The UFT Executive Board with only two dissenters and one abstention, voted on June 19 to give UFT officers and staff the full 15% increase that ICE said they would do months ago. Many of these people already earn six figure salaries and have a Union as well as Department of Education pension.
What is the giveback that the UFT agreed to for themselves in order to justify 15%? The UFT offices will remain open one extra hour per week. ICE asks is this the equivalent of the givebacks people in the schools have had to endure under the current contract? These givebacks include working an extra tutoring period four days a week for small group instruction in most schools, hall patrols, cafeteria duty, loss of two vacation days (three in Brooklyn and Queens) resulting in the longest school year in the New York Metropolitan area, loss of ability to grieve letters in our files, restricted transfer rights, weaker tenure protections and more.
What follows is a speech that James Eterno (High School Representative and Chapter Leader for Jamaica High School) gave in opposition to the pay raises at the Executive Board.
UFT officers, Borough Representatives, District Reps, Special Reps and the staff work extremely hard; some are on call 24/7. People who work diligently should be rewarded. That’s not the issue.
The issue was framed wonderfully by President Weingarten when she was quoted in the June 16 Chief Leader talking about the unions working together. Randi told the Chief: “Given globalization and Wal-Martization and this assault on working and middle-class people, it makes a lot of sense to band together.” I agree. However, before we can create a powerful coalition of unions ready for a real fight against the city, we have to unite ourselves. If this resolution passes tonight, we will do the opposite.
If there is a full 15% increase for UFT officers and staff (5.5% in December and now the remainder tonight), as soon as someone gets home this information will be out on the net and it will be in many of the schools by tomorrow. Everyone will know and the cynics will be saying, same old UFT, givebacks for the members and salary increases for the leadership with a nominal change in their conditions.
Opening up the UFT offices once a week for an extra hour is a worthwhile endeavor, but does anyone honestly believe that it is the equivalent of what people in the schools are going through under this current contract? We’re under siege in many schools.
I recently spoke to a friend from a high school in Brooklyn who is teaching his five classes; then he was assigned small group instruction for a professional assignment and then he has small group instruction again at the end of the day and yes since he is a math teacher, his students showed up. There are similar stories of teachers and other UFT members being overworked all over the city. Many members don’t want to assert their union rights because they fear retaliation.
In the schools, we are sacrificing every day. The Union leadership could take a big step in reforming this union if tonight, this body agrees to forgo the rest of the pay raise and put that money where it’s badly needed, defending our members directly.
I would favor taking that raise money and using it to hire some paralegals, and investigators and then send them to NYSUT to do our own investigations and research as Jeff Kaufman is calling for in a resolution to be introduced later. (Unity would not agree to hire the full investigation teams that Jeff called for as they watered down his proposal at the end of the meeting so that members who are reassigned will merely receive information about their rights.)
That’s one idea. If someone has a better idea on how to use this money, I’m all ears. The bottom line is if we are truly interested in uniting this Union for a no contract=no work battle in 2007, this Executive Board should lead by example by putting short term self interest aside for the benefit of the UFT’s future and the future of the union movement. Say no to rest of the raise and yes to real change.