In our effort to build a more democratic union, we offer this brief summary of September’s Executive Board meetings. The UFT’s Executive Board met twice in September on September 12th and September 19th. For more detailed notes, check out our running minutes.
September 12th Meeting
There were several important topics discussed at this meeting - the first of the 2022-23 school year - including the Municipal Labor Council’s proposal to privatize healthcare, the new class size legislation, and the excessing of early childhood instructional coordinators and social workers. Noticeably absent from all discussion was that our contract would expire the following day, September 13th, nor was there any discussion of upcoming contract negotiations. This was also the inaugural meeting of our new Executive Board members, including MORE members Alex Jallot, Ronnie Almonte, and Ilona Nanay.
Yet again, UFT tried to convince members to support the NYC Municipal Labor Coalition’s 2021 attempt to replace traditional Medicare with a privatized “Medicare Advantage Plus” (MA+) plan, even though this plan limits members’ access to providers, tests, and procedures, and has consistently cost the federal government more than traditional Medicare. Retirees organized against the adoption of MA+, filing a lawsuit against the City under admin code 1226. UFT staffer Vince Gaglione noted that the MLC is working with the City to revise admin code 1226 so that MA+ plan can be approved. Changing the code would not only force retirees into MA+, but also open the door for further tinkering with in-service members’ healthcare too. While the UFT wrings its hands over rocketing healthcare costs, it claims that passing the NY Health Act, a bill in the state legislature that would provide comprehensive health insurance to all New Yorkers, would be a budget buster - despite all evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately, the UFT officers are seemingly colluding with corporate interests.
Members also received an update on the class size legislation. Staffer Cassie Prugh explained that Governor Hochul signed the class size bill upon an agreement with legislature. The bill requires that NYCDOE work with UFT and CSA in coming up with a plan to reduce class size by 20% each year for 5 years. When it comes to implementation of the first 20%, the window for that to happen begins in September 2023-24 and so on throughout the five year process. The Bill reduces classes to 20 students in K - 3, 23 students in grades 4 - 8 and 25 students in 9 - 12. There are numerous provisions in the Bill that require planning. Prugh noted, for example, that there will be a process for schools that do not have enough physical space – whatever that means.
One of the major topics of concern was the UFT’s lack of responsiveness to early childhood ICs and SWs. On September 6th, in a mandatory meeting with the Division of Early Childhood leadership, early childhood Instructional Coordinators (ICs) and Social Workers (SWs) were informed that they were being excessed from their jobs. As of September 12th, they had yet to receive any union representation or comment from the UFT to defend the jobs of over 300 UFT members, with the exception of Ms. Mongiello, the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, who stated that both the UFT and CSA had agreed to this action. Several ICs showed up to speak and demand that the UFT meet with them and fight on their behalf. As one IC noted, “We cannot control that the DOE can choose to act in a callous and reckless manner without regard to impact on their staff, toddlers, families, schools, communities that is the ripple effect, but we expect and demand better of our Union…We demand that our Union stand up and defend our role and include us in the decision-making.” Union officials Sill and Alford stayed after to talk to the IC representatives and promised to meet with ICs and SWs and to facilitate a meeting with the DOE.
Key Questions Asked (see full notes for details):
Jallot: Can you please elaborate on the new smaller class size legislation that was recently signed into law? How will UFT ensure that NYCDOE is adhering to this law? Answer: There is federal aid still left over and certainly commitment to CFE – there is not too many processes in this legislation that don’t involve us and bargaining with us to come up with a plan to get 20% every year to figure out situations that we have to figure out.
September 19th Meeting
The major debate at this meeting was over a proposal to have a multipartisan committee to mobilize for the contract and beyond (as existed under Weingarten). UNITY reps argued against this as duplicative of the negotiating committee. New Action and MORE argued that it would be focused on organizing members and complement the negotiating committee. The debate showed the discipline of UNITY against any initiative that might energize rank and file activism.
During the open mic period, rank and filers spoke out on sub-minimum wage pay for new teachers preservice orientation, lack of representation of subs, a successful grievance for shortage area pay at Aviation HS, problems with SPED bussing. Opposition eboard reps followed on these issues in the question period.
Some other topics discussed are mentioned below (see these notes for more details - we are indebted to Nick Bacon of New Action for these). Notable was the fact that the union leaders had no concrete plan to continue the budget cut fight. Also worrisome was the way they justified as their modification of the city administrative code to make their Medicare Advantage scheme work (and threatens premium free health care for in service members) as increasing “choice.” Both of these mean that we will have to double down on independent rank and file mobilization for the contract negotiations.
Key Questions Asked (see full notes for details):
Jallot: How can we fix Fair Student Funding? Answer: Not contractual, we have a committee working on it.
Bacon: We let City get away with not opting out of APPR last year. What about teachers who got threatened with firing? Answer: We have a system, speak to Mary Atkinson.
Nanay: Followed up on excessed early childhood educators from last week. Answer: We don’t agree with their plan, but don’t have leverage. Folks won’t likely become ATRs but we need to see what the other opportunities are that will be offered.
Calamia: Why is UFT trying to change City admin code? Answer: We disagree that the City only has to have one health plan – we believe in ‘choice.’
Howrilka: How can we get our members activated to fight for fair funding? Answer: We have been involved all summer. As soon as some meetings are done, we’ll figure out how to get out and get our voice heard.
Almonte: How can we organize non-teacher professors at Bard HS? Answer: Most HS run jointly with colleges have PSC members.