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New York TeacherSeptember 5, 2019

Volume LXI , Issue 1

Latest News

Plastic heart and stethoscope

Major health care strike brewing in California

More than 37,000 workers at the Kaiser Permanente health care corporation in California have voted to authorize a strike in October over unfair labor practices and understaffing. The walkout would be the nation’s largest strike in more than 20 years.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, the largest union in a coalition covered by the national contract, voted to support a strike, according to the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions. Two-thirds of the union’s members voted, with 98 percent of those voting yes, it said. A total of 80,000 Kaiser workers in several other states, as well as the District of Columbia, will have the chance to vote on the strike through September.

Most contracts covering Kaiser employees will expire in October. The unions and their members accuse the company of bargaining in bad faith and insisting on a restrictive agreement prohibiting sympathy strikes among workers.

Piggy bank with dollar sign - generic

Low pay pushing teachers out of the profession

Fifty percent of teachers say they’ve considered leaving the profession over low pay, stress and a lack of respect.

50 and 20 US dollar bills with coins

Newark scraps teacher merit-pay scheme

The union representing Newark teachers announced a five-year deal with its school district on Aug. 13 that eliminates merit-based bonuses and allows low-rated teachers to earn pay increases. The changes overturn key elements of a controversial 2012 contract and represent a shift away from former Mayor Cory Booker’s education reform agenda, which sought to introduce corporate-style accountability and compensation practices into public education.

Feature Stories

Learning about sacrifice and compromise

Learning about ‘sacrifice and compromise’

Kids are kids, whether the calendar says 1890, 1910 or 2019.

So when 4th-graders from Brooklyn’s PS 10 took the “Sweatshop Workers” tour at the Tenement Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, it’s no wonder they were fascinated to learn about the immigrant children who had lived there.

The students “had discussed the reasons for immigration to New York” as part of their social studies curriculum, said Michele Kertesz, who teaches the integrated co-teaching class with special education teacher Regina Zoltowski. They “learned about the contributions of immigrants” and were particularly interested in child labor, Kertesz said.

“In our classroom,” she added, “we role-played what life was like for these children. We discussed how living conditions could improve; how even today we can help to make changes.”

Climbing the creaky steps of a narrow staircase in the Orchard Street building, past peeling walls and rooms in ruins — evidence of the building’s history — the students traveled back in time to meet the Levine and Rogarshevsky families in apartments re-created with guidance from both families’ descendants.

The building, constructed in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln was president, was occupied for only 72 years. During those years, 7,000 people lived there; some walls have 20 layers of wallpaper to prove it. The building remained vacant from 1935 until 1988, when the museum — designated a National Historic Site — was founded.

Signs of respect

‘Signs’ of respect

When Rita Fattorusso invites one of her prekindergarten students to the front of the class to lead morning exercises, the other students pay strict attention. If they don’t, they’ll miss their classmate’s instructions: He uses American Sign Language to tell them to do eight jumping jacks, mimicking the action and counting out the number eight on his fingers.

Rose Ann Cimino of PS 132 in Brooklyn
Today's history lesson

What happened on Aug. 31, 2014?

When nearly 4,000 paraprofessionals were threatened with termination in the spring of 2009 for failing to meet certification requirements, the UFT went into high gear to save their jobs.

Member Spotlight

Lucille Swaim

UFT contract guru Lucille Swaim dies

Lucille Swaim, the coordinator of negotiations for every UFT contract from the first one in 1962 until her retirement in 2015, died on July 1 at the age of 87.

Her fingerprints are on every contractual improvement UFT members enjoy today.

“Lucille was a quiet hero,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “She put her heart, soul and intellect into helping generations of educators and UFT members. She helped build this union.”

Swaim came to the UFT in 1961 during efforts to organize city teachers, and she stayed to negotiate the first comprehensive collective bargaining agreement covering teachers anywhere in the nation.

“That contract,” she later said, “broke the ground for teachers to start organizing across the country.”  

For the first time, a teachers’ contract covered not just salary and benefits but working conditions, such as class size and the right to a duty-free lunch. And for the first time, contractual grievance procedure required that an impartial arbitrator, and not the employer, be the final decision-maker in disputes.
UFT retired teachers who worked in the 1950s and ’60s can bear witness to just how extraordinary those improvements were.

Christina Gavin
What I Do

What I do: Christina Gavin, School librarian

Christina Gavin is the librarian at the Herbert H. Lehman HS Campus in the Bronx, where she serves 3,200 students and more than 300 staff members in the seven schools that share the building.

Yvonne Reasen
Chapter Leader Shoutout

Kudos to Yvonne Reasen, Bronx Engineering and Technical Academy

Bronx Engineering and Technical Academy Chapter Leader Yvonne Reasen used the new expedited resolution process for operational issues, negotiated as part of the 2018 DOE-UFT contract, to get the basic instructional supplies desperately needed by science teachers at her school.

Your Rights and Benefits

Know Your Benefits

Transit programs

If you travel to work by public transportation, you can save money by taking part in the City of New York Commuter Benefits Program, which covers New York City and the tri-state area.

Know Your Rights

Class size and instructional materials

As we enter a new school year, teachers should be aware of their rights to reasonable class sizes and basic instructional materials.

You Should Know

You Should Know

Grievance filed over training $$

The UFT filed a union-initiated grievance over the rate of pay for members who participated in curriculum training this summer for enVisionmath.

You Should Know

3 functional chapters elect new leaders

Three of the UFT's functional chapters recently elected new chapter leaders.

You Should Know

City kids’ state test scores go up again

New York City public school students improved their performance on state math and English tests for grades 3 through 8 for the sixth year in a row, according to 2019 test scores released by the state Education Department on Aug. 22.

You Should Know

Teacher’s Choice amounts set

UFT-represented educators are eligible for reimbursement for some of their out-of-pocket classroom expenses through Teacher's Choice.

Q&A on the Issues

Teachers and the observation process

The UFT seized the opportunity presented by the 2018 contract negotiations with the city Department of Education to revise the teacher evaluation system to focus on quality of observations rather than quantity and to incorporate meaningful professional development as part of the process. Here’s what you can expect for the 2019–20 school year.


President's Perspective

Building on our strengths

Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed a restful summer break and you’re re-energized for the year ahead. As always, we’re here to help you meet the challenges and opportunities that present themselves every September. Please extend yourself to the new teachers who are finding their footing in the classroom this year. We’ve all been there, and it can be daunting.


Welcome to your new union family

This September, 3,000 new teachers have joined the city Department of Education’s ranks. Their interests and backgrounds are as diverse as New York City itself. But whether they teach 3-year-olds on Staten Island or high school biology in Brooklyn, they all have one thing in common: They belong to our United Federation of Teachers family.


Gun laws

The terrible shooting at an El Paso, Texas, shopping mall is yet another reminder that there are far too many people in this country who are mentally imbalanced and should never own a weapon.


The right to dissent

President Trump tells people to go back where they came from for being critical of the U.S — this coming from a man who has been very critical of American policies and Americans both before and after coming into office. (The words “American carnage” come to mind.)


Fight to ban pesticides

In 2014, while my kindergarten students at PS 290 in Manhattan were doing research about tomatoes and other foods in our cafeteria, they learned about pesticides. They did role-plays where farmworkers or gardeners were coughing and rubbing the rashes caused by the (pretend) pesticides sprayed on the tomatoes.


Welcome to a great profession

Good luck to all the new teachers joining the profession! Remember that the union is only as strong as its members.

Teaching Resources


UFT welcomes new teachers

The UFT welcomed thousands of new members into the union at the DOE’s New Teacher Week on Aug. 19 - 21.

Linking to Learning

Grants can fund your technology projects

The start of a school year is a good time to plan how to integrate technology in your classroom. Many teachers have great ideas but do not have access to the hardware or software they need to run with them. Other than asking your principal to purchase equipment on a tight budget, education grants can provide needed funds for technology projects.

Teacher to Teacher

Your students can be graphic novelists

By reading graphic novels and going through the graphic narrative process with the students, I shared an important interest of theirs and saw them take intense ownership of their learning.

Building Your Career

New Teachers

How to start the new year off right

Welcome to a new school year! The first few weeks may feel like a whirlwind, and you probably have a lot on your mind. Here are just a few tips to help you launch a great year.

New Teachers

How to pick a book

It was my goal last school year to encourage my students to pick books to read for fun.

New Teachers

That's 'LYFE'

Patricia Belluscio left a career in the fashion industry to work with infants and toddlers in the LYFE program.

Retired Teachers News

Purple hexagon with outline of figure pointing at screen

Queens Learning Center courses

The Si Beagle courses at the new Queens Learning Center, 118-35 Queens Blvd., 8th floor, will not begin on Monday, Sept. 9, due to construction. Instead, the courses will begin on Wednesday, Oct. 2, and conclude on Friday, Nov. 22. The Queens trips will not be affected.

Women in a dance line wearing blue shirts and white pants

Stepping out

After 31 years in the classroom as a life science teacher, Kim McCarthy has traded in her microscopes and lesson plans for the Wobble, the Cupid Shuffle and Booty Call. McCarthy signed up for salsa and belly dancing classes at the Bronx Si Beagle Center, but was always on the lookout for an urban line dancing class. When she didn’t find one, she created one that has grown into two Si Beagle classes.

Purple hexagon with outline of figure pointing at screen

Florida courses canceled

All Florida courses have been canceled for October, November and December due to construction.