Monday, February 8, 2016

Karla and Antonio: The Frontline Fraudsters

Sell-Out UTD "leader" Karla Hernandez-Mats during work hours

Karla Hernandez-Matz – Look at the date and time when she tweeted this picture. Does she have no shame? Getting her hair done in the middle of the day at Ritica La Peluquera when she should be working tirelessly to address the issues affecting teachers and students. How do you imagine she will spend her work days if she wins the race for UTD President and begins to pull in more than $170,000 a year thanks in large part to member dues money?

Karla now hypocritically claims to support opting-out of standardized tests yet when one looks at her record she has done nothing to promote or nurture the opt-out movement. She is a fraud. In fact, she has done the exact opposite. In the summer of 2015, she contacted the president of the South Florida AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and pressured him to prohibit the Grassroots Education Movement of Miami (GEM) from meeting at their office. Why would she try ruining the efforts of a grassroots community initiative that is assisting parents and children in exercising their right to opt-out of standardized tests if she is supposedly against high-stakes testing? She has even had the audacity to proudly tout her future decision to opt her own kids out of standardized tests but then fails to use her high-ranking position within UTD to help other parents remove their kids from the vicious over-testing.

We also have heard from two very reliable sources that Karla also holds very disturbing views of African-Americans. Witnesses have said that she made disparaging and racist comments at a UTD immigration workshop held over the summer (June ’15) at UTD headquarters, labeling all the African-American members of UTD in attendance as “these Africans.” According to witnesses she was pleasantly surprised and relieved to see white Latino(a)s present at a UTD meeting as it is usually only “Africans” that show up to these meetings. We don’t want a closet racist to lead our predominately Black teachers union.

We also don’t want an individual like her who enjoys playing divisive racial politics as president of our multi-racial union. She has spent months now pretending to be a defender of the Latino community (using her Twitter account to denounce recent ICE raids) in a transparent bid to win the vote of the Latino members of the union based on nothing but her "Latina-ness". Where has she been for Latino/a students and teachers suffering in the school system all these years? Or does she only "care" about them on social media and when cameras are present? 

Antonio Tony White  - Does he have a dirty, secret past? It appears so. Recently discovered evidence shows that Mr. White violated the standards of his profession and had his Florida Educator’s Certificate suspended in 2002 for two entire academic school years (2003-2005) for the purchase and possession of a controlled substance – crack cocaine.  The incident occurred on or about March 15, 2000 and led to the arrest of Mr. White (adjudication was subsequently withheld by the court after Mr. White was placed in a Deferred Drug Program by the court).  See for yourselves:

Antonio is also known as being a man with a nasty temper and cocky attitude. Several members have reported that they have had very unpleasant encounters with this man. He is hostile and verbally abusive toward the union members who pay his salary, and is not tolerant of any form of criticism or opposition. However, in dealing with MDCPS he does what he is told.  We do not want to see a man of his low character run (or ruin) our union.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On Feb.17th it’s Time to Start Cleaning Up Frontline’s Dirty Mess

Membership since Frontline took over

With the United Teachers of Dade union election just around the corner – February 17th- it is imperative that we take a moment and reflect upon the so-called historic achievements of the ruling Frontline caucus since taking power in 2013. Let us begin with a look at membership numbers. Out of an entire bargaining unit of roughly 30,000 employees we currently stand at about 44.6% union density, and have approximately 14,000 members (11,500 of which are Full-Time employees). Given the right-wing corporate attack on public sector unions these numbers are great reason for concern. Frontline has been unable to retain the droves of frustrated members that continue to drop UTD on a daily basis and has struggled to recruit the thousands of MDCPS employees that simply do not wish to join (or rejoin) the union. 

Why people leave UTD or refuse to join or rejoin

What forces employees out of the union or discourages them from joining you might ask? The answer is simple. Since Karen Aronowitz took over the helm of UTD in 2005, we have seen our union adopt an undemocratic and concessionary business unionist model, which prefers making safe backroom deals with MDCPS in order to get crumbs for its members instead of aggressively confronting the District in collective bargaining, taking direct action to address the myriad problems facing our schools, students, and members, and organizing and mobilizing MDCPS employees. Under Frontline’s leadership of UTD this failure to live up to its responsibility of representing its members and looking after their well-being has led to deteriorating working (and living) conditions for all MDCPS employees.  Our members complain of the inability to pay their basic living expenses, with many even qualifying for welfare and other government assistance as they struggle to make ends meet.  

Despite promising to ‘take on the District and Carvalho’, Frontline has perpetuated this same lame duck attitude and behavior throughout the last 3 years of its misleadership of our union.  *It is important to note here that the majority of the Executive Board members under Aronowitz are also members of the Frontline caucus, so electing the Frontline team (Karla Hernandez-Matz, Antonio White, Mindy Grimes, and company) once again on Feb 17, 2016 signifies a business-as-usual attitude and a continuation of the status-quo, or complicity with MDCPS and diminished power for its employees.  

Frontline’s record on the issues

An examination of Frontline’s record when it comes to the most pressing issues affecting students, teachers, and public schools in general reveals absolute complicity between UTD and MDCPS in screwing over MDCPS employees and students. And while Frontline leadership will pat itself on the back for the recent ‘Get on the Bus’ rally in Tallahassee, it has done virtually nothing to address issues locally. This sentiment was echoed at the recent UTD Candidates Forum by several opposition candidates who scoffed at the idea of rallying in Tallahassee while simultaneously allowing and assisting MDCPS in bulldozing its employees and students through violations of the Class Size Amendment, stripping teachers of their STEP salary system, and abusing students with unnecessary high-stakes tests. UTD members are tired of Frontline’s  lame “blame Tallahassee” excuse and want to see action. Let us now examine its historic achievements over the past 3 years. 


Bargained away STEPS  

For decades MDCPS teachers had a STEP salary schedule that was intended to guarantee a yearly STEP increase. Teachers knew what their future earnings would look like and could, therefore, plan accordingly.  This ended when Frontline bargained away our STEP system, falsely claiming that it was forced to due to the new law, SB-736. It’s funny how other school districts like Palm Beach County retained their STEP systems. Worst yet, Frontline has given Carvalho and his MDCPS mafia a free pass to violate the MDCPS/UTD Contract, School Board Policies, State Board Rules, the Florida Constitution, and even federal labor laws in schools throughout the entire district on an almost daily basis.

Failure to defend Class Size Amendment

As students and teachers suffer the effects of excessively and dangerously large class sizes year after year, UTD passively sits back and looks the other way. Again, it claims that it’s a problem with the State and that its hands are tied.  However, teachers and their unions in other states like Los Angeles have been able to negotiate for smaller class size averages and/or caps on a district level. It’s obvious that this is thus a matter of inaction on the part of Frontline and that new leadership is needed that will fight to uphold our contract. 

No IPEGS appeal process

Additionally, when it comes to teacher evaluations Frontline surrendered to the District without a fight. Frontline settled for a watered down IPEGS review process that ultimately leaves the final evaluation decision solely in the hands of MDCPS, instead of fighting for a strong IPEGS appeal process which was not only winnable but would have established a level playing field in the evaluation process for educators. 

Allowing MDCPS to harass and retaliate against its employees

With respect to retaliation against employees, again UTD has done little to assist employees and has given MDCPS free reign to continue its practice of using hostile and vindictive administrators and officials to harass employees. There have been numerous accounts of MDCPS employees being harassed and retaliated against by administrators and district officials simply for standing up for their students and profession. This has resulted in administrators deliberately assigning educators low IPEGS evaluation ratings which threaten their status of employment, and thus livelihoods. Instead of defending its members, the Frontline UTD misleadership has looked the other way or resorted to a broken grievance process that results in punishment for the employee but impunity for the vindictive administrator(s). In other words, Frontline has failed to have the backs of its members when they are under assault and most in need of help.   

High-stakes testing and over-testing

When it comes to the very serious issues of high-stakes testing and over-testing, the current UTD leadership has done nothing to alleviate the stress placed upon students and teachers by this testing regime. While Frontline members will say that there is too much testing, they take no action to address this problem. Fedrick Ingram and Karla Hernandez-Matz have even had the audacity to say that they have or will opt their children out of standardized tests, but that they will not assist parents and students in their attempt to do the same. In fact, Fedrick Ingram and Karla Hernandez-Matz had a group of teachers, parents, students, and young workers that proposed to begin a grassroots, county-wide, opt-out campaign removed from the South Florida AFL-CIO Central Labor Council in the summer of 2015. Apparently what is good for their children is not good enough for everyone else.  

Lack of substitute coverage & stealing of teacher planning periods

On the issue of the substitute shortage claimed by MDCPS, our union leadership has remained with its arms crossed while administrators fail to provide substitute coverage for absent teachers and instead blatantly steal teachers’ planning periods to have them work as substitutes for their colleagues. Teachers receive no compensation for their lost planning time and feel obligated to comply in order to avoid being accused of insubordination by their administrators and face retaliation. We need a union leadership that will fight to protect planning periods, which are a sacred right of teachers won decades ago. 

Lack of transparency in union elections

Lastly, the despicably undemocratic manner in which UTD Council of Building Steward meetings are conducted and the lack of transparency in union elections is the icing on the cake. That is, not only does Frontline not take aggressive action on any of the before mentioned issues that are of enormous concern to teachers but it seeks to squash all type of dissent.  Council of Building Steward meetings are supposed to be run directly by the rank-and-file stewards and not by the President, VP, and Secretary-Treasurer as has been the case with Frontline. The reality is that only stewards can sense the pulse of members, and thus should be able to use steward meetings to discuss the issues affecting them in order to collectively develop solutions to their problems. 

While all UTD elections should be conducted as democratically as possible to ensure fairness, the past couple of union elections have been marred by allegations of election fraud and overall questionable electoral practices. Frontline has even gone as far as refusing to release and post the school-by-school vote count results, despite this being required by union election rules. If it has nothing to hide, why would it not release this information? There have even been multiple lawsuits filed against UTD by union members as a response to these electoral irregularities. The undemocratic manner in which Frontline conducts the UTD elections in order to ensure victory is very troubling and an embarrassment to union democracy.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Letter to Miami-Dade School Deformers:

Team Fed, Karla, Joe, and Carvalho, 

I am sure that you have spent a good portion of the last couple of months scheming and thinking long and hard on how to try “selling” this garbage of a contract to the hardworking teachers and employees of MDCPS. Your well crafted message promoting this “historic” contract states that “this is the best way available to make a transition to a workable salary model for the future” and that “this contract sets the stage for a positive and long-term outcome for the employees we represent.” Do you seriously believe that MDCPS employees are that stupid and that we cannot see through your flowery language and platitudes to understand that this contract is the most detrimental agreement that has been made in the history of the United Teachers of Dade? Why can you not at least have the decency to admit this and to be honest with your members that entrust their careers in your leadership?

Fed, Karla, Joe and your team of UTD stooges, you put 100% of the blame on Tallahassee and its laws and lack of funding, yet refuse to admit your own shortcomings as (mis)leaders of our union. If you’re so concerned with the lack of funding then why have you never challenged the fact that MDCPS continues to lower the millage rate, thus robbing our public schools of millions of dollars each year? Are you scared of Carvalho, or are you in bed with him?

You have hijacked our union, contributed to the hemorrhaging of our union ranks, and then have the audacity to blame us teachers and employees for the sad state of our union. You say that we are apathetic by not being active in UTD committees or events, ignorant because we demand more steps than we are actually owed, reckless because we demand increased salary and benefits and more protections at work, and stupid because we supposedly make poor healthcare decisions that cause the rise in healthcare costs. But many of us frequently make suggestions to UTD for pro-education campaigns, offer recommendations on UTD surveys, and give our input for collective bargaining. We are never acknowledged and our input thus is worth nothing to you. Well, we condemn you for the overall dismantling of our union and collective power. You should accept responsibility for this once and for all, since your concessionary behavior allows the District to run rampant over teachers and employees.

So let’s focus on the most important component of this tentative agreement: the elimination of steps. Yes, this contract eliminates our Step salary schedule which has been in place for 40 years! You know full well that we do not have to kill our step schedule, but instead simply have to readjust it to make it compliant with the new law, SB-736. We want to keep our grandfathered Step schedule, even if it means reducing the dollar amount of each step so that we can decrease the variation in between steps. We demand that you break the law and postpone the performance pay requirement of SB-736, as we have done for the past couple of years. If Tallahassee and the District do not have the funding to pay teachers performance pay and steps, well then that is their problem and they should be responsible for dealing with it. Why do we as teachers and employees have to fix the mess that they created and give up our step schedule?

You have erroneously and deceitfully stated that teachers will actually get higher raises now and that those on the lower steps will get to the top salary bracket quicker under this new salary schedule. You are not fooling anyone with your faulty mathematics.  How do you even dare make these assertions? You are assuming a 3 or 4 percent annual raise, but you yourself acknowledge the fact that salaries are negotiated on an annual basis and thus raises are uncertain. Do you mean to say that you are guaranteeing us AT LEAST a 3 or 4% annual raise with this new contract? If so, please state it publically and put it in writing. Although the step schedule does not guarantee us annual steps, it at least provides us with a clear preview of what our future earnings will be at each step thus allowing us to properly plan for the future and our retirement. Many of us will vote NO on Sept 8th because we cannot vote on uncertainties, especially as it relates to our future earnings and retirement.

To top it all off, the misleadership of UTD has shown a blatant lack of democracy during the past couple of years. You have a UTD facebook page where you only post positive comments and erase any critical posts from members. You put together idiotic videos promoting your crappy proposals, and then disable the comment option so that nobody can post critical messages that state the truth. Fed, you recently said (see the last minute of this video) that politics is like a butcher shop: if we only knew what went into the meat in the back room, then we wouldn't buy it. Is that metaphor your pathetic argument for circumventing union democracy? Actually, Fed, we know about your dirty dealing and that is precisely why we want to shed light on what goes on "at the back of the butcher shop" where you, Karla and Carvalho prepare these concessionary contracts. We know it ain't pretty and we won't just trust you.

Karla is especially disgusting with her appeals to ethnic “solidarity,” especially given that she doesn’t like Black people. Karla, you need to stop your con-game of trying to win over Latino members by pretending that you care about immigrants and the struggle of Latinos. You only want Latino votes and that's why you act like Jeb Bush who thinks saying "Gracias" is enough to prove his worth to Latino voters. We all know that you only care about advancing your career by running for the UTD presidency, even though you are not even slightly qualified to lead our union. And Fed needs to stop pretending that he cares about teachers and employees. We all know that you also just care about your career and winning the VP positions with FEA. Both of you want to avoid ever having to go back into the classroom because you know how stressful and demanding the job is, yet you claim to be “teachers” and constantly speak as if you are still teachers. You are not teachers anymore. You are union bureaucrats and need to do everyone the favor of retiring from public education and going to work for the District where you belong.

We are calling on everyone to vote NO on Tuesday Sept 8th and send UTD and MDCPS back to the table. This contract is not good enough for the hardworking people that help our public schools in Miami-Dade run properly. Go back and get us some more! Do not steal our STEPS!!!

The REAL leaders of the United Teachers of Dade