Yesterday there was a UFT meeting for Absent Teacher Reserves in Queens. The UFT is having these meetings throughout the boroughs this week.
Several ATRs asked some very thoughtful questions about the plight of the ATR. Mike Sill was the UFT representative who gave us information and handled our questions.
I was given the floor to speak at this meeting. I took advantage of the opportunity to address the ATRs by saying the time is now for the ATRs to have our own UFT Chapter. We have been disenfranchised as we do not have representatives at the school level of our own choosing. Our Chapter should include ATRs who rotate in schools from week-to-week as well as teachers who are hired provisionally for a year and people who cover for leave replacements.
We are ATRs until we are put in a permanent position. We are subject to particular contractual provisions. We need our own elected representatives who can understand what we are going through. It is a very different experience than being a regular teacher or counselor in a school. Being an ATR can be extremely isolating.
We are the only group in the Union that has no representation at the UFT's highest policy making body: the Delegate Assembly. Delegates and Chapter Leaders are not accountable to us and we cannot get elected as Delegates or Chapter Leaders after becoming ATRs. As some ATRs have been stuck in the ATR pool for years, we are clearly being treated as second class or third class union members by our own Union.
The rationale the UFT leadership has given in the past for not starting an ATR Chapter is we don't want to institutionalize the ATR position. This argument no longer holds any water as the UFT embedded the ATR position into the contract in May. The entire Section 16 of the new contract is about ATRs, including leave replacements and members hired provisionally.
It has to be noted that although Sill and Amy Arundell are hard working people who represent ATRs for the UFT, not one ATR voted to have them advocate for us. This flies in the face of union democracy and I believe it violates our rights to be treated equally under state and federal law.
If there are 1,800 UFT members combined in all three categories (weekly rotation, leave replacement and provisional vacancy), at a ratio of 60 members =1 Delegate, we would be entitled to 30 UFT Delegates at the Delegate Assembly.
I did not ask the question to Mike Sill by wondering if we would get a Chapter; I asked when we would have our own Chapter. Besides protecting our jobs this year, I anticipate starting a Union Chapter will be the most important union goal for ATRs.
I think we even have our slogan:
No Taxation (union dues) Without Representation!
Sorry, it isn't exactly original but I think it fits.
My question was greeted with enthusiastic applause by the ATRs assembled. Mike Sill answered that this would have to be taken up by people higher up in the UFT than he is.
As for the rest of the information session, we basically were informed that ATRs will start going on mandatory interviews in our own boroughs during the school day next week for leftover vacancies and rotation of ATRs to different schools within a district from week-to-week (or the UFT might negotiate for month-to-month rotations) will commence in the middle of October.
Nobody can yet define what "problematic behavior" means in terms of the new contract's expedited 3020A dismissal procedure for ATRs, but we do know that people in rotation will not be subject to the new process, only those who fill vacancies and are removed by two principals will be subject to the rapid dismissal hearings. We also had it confirmed that anyone missing two mandatory interviews will have resigned.
Sound advice from ICE blog: Make sure your GPS is working so you don't miss any interviews. If you are driving, check the parking regulations in advance for a school if you are able to. Some places are really difficult to park around while other schools are not easily accessible by public transportation.