by James Eterno; UFT Chapter Leader; Jamaica High School
Bloggers and others have already pointed out the negative aspects of the new parking agreement between the UFT and the City Department of Transportation. Jeff Kaufman was absolutely correct in his previous post here that the UFT acted contrary to a resolution that was passed in January which said that we would not give up any of our placards. We gave up tens of thousands of them.
The old system of giving virtually everyone a placard who asked for one (in many schools) and delegating the spots, daily on a first-come-first-served basis, was probably the fairest way to allocate parking. However, nobody was guaranteed a placard or a spot, even if a school had ample parking. The new agreement for the first time gives UFT members, through their Chapter Leader, a real voice in how a school determines its parking procedures. This is a right we never had before. As a Chapter Leader, I have negotiated many agreements on parking with nothing on paper to back me up. Now, we have some say in the process.
The actual language of Paragraph 3 of the parking agreement states: "With respect to the recipients of the on-street and off-street placards, principals and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Chapter Leaders will decide on one of the following distribution methods: (1) assignment to individual staff; (2) pooling of placards for use each day; or (3) some combination of these two options." The paragraph further states that if the Chapter Leader and Principal cannot agree, then the UFT President and the Commissioner of the Office of Labor Relations, or their respective designees, will make a final decision.
While this is not independent arbitration, the UFT President is involved in the dispute resolution process. This agreement marks the first time the UFT has used collective bargaining to empower us since Circular 6 was negotiated way back in 1996. Since that time, it has been one concession after another. Here, in exchange for giving up tens of thousands of parking placards, we have gained a voice in how the actual parking spaces are allocated.
Now the question comes down to the implementation of the agreement. I recommend that every Chapter Leader ask his/her Principal how many spots, both off the street and on the street, a school has been allocated. If it is too low, then appeal. Find places on school grounds to show that there is "additional off-street space that is underutilized" and appeal through the Mayor's Office of Operations. Next, find out about the building's current parking arrangements. I often drive by a school that has one spot on the grounds where the Principal parks. That staff should scream loudly. Even if they don't get any new spaces, they now have a little leverage over the Principal. What will the Principal do in exchange for his/her parking space? Maybe we can get something.
In any school where there are reserved spaces for a Principal or the custodian or someone else, the UFT members should negotiate through this agreement to ask what the administration is offering in exchange for keeping their individual spots? We might be able to make some gains in terms of parking or we could negotiate away spots for something else the Chapter wants. Rank and file UFT members should make sure that their Chapter Leader involves them in the decision-making process, and they should hold the Chapter Leader accountable if he/she does not.
The parking agreement does not exactly give us a huge say in our working conditions, but it gives us something, which is more than we usually have these days.