Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Letter-in-File Grievances, R.I.P.

One of the worst givebacks in our current contract was the right, under Article 21A, to grieve letters in the file. We have addressed this loss in the past but today, I had the rare opportunity to participate in one of the last letter-in-the-file arbitrations we shall ever see unless we win this valuable right back.

Under Article 21A supervisors can include in your personnel file letters of a disciplinary or negative nature limited only by whether they were "unfair" or "inaccurate." In past contracts any unfairness or inaccuracy would invalidate the whole letter. Under more recent contracts this was watered down to allow the arbitrator to change the improper parts.

With our new contract, of course, there is no right to grieve these letters. The principal can write anything he/she wishes without fear that a grievance procedure will change or delete the letter. When the U-rating is given the letter can theoretically be challenged but U-rating appeals are run by DOE supervisors. They will clearly not provide the forum to remove the letters that our Union has been so successful in doing at arbitrations. (According to Gary Rabinowitz, Special Rep in charge of LIF Arbitrations, the Union had a 50% success rate at arbitration).

At the time of the present contract's implementation there were a number of letter-in-file grievances at Step III. The Union and DOE agreed that these grievances would all be heard at "expedited" arbitrations. Today, I participated in two of these.

While there are some very fundamental problems in which LIF grievances are (should I say were) handled there is no doubt how empowering the procedure is to the member and the Chapter. The principal and assistant principal, who were after one member of my chapter, had to explain and testify to support what they had written. The grievant and I then explained and testified what really happened.

The grievant received a U-rating based on these letters so if the arbitrator removes or changes the letters in a favorable way she will be able to keep her job. It is difficult to predict what the arbitrator will do but at least she had a fair opportunity to confront her supervisors and demonstrate that these unfair and inaccurate letters should be removed.

I explained to my member that this arbitration existed in the "twilight zone" and that if the letters were written today she would only have the U-rating appeal to deal with the letters.

She gazed at me quizzically and said, "Why, in the hell, would anyone have voted for this contract?"


Anonymous said...

Great question.

I've been trying to figure that out for the last year or so. Oddly enough, even the full-time Unity hacks cannot mount a coherent defense on their own blog.

Anonymous said...

Why in the hell would anyone vote for Unity?

Anonymous said...

I am inaccurately quoted in this post. I did not say that the UFT had "a 50% success rate at arbitration."

What happened was this: Mr. Kaufman appeared at a letter in the file arbitration hearing as a witness, and use the occasion to attack the grievance process and the UFT as being ineffective and useless.

As a representative of the UFT, I felt obliged to respond to these charges. I simply said that the grievance process is a fair process, and that we win a fair share of the cases that we take to arbitration. Some cases are stronger than other cases, and it always easier to win a strong case.

Gary Rabinowitz
UFT Special Representative
Grievance Department

Jeff Kaufman said...

Gary (if this is who really posted this comment),

Why would I attack the procedure as being ineffective and useless if I appeared on behalf of my member and we both knew the only way to save her job was to have these letters removed? The comment I wrote clearly shows how the loss of this right in our old contract is hurting us.

You know you were very proud of winning 50% of the LIF arbitrations. When you stated that I pointed out that this was from a select pool of Step III decisions since most Step IIIs did not go to arbitration. In any case you didn't seem that you parse words when I spoke to you. What is a fair share? If it is not 50% what is it? The issue is clearly moot, anyway as we will no longer see LIF arbitrations unless we win back the grievance procedure in a future contract.

Jeff Kaufman
Last Witness at a LIF Arbitration

Anonymous said...

This--as well as senoirity rights--were both major, regrettable and inexcusable givebacks.

The fact that those who are supposed to represent us, skewed these issues and spinned a web of lies for meager dollars is totally disgusting.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Unity is running for reelection and still controls our union is even more disgusting.

Anonymous said...

What's our fair share of wins according to the Unity rep? 20%? 10%?

Chaz said...

I would not give you much hope in having DOE reverse a "U" rating. What is the percentage 2%?

On the other hand, a 50% success rate with an independent hearing officer seems appropiate and the UFT should not need to defend it. What they need to defend is eliminating the grievance procedures for L-I-F. That was inexcuseable!

Anonymous said...

I am proud that we will no longer have grievances. My goal of 0% has been realized! It tired me to no end to have to stay up late at night worrying about you peons. But, I am not through with you. First, I will allow supervisors to direct more preps with the goal of losing them in the next contract. In return, you will get more toilet paper! Oops, I have to stop. Mike and Joel are hogging the sheets from me.


BTW, we will change the name of the UFT. Instead of "United Federation of Teachers, it will now be known as "Usually F*cks Teachers."

Anonymous said...

Is every Unity hack a lying, two faced, double talking twit??

Anonymous said...

You make up some nonsense and then post it under the identification of randi weingarten. Just imagine how indignant you would be if someone authored some slime and then attributedit to jeff kaufman. Double standard?

Anonymous said...

You Unity folks don't have much of a sense of humor in addition to your other flaws that have been very well articulated here. Those of us who work in the schools need humor to survive what Unity has "negotiated" for us.

Anonymous said...

You want nonsense?
Go to Edwize and read Phyllis. Unity out!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm no unity hack, but most of what I read here really belongs on EdzUp and not on a union caucus site. This is not the way to go guys. If you want to turn this blog into satire, then label it so, and I will respond accordingly.
Otherwise let's get back to being a source for other teachers who are now only getting information from the NY Teacher.

Anonymous said...

I thought every post was packed with great information. We don't have to be bored to death to be well informed. The facts speak for themselves, sometimes the truth hurts.

Chaz said...

I agree with anon, the funny stuff belongs on Edzup. Let's keep this blog for serious dialog.

jameseterno said...

ICE believes strongly in freedom of speech. We don't censor the comments unless they're really obscene. If something goes in a direction we aren't totally comfortable with, we might comment that it is over the top but to start censoring comments that make a point through satire would be a mistake in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I never once said or implied that this site be censored. The issue was about being taken seriously. Many of us do not find union issues boring and are looking for outlets that can articulate the problems we face. And after rereading some of these comments, they don't even come close to being satire.

Anonymous said...

Comment on:
"most of what I read here really belongs on EdzUp and not on a union caucus site. This is not the way to go guys."

Focus on the lead articles rather than on the comments, which ICE has no control over. Many people read the leads but do not comment so these comments are not necessarily reflective of ICE or its active supporters.

As James said, we do not pull comments, which if we did, would certainly clean the blog up but put us in the category of Edwise.

But I would urge people to keep the comments directed at the original post instead of cursing Unity and its supporters. Randi got 85% of the vote last time so don't fool yourselves that everyone is against Unity. Convince people with rational arguments.

And one more thing: Unity is a massive machine, often hidden from the members of even people in their own schools. Don't expect them to go very soon. Or very easily. They can only be challenged by building alternatives at the school level. This is not about running in an election every 3 years or posting anti-Unity comments on a blog. Ask yourselves what you are doing to build the alternative in your schools.

The new ICE leaflet will be out and focus on getting it to your colleagues.

Anonymous said...


People do read the comments and you know how Randi loves to use such comments when she speaks to the delegates. I know because I've heard her, and people will think she is being victimized.

So I hope your caveat is well taken.

BTW my ICE-supporting CC just published the policy notes and in it she basically agreed with the principal that we should use "discretion" before filing an incident report because our "school report card" is judged on these reports. So I gather that means if a 5-year old hits you, don't report it. But when that same child a year later sticks a pair of scissors in another teacher, there is no paper trail to prove he/she is violent.

Her note then went on to say that if you miss a union meeting, which is scheduled early in the morning, you have no right to ask her what you missed. All the young moms who have to get their kids ready for school or childcare hit the roof. The letter then went on to yell at the teachers because no one said thank you to her for bringing in bagels. (Ask anyone who has served as CC and the answer is always--"it's a thankless job!")
So you may want to add to your notes that go out to ICE supporters that they should be careful what they put in print because it can have adverse results.

Anonymous said...

OK no funny stuff. I'll stick to reading the UTP blog instead... those people have a sense of humor, and have declared war on Unity. It is going to take more than serious dialog to overthrow the corrupt regime that has dominated our union for decades. Wake up people, its time for an all out attack. Moderation has gotten ICE and TJC very little for all the years they've been working at it.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary. More teachers are upset this year more than any other. This should be a golden opportunity but you need to learn how to work it. It's fine for UTP to joke because they do not sit on the Executive Board. (or do they?)
This is the time for meaningful debate and to stay on message.

You guys have so many other outlets and blogs to joke on. This blog however needs to be used as a resouce for teachers who are looking into an alternative to Unity.

jameseterno said...

To the Person who Has a Chapter Leader who Supports ICE-

Please tell that chapter leader to get in contact with Jeff Kaufman, Norm Scott or me. We'll do our best to help with what goes out to the staff if the person needs assistance. You can reach us by emailing the feedback address on the ICE website.

By the way, no UTP people are on the Executive Board but they are active at the Delegate Assembly. ICE/TJC has six people on the Executive Board out of 89.

Personally, I need a sense of humor to survive the DOE/UFT. If people want to vent on the comments section out of frustration, I'm ok with it.