SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Why I Can't Support UFT Solidarity

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why I Can't Support UFT Solidarity

I guess the first bad taste I got in my mouth was early this year at a DTOE meeting I had
attended in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx right over the Yonkers line. I had been at the time, on the DTOE steering committee and was truly gung-ho about the future of DTOE and what it could accomplish.

But something that night did not feel right and I don't mean the dude who came dressed as Jean-Luc Picard and smelled like a Klingon.

With what I saw it was more like a revival meeting and seemed to be centered around a "leader" and only that "leader's" agenda. Forgive me if I am wrong, but should not an agenda for such a meeting go through a steering committee? Is not the job of such a committee is to steer?

Too much of the agenda was how to be reactive to the crap we as teachers go through. How to FOIL, how to write a grievance, how to record a principal, stuff like that. There was nothing about how to be proactive. Nothing to do with how to get through being targeted emotionally.

Now mind you I am all for fighting the fight and holding feet to the fire but that is just me. I can't force my beliefs on someone else nor, and much more importantly, not everyone is like me. Not everyone else can or wants to fight back like me. Some just want someone to talk to. Some just want a shoulder to cry on. Some just want support.

Something clicked that night for me. It reminded me of the family that lived across the street from me when I was a kid. They seemed perfect from the outside--like from central casting for a 1950's family TV show--but they were truly dysfunctional. The screaming fights we heard from outside truly made sense when we all found out dad was a raging alcoholic. And things started to make sense that night in the Bronx.

Back in April, DTOE had decided to align itself with New Action in several protests across the city. I was bothered by that. Why, should DTOE be aligned with New Action when NA is not only sleeping with the enemy but making Unity's breakfast as well?

"Oh, it doesn't hurt to work with others. Besides, NA might leave it's alliance with Unity."
Yeah, right. And Donald Trump will become president.

I questioned this publicly in DTOE FB page and elsewhere. Not just the alignment but more important was the subjugation of democracy. The DTOE steering committee was not notified. One person made the decision.

I then inquired as to the by-laws of DTOE. I was told;
"We don't need by-laws."
Really? I was perplexed. What was to be done?

The same thing the leader of any country that is ruled despotically and for the purpose of enriching a leader when factions from it's puppet legislature or cabinet speak up. Call for new elections.

Yes, new elections for the DTOE steering committee were immediately called for without any input from the current steering committee or any by-laws. Care to guess who called for these elections?

I got the hint. But fittingly no one else ran so in a way I think I might be still be on the steering committee.

Remember this? The teacher Carmen Fariña harangued at PS 123 in Harlem during a visit? The "leader" sent this email to the Principal of this school (Just to allay any concerns this was publicly displayed in one of the "leaders" many Facebook pages");

Good evening Principal Hernandez,
     I was reading the below article and couldn't help but wonder who the teacher you had concerns about was. Chancellor Fariña recommended you "observe them many, more times a day."
    I'm curious in not only their identity, but if they are probationary/non tenured or veteran? Even more important to me is what support have they been given in the last year, two years, three years etc.
     I will be making a Freedom of Information Law request today to obtain documentation on the support this teacher was given. Please expect communication from the Records Office soon.  I don't agree with the chancellor's "counseling" methods and intend to follow up on the number of observations this teacher has from now until the end of school in June.

Women, children, and those with weak constitutions please avert your eyes for a second while some choice words are used to express opinion of this email.

WHAT THE F**K?????

What right does the leader have to do this. Yes, we know, you have the right to FOIL anyone, anytime, but do you have the moral and ethical right to file a FOIL request on a teacher who you do not even know, who did not ask you, who does not know you?

How do we know if this teacher is nontenured, on probation and because of this FOIL (Which was also CC'd to Farina and Aimee Horowitz) led to this teacher's discontinuance? Or if this teacher is tenured led to the teacher facing a 3020-a hearing? Or even more harassment?

What right does the "leader" have to play God? Or has the "leader" started thinking of itself as a deity? 

That was it for me. But there is more that one can question the judgement of the "leader."

Why is a clown, borderline disbarred (In my opinion and almost all of Earth's) attorney like Joy Hochstadt given a voice in DTOE? What is her role now with Solidarity?

Why when after all your love-ins with New Action did they repay the love when an UFT Executive Committee voted down the rights of ATR to have their own chapter with only one New Action member voting on the proposal (A retiree) with 2 abstentions and the rest voting no?

Why does the "leader" label himself as a "Union Boss" when the "leader" as yet to achieve such a lofty position? One also can ask where are the photos of the "leader" with the words so big saying, "UNION BOSS" imprinted prominently?

Why at the ICE meeting last week in which the "leader" asked for a joint slate was the "leader" either unable or unwilling to answer this simple question from myself?

"If there were to be a joint slate would you be willing to step down as nominee for UFT president and let a joint committee decide and will let where the chips fall where they may?"

The leader as been unable or unwilling to answer the question.

Why did the "leader" take credit for creating the Facebook group ATR Alliance and why did the "leader" turn a FB group originally used for support into a political tool of the "leader's"? What accomplishments as the ATR Alliance endeavored to?

What truly happened at the lunch meeting with Randi Weingarten? Has she asked the "leader" to form another caucus to split the anti-Mulgrew vote?

As UFT President one should wonder what the "leader" will do to those who dare to those that dare to question or contradict the "leader" president.

And lastly, one can reasonably ask, whether or not the "leader" is in this for the "leader" or for THE CAUSE as the "leader" likes to say. If this is for THE CAUSE than the "leader" should remove the rose colored glasses and look around and do what is right for THE CAUSE.

Why all of the sudden come to ICE for a joint slate? Because Solidarity does not have the numbers to run nor to sign the petitions is what The Crack Team as ascertained. 

 What is one to make of comments such as this from this James Eterno posting?
 "When I'm up at the podium one day, don't worry, no hard feelings, I'll still call on you at the DA"
"You will see me up at podium one day and despite the fact that you've discarded our work together, know that you had a part in that success, whether you like it or not. MORE running a separate campaign would be a extremely irresponsible."

"Because I'm going to be leading something called the "United" Federation of Teachers."

Humility goes a long way. Try it. 


Francesco Portelos said...

What I've been hearing from you Peter is a lot of "Wahhhhh.. Portelos didn't text me back one weekend when he was instead having family time with his wife and kids! ! Wahhh."

Grow up. Get a job to support your family these next few months and stop your childish behavior.

Just a few months ago my wife and I were the only ones from your "support" group to come to your son's bar mitzvah. While I'm paying my own fine at about $600/month, I still dropped a $150 check for your son, a kid I never met before.

You're welcome.

Francesco Portelos said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't you absent from DTOE steering including conference calls?

And wasn't this your ridiculous bio?

Date: Sep 3, 2014 10:42 AM

Ok. My bio

After spending the 80's and early 90's first as a roadie for the prog rock band Rush and then as Geddy Lee's bass teach, Peter (On the recommendation of his good friend Bill the Cat) embarked on a 2nd career as an elementary teacher starting in 1995.

Peter moved up from being a 3rd grade teacher and math cluster to being a staff developer for District 7. After the close of the districts in 2003 Peter went on to teach at PS 154 in District 7.

In 2008 looking for a way to give himself and others a voice in the higgedly piggedly world of the NYCDOE Peter was bitten by a radioactive spider whilst reading the award winning blog Ednotes Online.

At this moment Peter, in his off hours as an educator, became known as Bronx Teacher blogger of the irreverent blog

Peter as a blogger fights for truth, justice, and the American Way.

Francesco Portelos said...

...and haven't there been several allegations that you sexually harassed teachers? At least two that reached out to us in addition to others that claim you harassed them in the rubber room.

Take care of your family Zucker and see a therapist. Let the adults work on this election.

Pete Zucker said...

Sexually harassed? You have until noon today to either submit prove or delete this.

But I know of the teacher in the RR you're deaking with. She's an alcoholic. She has had an issue and argued with every teacher in the RR. She was hated! Want me to get all those in RR to confirm?

You're taking this personally. This has zero to do with when you texted me back or not. But as your text message to me indicated your lack of support was b/c of my comments regarding NA. I saved the texts.

But if you want to comment on unverified comments on behavior in RR let me know. Remember, pot meet kettle.

But now you're bringing my family into this? How low can you go?

Your continued lack of being able to look in mirror and self-reflect is worrisome. I have nothing against you personally Francesco, but I can't support you or Solidarity. The last several weeks you've shown that I have made the correct decisions.

Oh, I was always available for the phone meetings. All 2 of them. But as memory serves, when I brought up the lack of decisions going through steering you said no one ever calls for meeting so there is some contradiction in your claim.

Francesco Portelos said...

Peter, I think MORE is reading these and maybe thinking what they thought back then "Hopefully southbronx goes away."

From: "moderator"
Date: Sep 9, 2014 6:51 AM
Subject: {MORE-Disc} sobronxschool

Good morning sobronxschool. I am now a Listserve Moderator and I have recently posted the Guidelines that we all most adhere to, It has been brought to my attention that there have been many issues concerning you with other members. I was also told you have been warned previously. Please take my advice and follow those guidelines to the tee and do not continually go off list and bombard others with emails that they feel are harassing. If it should happen again, I will have to follow our Guidelines and ban you from our listserve. Listserve Moderators will take actions towards anybody who does not adhere to our Guidelines. Appeals to this decision must be brought to the Steering Committee and not on this list.

In Solidarity,
Listserve Moderator

Mindy said...

Please, do not use a warning from last year to make your case because you know what? All that was needed was one warning and there was never another issue. Can you say that? I have always remained as a friend with Peter and have been in contact with him. I would check in on him often. So yeah, nice try Portelos. Don't want Peter to go away. Take your self created drama elsewhere. We dont care and honestly, my eyes are all dry from the eye rolling. Buh-bye!

Mindy said...

OK, this just occurred to me Portelos. Why would u have an email I sent to Peter? I mean I know you love saving emails and such but why would you save this one towards Peter? Had nothing to do with you plus around this time you were removed from our lists. You are basically proving to everyone that you are paranoid and keep everything in order to use against others. To me, that is not leadership.

Francesco Portelos said...

Mindy, I don't program gmail. It keeps email forever. He sent it to me. Gmail saved it. I did a second search with his email and "more." And then I had breakfast with my family. What's paranoid about that?

Also Mindy, before you were a moderator people were much more open about discussing issues. You banning me without warning showed everyone "Keep your thoughts to yourselves unless it aligns with the loudest people in MORE."

Anonymous said...

Portelos...damn are an asshole...

Francesca Gomes said...

Francesco, you don't have a clue about that situation, so you might want to stop embarrassing yourself.

Right after you quit MORE during a tantrum and were then outraged that you were held to it after you changed your mind, Steering passed and posted rules governing the listserve, and Mindy agreed to filling the thankless role of list moderator. They were posted on every list, and there was no objection from you. The post in question was checked by Steering before the warning went out.

You see, we believe in discussion and shared decision-making. No one of us is "in charge" of everything. Our elected leadership is comprised of several people, not a single person with a raging, unhealthy ego who projects his own concerns about taking care of family and mental illness onto others.

And you're going after Mindy? Seriously? I won't even bother pointing out contrasts, as it wouldn't be anywhere close to a fair fight between her reputation and yours. Seriously, you need to stop for your own good. Your obsession with spraying information about people everywhere, desperately hoping something will cause someone distress is unhealthy, and it isn't working. No one cares that someone else got an email warning from MORE a year ago. It's not a giant revelation. No one cares that you feel Mindy is the cause of the end of your ability to dole out abuse to MORE's entire membership.

Though I am somewhat fascinated by how your logic works... How is MORE irresponsible for refusing to kowtow to one guy who can't fill a slate when MORE can?

Anonymous said...

Filling a slate and winning are two different things. And it IS only July 9th. Maybe Solidarity is looking for the best candidates. And speaking of Solidarity, it is not a one man show. There are many people in leadership. As there are in ATR Alliance. And if you were ask the many people who have been helped by either group, you would know what they are truly about. Look into both groups before condemning them. Separate your feelings for one person from the whole.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last comment. Before you atrack Solidarity, please take a look at the sum of our work. There are many talented LEADERS in SOLIDARITY who have helped many folks who were discontinued or are ATRs. I'm curious what MORE has done for those groups other than provide lip service.

Anonymous said...

What is the MORE caucus stance on ATR's, discontinued teachers, whistleblowers, 3020-a process, falsely accused rubber room teachers, the bullying of veteran teachers, fair student funding and the abuse of teachers?. What is MORE doing to help change the negative things happening to teachers? I can't find your platform. I don't know a great deal about your caucus, but I would like to. As for the Solidarity caucus, well, they are the ones out front, making the most noise to protect teachers, fight for ATR's, fight for and on the behalf of discontinued teachers, protesting in front of schools, contacting administrations on behalf of teachers and the list goes on...What has MORE done? Please know up front that I am very neutral. I pay union dues and do not like what Unity caucus has done and allowed to happen to us, the teachers of the DOE/BOE. I am one of those members who actually vote. So, what are you doing?

Mary said...

WOW, Peter! You didn't invite me to your son's Bar Mitzvah !!!

ed notes online said...

Peter - me neither - I hate Bar Mitzvah's since my own 57 years ago.

ed notes online said...

Let me ask the Solidarity people an honest question. Why all the angst about what MORE is doing? We are not insecure about the ATR issue - and don't need to demonstrate what so many of us have done over the past decade. did you only get interested in the ATRs when you became one? I was retired already and have done ATR support since 2005 - and so have many people in MORE - we just don't run around bragging about it - because we don't have to.
It is your leader - the guy you have chosen to run for president who constantly trolls around ICE and MORE - and sends email after email. Why? If you have such a dynamic and influential group go forth and organize people but leave us alone. But your chosen leader can't seem to do that. He is selling you on the idea that if we all don't jump on the bandwagon we can't beat Unity. he is selling you the bridge. He needs the other groups to run a campaign. He fears having his bubble burst if the election should go bad for him - Oh, I can see the self-pity and blame everyone else if that should happen.
He had to show up at the MORE meeting today - and for a group that does nothing the fact that almost 60 people showed on a hot summer afternoon - many of them new and current chapter leaders and delegates who came to get some training and info. That is the kind of work MORE does - and we emphasized chapter leader support for ATRS. Portelos just can't seem to stay away from MORE or ICE. (Was he there to try to poach people who came to MORE for himself?) But we just shrugged and go on doing what we do -
We called a meeting of ICE last week to talk about lots of internal stuff and he horns in and hijacks part of our meeting. We don't want anything to do with him and because he is your chosen leader we are not interested in Solidarity. So why not tell your chosen leader to go out and do his thing - run in the election, don't run in the election, run him, don't run him. Whatever. Just leave the groups like MORE and ICE to do their thing -- after all -- we spent a few years working on combining all the different caucuses into one - called MORE - and because Portelos wanted to create and run his own caucus he left - we are the fruits of uniting all the caucuses except New Action in the UFT. We stopped doing coalitions of caucuses because they didn't work. So that is what he and you guys seem to be selling - the old stuff that failed. And with the divisive Portelos who is rejected by the overwhelming majority of UFT anti-Unity activists - which says something - count how many people who have been doing this work for from 4 years to decades that have joined with you. He will sell you some bridge as to the reasons why. believe what you want. Trust me - I was his biggest supporter - see ed notes -- and it isn't easy to lose my trust but he managed. Just go out and show what you got in the election which is not for 8 months - and have fun campaigning. After spending more and more time with Portelos I expect at some point some of you will be starting your own blogs to share some of your experiences.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I was just wondering why the promotional emails which you've been sending out are currently being addressed to visible ccs rather than invisible bccs.

You sent the most recent one to 208 email addresses including people at DOE, bloggers, reporters, media organizations, politicians, attorneys, and UFT personnel.

How do you know that the owners of the personal email addresses wanted them disclosed to all the various organizations and people?

The correct approach is to either address the promotional emails to yourself and then bcc all the other email addresses, or to simply bcc everyone in the first place.

I used to see the group of recipients indicated as "undisclosed recipients" on your promotional emails.

What's going on?

James Eterno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Eterno said...

James Eterno said...
When you have a chance, please check out the ICE-UFT blog to see what ICE (the Independent Community of Educators) members have done for Absent Teacher Reserves in the recent past. As for MORE, they have a petition on behalf of ATRs getting our own chapter that is up and MORE put up a resolution on behalf of ATRs getting a chapter last fall at the Delegate Assembly that received real support. I helped write it and was pleased with how MORE presented it at the DA.

I was also involved in forming the Absent Teacher Reserve Alliance (ATRA) and I was fortunate enough to be asked to lead it for a few months. I stepped aside when I wasn't sure if I was still going to be an ATR next year. (I am still an ATR as I was excessed from a provisional position.)

Last fall, Portelos and I spoke at a Panel For Education Policy meeting on behalf of ATRs and received positive press coverage. ATRA provides support for ATRs on an ongoing basis. In addition, four of us: Portelos, Al Zucker from ICE, August from MORE and me (ICE-MORE) filed an election complaint with the UFT on ATRs being disenfranchised in chapter elections.

We went to the UFT Executive Board and there were several New Action people who supported us, not just one. We did not expect to win at the Mulgrew/Unity Caucus controlled Executive Board but still tried as we must exhaust internal remedies before we can get to the Department of Labor if that is what people want to do. We will decide, if we need to, if we want to go further as the ATR chapter election appeal is now at the AFT. There are even people in Unity who agree with us on the ATR issue. It cuts across caucus lines. I continue to support the effort to organize ATRs.

As for chapter leader, delegate and member support, MORE is certainly leading the fight in that area as over 60 people, including many new faces that I have never seen before, found out at yesterday's MORE workshop. MORE did a fantastic job with this. Congratulations to Mike Schirtzer, Kit, Yelena and of course Norm.

On UFT elections, I was one of those at the ICE meeting who voted in the unanimous vote against Portelos' bid for president. We rejected his caucus in the upcoming election although I felt we should listen to what he had to say. His candidacy is divisive in my opinion and only helps Unity and Mulgrew. I think their group should step aside for the good of a unified opposition and let a larger group that contains people from several organizations decide who should lead the opposition to Unity. Or, if they insist on running, go ahead and good luck.

I pretty much agree with most of what South Bronx is saying here and Norm's points are well taken as well although I don't agree entirely on coalitions. In the end there are still plenty of union issues where we are all on the same side and should be working together to improve the lives of our members and the kids.

Pete Zucker said...

Oh my. I forgot to Bcc the email. For shame.

Let's blame it on a brain fart.

Anonymous said...

Four of us voted no, two abstained. Your source was mistaken.

Jonathan Halabi

Anonymous said...

Unity is not helping teachers. The bottom line is all of us, Peter, Portelos, Mindy et al to do something about Unity's "sleeping with the enemy". Otherwise it will be the same sad story til the next election

Anonymous said...

How about people sleeping with Unity? New Action? Word from Unity is that having another caucus to split people is the best thing they could hope for. Solidarity is announced a week after Portelos meets with Weingarten. Just because he makes anti_unity noises doesn't mean he isn't being a tool of Unity.

Anonymous said...

Seems like MORE has their of own loyalty oath. I guess at some point a caucus must press upon its members to speak in a unified voice. Very interesting stuff. Seems Unity caucus like. I think I'll switch and go with Solidarity. Only problem with that I guess is it seems that Portelos requires the same loyalty oath. Is there a caucus out there that doesn't require these oaths written or unwritten?

Pete Zucker said...

Seems like? Where you getting this? MORE can be like a bickering Jewish family at times. And I mean that in a good way.

ed notes online said...

I'm not sure where you get MORE has a loyalty oath. The fact that there is disagreement which you recognize is proof of that. MORE has democracy - and when everyone but Portelos agreed on something that he didn't agree with he wouldn't accept it. That subverts and takes advantage of an open democratic group - we are the un-Unity. That doesn't stop anyone from speaking their mind publicly as long as it is clear they don't rep the group. I can get that if it is 60-40 we can keep talking -- but when a group makes a decision that everyone except him agrees with then he can't go ahead and speak for the group with his position - for instance our decision not to work with New Action until it renounces agreement with Unity and then Portelos insists we reverse ourselves because he doesn't agree that is not a loyalty oath - he was free to do what he wanted as an individual - but not to contact New Action as a member of MORE steering committee about working together in contradiction to MORE policy. That is dishonest and misleading. No one is thrown out of MORE for disagreeing. He wasn't either - just told he could not be on steering and do what he did - still wasn't thrown out of steering but left when he didn't get his way -- then continued to badger everyone again and again with the same issue -- try working with him and try working with MORE and then see which is the more open group to dissent. You can show up at any MORE meeting or event and have your say. There are democratic organizations like MORE and and there are demagogues. Try them both out.

Anonymous said...

Hi, A week or so ago I made a comment on the ATR Facebook site that I believed that James Eterno would make a great candidate for UFT President. ICE had a posting on the page. Free country right? Anyway I got an email from Mr. Portelos explaining that although a you can be a "great chef" you might not be a great manager. That he asked James Eterno to run for secretary on his slate? I thought to myself, " Why would James do that?" He has so many years as a Chapter Leader and a teacher. James should run for President if in fact that is what he wants he is more than qualified. I found it strange that my message on the site would be monitored and responded. Makes me doubt someone's leadership if they are trolling. Ellen

Anonymous said...

So now Portelos wants to be a manager in a restaurant? This guy gets stranger by the minute. Defender of Teachers, Union Boss, and now a Restaurant Manager. Maybe he would do a good job at Wendys. As for being a great chef well I don't think he would be a Bobby Flay or even a Rachel Ray. Stick with working on bridges.

Anonymous said...

I think all of you taking cheap shots at Portelos are simply jealous. The fact of the matter is that Solidarity put itself on the map and is here to stay. Instead of burning bridges it is best you form alliances. We are going to win, even if we loae, we still win. You are jealous that Portelos has a following that you don't. The fact is that he is kind, caring, sensible, and honest. No matter what your amearing campaign entails, the truth shall persevere. Personally, I think a lawsuit ahould be filed against Zucker for bullying, harassment, and libel. His behavior is disgusting and divisive. If he keeps this up...he will be exposed.

Pete Zucker said...


Mindy said...

What I think is funny, is that majority of the anonymous comments areade by Solidarity. If it is so great and stand by your beliefs, why hide who you are? Just an observation :-)