” and that these groups now want to work with us.  They should try telling that to the teachers in Buffalo in receivership schools who just had their contracts thrown in the trash in the name of “reform.”  If you are wondering what that sharp feeling is in your back, it’s the knife that the Unity slugs are pushing into it.  Here is Marla Kilfoyle of the BadAss Teachers take on #TeachStrong.  Here is Peter Greene’s take on the Curmudgucation blog.  Here was the renowned Michelle Gunderson, a leader in the Chicago Teachers Union, with her reaction…
  • John Flanagan, the senate majority leader in the New York State Senate, and the former education chairperson in the senate has been another friend of Unity Caucus.  Yes, the same John Flanagan who has declared opt-out parents a problem, claimed that charter school parents are the best parents there are, and whose highest campaign contributor is an ed deform group.  While NYSUT did not vote to endorse Flanagan when he last ran in 2014, that didn’t stop Unity Caucus’ Andy Pallotta from giving Flanagan money anyway.  Flanagan, who has received over $40,000 in VOTE COPE dollars over the years, received $7,750 in 2014.
  • Just this past spring Unity Caucus used their might to defeat a measure at the NYSUT RA that would have allowed all NYSUT locals to participate in NYSUT elections, as opposed to the 30% who did in the last one.  Unity Caucus doesn’t want any of that pesky stuff called democracy interfering in their ability to guide the union in the direction they want to guide it in.
  • In 2014, at the AFT Convention, the Unity Caucus’ Michael Mulgrew gave his passionate defense of the Common Core when he stated “I’m gonna punch you in the face and push you in the dirt,” if you took away the Common Core.  At the same convention fellow Unity Caucus members Karen Magee and Leroy Barr also stood up at the microphone in defense of the Common Core.  You can watch it here…


  • Later in 2014 the Unity Caucus’ Michael Mulgrew marched in the New York City Labor Day Parade with Andrew Cuomo amongst “Labor for Cuomo” signs.

I could go on, but I am not really sure that’s necessary.  There is a clear divide between the top down, business unionism model that is represented by Unity Caucus and the grassroots, member driven unionism espoused by Ms. Dimino and the Stronger Together Caucus of which she is the chairperson.  Still the blog post on the Unity website was written because of the fact that Ms. Dimino has openly advocated for the idea of NYSUT members reducing their VOTE-COPE contributions.  The blog post implies that every PJSTA member did that simply because they were told to.  I am here to tell you that is not the case.

I have been a PJSTA member in good standing for 14 years.  I tend to think of myself as being fairly independent minded.  I don’t do things because my president tells me to.  I generally do things because I believe them to be the right things to do.  Members of our executive board can vouch for the fact that there are many times I disagree with Ms. Dimino and I am not shy about it.  Like Ms. Dimino, I am not a right winger and anyone who knows me would assure you that I am not anti-union.  Throughout the first 12 years of my career I gave faithfully to VOTE-COPE.  As much as $10 a paycheck for a few years.  Last fall, fresh off NYSUT’s decision not to endorse Zephyr Teachout, a clear advocate for public education, in the Democratic Primary I decided to reduce my VOTE-COPE contribution to $0.  I did so because I no longer had any trust that a Unity Caucus controlled union would represent me or the interests of my fellow classroom teachers very well.  In addition to giving money to candidates who hurt us and falling on the wrong side of so many of the important issues facing public school teachers, I got sick of seeing NYSUT’s legislative action wing be so woefully ineffective.  Whether it be the creation of Tier 6, the creation of test based teacher evaluations, the inability to get allies of public education elected, or the inability to prevent such a disastrous and harmful state budget from passing last year, I simply have no confidence in a legislative wing controlled by Unity Caucus’ Andy Pallotta.  Instead I donated my money to Zephyr Teachout, purchased NYSAPE Opt-Out signs, and used some money in ways that directly benefited students.  I was in control of the money and was, therefore, confident it was going to causes that I believed in.

So if you are on the side of Randi Weingarten (who came up through the Unity ranks), Mike Mulgrew, Andy Pallotta, #TeachStrong, Common Core, and test based teacher evaluations, then support Unity Caucus (you can’t join, it is invite only) and keep funneling your hard earned money into VOTE-COPE.  But if you are like me and you are tired of your profession being trampled while your union “leaders” compromise and collaborate with coroporate  privatizers who seek to destroy public education, then go ahead and reduce your VOTE-COPE and join STCaucus (open to any NYSUT members).  It literally is about the only say you have in your parent unions.

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Receivership, #TeachStrong, and STCaucus

Some interesting news stories involving education and, by extension, teacher unions have broken recently.  After a lot of contemplation a few things regarding our unions have really come to the forefront of my thoughts.  Let’s get to the issues at hand first.

First, we recently learned that NYSED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was using Governor Cuomo’s new receivership law, enacted by the legislature last spring, to essentially toss aside the collective bargaining agreement between the Buffalo School District and the Buffalo Teachers Federation.  Changes to the working conditions of the teachers in the receivership schools can be drastically altered simply in the name of “improving our schools” even if there is no real evidence that such changes would improve the school.  Ultimately the receivership process can lead to a receiver being appointed by the state.  As described by Jessica Bakeman in Politico New York this past spring, such receiver could…

“replace teachers and administrators’ and ‘abolish the positions of all members of the teaching and administrative and supervisory staff assigned to the failing or persistently failing school and terminate the employment of any building principal assigned to such a school, and require such staff members to reapply for their positions in the school if they so choose.”

Naturally schools that fall into receivership are evaluated by rigged standardized test scores.  This action proves how farcical Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force is as the state is pushing forward with the destruction of public education all while pretending to listen to the concerns of citizens.

Shortly after hearing about the Buffalo receivership debacle, I began reading about #TeachStrong.  As described by Peter Greene on his Curmudgucation blog

The Program 

Sigh. Well, let’s start with the assumption that teaching is in trouble. Teachers, apparently, need to “modernized and elevated.” And we are also fans of having an excellent teacher in each classroom. And we have nine-step program for getting it done.

(1) Recruit more diverse candidates for (2) more strenuous preparation. (3) Make it harder to get a license, but (4) pay more and (5) provide support in residency programs. (6) Keep tenure, but make it a meaningful signal of professional accomplishment (i.e. harder to get). (7) Give teachers more time and tools (so, what? a twenty-five hour day and an extra hand?) (8) Better PD (please, now you’re just making shit up). (9) Career pathways.

So, mostly the same old stuff. Make life harder for teachers in concrete ways (licensure, tenure) but try to offset it in vague ways (more time, and tools, and PD). And as always– absolutely nothing about giving teachers a strong voice in the direction of their profession.

No, the promise here is that we will ask more of you and do more to you.

And yet there are some odd features here. For instance, much of this is not exactly in tune with the TFA five-weeks, no-real-license plan. But in her WaPo piece, Lyndsey Layton reports that TFA basically has no intention of changing what they do, they just thought this seemed like a cool initiative to join. Really? Why would they sign on to this if they didn’t support the stated goals? Hmmm…

The Purpose 

So what’s really going on here? I have a thought, and I’ll go ahead and type it out now. If I’m wrong, we can all make fun of me later.

Let’s look at the clues.

The initiative is led by CAP, a thinky tank that has also served as a holding pen for Clinton staffers since Bill stepped out of the White House. Carmel Martin, who has so far been the point person on this for CAP,  has served in both Clinton and Obama administrations.

The list has many reformster groups– but not all. Who’s missing? Well, Campbell Brown, the Fordham Foundation, Jeb Bush’s FEE folks. You know– the conservative/GOP wing.

What does the group say it’s up  to? Per Layton:

Martin, of the Center for American Progress, said the campaign will include events in early presidential primary states and important swing states, as well as Twitter town halls, online events and social media outreach. The think tank expects to spend $1 million, she said.

 #TeachStrong says it wants to influence policy discussions through the primary and election season. I hereby predict that one candidate is going to be heavily influenced by this initiative and is going to stand up for this important teacher-supporting thing. I hereby predict that #TeachStrong is an organization created to help guard and support Hillary Clinton’s education flank in the run-up to 2016.

I think we’re looking at the eventual education plank of HRC’s platform.

Unsurprisingly, two of the forty organizations involved with this destruction of our profession are our national unions, the AFT and the NEA.  That’s correct, I am no longer surprised when they stick the knife in the back of their dues paying members by partnering with the reformy groups who have sought to create the narrative of a public education crisis that they can sell you the answer to.  They have a long track record of this.

So we have two major issues here, seemingly not connected, yet still rooted in a common problem, the lack of real union organizing from our parent unions.  Let’s look at the issue in Buffalo first.  A strong collective bargaining agreement,  featuring victories won by generations of members over decades of work, is the document that provides a living for professional educators, along with the working conditions members value that also enhance student learning.  To have the commissioner trample all over that agreement to instill whatever the reformists want is a blow the heart of the union and one that calls for an immediate and forceful response.  That’s certainly the type of thing unions should be good at, right?  However the Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore simply responded that the BTF might sue.  NYSUT President Karen Magee’s response was that they’d look at different options.  Tepid responses at best.

The problem with the situation in Buffalo, regarding the lack of decisive union action, is the same problem that leads to our national unions supporting #TeachStrong in partnership with those who seek to destroy us.  That problem is that the difficult and time consuming work of organizing that needs to have been done over a long period of time in order to effectively carry out such actions that will lead to victory has not been done.  It certainly hasn’t been done by NYSUT and if Rumore’s only idea is to sue, it likely hasn’t been done there either.  It has become common place in recent years for me to see teachers on social media calling for a statewide strike over the ed reform issues that have been foisted upon us.  While I appreciate the sentiment and would go along with such militant action if possible, it really isn’t feasible.  There simply has not been any organizing at the rank and file level to pull of any sort of statewide teacher movements.  It’s not just the Revive NYSUT officers who currently inhabit the statewide officer positions either.  As long as I have been a NYSUT member (14 years), through three presidents, there has been no organizing done by the statewide union.  Certainly not to the level of being able to pull off mass labor actions across the state.  Any organizing that has been done has taken place at the local union level or by parents.  The real organizing I am mentioning is tough work.  It involves lots of real back and forth conversation with members and with community members.  It involves reflective practice in how we operate as unionists, and it calls for a true democratic governance within our unions that allows the members of an informed and engaged rank and file to truly drive the agenda of the union’s leadership.  That work is never done by our parent unions.

While a failure to organize rank and file members should be a huge red flag that your union is failing you, the reason why it is likely happening within NYSUT, the AFT, and the NEA is even more galling.  In my opinion the lack of organizing is by design.  The simple fact of the matter is that an organized, informed, and engaged rank and file is a threat to our leadership. As long as membership is oblivious to the fact that leadership is collaborating with those seeking to harm us, such as the AFT and NEA’s decision to support #TeachStrong, they will never do the work that needs to be done to replace leadership.  Without a revolt from the rank and file our “leaders” can sit safely inside their offices, far removed from the trenches that is the inside of a classroom, and collect their half a million dollar compensation packages and accrue their double pensions.

In many ways the large unions are like virtually any other organizational structure where those in power simply want to keep the power to themselves. An informed electorate is always a threat to them. It’s why the UFT leadership never concerns themselves with the fact that less than 20% of it’s members vote in union elections. It’s why Unity Caucus, at the state level, shut down a constitutional amendment at last spring’s NYSUT RA that would have allowed regional voting so that more than 30% of locals could actually cast their votes in NYSUT elections.

To those in power, whether they be in our parent unions, our government, or elsewhere, democracy is nothing but a buzzword.  It sounds good to talk about, but in actual practice they risk too much power to want it employed among those they hold power over.  The leaders of the AFT, the NEA, and NYSUT simply don’t care about classroom teachers. They want the cozy gigs they have now, the big salaries that come with it, and the continued ability to be able to rub elbows with “important people” like Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton. That’s why we, when we are in desperate need of mass labor action, are stuck being encouraged to make Nae Nae videos instead.

Having said all that, the structure for change does in fact exist.  The blueprint for such change can be seen in Chicago and Seattle where rank and file movements have pushed leadership into drastic labor actions that have given them hard won victories.  The Chicago Teachers Union recently held a mock strike vote in preparation for what may prove to be a lengthy strike this winter.  95% of their membership participated in that vote and 97% of those voting voted that they would authorize a strike.  A similarly high turnout approved the Seattle Educators Association’s strike in September.  You simply don’t get all members on the same page with votes to authorize a strike unless you have undertaken lengthy, in depth organizing campaigns that have both informed membership and then brought their voice to the forefront.  Those are simply astounding numbers.  The key to the organizing within both locals has been the presence of a rank and file lead, social justice unionism caucus.  In Chicago that would be CORE (Caucus of Rank and file Educators) and in Seattle that would be the SEE Caucus (Social Equality Educators).  Both caucuses were in existence for several years, lead by rank and file membership and hyper focused on organizing before they went about the task of organizing a drastic action such as a strike.

While the MORE Caucus brings a similar brand of unionism within the UFT, such an organization has not really ever existed within NYSUT.  The one hope for change lies with the Stronger Together Caucus which, at the very least, provides an existing structure to work within.  STCaucus, which formed last year, certainly is willing to oppose NYSUT leadership in an effort to represent what they believe is the voice of the classroom teacher, as they have shown throughout the past few months.  While that is encouraging in and of itself, the caucus has yet to do much organizing of the general membership.  There likely are a variety of factors behind that.  What remains to be seen is whether or not they intend to do the organizing necessary to facilitate a rank and file driven movement and whether or not they are receptive to the being steered by the voice of the membership.

There are scheduled to be some membership meetings and conferences of the caucus in the next few months.  I highly recommend teachers across New York State reach out to the caucus to see when those will be held and then make sure you are in attendance.  The direction the caucus leadership takes from there should be pretty telling.  Hopefully they are up to the task because the clock is ticking and our profession is approaching the edge of the cliff.

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MaryEllen Elia Launches Attack on Buffalo Teachers

Via the Buffalo News…

In one of her most significant actions as state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia has granted Buffalo Superintendent Kriner Cash unprecedented power to make changes at the district’s most struggling schools, bypassing the teachers union contract.

Those changes could include a longer school day and year, required teacher training and more control over staffing – all things Cash says are essential to improve student performance.

“Students at these persistently struggling schools need help right now,” Elia wrote in a statement. “The receivership law gives the superintendent enhanced authority in order to maintain local control while facilitating rapid improvement in student outcomes. This receivership collective bargaining agreement will, among other things, enable Dr. Cash to more effectively utilize and deploy effective teachers and make changes to programs and teaching assignments – all of which will ensure that students in these struggling schools are provided with  Teachers can be  increased educational opportunities.”

This is very clear evidence for where corporate ed reformers are seeking to drive their agenda.  Use rigged standardized test scores to declare schools to be “struggling,” those schools are placed in receivership.  The state then steps in and bypasses the teachers’ contract.  Teachers can be replaced on a whim, their working conditions arbitrarily changed even though there is no evidence such changes improve student learning.

I am hoping the events in Buffalo are the impetus for mass organizing by NYSUT or, at the very least, STCaucus.  Without the rank and file organizing at the general membership level New York’s teachers will continue to be unprepared to take the collective action necessary to defeat an agenda such as the one we face now.  A commenter on the Perdido Street School Blog’s post on this story had this accurate comment regarding potential statewide action (emphasis is mine)…

A ten day strike in 2006 nearly destroyed the Transit Workers Union in NYC–dues checkoff pulled for two years (yes, I know, Friedrichs might take care of that for us on its own), members fined two days pay for each day on strike (though this was mitigated by the judge) and Roger Toussaint in jail for three days (yes, we all might like to see Mighty Mike in an orange jumpsuit). Huge public backlash against the Transit Workers.

I’m retired so have no position about a strike, personally. But there needs to be a great deal of prep work done with rank-and-file if anyone expects that a strike resolution would pass in any local. Calling for a strike may be useful talk resulting in positive action–or not–but it’s not a matter to be thrown out there as casual conversation without a deep understand for the consequences.

We have members who don’t vote in union elections. We have an executive board controlled by the Unity Politboro. We have a public that might not be inclined to support a teachers strike and public support, or at least acquiescence, is important if we were to violate the Taylor Law.

All I’m asking is that folks talk about a “strike” intelligently, knowing just how difficult it would be to organize, explain to members, maintain and what the probable consequences would be.

Only then, pick up the pickets signs and walk out the door….

Click here to read the PJSTA’s resolution in opposition to receivership that the executive board passed last month.

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PJSTA Members Speak Out at Common Core Task Force Hearing

Three PJSTA members spoke at today’s hearing with the Common Core Task Force at Stony Brook University.

Melissa McMullan can be seen speaking here.

Beth Dimino follows Jeanette Deutermann here.

Brian St. Pierre can be seen in the video embedded below.  Thank you for the many PJSTA members who were in attendance in support of our schools, our students, our teachers, and our community!

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