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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Jim Callaghan, Former Reporter At NY Teacher, Sues The UFT and Unity Bosses

Jim Callaghan, Former Reporter For The United Federation of Teachers' Newspaper NY Teacher, Sues Current UFT President and Others For Violating His Right To Speak
Jim, one of the three people hired in 2007 by the UFT to follow the saga of the NYC Rubber Rooms - I and Ron Isaac were the other two - has sued the UFT for firing him in August 2010 and squashing his rights. He has a huge amount of secrets about the UFT which may never see the light of day. Betsy Combier
   Jim Callaghan   

In August 2010 Jim Callaghan was fired from his position at the United Federation of Teachers as a writer for NY Teacher newspaper. I knew Jim from going with him and David Pakter around New York City starting in, if I remember correctly, 2005, and we talked about the New York City "rubber rooms". Jim is an excellent reporter and writer, and knew that the warehousing of teachers allegedly guilty of some kind of misconduct was a huge error of public policy. He wanted to expose this in NY Teacher, but he was told "No" by his Editor. When I was hired to work at the UFT in August 2007, I became one of the three people designated by UFT President Randi Weingarten to investigate and report on the rubber rooms. I was also the only one of the three who was part-time. Jim Callaghan was one of the other people designated to work as a "rubber-room rep." while he was full-time reporter at NY Teacher, and the third was Ron Isaac, also a writer at NY Teacher.

We started immediately to discuss how, when and where we would go. There were seven "temporary re-assignment centers" at the time (in 2008 another location, Park Place in Brooklyn, was added). The three of us made visits together at first, but then it became impossible to schedule all of us for a visit the same day. So, we made our own schedules. Jim wanted to focus on what principals were doing, but he followed David's case and came to David's 3020-a hearing (I was in attendance as well). For the first time, I heard that the UFT was in disagreement with Jim over his dual role, as a fighter for justice with me and Ron about how terrible the rubber rooms were, while at the same time he was writing articles for NY Teacher. Jim told me that when he attended the Pakter 3020-a he was docked his salary. He was furious.

Ron Isaac almost lost his job around 2004. I was able to write a few letters and get his charges vaporized. So, when we - Ron, Jim, and I - were put together at the UFT we all knew each other already.

We knew that the rubber rooms were the result of the UFT not fighting for its members. and that the rubber rooms were the consequence of legislation giving total control over the NYC public school system to one person, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who, in turn, had, and continues to have, only disgust for tenure rights. Bloomberg started his campaign against tenure when he started his reign as Mayor in 2002, and he hired Joel Klein to help him. Mayor Mike wants all tenured teachers out of public schools, and to do this, he gave too much power to Principals, who could, if they wanted to, simply allege some kind of misconduct or incompetency, and out the person went. What didnt matter was whether or not the allegation was true.

Jim told me that he wanted to do more stories on "bad" principals, the source of the complaints against tenured teachers. The UFT did not want him to do these stories. I was at first perplexed by this, but I wrote about principals on this website and my blog, NYC Rubber Room Reporter, so I gave myself these other outlets. Randi and I signed an agreement when I started at the UFT, and this agreement allowed me to continue to write for, so I used this was a source for the information about principals. When NY Teacher Natalie Bell was suddenly fired in 2010 I, Jim and Ron were very upset, because Natalie was a genuinely nice person. Her office stuff stayed unclaimed for months.We started talking about Union rights for writers at the UFT.

Then in April 2010 the "agreement" was signed between Joel Klein and Mike Mulgrew which "closed" the Rubber Rooms and re-designed the 3020-a process to further deny rights to those employees who were going through this. I was laid off in July, and Jim was fired in August. Ron Isaac, who never does anything at the UFT and has had virtually no assignments given to him, kept his $75,000+ job. He works also as Customs examiner at JFK airport. This is ironic, considering the hatred Ron has for his Supervisor at the paper and for the UFT in general. He used to call me every night at home and tell me that I should do what he did - arrive at 7:30, leave at 3:30, never talk with anyone and never, ever make waves. I couldnt do this, and neither could Jim. 

By the way, the reason I didnt yet sue the UFT was, I was an "At-Will" employee, I did not want to be gagged from telling the true story of the NYC Rubber Rooms in a book, and I may sue in the near future.
Jim, outside 52 Broadway, after being fired by the UFT August 2010

Jim has recently sued Mike Mulgrew, Ellie Engler, Leroy Barr and others at the UFT (see also the Request For Judicial Intervention and the Motion To Dismiss filed by the UFT), and knows where the skeletons are buried over there. See the Complaint. He was the person who told me that Ellie Engler kept liquor in her desk drawer. He told me that there was some impropriety over at the PBA and the 'new' Assistant to the Staff Director, David Hickey, was involved. Unfortunately I think that Jim will probably get a settlement from the UFT, so we may never know the "real" story of Mike Mulgrew and Emelina Camacho-Mendez unless Joy Hochstadt subpoenas him for a deposition. Below is Jim's comment which he made to a blog:

Jim Callaghan (2011):
"The corrupt hypocrites here are Weingarten and Mulgrew, who laugh when they put on as big show attacking the mayor and Klein and Walcott. -then invite them to UFT events and Weingarten's narcissistic birthday bash. 
-the UFT shares spaces with public schools for their charter school.
2-Weingarten and Mulgrew refused to let me write a story about Racqnel James, a black teacher at fordham HS for the Arts who was railroaded-accused of leaving a death threat in the principal's mail box two years ago by the principal Iris Blige. When the main accuser turned on Blige and wanted me to write the story clearing James, Weingarten and Mulgrew refused and refused to let me take a vacation day to attend her trial .
Ms. James was fired and two years later, after being indicted for a misdeameanor -think Tucson- still hasnt had a trial The Bronx D.A. -elected with help from the UFT -has asked for 17 postponements. Blige was later fined for telling her A.P's to recommend Unsatisfactory ratings BEFORE teachers were observed. 
-the main decision makers at the UFT are almost all white. 
-while people like Mulgrew and his tops staff make $200,000 to $300,000 per year, the starting salary for a secretary is $23,000 -constantly abused by Hickey----they are almost all black and Latina women.
-Weingarten field a phony lawsuit years ago claiming that firing para professionals--- black and Latinas- was racist, After she got her headlines, she dropped the case.
-the $50 per day free UFT parking spots given as rewards to UFT insiders are given predominantly to whites. THat is a $500,000 per year- the cost of parking downtown ---- perk to Unity Caucus loyalists. 

-when a long time UFT Unity Caucus activist- a black woman, complained about shakedowns and fraud in the Staten Island rubber room,. Weingarten and Barr ordered me out of the room- which is a five minute drive from my house. Weingarten had told me to investigate, but a Brooklyn UFT official -who was sending my emails to the DOE- wanted the probe closed down- the company guards who were working the racket are employed by a company owned by a billionaire who is a close friend of the mayor. so much for loyatly to a black woman. 
-Weingarten and Mulgrew fired or demoted five consecutive black writers, forced out a competent black lawyer, took the Safety Dept away from a black man and replaced Leroy -Barr- a black man -with two whites because Weingarten said he was incompetent. He was allowed to keep his title and salary. 
-Mulgrew fired his press secretary- a black man with 19 years experience at the union, with a white guy who quit the union years before right after his five year pension vested. 
anyone see a pattern here?
--On Election Day, 2008, -I was suspended for two days without pay because Weingarten, my editor Deidre McFadyen, staff directors Barr and Ellie Engler, Garry Sprung, CFO David Hickey were off the wall with rage that I sent a pro-Obama article to UFT staff the week before the election-which writers were always allowed to do. 
Weingarten was still bitter about her close pal Hillary losing and wanted to sabotage the Obama campaign. 
-when it appeared to UFT staff that there was a predominantly black presence in the rubber rooms, Weingarten and Barr refused to let me do the story.. Neither of these fakers cares one whit about black kids. 
any questions? Lots more to come about malfeasance, nepotism, favoritism, incompetence, corruption, no-bid contracts and Mulgrew, Hickey and Weingarten allowing one of their top married aides to retire -with a Tier One and UFT pension---after he was caught taking kickbacks in the form of free hotel rooms so he could coerce his subordinate into having sex with him on union time. She said she was going to the press and was going to file a lawsuit if he stayed." 

Writer Jim Callaghan says UFT booted him for trying to unionize his colleagues
BY Rachel Monahan 
Friday, August 13th 2010, 4:00 AM

Jim Callahan says he was fired from the United Federation of Teachers for trying to unionize his writer colleagues.

The city's powerful teachers union fired a staffer Thursday for trying to organize his colleagues, the spurned worker said.

Longtime staffer Jim Callaghan, 63, who wrote speeches for UFT presidents and articles for the New York Teacher newspaper, was booted from headquarters Thursday afternoon.

And he's convinced his firing stems from his efforts to unionize fellow writers working for the union.
"[Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew]'s the most hypocritical person in the school system right now," Callaghan said. "He doesn't want us to have the same rights as teachers."

Union officials strenuously denied the firing was related to any unionization drive, saying Callaghan's dismissal was related to "serious behavior issues."

Callaghan isn't buying it, though, and intends to take his case to the National Labor Relations Board, as well as filing an age-discrimination suit, he said.

The UFT veteran, who said he'd been with the organization for 13 years, was fired at 1p.m. and told to get out, he said. After cops were called, he was later allowed to pack up his things, he said.

The NYPD confirmed that officers were called to the union's headquarters at 52Broadway at 1:03 p.m. to resolve a dispute. No one was arrested.

Callaghan gave the Daily News a copy of a June 7 letter from his lawyer to Mulgrew, which said Callaghan feared retaliation for his work encouraging fellow writers to join a union.

UFT spokesman Peter Kadushin rejected Callaghan's claims that organizing led to the firing.
"We responded to Mr. Callaghan's attorney citing Mr. Callaghan's failure to live up to professional standards in his office behavior," Kadushin said.

Kadushin also noted that "the overwhelming majority of people who work at the UFT are represented by unions, including Local 153 OPEIU, SEIU Local 32BJ, Local 94 Building Engineers and Local 1L Amalgamated Lithographers."

Callaghan called his ousting particularly hypocritical since Mulgrew recently blasted the firing of teachers who had been organizing at Merrick Academy Charter School in Queens.

Ex-UFT Reporter: I Was Fired for Union-Organizing 
Disputes Portrayal As Malcontent
By DAVID SIMS, NY Daily News

MICHAEL MULGREW: Cites stormy work history. Jim Callaghan, a longtime staff writer for the United Federation of Teachers newspaper, the New York Teacher, who was fired Aug. 12 for alleged “behavioral issues,” is the first to admit that he has a strong personality.

But he is fighting back against the union’s claim that he was fired because of “an escalating history of disciplinary and professional incidents,” saying that he was ordered to clear his desk and leave the building within 30 minutes because he tried to organize the writers of the union’s newspaper.

‘Mulgrew Worse Than Klein’
“They have nothing on me since I handed in my organizing letter,” he said in an Aug. 17 interview. “(Michael) Mulgrew is running the UFT worse than Klein is running the DOE,” referring to Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

LARRY HANLEY: Callaghan ‘a brilliant journalist.’ Mr. Callaghan said that he presented Mr. Mulgrew with a letter regarding his intent to organize the Teacher’s staff on June 9. Two months later, he was told that he had been fired by UFT Staff Directors Ellie Engler and LeRoy Barr. The police were called in case he refused to leave. No reason was given to him then for his dismissal, he claimed.

The firing was initially reported in the Daily News and the Post and stirred a brief media sensation. The Post quoted Mr. Callaghan calling the UFT leader “the biggest hypocrite out there,” and the paper ran an editorial accompanied by a picture of the inflatable union rat that asked, “Is union boss Mulgrew a union-buster?” It went on to state, “. . . you’d think the union would grant Callaghan the same kind of long, drawn-out dueprocess hearings that UFT members have” before they can be fired.

CHARGES DOUBLE STANDARD AT UFT: Former New York Teacher reporter Jim Callaghan said he was fired Aug. 12 by the United Federation of Teachers for attempting to organize the paper’s writers. He says that UFT President Michael Mulgrew was hypocritical to fire him without due process, despite demanding the same rights for the workers he represents. ‘Most of the people at the UFT work their asses off,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to disparage them. I’m talking about Mulgrew.’ The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang He is filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the incident, saying that whatever disciplinary matters the union is pointing to occurred prior to his unionization effort, and that his termination was over that issue. Mr. Callaghan, an occasional contributor to this newspaper, is also planning to file a lawsuit against the union for wrongful termination.

Union Cites ‘Escalating History’

UFT spokesman Peter Kadushin said in a statement, “Mr. Callaghan had an escalating history of disciplinary and professional incidents, and was dismissed because of that history. His accusation involving union-organizing is baseless. The overwhelming majority of people who work at the UFT are represented by unions including: Local 153 OPEIU, SEIU Local 32BJ, Local 94 Building Engineers and Local 1L Amalgamated Lithographers.”

While many of the employees in the UFT’s headquarters in 52 Broadway are unionized, the New York Teacher writers have not been since the reign of Al Shanker, who classified the writing staff as managerial employees.

In a May 17 New York Times article, Mr. Mulgrew noted that he felt the same way about his press staff. Times reporter Steve Brill asked Mr. Mulgrew whether he should be able to summarily fire Communications Director Richard Riley if he felt he was incompetent. “He’s not a Teacher,” Mr. Mulgrew responded. “I need to be able to pick my own person for a job like that.”

Mr. Callaghan said that Mr. Mulgrew was “holding writers to a lower standard” by refusing to give them dueprocess rights and dismissing them without hearings.

He cited the firing of another New York Teacher reporter, Natalie Bell, who was also allegedly ordered to exit the building immediately upon being fired, and the demotion of former Communications Director Ron Davis as examples of the UFT press staff being mistreated.

Clashed With Supervisor

His own personal history at the union, even by his recounting, appears more complicated. Mr. Callaghan acknowledged he had clashed with New York Teacher editor Deidre McFadyen since she joined the paper in 2004, and that their relationship had become so fractured that the union had hired a mediator to resolve the tension.

Their arguments, reflected in emails, seemed to mostly revolve around editing choices and story assignments. In October 2009, Mr. Callaghan was assigned to write advertising copy for an ad appearing in the paper, and he wrote a parody article that was rejected by the paper’s editors. “I was being taken off of serious work,” he said.

At that point, he was offered early retirement, which he turned down, leading to a series of mediation meetings involving him and Ms. McFadyen. While some progress was made, with both sides agreeing to work more collegially, according to written accounts by mediator Mitchell Karp, the gains were short-lived.
“I agreed to stuff, too. It’s not all one-sided, I admit to this,” Mr. Callaghan said. “But after that, there was no more collaboration when she promised collaboration.”

Too Tough on Klein?

At the same time, Mr. Callaghan alleges some of his stories that took on corruption in schools, such as the Bronx High School of Science, were killed by New York Teacher editors. He charges that this was because they were too combative towards the Department of Education and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein.

Another incident in December 2009 during which Mr. Callaghan heatedly argued with Michael Hirsch, another reporter, led to both being suspended for two days without pay. Mr. Callaghan said that Mr. Hirsch later apol- ogized for verbally threatening him.

Mr. Hirsch said in a phone interview, “I think he’s been playing the press, because it’s a great story. The problem is, it’s not true, and it couldn’t be true, because he wouldn’t be the guy to form a union; there’s too much animosity with too many people.”

He said that he and Mr. Callaghan had been “very close, but I got burned out by him,” describing him as “a gadfly, with an Olympic-level stinger.”

Last February, Mr. Callaghan was accused of leaving work early via email and reprimanded, a charge he denies. “I never had an issue with lateness or attendance, ever,” he said.

‘Tried to Make Me Look Crazy’

All of these incidents, however, occurred months before his handing of a unionization letter to Mr. Mulgrew, so Mr. Callaghan is arguing that they can’t be cited as reasons to fire him. He claims there were no other work incidents between his handing in the letter and his firing two months later.

Ms. McFadyen, a former associate editor of this newspaper, declined to comment on the issue when contacted, and the UFT’s press office did not provide a specific recounting of Mr. Callaghan’s “escalating history of disciplinary and professional incidents.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who was Mr. Callaghan’s boss during her presidency of the UFT from 1998 to 2009, said in an e-mail, “Let me just say, I never knew that Jim was trying to form a union. The public reports were the first I ever heard of it. The behavior issues were an issue.”

Mr. Callaghan charges that the manner of the firing, including the calling of the police, “was designed to make it look like a crazy situation, that Jim was crazy.”

Praise for Callaghan

He challenged Mr. Mulgrew to explain “why you don’t believe that your writers should have a due-process clause,” even if they aren’t unionized, so that they can go through a hearing process before being dismissed.

David Pakter, a former Teacher of the Year from the High School of Art and Design who was sent to a rubber room for six years before being cleared of all charges, praised Mr. Callaghan for “being the sole reporter within the UFT who followed my story. . . he was able to get witnesses to speak and testified at my Teacher trial, thus acting as a major force in my ultimate exoneration.”

Amalgamated Transit Union Vice President Larry Hanley, who has worked with Mr. Callaghan, called him “a brilliant journalist,” saying in a phone interview that “I’ve admired him for many years.” He said he did not know the details of the current charges against him and could not comment on them.

From the desk of Betsy Combier, Editor of NYC Rubber Room Reporter:
Sex, Lies, and Newspapers
Mike Mulgrew: Come Clean With the Allegations of Tampering With An Investigation, Or Resign