By Kevin Prosen
Chapter Leader I.S.30
By Kit Wainer
Chapter Leader- Leon M. Goldstein H.S
UFT members from around the city have contacted MORE, saying that they and their entire chapters are planning to vote no. They believe our union can do better. They are right. To win the kinds of changes we all really want, however, our union will have to lead a much bigger fight.
Peter Lamphere’s must read piece demonstrates that the money is there for a better deal and that if we reject the current offer, both UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor Bill DeBlasio will be under political pressure to resolve this quickly and try to come up with an agreement the members are more likely to ratify. Furthermore, when members rejected a proposed contract in 1995, we wound up with a better deal in 1996. Voting down this contract proposal may be enough to get us some small improvements over what the UFT leadership just negotiated.
But that is setting our sights too low: we deserve fair raises, an end to test-driven education, and a fairer evaluation system. ATRs deserve full citizenship. To win these, our union will have to mobilize our members with street protests and job actions to put pressure on the city and force them to negotiate better terms.
So far, the Mulgrew leadership has been unwilling to do that. Instead, UFT leaders relied on a single strategy: from 2009 through 2013 they waited for Michael Bloomberg’s mayoralty to end. The hope was that a new mayor would be friendlier to public schools and to the UFT and would be willing to bargain in good faith. After four and one half years of waiting, New York City elected the most liberal, pro-labor mayor since the second world war. Yet the only payoff for us was a wage package that does not keep up with inflation and defers our raises and back pay for several years without interest. The sides could have agreed to lobby Albany to end the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers. They could have chosen to place all ATRs in regular positions. They could have made some progress on class size. They could have guaranteed that all schools would have full support services. But they didn’t. Clearly, the strategy of waiting for a better mayor was a failure.
Admittedly, our union can’t transform itself over night. In many schools, administrative prerogative reigns and many union members either don’t know their rights or are afraid to enforce them. In a climate of fear and disorganization, it would be difficult for any union leadership to launch the kinds of mobilization that would be necessary to win a good contract. Members who are isolated and afraid are less likely have confidence in their union.
But, fortunately, it can be done. In 2012, after months of preparation and membership organizing the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike and successfully fought off some serious attacks on their members. They showed that when a union acts like a union it can win.
After this vote is over, the union needs to change course. Our union should lead us in rallies in each borough to mount a pressure campaign for a good contract. We also need organization at the school and district level. The UFT should help union activists organize each other to defend their rights within their schools. Beyond that we need an action plan that will bring members of different schools together so that we can learn from each other and find ways to help each other organize. That’s what a union does.
We hope the current UFT leaders will learn this. But we in MORE are not waiting. We have been meeting UFT activists in various neighborhoods to help strategize ways of rebuilding their chapter and reviving union solidarity. If you would like to meet with us, please contact us at [email protected] or through our website morecaucusnyc.org. Together we can build the kind of union that can win the contract we deserve.
By Norm Scott
Retired Chapter Leader P.S. 147
All polls among parents and teachers show that class size is the number one improvement people feel would have a real impact. It is an issue that unites parents and teachers on common ground. Many teachers have told me they wouldn’t be as upset at the way the new contract was structured financially if at least they got some improvement in such a basic working condition.
The last time the UFT contract improved class sizes was in 1967, my first year of teaching. It took me a few years to realize that even those numbers were somewhat bogus given the loopholes that allowed the DOE to push beyond the boundaries. Continue Reading…
First off, the money is clearly there for something better. Continue Reading…
By Julie Cavanagh
Teacher/Chapter-leader P.S. 15k
A shortened version of this was published at WNYC/NPR Schoolbook
The Wait Isn’t Over
UFT members and the children we serve have suffered over the last several years due to deteriorating learning and working conditions. The proposed new UFT contract highlights this administration’s commitment to the restoration of collaboration and communication between our union and the city. It is a welcome departure from the previous administration.
The proposed contract includes some steps forward in rebuilding respect for educators, voices of parents, and open dialogue between the city and its workers. There are changes in this proposed contract that will improve our students’ learning conditions and our working conditions. I have serious concerns, however, with several aspects of this proposal that undermine the importance of solidarity, that fall short of bringing us closer to the schools our students deserve, and that bring into question our value as workers.
The proposed contract will divide educators into several tiers. Once we destroy union solidarity, we destroy our union. Career ladders are nothing more than a merit pay scheme with a different name. The only incentive given here is for great teachers to leave the classroom, which is not a plan for long term school progress. Teacher leadership is critical to the success of schools, but dividing teachers by salary is not a way to achieve this goal.
Due process, job security, and fair evaluations for all educators are the foundations of any teacher’s union contract. There cannot be two sets of rules for educators. Those who were excessed through no fault of their own and were placed in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool should not be held to a different standard than their fellow union members.
I also hoped this contract would address pay parity. Occupational and Physical Therapists, who are essential to the success of the children we serve, make considerably less than their educator colleagues. Paraprofessionals also deserve consideration in this contract, as they are underpaid for the important and challenging work they do.
The Schools Our Children Deserve
This proposal is a missed opportunity to improve the relationships with the communities we serve. I applaud the increased time for parent and teacher collaboration, but this step does not go far enough in advancing the policy issues that parents, educators, and our students are most concerned about.
I hoped this contract would go further in addressing issues of class size, developmentally inappropriate standards, lack of robust curriculum, targeted intervention for students, art instruction, too-large caseloads for counselors, psychologists, and social workers, over emphasis on high stakes testing, the deficit of resources for special needs children, and the continued reliance on flawed test based evaluation.
While I commend the effort to address the needs in hard-to-staff schools, I believe a different path should be taken. Wraparound services, reduced class size, additional nurses, librarians, social workers, counselors, healthy food initiatives, after-school and weekend academic programs, and extracurricular activities are all proven formulas for success, not $5,000 bonus pay. Simply, I feel this money would have been better spent on direct services to children.
I also commend the additional time for educators to work in teacher teams, engage in meaningful professional development, and complete the monumental tasks that we frankly do not currently have the time to complete. However, I am concerned that this time that has been reconfigured to support teachers leaves our children behind, because, with the information I have seen thus far, there will be no efforts to replace targeted intervention for students.
School Leadership Teams (SLTs), which consist of administrators, teachers, parents, and students at the high school level, should be empowered to make authentic decisions for their schools. While I appreciate what I believe is the good intention behind the PROSE School Initiative, I am concerned about the possibility of “thin contracts” and the inherent acceptance of the assumption that the union contract and Chancellor Regulations have a negative impact on schools. I would have rather seen these efforts directed at strengthening SLTs in all schools.
Our Value As Workers
UFT members are dedicated professionals, and although we didn’t become educators for the money, we do have families to raise and financial obligations that have become more difficult over the past five years. I am a teacher, a wife, a mother, and a New Yorker; I want to live where I work and provide my son with every opportunity. I do my part to improve our schools and society for him, for all children, and for their families.
This proposed contract would have members accept raises that are less than two percent each year between 2009 – 2018, less than the rate of inflation. Salaries around the country have fallen behind, which has caused income inequality for many families of the children we serve. Every working man and woman deserves a living wage and annual cost of living increases. If our union does not take this stand, who will?
Our friends in virtually every other municipal labor union received the wage increases they deserved nearly five years ago. Today they continue to have the full 8% as part of their salary scale, even though most now also find themselves with expired contracts. UFT members will not receive these wage increases with retro-pay until 2020. In September, UFT members will walk into a 2% raise and $1,000 rather than the 8% we deserve.
If we accept this deal, other union members may be forced to accept similar bad contracts. This proposed contract sets a dangerous precedent. Politicians now have the green light to refuse to negotiate in good faith and force pay freezes for workers, 0% pay raises, deferred raises and retro-pay and a contract that is below the rate of inflation.
The Contract Our Schools and Educators Deserve
UFT members have been without a contract for over five years. We, along with the communities we serve, have faced a tidal wave of attacks on our neighborhood schools. A new contract has the power to right these wrongs. I believe the path to real change must be traveled together. Only through the active involvement of our members, parents, and with respect for all students, can we achieve the promise of public education and the schools our children deserve.
Many teachers I know, and my amazing colleagues at PS 15, would have happily conceded some financial compensation in favor of a greater improvement to teaching and learning conditions. Given that this contract extends beyond the next Mayoral election, we have surrendered vast opportunities for meaningful improvements and progressive “reform”.
I encourage school communities in the coming days and weeks to have collective, open and transparent discussions in their chapters, during lunch, and with their families, the kind of conversations we should be having in our union hall, to reach an informed decision on members’ ratification vote.
Please see our contract tab on this site for fliers and additional articles
UFT CONTRACT: NOT A DONE DEAL UNTIL THE MEMBERSHIP VOTES
NYC Public School Educators to UFT Leaders: “Go Back to the Bargaining Table!”
MORE – A UFT Caucus — Calls for Educators to Vote No
Launches grassroots campaign for “Contract NYC Educators Deserve”
WHEN: Wednesday, May 7 2014, approximately 6:15pm (After UFT Delegate Assembly)
WHERE: SW Corner of 6th Ave and 54th St, in front of Hilton (1335 Ave of Americas, NYC)
WHAT: MORE-UFT (Movement of Rank and File Educators) calls for UFT members to vote “no” on the leadership’s contract proposal. The bargain under consideration: Continue Reading…
by Mike Schirtzer, Teacher/Delegate, Leon Goldstein HS
The UFT and City of New York finally came to an agreement. In fact, the UFT Facebook celebrated by proclaiming “the wait is over” and it’s “the contract for education”. Unfortunately, this is not the contract we deserve, and it is no reason for a victory lap. Simply put, the retroactive pay is delayed until 2020, the raises are deferred until 2018, and New York City educators are left with 5 years of pay freezes and “raises” that don’t even keep up with the cost of living in New York. We have not received a raise in 5 years and now are being told to celebrate because we finally have one! This is not a fair contract and clearly not the raise and back pay we deserve. Our costs from milk to gas to utilities to our children’s colleges, have skyrocketed and all we can celebrate is a 2% pay increase starting in September. This is a demeaning insult to our profession.
Most other unions received 4% raises in 2009 and 2010, deservedly so. When the mayor and the UFT president stood on the podium telling us how we were all getting full retroactive pay, the first thought that went through our heads was “Good, when I come back in September, I’ll have the 8% factored into my salary and the large retroactive check on the way.” Then they announced that there would be a 1% raise owed to us for 2013 and 1% raise for 2014. Those numbers didn’t seem fair. We all know inflation is more than 1% a year. The very next thought in our heads was “4% + 4 % +2% = 10%.” Right away we assumed that, in September we would have 10 percent added to our salaries, plus that retro check ready to be cashed. At least then we would have some reason to cheer. Now that the facts are out, and we see the UFT chart (above), we realized that none of this is true. If you need a chart to explain retroactive pay, raises, and all sorts of strange bonuses, therein lies the problem. A salary increase and retro should never have to be explained by graphs, formulas, and charts
The math is simple, our “raises” amount to less than 2% a year. Our retroactive will be paid in five payments, up until 2020. What good does that do for us now in 2014? We want to live in New York City and thrive here. In order to do so we must be able to keep up with the Joneses. All we want is what our police, firefighter, and other union friends already have. We want a raise and retro that we are due. We have put up with a storm of failed education policies, from common core to a new evaluation system that does more harm than good, years and years of incompetent or even abusive principals, closing schools, and negative press. The last thing we should tell the UFT members is that this is the best we can do.
The city can afford these raises, it’s not our job to help the city out, because no one has told the millionaires that they should help out by giving back their bonuses or pay more in taxes. Why is it that the teachers should suffer while everyone gets raises. Apparently they have created a new class of teachers “ambassador, model, master” who will make more than the rest. Now teachers are going to be tripping over each other just to get this extra money, because the actual contract is so bad. So what they are telling us is what we’re doing right now is not good enough, we need to do more just to get this extra money. How will they decide who is a master teacher and who is not, by more testing, the flawed ratings, who the principal likes the most? The city can somehow afford merit pay, but not our full raises and retro. They can also afford to waste millions of dollars on terrible curriculum, test prep books, danielson training, common core meetings, and consultants, none of which have a positive impact on our children.
We were strapped with a terrible evaluation system, yet this deal does nothing to address it. Cookie cutter rubrics, test based evaluations were failures when first started and will still be failures after this proposed contract. Most teachers still can’t figure how they’re being evaluated, and most administrators can’t even figure out how to even evaluate us properly. Teachers were miserable this year. They have a scripted common core curriculum, non-stop testing not aligned to the curriculum, administrators using teachers as guinea pigs for an evaluation system that is flawed. They became “experts” on the Danielson rubric by attending webinars, and morale in our schools has never been lower. This contract was an opportunity to say to us “we care about what you do and we value it,” instead it says, “you are worth less than everybody else.”
There are teachers who ended up as ATRs due to no fault of their own. They have been sent from school to school every week, made to do menial tasks, frustrated because they can’t do what they love, and treated like second class citizens with little to no help from our union leadership. Now we’re going to look at them and say in addition to your terrible treatment we’re also setting up different rules for you than other teachers. Let’s be clear, the charter school billionaires are insistent on closing down our public schools, or stealing space inside schools, so they can operate their for-profit charters. Look at the the three million dollar campaign they launched against DeBlasio. Look at how they bought off Cuomo. This is not going away. That means each and every one of us could be an ATR tomorrow. Under the new contract ATRs will have a different set of rules than those still in their schools. An injury to one is an injury to all. We can’t stand idly by while our friends are being sold out. An ATR can be anyone of us.
We love being educators. We do it for the children, but we also have to pay our bills. Asking for a raise that keeps up with the cost of living is nothing to be embarrassed about. Getting the retroactive pay that everyone else has shouldn’t take a chart and formula to explain. We want a decent life for our family. We want to be able to live where we work and we want to feel respected for a change. When we were children, teachers were held on a pedestal. We never would never berate our teachers. Our parents would have yelled us for even thinking about that. Let’s demand a contract that builds up morale, that lets teachers know they are still valued, that makes our public schools the best that they can be.
The city and UFT must go back to the drawing board. It’s easy: throw away the graphs and formulas and come to us with a deal that says “here are your raises, here is your retro, here is everything you deserve.” Otherwise we vote NO!