It was reported in the latest issue of the Organizer by UFT Unity's Gene Mann that there are 869 fewer UFT members in Queens High Schools this year. Mann argues that the most likely cause of the drop is because so many teachers are agreeing to take on sixth classes which the contract allows under limited circumstances.
I think he is right that there has been an increase in teachers working a sixth class in recent years. My understanding is central DOE pays for teachers to take on a sixth class in shortage areas so the money doesn't get charged to school budgets. Add to this the fact that funding going to schools curiously has not increased since the economy has recovered and you have an invitation for management to try to bend the rules.
While Gene is probably correct about the reason for the problem, in typical Unity fashion he absolves the union of any blame. Here are Gene's own words:
This is not a problem for Chapter Leaders to solve. Chapter Leaders would lose arms trying to snatch the bread out of the mouths of people they work with every day in furtherance of the rights of people they never have met. Our newly empowered superintendents should investigate and curtail abuses of the provision.
Gene's solution to pawn it off on the superintendents is so antithetical to union values that it makes me cringe. Why should the superintendents enforce the UFT contract? Once there are at least three classes in a license area that are being taught as sixth classes in a school, it is a full time position and needs to be grieved. If the Chapter won't grieve, then the central Union should initiate it for sure. What kind of union allows people to roam the system as rotating Absent Teacher Reserves while letting other people make extra money teaching sixth period classes the ATRs could teach? Please don't tell me about licenses. I know they have to match available positions.
This story hit home for me because I was faced with a similar dilemma when I was the new Chapter Leader of Jamaica High School in 1996. Back then Jamaica had an illegal PM School where certain students were being given their sixth and seventh regular classes at the end of the day and UFT members were cleaning up with two periods of per session per day. I stopped it almost instantly because it was wrong as it was cheating the kids out of classes during their regular day and just as wrong because it was costing teachers full time jobs.
I remember a teacher coming to me after the Principal told her it was me that killed her extra job and screaming at me in public. Eventually, this teacher and the rest of the teachers who were teaching the extra classes told me I did what I had to do. The new full time positions that had to be created were well worth it and there are almost always per session jobs available for people who want them. I called this incident my chapter leader baptism of fire.
I didn't lose an arm or a leg or even a vote by "snatching the bread out of the mouths of people" I worked with. Union leaders need to do what's right and the politics will generally take care of themselves.