by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School, UFT Executive Board Member
1. For full disclosure, how much money do you make and do you have a double pension (Dept. of Ed. and UFT)? (If they won't answer, tell members to check LM 2 available from Department of Labor. The UFT's file number is 063-924.)
2. Are you going to vote yourself a 15% raise to your six figure salary and what are you going to do to earn the extra money, work ten extra minutes at the UFT office?
3. Why is there no job security provision in the new contract? Didn't we have a no layoff clause in the last two contracts? Aren't people in certain license areas such as business, music, art and health as well as paras, secretaries and guidance counselors in danger of being laid off now?
4. If a school is closed or reorganized under the new Contract, teachers have no rights to a teaching job; they have to hustle for it by getting a principal to hire them or they can become absent teacher reserves anywhere in the city. Why should UFT members accept this assault on our dignity?
5. In the old days before the last two contracts when there were building assignments, it was one out of every three terms (once every six for cafeteria) where we could be assigned administrative duties; why is the union agreeing to send us back to cafeteria and hallway duty which are unprofessional tasks every other year? How is this increasing our professionalism or helping students?
6. If we are assigned to hall duty or cafeteria duty against our will for two years in a row, we can only grieve to the city's Office of Labor Relations (city employees and not independent arbitrators). Won't that mean that we will never have a fair hearing on professional assignment selection? Do you really expect us to trust the city Office of Labor Relations to be fair? Don't they work for the Mayor?
7. Define small group instruction? What in the proposed contract prevents the principal from turning the new 37.5 minute ninth period where we will have to teach up to ten students after we have taught five or six classes already and done cafeteria duty into a class? I know the principal can't force students to show after dismissal but what prevents the principal from compelling us to have lesson plans and then observing us during this period or for that matter what prevents the principal from assigning small group teaching, yet another class, to us during our Circular 6 period? In the high schools what will stop the principal from making these classes into PM School and giving kids remedial credit?
8. In multiple session schools what will prevent the principal from giving us the 37.5 minute period and not adding the time to the periods? Isn't it true that all he has to do is say that he has space and then he can add the 37.5 minute period to our day?
9. I hear a lot of talk about a retirement incentive for people who have worked 25 years and are 55 years old. The contract says we will push for it with the city if it doesn't cost the city any money. Won't that mean that UFT members will have to pay for any incentive ourselves? If we have to pay for the benefit ourselves, how is that a gain? Isn't that creating a de facto tier 5?
10. Suspension without pay for up to and over three months based on an Office of Special Investigations report which is based often on a mere allegation of sexual misconduct will become the norm under the new agreement. How does weakening our tenure protections by allowing suspension without pay, possibly illegally, help us?
11. We can't grieve letters to the file including unsatisfactory observations so they will stay in our files for three years under the proposal. How is this beneficial to us when currently in 3020A hearings (the process to remove tenured pedagogues), administration is not permitted to admit material that is older than three years anyway?
12. The UFT says we earned a great victory on micromanagement since the DOE can't use bulletin boards, arrangement of furniture or the length of lesson units as the basis for discipline. What is to prevent the DOE from using incompetent teaching as the basis for discipline and then using the length of our teaching unit as an example of our bad teaching? Also, how will this no micromanagement provision help if we can't file a grievance to have a disciplinary letter removed?
13. If we can't grieve a letter for the file, what leverage will chapter leaders have to try to get principals to remove them? Isn't the threat of a grievance where administration will be embarrassed often enough to get administration to make deals and back down?
14. Non tenured teachers and all paras will never be able to grieve letters before an independent person if this contract is passed. Aren't U rating appeals a biased Department of Education forum where the UFT usually loses? Aren't you leaving our most vulnerable members defenseless by agreeing not to allow them to grieve material in their files to an independent arbitrator?
14. Union officials are saying we can use the Article 23 harassment provision to stop administration. However, in Article 23 cases the independent arbitrator can only make a recommendation. Our employer makes the final decision so this provision has no teeth behind it, correct?
15. Don't many suburban districts work 183 days by contract but under the new contract we will work 190 next year by adding two to three days to the calendar?
16. How will it improve education adding days to the school year giving us the longest school year of all the districts in the New York Metropolitan area?
17. If we are working more days than in the suburbs and they also take advantage of their snow days which we rarely use in the city, shouldn't we earn more than them not $15,000+ less than our suburban counterparts as we will still be way behind them in the new contract? Also, considering our huge class sizes, aren't we already more productive than educators in surrounding districts? Why should we be paid less?
18. How is giving up seniority and SBO transfers and leaving all transfers up to the discretion of principals not another huge step backward for educators?
19. Why didn't the UFT wait until the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case was settled before giving away our rights in exchange for pennies since greater funding could be forced on the state and the city for NYC schools ?
20. In 1995, we turned down a contract with a very tough adversary in Rudy Giulliani and several months later we received a better deal that had the longevity payments improved to 22 years from 25 in the original and a clause withholding 5% of new teacher pay for four years was eliminated and a real retirement incentive was added. Why couldn't we do the same in 2005? Wouldn't there be public pressure on the Mayor as there was in 1996 to settle if the teachers are that unhappy?
21. Weingarten says Klein is tougher than Chancellor Rudy Crew who was in charge in 1995, but didn't the Mayor always have to sign off on our contracts? Wasn't Giulliani as tough if not tougher than Bloomberg? Isn't the labor commissioner for the city, James Hanley, the same person who has been there since Dinkins was Mayor so why all the givebacks now?
22. The salary increase is 3.4% annually for veterans, just over 2% for new teachers and 1.7% for per session. The inflation rate is currently 4.1% in the NY area. With all of these givebacks, how can you justify a salary increase that doesn't even keep pace with the cost of living?
23. Given the choice of evils, wouldn't it have been better to do what the police did and cut pay for future hires to get annual 5% increases without major givebacks for incumbent officers rather than agree to these draconian givebacks that the UFT is accepting? 5% is greater than 3.4% isn't it?
24. If this is the best you can do, why do we have to keep paying union dues?
25. Why did Randi Weingarten let the retired teachers vote on the contract at the Delegate Assembly? Isn't it true that she had to take a second vote when the opposition complained and that the second vote was closer? Why did she deny a count and adjourn the meeting when the opposition asked for the votes to be counted?
26. Why isn't the UFT using ballots mailed to member homes which would ensure a fair vote rather than a vote in the schools?
27. What were the reasons for all the actions the UFT asked us to do to strengthen our hand if we are only going accept the garbage that the City and Department of Education want us to swallow?
28. Why didn't the union prepare us for real industrial action rather than agree to this contract? Are you thinking about the membership or are you worried about losing dues check off (the automatic deduction of union dues from our paychecks) if we were to have a job action?
29. If we say no now and organize ourselves for real industrial action, won't we be in a stronger position to win a good contract?
30. (This can be used at any point if they mention a strike.) Why does the Union use the strike threat to scare the membership instead of using it to scare the Mayor and Chancellor?