Karen Lewis on the Vergara Ruling

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Yes, the Vergara Verdict Can Happen in NY Too

Farmer Quote

Shortly after a verdict in the Vergara v. California case was handed down, stripping the state’s teachers of their tenure protections, I received a flurry of text messages from colleagues asking me whether or not this could happen in New York State as well.  My answer to them was YES.  Yes, New York’s teachers can lose their tenure rights as well.  In fact not only can it happen here, but it is likely to happen, barring a massive and militant mobilization of teachers across the Empire State.

The reason that it can happen here is because groups that are financially backed by billionaires typically get whatever they want in the United States when there is little or no resistance.  While the movement in our state against the Common Core and high stakes testing has been impressive, it didn’t really gain any traction until parents got behind it.  If New York teachers are going to beat back the coming attacks on tenure rights that not only protect our jobs, but allow us to advocate for our students, we are going to have to be willing to become activists.  I don’t mean upping your VOTE-COPE contributions by a dollar or two per pay check or sending out a fax or a letter a handful of times per year to a representative.  I mean a militant mobilization of our state’s teachers.  A movement in which teachers unite,  get informed, take to the streets and fight tooth and nail for the job protections that we have and for the schools that our students and communities deserve.  We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while our profession is ransacked by billionaire fat cats who seek to make a dollar on the backs of our students and make the profession of teaching synonymous with that of a Wal-Mart associate.

The PJSTA membership was more active than ever this past year.  We thank you for that.  But it’s not enough.  Every member will need to increase their involvement next year.  We will need to raise our voice to a collective roar.  The last stand of teaching as we know it may very well be coming.  As Chicago Teacher Union attorney Matt Farmer said in their battle against ed deformers, “We will see you in the streets.  You will hear our voice in your sleep!”  That should be the credo for New York’s teachers moving forward.  Don’t sit back and wait for NYSUT, the AFT, or the NEA to save you.  The time has come to take back your profession.

A great place to start your journey as an activist is with a little summer reading.  You can pick up a copy of Labor Notes’ How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers.  It details the transformation of the Chicago Teachers Union and how their rank-and-file was mobilized and given a voice in the fight against corporate reformers in Chicago.  Next fall the PJSTA will be hosting a book party based on this book.  Details will follow in the coming months.

Diane Ravitch has the winners (hedge fund managers) and losers (students and teachers) of the Vergara case here.

Arthur Goldstein does not want a seat at the reformer table.

Reality-Based Educator says it’s only a matter of time before corporate backed reformers go after tenure laws in New York.

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Governor Cuomo Even Makes Lame Bets

Something fun for a Saturday morning…

Seeing Cuomo cheering for the Rangers makes me happy to be an Islanders fan.  On that note, hockey blogger Greg Wyshynski writes about the “lamest governors’ bet ever.”

Via Puck Daddy

Stanley Cup Final produces the lamest governors’ bet ever

Greg Wyshynski

Puck Daddy

Political wagering is a longstanding tradition in championship series, as two elected officials ante up clichéd items that represent their respective cities or states. Which is usually great news for whoever plays Boston, because who doesn’t like lobster? Less so for opponents of New Jersey, because who likes landfills?

With the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Jerry Brown of California announced their wager before Wednesday’s Game 1 and it’s amazingly … lame. From the Great State of New York, Andrew Cuomo wagers:

A hockey puck that he had imprinted last year to mark the “hat trick” of three on-time state budgets.

Yes, seriously, this is a thing that he wagered.

It’s possible he ran out of “CUOMO 2010” bumper stickers.

Spiedie marinade, which is used to create the spiedie sandwich, which is a thing eaten in upstate New York.

We know what you’re thinking: Pastrami on rye would be the quintessential New York sandwich. Ah, but you forget: This bet is atrocious.

This is what happens when you marry Sandra Lee instead of the Barefoot Contessa.

“Chicken wing sauce from Buffalo.”

You, know, Buffalo.

Home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.


I mean, he’s only the governor, why would he be hip to such nuance …

Finally, “a bottle of wine from the Finger Lakes,” which we’re sure Jerry Brown will use to wash his glass with after consuming something from Napa or Sonoma.

The Cuomo “Taste of New York” basket also includes Gianelli Hot Italian Sausage; Sammy and Annie Food’s Chicken Riggie Pasta Sauce Starter; Parker’s Pure New York Maple Syrup; America’s First Kettle Chip, Saratoga Chips, Saratoga County; Apples from Fishkill Farms; Red velvet cupcakes from Make My Cake; and oysters harvested off of Long Island’s shore.

Lest you believe Cuomo wagered the lamest stuff in this bet, we give you the Jerry Brown side of the wager:

“California: A History” by Kevin Starr. A book, in a hockey bet. There’s no chance Jerry Brown isn’t that house on Halloween that gives out carrot sticks and coloring books about the dangers of paganism.

“Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Cakes, Lightly Salted.”

Rice. Cakes.

Do you even have to pay postage on rice cakes?

If nothing else, we applaud Jerry Brown for choosing an item that’s the antithesis of many California stereotypes: Tasteless and of little substance. Oh, wait …

Said Cuomo in a press release:

“While 2014 is already a banner year for New York State hockey teams with Union College and Clarkson University as national college champions, the true icing on the cake would be a triumphant return of the Stanley Cup to the Empire State. Both the Rangers and the Kings have put forward spectacular championship runs and hockey enthusiasts from the East Coast to the West Coast can surely look forward to a hard fought series.

“However, given the tough, New York-resilient spirit with which the Rangers have advanced through the playoffs so far, I am wagering big on the Broadway Blueshirts with a Taste NY Basket of some of New York’s finest products. Together with one of New York’s biggest Rangers fans, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, we look forward to receiving the proceeds of Governor Brown’s wager.”

Jerry Brown did not provide a canned quote for the release, which is about as much effort as to be expected from someone who wagers rice cakes and a book in a sports bet.

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What I Want From NYSUT

Earlier today we posted about NYSUT’s Karen Magee asking to hear from the membership about what we want from our union.  It was a nice gesture.  Below is the letter I submitted to her.  I am sure most of my requests will be met.  I encourage all NYSUT members to submit your own ideas to Karen as well.  Feel free to share them with us as we’d love to see what your thoughts are as well.

My submission…

Dear President Magee,

Thank you for taking the time to ask what NYSUT members, such as myself, want from our union.  Below is a list of the things that I would like from my union.

  1. I would like a union who places the needs and interests of the rank and file membership ahead of the needs and interests of the Unity Caucus.
  2. I would like a union who fights against those who seek to harm us, rather than one who compromises and collaborates with them.
  3. I would like a union leadership who works with grassroots organizations to demonstrate against Governor Cuomo and corporate education reform rather than sitting in their ivory tower in Latham, New York claiming they were never invited to those demonstrations.
  4. I’d like none of my VOTE COPE money to go towards Cuomo, John Flanagan, or any other anti-teacher, anti-labor candidates.
  5. I’d like NYSUT officers to take significant pay cuts, rather than raising our dues AGAIN.  While rank and file teachers across the state are taking 0%’s and step freezes along with paying more towards their health insurance, NYSUT officers have compensation packages that exceed $250,000.  There is no good reason for any officer to make more than $150,000.
  6. I’d like NYSUT’s leadership to return phone calls to my local president.  Ignoring our local’s needs because of a grudge the leadership holds against us is a slap in the face to all of our members.
  7. I’d like a Suffolk PAC that is run by an active teacher who has been elected by the rank and file.
  8. I’d like it if UFT Unity Caucus delegates, bound by a caucus oath, were not allowed to vote on at large delegates from Long Island or other portions of the state.  That way when Long Island delegates overwhelmingly vote for a candidate to represent them, that candidate will get to do so.
  9. I’d like a leadership who openly and publicly criticizes the fact that our largest local has a caucus oath that stifles democracy both inside their local, inside our statewide union, and inside the AFT.
  10. I’d like our union to strongly denounce the Common Core State Standards, just as my local union has.
  11. I’d like the spending restrictions that Dick Iannuzzi placed on Andy Pallotta’s use of VOTE COPE funds to be enforced by this administration as well.
  12. I’d like a statewide union who proves competent at mobilizing the rank and file.
  13. I’d like a statewide union who will not support the candidacy of Randi Weingarten at the 2014 AFT Convention.  The message needs to be loud and clear, “If you are not working for us you will be removed from office.”
  14. I’d like a statewide union who uses every tool at it’s disposal to support the candidacy of the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones for governor and lieutenant governor in this fall’s election.
  15. I’d like NYSUT photographers who are allowed to take pictures of anti-Cuomo signs.


I have several more suggestions as well, but this list is a good starting point.  Thank you so much for taking the time to hear what we want from our union.  I eagerly await the needed changes to NYSUT.


In solidarity,

Brian St. Pierre

Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association

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What Do You Want From Your Union?

In this week’s NYSUT Leader Briefing Karen Magee asks, “What do you want from your union?”  Here is the link for you to fill out an online form and tell Ms. Magee what you want from your union.  I am going to get started on my list now.  It will be quite lengthy and will start with having a leadership who leads rather than selling us out.

Below is Magee’s message regarding this request.  Nice to see that she has already heard from her political base… UFT retirees.


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