I'm a little surprised, not that the contract passed, but that the numbers approving ratification were so high but if one looks historically, 75% approval from teachers (77% overall with non-teachers included) is not unusual.
Digging a little deeper shows why this result should have been expected. The vast majority of chapter leaders belong to the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) or are independent. Very few are in the opposition (MORE). Busy members generally ask their chapter leaders for advice on union issues. If they asked about the contract, the Unity faithful would have informed them that it was great and so people naturally approved it. Then when these same teachers have to live with what they voted for, they will probably become disillusioned quickly.
What is truly bothersome is how our expectations have been lowered by the steady bashing we have been subjected to since the Giuliani-Bloomberg years. Obviously, our morale is quite low. I don't see that changing much in September when most of us will come back to the new contract's endless "professional development" that has been nicknamed "teacher detention".
UFT President Michael Mulgrew says the contract empowers us. Does it? We are basically being asked to form school committees to choose between the lesser of evils. What kind of "professional development" do we want? Do we want to stay after school two or three days a week for professional development, parent outreach and other professional work? What kind of junk science (teachers being evaluated based on student test scores) do we want to use for our annual ratings? The joke is truly on us as the principal has veto power over anything we come up with and then there is nothing we can do.
On professional development the actual language of the contract says, "The Principal shall review the SDC’s (Staff Development Committee's) work but shall have final approval of Professional Development."
I may be an anomaly here but in 28 years in the system, I cannot recall one professional development session that was truly worthwhile. Having 80 minutes every Monday is not something to look forward to. About the best I can say on this provision is that most people think administrators will lose interest and will just give up after a few weeks in many schools.
The only cure for our depressed state is for the rank and file to start acting like we are in a real union and demand more. If a few hundred people who voted against the contract were to step forward and become chapter leaders, our world would change rather quickly. The battle over the future will be won at the school level.
Back in 1995 when the membership voted down a contract, there was a much stronger opposition to Unity in the schools as compared to now. In those days Bruce Markens, an independent, was actually a UFT District Representative. District representatives were elected by chapter leaders until 2003.
If we follow the script set in 2005, when there was a 40% no vote among teachers opposing a horrific contract, people will subsequently crawl back and hide and not become more active in the union. Then UFT President Randi Weingarten knew the rank and file was not happy and quickly recovered by producing an early contract the next year that had enough money in it to stop any momentum from building for the opposition. If people just accept their fate in 2014, then the deterioration of our working conditions will just continue as we muddle on through.
Absent Teacher Reserves, a category I will most likely join in September, have the most to lose in the new contract. We can be terminated after a one day hearing if two principals cite us for undefined problematic behavior. ATRs need to join together collectively to avoid getting picked off one-by-one by the DOE. It is called being a union and we sure could use one now.
As for the contract vote count, I agree with Norm that the American Arbitration Association and the UFT didn't mess with it although at the school level, it would have been easy to vote early and often. Any chapter leader could have easily stuffed the ballots as the printout provided with the ballots had the identifying information of every chapter member. I could have voted for any member who forgot to cast a ballot. I am not accusing anybody of anything here. I am pointing out reality.
Ballot box stuffing, or rather express mail envelope stuffing, was not how the contract was ratified. However, in the future there must be safeguards put in place so everyone is confident that the vote cannot be tampered with.
|Category||# Yes||# No||Percent|
|Psychologists and social workers||1,307||265||83%|
|Lab specialists and technicians||57||19||75%|
|Supervisors of school security||38||3||93%|
|Sign language interpreters||11||3||79%|
|Directors of alcohol/substance abuse programs||2||1||66%|