Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Pocket Guide to Respond to Pro Fact-finding Report Arguments

Unity is running around selling the Fact Finding Report by making five basic points:

Unity points are underlined and the ICE responses are bolded.

If we don't accept the Fact Finding Report as a framework for negotiations we have to go on strike immediately and it will be a long strike.

This is absolutely false since all that happens if we don't accept the Report is that we go back to square one in negotiations like when we voted no to the proposed Contract in 1995. If we do not accept the Fact Finding report, we could easily strengthen our bargaining position by holding a press conference in Great Neck or Scarsdale, proposing the learning conditions they have out there and then saying, "It's not the Contract Stupid." We could also state that it's the class of our urban students that determines why they get a second class education. Taking away teacher professionalism in NYC will only make the disparity in education worse.

The Fact Finding Report is much better than the eight page contract Bloomberg originally proposed. Bloomberg and Klein are the toughest negotiators we have ever faced and this is no regular time for labor with conservatives in control. Unity is stressing the parts of the contract that we maintain, particularly tenure, instead of what we lose.

This is an absurd argument as you don't thank your employer for only taking away two thirds of your rights instead of all of them. It is a bit like Mexico claiming victory after the Mexican War because they only lost half of their country to the US but they salvaged half. Tenure is a state law that predates the UFT. It has very little to do with our contract. Keeping a right we enjoy under state law is no victory in negotiations.

The Taylor Law actually works to our advantage here as it maintains all of our rights including longevity and step increases until we have a new Contract. Unlike in the private sector, we are under no pressure to concede a thing. Think of the retroactive money we will eventually get if we strengthen our hand as forced savings, albeit without interest.

If we accept the Report as merely a framework (a starting point) for negotiations, we will improve upon it at the bargaining table in final negotiations.

This is the most ridiculous of their arguments. Let history be your guide on this one. Look at the Fact Finding Reports from 1993 and 2002 and you will notice that the final contracts were almost identical to the Fact Finding Reports. In terms of extended time, the actual contract was worse in 2002 than the fact finding report. The fact finders recommended one late day every week and in the final contract there were two late days a week. The provision on extended time was so flawed it has been renegotiated three times. We certainly didn't make gains after either Report came out. What makes anyone think we can improve upon this report with Bloom/Klein? (ICE believed Fact Finding would fail; we warned Randi of this and voted against going to Fact Finding last November. We are tired of saying we told you so.)

We take the moral high ground with the public if we accept the Report.

More nonsense as the public will see us as weak if we just accept losing our basic right to grieve a letter in the file and agreeing to two more periods a day where the principal can assign us; that is roughly a 30% increase in time where the principal can direct us for an 11% increase. It's really a decrease of close to 20%. Maybe we'll get pity but not support.

We should demand more and not appease the Bloomberg and Klein union busting team. Demanding a Long Island/Westchester style contract with class size limits in the twenties will show the public who really cares about the students. Once again I repeat we should be in front of Great Neck or Scarsdale Schools publicizing over and over again the following argument: "It's not the contract stupid; it's discrimination against our working and lower class urban students."

After we reject the fact finding report, we need to organize chapters for the fight of our lives to get what we want for our students and ourselves. Militancy should be built up and then we should be ready to talk about real industrial action when we're ready, perhaps in tandem with other unions as they do in Europe. How about an alliance with the transit Workers?

Unity is claiming that it's not so bad that we can't grieve letters for the file since the DOE uses them anyway in disciplinary hearings after we win arbitrations and have them removed from files.

This argument while it has some validity is flawed because grieving letters in the file is our first line of defense as a union and it will be gone. Non-tenured teachers will have no independent forum for recourse to try to remove the letters. Also, many strong chapter leaders use the letters to slow administration down or stop them when they go after people. Many grievances are resolved by the Principal and Chapter Leader at Step I. Why would administration stop at the school level if they know they can't be challenged? We will be sitting at the mercy of the principal if this fact finding report is used as a framework for a contract.

Other lowlights worth Mentioning That Unity is not even bothering to defend.

Twelve free coverages instead of two in secondary schools.

A return to cafeteria duty, potty patrol and other administrative assignments at the discretion of the principal

30 minute small class instruction period is a prelude to having us teach a full extra class next time.

Principal's discretion for transfers and excessed teachers further limiting our rights.

What happened to "let teachers teach" and ending DOE micromanagement? The fact finders forgot about it and so has Unity.

1 comment:

NYC Educator said...

You've pointed out the only good thing about the Taylor Law, which I've been doing recently, and it makes sense to wait this out, however long it takes, because this contract is an abomination--it's not just that we've sold ourselves out, but we've done it so cheaply.

The lunchroom relief was gained over two contracts, one that reduced it to once every six years, and another that eliminated it. We should get three raises for that, to compenstate for two zeroes, but I'd be far happier with no raise and no lunchroom.

I think our best hope now is for the membership to vote this down. Perhaps most of the executive board, the ones who accuse you of wanting to sacrifice young teachers when you criticize the contract, are getting ready to retire this year and screw us all.

Very few teachers with whom I speak support this contract. Let them keep their money. The idea of a strike authoriztion in support of this agreement is so absurd I can't begin to imagine it.