By James Eterno
The Fighter or the Appeaser
Ever since the membership was convinced to accept a substandard contract that gives away many of our rights, the UFT leadership has been talking tough about the next round of bargaining coming ahead in 2007. President Randi Weingarten has said that her goal is to possibly return the UFT to a “No Contract=No Work” policy. That would mean the October 12, 2007 date when our current contract expires would be a real deadline. There would be tremendous pressure on the city to negotiate a new contract with favorable terms for us because if the city would not settle the contract on time, we would be prepared to go out on strike. (The Transport Workers Union Local 100 has a No Contract=No Work policy in dealing with NYC Transit.) Randi is talking real militancy, right? Well, maybe not.
At the same time that she is telling us we have to be ready to have a credible strike threat and a meaningful deadline, Randi is urging us to send postcards to Governor George Pataki in which we urge the Governor to sign a Taylor Law reform bill passed by the State Legislature that would allow the city to delay for six months after the date that our contract expires. Then, after the six months are over, the impasse procedure that leads to the same mediation and arbitration process that resulted in the horrific givebacks in the current contract (37.5 minute extended time small group instruction sessions, hall and cafeteria duty, longest school year in the region, loss of the right to grieve letters to our files) would automatically commence.
In the last round of bargaining, ICE representatives spoke out strongly at the Executive Board against going to arbitration because we knew we would lose. However, Randi ignored us back then and now she is asking us to lobby the governor for a bill that would get us to arbitration even sooner in the next round and lead to a further erosion of what remains of our rights.
Which Randi do we believe? Is it the tough talking Randi who wants a “No Contract=No Work” militant union? Or is it the conciliatory Randi who wants us to push a bill that would allow the city to stall for six months after our contract expires and then sends us right back to mediation and arbitration where we will lose again? Only in the bizarre world of the UFT could the leadership push militancy and conciliation at the same time. Talk about a contradiction. It leads me to believe that Norman Scott is right and the renewed militancy is a mere facade for the members and there is no true reform going on in the UFT.