Wednesday, August 29, 2007



by James Eterno UFT Chapter Leader Jamaica High School

Those of us who work for the City of New York are well acquainted with pattern bargaining. One municipal union settles on a contract with the city that has a certain percentage salary increase, and other unions are then basically certain to receive the same percentage salary increase for the length of that particular round of collective bargaining. DC 37 set the pattern for the UFT's current Agreement when they agreed to a contract in 2006 and we took similar terms so this year we will get a 2% increase on October 13 and a 5% increase on May 19, 2008. Our Contract will expire October 31, 2009.

Two city unions have already extended past 2009. The NYPD sergeants' union and later the NYPD captains' union agreed to set what we think should be a new pattern that extends for roughly two more years through 2011. The annual increases for the sergeants and captains in those two new years are 4%. Since they are uniformed services who traditionally often get a slightly higher increase than civilian unions like the UFT, we cannot guarantee increases of 4% and 4% for 2010 and 2011, but there is no reason why we shouldn't get close. DC 37 is in salary negotiations now. They could set a civilian pattern possibly sooner rather than later. (The PBA [New York City police officers' union] is attempting to obliterate pattern bargaining in arbitration but it's debatable as to whether they can succeed.)

With the financial pattern for city workers probably established for 2010 and 2011 by other unions long before the UFT even starts to negotiate, we recommend a strategy of emphasizing non economic matters when the UFT goes back to the bargaining table. We need to start by winning back what we gave away in the punitive 2005 Contract.

The UFT should be out there emphasizing how these two days of school in August before Labor Day are generally a waste of time. Administrators should use this time to properly reorganize so school openings won't be so hectic every year. The UFT should not be touting the open market transfer plan, but instead we should inform the public about how much teaching talent is being wasted out there as Absent Teacher Reserves because of the current system for excessed personnel that no longer guarantees placement in a school. We should talk about how not having a grievance process for objecting to file letters and negative observation reports has lowered morale (other grievances remain in the Contract). We should find out how much taxpayer money is wasted because of insane charges against teachers. We should also demand an end to hall and cafeteria duty citywide. It is demeaning to get a masters degree to walk hallways.

In addition to getting back what was lost in 2005, we should push for real class size reductions and real caseload limits for guidance counselors and other UFT titles; no more loopholes for the Board of Ed. We are well aware that the city will say these are economic issues but they can use the money from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit settlement. In summary, we need to insist upon professional treatment for all UFT titles.

The nation as a whole is coping with high teacher turnover according to the Monday, August 27, 2007 edition of the NY Times. We should make the next contract about improving our professionalism so quality teachers will want to stay in teaching as a career. We need to show the world the value of veteran educators who have been degraded in recent times.

Finally, the law that permitted unilateral Mayoral control of the NYC public schools in 2002 will expire in 2009 and will have to be renewed by the state legislature where we have some friends, so we should have some real leverage in the next few years. Teachers must be empowered in any system that is developed for school governance as well as in the next Contract.

What do you think? Please let us know.