What happens if we reject this contract?

May 15, 2014 — 17 Comments
by Peter Lamphere, member of the UFT Negotiating Committee
Vote No[Click here for a one-page PDF version of this article to distribute to your coworkers]
One of the key questions facing rank and file UFT members at this moment is what happens if we decide to reject the contract proposal from Mayor de Blasio and our leadership.  Few educators are jumping up and down happy about the contract, and many are downright upset, but everyone wants to know – What happens if we vote this down? Is it possible to get something better? What about the leadership’s argument that we would have to “go to the back of the line” and wait for all 150 other city unions to settle?


First off, the money is clearly there for something better.
Economist James Parrot of the Fiscal Policy institute recently told our union in a briefing that “the city’s tax revenues have been growing by 5 percent a year, adding $2.5 billion to its available funds”  according to the Chief-Leader Newspaper.  The question is whether the political will is there to spend this money on working people or not. Remember, this is not about just our union – its about the pattern that will be set for cafeteria staff, custodians, nurses, and every other person who works for the city.

Secondly, we have to remember that this contract is seen now as a key political achievement of the de Blasio administration and the Mulgrew/Unity caucus leadership of the UFT.  For it to be defeated in a ratification vote would put the mayor’s political project on more precarious footing and he would have to come up with something better, that could pass, immediately. There is no reason that any other city union (or its rank-and-file) would accept a deal that we, one of the largest, had rejected.  The most politically expeditious course for the city would be to come back to the UFT quickly with a better deal.

MORE has put out some strong ideas of what could be better in the contract in the Contract that NYC Educators Deserve.  Many of the gains that we could win don’t cost the city a dime – scrapping the evaluation system, or at least replacing its testing component with a portfolio option – would be easy. Getting rid of the merit pay “Master Teachers” might make the NY Post unhappy, but it would make for a stronger union. The same goes for equal work protections for our ATR brothers and sisters.

Thirdly, it is important to remember the lessons of history. In 1995, the membership rejected a similar contract from Mayor Guiliani that also had two zeroes (this contract has no raise for 2009 or 2012), and the Mayor had to come back with a deal that was at least slightly more acceptable. See Kit Wainer’s description of this important episode.

Lastly, it is extremely unlikely that a renegotiated deal could get worse. They need this to pass, and so would have to do or offer something to improve the deal – we have very little to lose by voting no.

Voting no is a great start, but Its important that UFT members who are disappointed or angry about the contract don’t just vote no.  We need to be having conversations and distributing Vote No materials to as many of the 1700 schools in the system as possible.

Next, we need to knit together those who have been activated by the fight against contract into an organization of on-the-ground educators.  Only with such an network can we shift the direction of this union to become one that fights for our members and the communities we serve.

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17 responses to What happens if we reject this contract?

    real time educator May 15, 2014 at 5:56 am

    your article is full of panic and fear to the membership. Shame on you for creating such a devisive atmosphere just to win your political agenda! If you want to quote from the chief accurately, it says” labor leaders are supporting what city officials called a ” landmark” $4 billion, nine year bargain proposed between the city and the United Federation of Teachers.”
    Keep telling people we will do better, based on your assumptions and we will loose big time thanks to your inexperienced suggestions!


      Look at what the SBA leader and the TWU leaders are saying about the UFT contract. It is a bad deal. Everyone knows it. Vote no.


      All of the shame belongs to Mulgrew and company. Roseanne McCosh


    Comical your blog is, factual it is not!

    A few inaccuracies that should be corrected. The Evaluation comes out of a state law that cannot be scrapped in a contract negotiation. How could you try to even solve contractual issues when you don’t even understand that our evaluation is a state law that cannot be scrapped in a contract! Shame on you for lying! We as teachers understand that an evaluation comes with the job. Teachers who join the career ladder are not getting merit pay (you really should stop with the nonsense, lying is bad). I guess you would rather more administration is hired to mentor other teachers. Lastly, now that you are speaking to the Daily News so much maybe you should submit your resume to write for the astrology section. Interesting that you would risk over 150,000 people from getting a contract with full retro and an increase based on mythical assumptions of what could be. You have so much knowledge of what will be based on what you think, not what you know. What we all know, is that you are using this contract and playing on the members fears for your own political gain(keep talking to the papers.) Stop using this contract to start your own revolution!


    Thank you Peter for an excellent and important post that I will do all I can do to spread far and wide. You know you’re doing something right when you inspire the kind of insane nonsense you find in the two letters above. I take ten to one odds that these people were paid to write them. Any takers ?


    My years of teaching were slowed horribly by the tests. Collectively, my students have lost out on over 450 periods of learning so far, in buildings where the arts are cut out completely.

    My line in the sand is the stakes on tests for students and teachers. And if the city will show that they can make some response to our specific request, it might sound like a two-way dialogue for a change.

    @ real time educator – do you mean you’re taking him up on the bet? Ten to one sounds like a cinch. He’ll loose big time.

    Seriously though, what is your reasoning to accept punitive evaluations based on inaccurate measures?

    Did you know Arne Duncan got schooled by Diane Ravitch about standing law in NCLB regarding the definition of growth? Have you been seeing the VAT debunkings? Can we instead have metrics we buy in to? If it’s okay with Mike Mulgrew?

    These MORE people have a plan, it was thorough in presenting a menu of negotiating points and costs. I have not seen UNITY’s research and analysis, I liked that MORE reached out to me.

    So please, persuade me!


    Hey Real-Time Educator. I guess you would prefer to reach maximum after 25 years instead of 22 years. Why don’t you tell us like Sandy Feldman did before we turned down the 1995 contract – “you must be smoking something if you think you’ll do better if you turn down the contract.” We did turn it down and we did better. Take a puff of that.


    I can’t say that I am shocked, but I can say that I see through this rhetoric. It is not a need for change, but it is a need for power and prestige. I see no solution from anyone looking to change the numbers. Given the fact that the former mayor left us empty, how can we expect it all right this second? Much was protected here, and much of those protections came in the face of a media effort to destroy core union triumphs. Thank you for your time, Dr. John Marvul.


    Anyone curious why the ballots changed from being mailed in to now being collected and delivered by chapter leaders? They realized there was a shot this may not pass, so now there’s an easy channel to cheat and change numbers. Not all of the ballots AAA receives will be the ballots that leave the schools.


    “It’s not who gets the most votes. It’s who counts them that matters.” – Richard J. Daley

    AAA for contract, UFT elections and NYSUT elections. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the ballots.

    Queens Teacher May 18, 2014 at 10:57 am

    I will be voting NO as will the rest of my school. Unity’s days are numbered.


    Why are ATRs being targeted in this contract with expedited 3020A proceedings. Mulgrew said it was a good thing….WTF????

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