DELEGATE ASSEMBLY ONLY AUTHORIZED RANDI TO NEGOTIATE ECONOMIC TERMS
by James Eterno
ICE has no problem with the economic demands which the UFT Delegate Assembly endorsed for us, in coalition with other city unions, to advocate for in bargaining with the City. The economic demands, if achieved, would be a decent settlement and might actually even beat the rate of inflation. We voted for the economic demands at the the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly.
We also believed that the very limited non-economic demands that were put forward last month were part of our coalition strategy to work to get us a gain equal to DC 37's workers no longer having to reside in the city. (We already have that benefit.) We didn't think these demands were the complete list for the whole Contract and we don't recall ever taking a vote anywhere that authorized Randi Weingarten to close a final deal on an entire new Contract. However, with authorization to negotiate only an economic package, it appears that Randi is working to close a complete deal on a new Contract, not just a salary increase. This is a classic bait and switch. Bait us with money and then switch to make it a negotiation for the whole Contract so we can never talk about trying to win back what we gave away in the last round of bargaining. That's not what we sent her to do.
The DA never voted to authorize the negotiating committee to negotiate a complete Contract deal.
Our position is that we should attempt to get an economic package together as soon as we can and later work to achieve all of the non economic advancements we need such as fixing the excessing provision so excessed teachers get placed before new hires, winning back the right to file grievances for unfair letters in the file, ending cafeteria duty, getting rid of school in August, etc... If the money is settled, we could even ask for lower class sizes as we could battle with the Board of Ed and the issue would not be salary increases so we could easily garner public support. Imagine a contract fight that was not about money. We will be bargaining for better learning conditions for the students.
Unfortunately, the Unity bait and switch strategy may get us to a finished Contract before we know it and that would be a disaster for all of us. Forcing educators and students to endure two or three more years with this Contract's awful working conditions may be the death knell for many NYC schools. By the time the Contract ends, the UFT will be more of a dues collecting organization than a union and tens of thousands of educators may just give up all hope.
Finally, for those who say that we have to settle the Contract now or Mayor Bloomberg may pull the money, this is non sense. The DC 37 pattern 6% over 20 months without givebacks will be there for us. There are 30 years of precedent that says when one union sets a pattern for a settlement, then other unions are guaranteed that same pattern. We could send a kindergarten student in to negotiate and all he/she would have to do is present the DC 37 deal to the city and say, "Me too." We don't need to pay Randi and her team to do that.