Thursday, June 19, 2008

June DA Report: We Won Back Some Grievance Rights

by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

For the greater part of the last three years since the punitive 2005 Contract was forced down our throats, the UFT leadership has been telling us that giving up the right to grieve letters in the file was really a gain. They argued that after three years if disciplinary charges don't result from a letter, then it can be removed. They never mention that material that is older than three years cannot normally be used in 3020A hearings, which is the process to discipline tenured teachers. This year the UFT has not admitted that they were wrong in giving up so many of our rights in 2005, however behind the scenes they have been trying to find new ways to fight file letters and we are winning back piece-meal what we gave away.

Earlier in the school year, we were told about four teachers who challenged file letters in court and won. These letters were written following a Commissioner of Special Investigations report. The courts said a file letter for a tenured teacher cannot be strictly disciplinary. To discipline a tenured teacher requires a 3020A proceeding.

Fast forward to the June DA where we heard about the case of Todd Freedman who won his grievance on attendance from 2006-07. The remedy that he asked for was that the letter the administration wrote for his file be removed. According to Grievance Director Howard Solomon, the arbitrator gave him that remedy. The arbitrator also codified in writing that a teacher who gets a letter for file based on an underlying clause in the Contract can file a grievance and ask for the remedy to be that the letter be removed from the file.

For Todd the issue was Article 16 (attendance) and Chancellor's Regulation C-601 which would fall under Article 20 (matters not covered). The arbitrator, according to Solomon, said no specific number of absences automatically triggers discipline but a good faith case by case of analysis of the facts in a particular case must be done by a Principal. In this particular case, the principal had a policy that ten absences would lead to an automatic letter for the file. The arbitrator also said that there were five factors that must be considered which are: unusual circumstances, likeliness that the situation will recur, pattern of absences, employee attendance and work history, and the seriousness of the illness involved.

Freedman was then given a chance to address the Delegates. He told us that he had a bad year last year because of the death of his father and an illness. He then interestingly noted that the UFT Grievance Department told him to file a case under the Family and Medical Leave Act but it was Randi who supported his grievance (under Article 16). Why wouldn't the Grievance Department fully support this case from the start? Freedman concluded by dedicating his victory to his father. On a related issue, if a member is protesting a letter about Corporal Punishment, we were told to file a grievance under Article 20 (Matters not covered; the Chancellor's Regulation would be A420).

It is good news that we are winning back in pieces the ability to grieve letters in the file but this right should never have been surrendered in the first place and there are still types of letters that cannot be grieved. One final thought for our Unity readers: If the 2005 Contract was so wonderful and the new rights are better than the old ones, then why are we trying to win back our old right to grieve letters in the file? Please just admit that the givebacks were horrible so we can organize a campaign to win all of them back.

Randi's Report

When my wife and I walked in, Randi Weingarten was urging the Delegates to continue to fight budget cuts. We were urged to keep calling 311 and complain about cuts to schools. She also commented on the hearings for the Contracts for Excellence and how they have turned into Klein bashing. She then told us that collective action is the only way to move the DOE. We totally agree with her on this.

She then talked about the rights that excessed personnel have, including the right to stay employed. She also said that by Contract people in danger of being in excess must be told by June 15. It was then reported that 244 Chapter leaders responded to the UFT's online survey. (Unity readers I was one of them). When there are around 1500 schools, 244 responding doesn't seem that high. Randi said the excessing problem was severe in many middle schools. She also mentioned how the entire English Department from Lafayette High School was placed in excess. She concluded her remarks on excessing by urging people who believe they were excessed improperly to file grievances.

Leroy Barr's Staff Directors' report was next. He told us that the Borough Offices will stay open this summer from 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. from Monday through Thursday. He also said that 22,000 members have opted in to 55-25 and that the deadline is August 25.

The Question period followed. Someone asked why we are paid overtime at a cut rate amount (per session) and not paid time and a half like other workers. Randi said that it was because our overtime is voluntary but that we have won in the courts to make per session pensionable and in collective bargaining we could try to increase the rate. She said that now that we have essentially caught up to the suburbs in salary, we can look to improve in other ways. Readers: Have our salaries essentially caught up to the suburbs?

Other questions concerned using Article 8J to grieve a lack of a Pre-observation conference. Randi said we would attempt to fight this with a good case. A question was asked about computer access and Randi replied by saying that mandatory computer use was a new condition of employment and therefore we would ask for impact bargaining. Protecting Chapter Leaders who have been removed to the "rubber room" was also discussed.

Motions & Resolutions: Can you say Rubber Stamp?

Liberation High School Chapter Leader John Powers from ICE was successful in getting the Leadership to move the resolution on healthcare up to the front of the agenda. Powers has led the movement within the UFT to fight the privatization of our healthcare plans. GHI and HIP, two not-for-profit entities, have merged and may now be sold off and become for profit companies. Powers had a resolution that he has been attempting to introduce for months saying that we should oppose moving our main healthcare plans into the private for profit sector.

Unity proposed a watered down healthcare resolution that does not oppose privatization but calls for maintaining quality, affordable healthcare. Randi illegally motivated this motion from the chair. She then continued her assault on Roberts' Rules by calling on John Powers and not allowing him to present his substitute motion that opposed privatizing healthcare as an amendment. A substitute motion is a form of an amendment which is a debatable motion. Instead, Randi erroneously in my opinion called it a new motion and said that it needs a 2/3 vote to be placed on the agenda. We went scurrying through our Roberts' Rules and it took a while to figure out Randi was wrong but by that time John Powers had been given time to speak and he made some valid points about how healthcare companies that had been privatized in the past were as effective with 9 out of 10 people. He asked who would want to be that tenth person.

Vice President Michael Mulgrew spoke against Powers on what was supposedly a non-debatable motion and then Unity voted against the Powers resolution that opposes privatizing our healthcare. Randi then tried to sneak through the watered down Unity motion without allowing someone to speak against it and at that point I had seen enough and raised a point of order. Randi made a snide remark about how I wanted to speak just to delay important political endorsements but she told me I could speak. (Translation, my point of order was valid). I declined the invitation as there are people who are far more knowledgeable on this issue than I am.

Gerry Froenhoffer (ICE-TJC VP candidate for CTE schools in 2007) from Aviation High School then spoke intelligently on why privatizing healthcare is an important issue that needs a great deal of discussion and should not be voted on right away. He also talked about the history and mission of HIP. After that, the usual sounds were heard from the Unity faithful to end debate so they could rubber stamp the will of the leadership and so debate was closed. The vote, while clearly in favor of Unity's watered down resolution on healthcare, had some strong dissent.

Rating Joel Klein was next on the agenda and since the ratings were due on the day of the DA, this resolution was moot although it easily passed (Note to Unity readers: I worked very hard to have almost everyone in my chapter fill out the "Joel Klein Evaluations" and my wife and I along with friends from Jamaica and plenty of ICE members attended the rally on Monday afternoon).

Political endorsements followed as two controversial Republicans were debated. Lisa North from ICE said that with control of the New York State Senate up for grabs this November, it might be wise to endorse more Democrats so that they could win a majority in the Senate. Unity's people talked about the virtues of the Republicans they were endorsing and how they were good on our issues. Even our friend Gerry Froenhoeffer supported one of the Republicans. Randi left the chair and actually spoke from the floor in favor of a Republican candidate who was not pro-gay. All of the UFT endorsements easily passed. The Delegates also passed another resolution calling for the Executive Board to be empowered to endorse other candidates over the summer.

Finally, a resolution asking for the UFT to persuade the American Federation of Teachers to endorse Barack Obama for President was presented. Randi again left the chair to motivate this one and it carried overwhelmingly.

Another year of attending DA's is over. We hope you enjoyed the reports. Randi refers to the blogs at just about every meeting so you can bet she will read your comments. Comment away.


Anonymous said...

Since when has John Powers lead the UFT's fight against anything?

His argument was speculation piece worked together, it was devoid of facts.

Gosh this blog is humorous.

All of the usual ICEsickles can chime in now...




Anonymous said...

Mr. Unity do you get overtime at time and a half because it is mandatory or do you only get per session to monitor this blog at midnight? You truly need a life.

Anonymous said...

ICE stinks. ICE is no good. Nyah nyah nyah. You are ICEsickles. Someone at ICE wears a bowtie, and someone else is a hag.

This is what passes for wit over at Unity. No wonder we are where we are.

Anonymous said...

this is completely confusing.

can you greive a letter in the file or can't you?

the basis for griving a letter in the file the past was ALWAYS that an underlying clause in the contract was violated.

we seem to now have our right to grieve a letter completely restored.

or do we?

Anonymous said...

We used to grieve under Article 21A5 that the letter was inaccurate or unfair. Now we can grieve if another article is violated. The remedy we want is the letter to be removed. This is a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

"Please just admit that the givebacks were horrible so we can organize a campaign to win all of them back."

You guys do not understand the doctrine of Randi infallability. She has never done anything wrong.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why Unity would not want to investigate the healthcare issue?

Anonymous said...

Unity wants the conversion money.

See their resolution.

I will post it shortly.

Anonymous said...

Unity's Shitty Resolution (with comments inserted).

Resolution on HIP and GHI Merger

WHEREAS, HIP and GHI plan to convert to a single for-profit publicly traded health insurer to be called Emblem Health, Inc.; and

WHEREAS, both HIP and GHI were built many years ago on a commitment made to New York City and its employees to create quality, affordable health care for working families; and

WHEREAS, it was the assets and business of New York City and its employees that made possible the current financial viability of HIP-GHI and

There are 4 million HIP and GHI subscribers. The total number of NYC employees, including dependents and retirees totals 1.2 million subscribers. That means there are another 2.8 million subscribers (“working families”) across New York State. Therefore, the language of this third “WHEREAS” is exclusionary. How can we on one hand fight against education budget cuts and their ability to further destabilize families during an economic downturn as Randi rightfully pointed out at a recent DA and quietly subject many of the same families to the pitfalls of privatized health insurance?

P.S. Read today’s 7th and 8th “Whereas” from the John McCain Resolution. Why can we nix McCain’s privatization bill but not the HIP and GHI privatization proposal?

WHEREAS, a merger and conversion to for-profit status is acceptable only if the commitment to the city and its employees is continued by streamlining and improving services; and

How can a merger (which already happened) and a proposed conversion to for-profit status (euphemism for “privatization”) be acceptable if a commitment to streamlining and improving services take place? What does the commitment look like? Is it a contract? A promise? A handshake? This is silly considering the stakes involved. Should we sit back and allow the privatization of our health insurance take place in the hopes that services will be improved? Try telling a for-profit corporation to “Keep the Promises” (no disrespect to the KTP Coalition, which is doing a great job).

P.S. HIP and GHI have argued that having access to financial markets will allow their privatized company to use extra capital to finance the move toward streamlining and improving services. More capital? Why is there no mention in this resolution that HIP at this very moment has 900 million dollars in reserve? Do we have to accept the lie that they need access to financial markets?

WHEREAS, the Municipal Labor Committee has expressed concern that the compensation of three top HIP executives doubled last year and that the company’s CEO would be awarded a stock option package that could be worth as much as $20 million if the conversion takes place; and

What are the advantages of being non-profit? Answer: No more than 15% of a company’s budget can be spent on administrative costs. This means a cap on CEO’s salaries. Eric Dinallo, NYS Superintendent of Insurance, has not signed the conversion bill and yet these corporate sharks have already begun their salary feeding frenzy.

WHEREAS, rumors persist that upon conversion there will be a “flip” of both the management and control of the converted entity, a turn of events that would threaten the stability of municipal employees health benefits; therefore be it

In a letter made available to delegates at the March DA, Randi tells Eric Dinallo, NYS Superintendent of Insurance, that any conversion must include a guaranteed “multi-year freeze” on “flipping” the privatized company. There is no mention in this resolution of a guaranteed multi-year freeze. Why? What has changed? Will we be told what has changed? What we do get in the last “Resolved” that follows is impotent, weak language that utilizes words like abstract “guarantees” again in an attempt to pacify us.

RESOLVED, that the UFT, in concert with the Municipal Labor Committee, call on the governor and state Legislature to distribute a fair share of the proceeds of the conversion to for-profit status to New York City municipal employees and retirees, who are the real stakeholders in the companies; and

RESOLVED, that the UFT, in concert with the Municipal Labor Committee, call on the state Superintendent of Insurance to defer any decision on approving a proposed conversion unless there are guarantees that any successor organizations maintain quality, affordable health care for working families; and that the NYC Municipal employees and retirees share in the proceeds of any for profit conversion.

The above two “Resolved”s contain the gist of why our leadership has not staunchly opposed the proposed privatization of HIP and GHI. There is a lot of money (in fact 3-5 billion dollars worth of conversion money) that will be made available when the company goes public and must answer to one group of people only: The Stockholders. The stockholders will be the “stakeholders” and not the working families referenced in this resolution. This scheme of profits before people is the real issue here and it is the very issue mentioned in today’s McCain resolution. Is placing this after the McCain resolution supposed to soften the blow of the HIP and GHI fiasco? Are we to believe that the state will share the conversion money with employees? What does that even look like? Can we all expect a check for 30 grand in the mail sometime soon?

AND: Some people are saying this is no big deal. Remember Blue Cross Blue Shield? Well let’s take a look at it: In the case of Blue Cross Blue Shield, the process of conversion took place at a much slower rate than the proposed HIP and GHI conversion. In addition, Blue Cross Blue Shield was a vast national network of non-profit providers that was privatized piece-by-piece in states across the country. This allowed groups such as Consumers Union to study the effects of privatization since one part of the network operated as non-profit and the other as for-profit. They found that the privatized “Blues” spent less money on providing healthcare to subscribers. Their spending on healthcare as a percentage of total revenue = 73.5%, while the non-profit “Blues” was 83.7%. Privatized “Blues” pumped up the spending on administration (ie. CEO salaries). Their spending on administration was 23.4%, while the non-profit “Blues” was only 13%. Finally, one market analyst delivered cryptic testimony about the difference between non-profit and for-profit carriers: “In 9 out of 10 individual decisions they’ll decide the same thing, but the issue is the impact of the 1-in-10 decision where they will differ?” In other words, do you want to be that 10th person who is denied care? The person who pays the higher deductible? The person who gets dropped by the for-profit carrier? All to enhance the salary of a CEO or increase share holder returns?

AND: Speaking of studies…why has there not been an impact study done on the effects that the HIP and GHI conversion might have on the public? Recently, in four other states, including Kansas and Washington, outside investigators and researchers were brought in and their findings in each case led to a decision to deny the proposal to privatize health insurance companies with the same or similar make-up to HIP and GHI. Do we matter enough to work toward demanding the same kind of care and consideration given to four other states in similar situations to ours today?

AND: At the April DA, Randi said that it would be foolish to oppose the privatization of HIP and GHI because the state already approved its conversion. That is inaccurate. The state said they would allow it to go through if Eric Dinallo approves it. One man holds the key here. Surely, we can pressure him to oppose this privatization proposal.

LAST: HOLD ONTO YOUR SEATS: From the New York City Independent Budget Office (March 24, 2008) “In addition, the preliminary budget and financial plan may underestimate the cost of health insurance for municipal employees and retirees. Higher health insurance inflation and a greater number of retirees than anticipated in the Mayor’s budget could increase costs by roughly $37 million in 2009 and $48 million by 2012. IBO projects that the merger and proposed for-profit conversion of GHI and HIP could add $300 million or more to annual city health insurance spending.” WHO WILL PAY FOR THIS FOLKS???

Anonymous said...

July 1 meeting?

Either its a massive apartment capable of hosting the hundreds of thousands of ICE supporters


The few loyalists fit in the 350 sq ft apt.

July 1 . . .

Make sure you have some ICE on hand . . .

Anonymous said...

Tell Randi to build a bigger DA room. She's gonna need it.

Anonymous said...

Nobody ever said ICE was a huge group. Why Mr. Unity spends all of his time monitoring ICE is the question. You still haven't told us what your salary is for monitoring the ICE blog 24-7.

Anonymous said...

Howard Solomon sent out his own report on the grievance decision on letters in the file. He said pretty much the same thing that was reported on this blog. This space is once again a place to turn to for timely accurate information.