Sunday, October 16, 2005


by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School, UFT Executive Board

Before deciding how to vote on the proposed contract, it's important to be based in reality. Don't rely on hearsay. Don’t rely on alleged “SPIN” that supporters of the proposed contract want you to believe.

A lot of misinformation is being circulated. Most importantly, read the Memorandum of Agreement for yourself. (The following was taken from an “explanation” offered by supporters of the proposed contract).

MYTH: Supervisors would have free rein to write letters in the file which will go unchallenged.

Contract Supporters' Spin: Every member retains the ability to bring complaints about a letter to the principal and to append a written response. If a letter leads to disciplinary action, that letter can and will be challenged.

If a teacher is denied a teaching assignment, a per session job or a transfer based on a letter in the file, the letter will be challenged as part of the grievance of the denial. And all letters not used in a disciplinary process must be removed after three years.

In addition, the UFT will vigorously pursue charges of harassment against supervisors who use letters in the file to intimidate staff.

The union also wrested from the city an agreement to re-open this issue "if there is a disproportionate increase in the number of letters to the file" as a result of this provision. Bottom line: no letter harmful to a member will go unchallenged.

REALITY: The truth is that if you can't grieve a letter in the file, it can be used against you for three years. If you are tenured, the letter in the file grievance is your first line of defense. We are surrendering it. If you are not tenured, it is really the only line of defense where you can get your case before an independent arbitrator who is not a city employee.

U rating appeals go to Department of Education employees. The deck is stacked against us. The harassment article in the contract (article 23) only allows independent arbitrators to make recommendations. The final decision is left up to the administration.

Make no mistake about it, the leadership can spin it how they like but giving up the right to grieve a letter in the file including unsatisfactory observations is a tremendous surrender on the part of the union.

Also, remember if you are getting along with administration today, it doesn't mean your boss might find another job and then you could be stuck with a crazy principal. It happened to me when a principal who was well liked by the staff found a better position and we suffered under the replacement.

MYTH: All teachers would be assigned to cafeteria, hall duty or homeroom.

Contract Supporters' Spin: Although some administrative duties are on the menu, there are many restrictions on the principal's discretion to assign these duties.

Chapter leaders will continue to have a voice in determining how many positions will be allotted to each menu item. If a principal wants an unreasonable number of people doing activities like cafeteria duty and hall patrol, the chapter leader can appeal that decision outside the DOE.

The principal can assign teachers to an activity only if not enough people volunteer. Assignments, if necessary, must be made in reverse seniority order and rotated. Teachers doing homeroom will not have to do another professional activity. A teacher who is assigned an administrative duty one year cannot be assigned any administrative duty the following year.

REALITY: Who is going to volunteer for cafeteria patrol or hall patrol? I don't see too many hands going up. The Fact of the matter is that the principal can assign half of us to these administrative non professional duties every year and the other half the next year.

Why would a principal want to give us homerooms for ten minutes if he/she can have us in the halls or the cafeteria for a whole period? In the contract before Circular 6, we could only be sent to do cafeteria duty once every six years. Since 1997, it's been up to us to decide if we want to do non professional activities.

Now we could be assigned every other year to non professional activities such as the cafeteria or the halls. This is a huge step backwards in terms of our professionalism.

MYTH: Excessed teachers would lose their job rights and could be laid off.

Contract Supporters' Spin: No excessed teacher can be laid off. Under the current contract, excessed teachers are limited to placements in schools in their superintendency; under the proposed contract, excessed teachers will be able to seek a position anywhere in the city, if they choose to do so. Excessed teachers who don't obtain positions may be assigned to a school in their superintendency or to Absent Teacher Reserve positions in the school from which they were excessed or another school within that superintendency.

REALITY: The Union's Fact statement is not telling the truth. There is not a job security provision in this proposed agreement. The city could easily lay off anyone if we don't have a no layoff agreement. It is absolutely true that people who are excessed or whose schools are reorganized will have to find their own position or they could become Absent Teacher Reserves and could of course be laid off based on seniority.

People in certain license areas have already been threatened with layoff.
The current contract gives us a right to a position if we are excessed or if our school closes. This proposal gives us next to nothing.

MYTH: The 55-25 pension reform in this proposed contract will never happen.

Contract Supporters' Spin: The same argument has been made about every pension improvement the UFT has won, including the elimination of pension contributions for 10-year Tiers 3 and 4 members and the 2002 retirement incentive, which had a temporary 55-25 benefit for Tiers 2, 3 and 4. Usually the main obstacle has been the refusal of the city to support them, not the Legislature. In this case we already have the city's agreement to work out the details. But only if the contract is ratified!

REALITY: We might get the 55-25, not because it is an added benefit but because it won't cost the city a dime; we will have to pay for it ourselves with higher pension contributions.

Read the Memorandum of Agreement closely. It says in Section 6.2, "The [labor management] Committee will analyze the actual costs and additional contribution rates required to provide this benefit (including any additional health insurance benefit costs) without any cost to the City."

This means that we will only get this benefit if members pay for it themselves. That is creating a de Facto Tier Five. It is not a new benefit if we have to pay for it with higher pension contributions.

MYTH: The reconfigured time in the proposed contract is a sixth teaching period.

Contract Supporters' Spin: The language of the contract explicitly limits the new ten minutes, added to the former 20 minutes, to informal, individualized assistance to small groups of no more than 10 students [5 students in special education.] UFT President Randi Weingarten has made it clear that an additional teaching period is a strike issue for any proposed contract and will remain so.

Under this proposal, the session will begin after dismissal. In multi- session schools and in District 75 schools, the 10 minutes will be incorporated into a 6-hour and 50-minute school day by adding a minute or two to each period.

REALITY: We agree that the class size can't be 34 but ten students in a room with a teacher is a class. You can call it something else but it is an extra class. The ten to one ratio does not mean that they can't stick two or three teachers in the same room. It's only a ten to one ratio in the contract. This will be an extra teaching period for just about all of us.

There is nothing in the proposed agreement defining what can be done in this class. There is nothing that I can see that will stop administration from programming these periods for makeup credits for pupils.

There is nothing in there to stop them from observing us during that period and then writing us up unsatisfactory which we won't be able to grieve.

As for the multi session issue, it will be up to the principal to decide if he/she has space available to give the extra class. When principals figure out how much they can cut their per session budgets by not having to offer PM School, tutoring, makeup labs and makeup gyms, you will see how they suddenly will find space where there is none today. Only the most crowded of high schools and district 75 schools will add an extra minute to periods.
Everyone else will be doing the 37.5 minute teaching period.

MYTH: We would lose all our seniority rights.

Contract Supporters' Spin: Our seniority rights, including school seniority, are completely intact for layoffs, excessing, program preferences and other assignments under the proposed contract. The only change would be the end of the seniority transfer plan.

REALITY: The SBO transfer plan is eliminated along with the Seniority Transfer Plan. Instead of a personnel committee deciding who to select, the committee makes recommendations but the principal makes the determination based on whatever criteria he likes with no expedited grievance process if you are denied a transfer. The only thing a principal cannot do is discriminate. Good luck trying to prove discrimination.

MYTH: There is no raise in this contract.

Contract Supporters' Spin: Every union that bettered the basic 0-3-1 or 4.17% over three years civilian pattern set by DC 37 has made substantial trade-offs.

Pattern bargaining has persisted since the fiscal crisis. Take the recent sanitation agreement. It cuts starting salaries (as did the police contract), lengthens routes and reduces the number of people on some trucks from two to one, producing both layoffs and huge savings for the city. In our case the time-for-money swap consists of 10 minutes a day and two additional work days a year (3 in Brooklyn and Queens) for a trade-off of 4.2%. The rest of the 15% increase - 10.8% -- is a clear raise.

REALITY: Using the leadership's own math, 10.8% over 52 months and twelve days is less than 2.5% a year in raises for veterans and for new teachers that would come out to less than 2% and for per session it would be 1.7% a year. Not exactly a big increase.

We can beat pattern bargaining by having a credible strike threat as the Transit Workers' Union did in 2002 and will again this winter when their contract expires. According to the NY Times of December 20, 2002, transit workers received a 4.5% annual increase in compensation without givebacks because their health plan received a huge infusion of cash as it was about to go bankrupt.

In addition, they had their disciplinary code revised in favor of the workers. At the time, Randi Weingarten told the NY Times, "The health bailout is very significant. That helped turn a modest contract into a pretty good contract."

Randi is head of the Municipal Labor Committee and as such she could also try to get coalition bargaining with other unions. She has not done so. The Professional Staff Congress (CUNY Professors) does not have a contract and they are holding out for a better deal. We should also.

MYTH: If we vote this contract down, we can always go back to the negotiating table and get a better deal.

Contract Supporters' Spin: There is no legal obligation for the mayor or the chancellor to come back to the table. Given their history, there is no reason to believe that they would do so, let alone offer a better deal. Mayor Giuliani re-negotiated the 1995 agreement because he had committed a labor violation when he broke his promise and raised city managers' salaries. And the deal reached several months later simply moved money around, adding two months to the previous 61-month deal to reduce the 25-year longevity to 22 years and eliminate a temporary cut in starting salaries.

If this contract is voted down, the most likely option is a strike authorization vote by the members. Waiting another five years is unrealistic for our members and would undoubtedly leave us further behind as we would NEVER win eight years of retroactive pay.

REALITY: Bloomberg has to go back to the negotiating table as the law requires the Mayor to bargain in good faith. We will have significantly strengthened our hand if we vote no.

Giuliani had no competition for reelection and yet he returned to the table after we voted the contract down in 1995. In the revised agreement in 1996 there was also a real retirement incentive tied to the contract, new P credit courses were added, Circular 6 was made stronger to ensure we would not have hall patrol or cafeteria duty and the city agreed to add money to our welfare funds. We can do better now; we can't do much worse.

Many of the people who work full time for the union and will not have to live under this contract will get a 15% increase for spending ten more minutes per day in the UFT office. They won't have to do cafeteria duty or work an extra small group teaching period.

Ask them why they are trying so hard along with the Daily News and the NY Post, traditional enemies to unions, to sell you this giveback laden contract?


Anonymous said...

I am voting NO but something you said makes it sound like a teacher in a multi-session school will have it better. We are already teaching longer since the added time from the last contract was simply added into the day. Students in single session schools may or may not show up for extra help and in certain subjects, students will definitely not come to an extra class, so some teachers will have this time for prep. I taught in LI for one semester and the extra time at the end of the day was a joke. Most teachers stayed about ten minutes, talking to each other, and then "snuck" out. This whole proposed contract is so poorly thought out in terms of the extra time and days, it's ridiculous, not to mention unfair. Unfortunately, many teachers in my school have the attitude that we can't do any better and will probably vote yes. No one likes it but will vote for it anyway. I try talking but it doesn't help especially when our delegate is telling people this is the best we'll get.

jameseterno said...


Tell teachers who are on the fence that the Professional Staff Congress is standing up to the mayor and the Transit Workers contract is up in a couple of months and they won't stand for this giveback filled agreement. We can work together with other unions, fight and win.

Also, a few students will show up for extra help classes providing they are getting credit and administration could criticize us for not having enough students in class. The whole contract proposal is a mess and should be redone.

Richard Skibins said...

This is an outstanding post!

Anonymous said...

It has been said before and I will say it again as an elementary school teacher--
With the 37 1/2 minutes extra help time, what happens when a teacher is absent? Who will get the kids? Will I end up with 20 if other teachers in my grade are absent?

This "contract" is an outrage. Shame on Randi Weingarten for screwing us. I think there should be a provision in the UFT charter that once a person is finished with the UFT presidency that they have to teach in the school system for three years. I wonder if Randi (aka Rhonda Weingarten)would like the contract so much if she had to live with it for a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

"A lot of misinformation is being circulated. "

Yes. A lot of misinformation being circulated comes directly from ICE.

Anonymous said...

We need term limits. Just like any other adult organization.

Apapercut said...

Excellent post! I will be printing copies for some of the less enlightened brethren in my school!

John Doe said...

Klein + Jack Welch - grievance rights = MUCH MORE TEACHER ABUSE.

Don't be the sheep Klein states you are...VOTE NO !!

Anonymous said...


I tried to post the following paragraphs on the UFT's Edwize blog, but of course forgot to log in so it didn't get posted.

But I did get an answer from someone who is, I guess, at UFT office, though he doesn't say, and I don't recognize the name and don't have time to look him up, and I thought I would post his response here for what seem to be some "limitations" in their thinking. Of course, I then have to end with mine back to him.

THE BIGGEST MYTH OF ALL -- that we only have one file.

I worked in a small school last year, and when I asked for another copy of an observation (from a principal who was not an enemy), she said very nonchalantly:  "Oh, I don't have them here.  I sent them all to the District Office. " Where I don't presume they just lie around unfiled on someone's desk.

Wake up, everyone. There are files and there are files.  If they want to build a case against you, there's copies all over the place.

We need MORE protection, not DILUTED protection.


I received a copy of your message to the blog and would like to clear up a misperception.

We have case law which says to paraphrase: the only file that can be used against a teacher is the teacher's school personnel file, secret files can not be used to discipline a teacher. I agree with you that it would be naïve to believe that the principal or the region might not keep a file with your name on -but it is clear that if it is not in your personnel file it can not be used against you. I am glad that you wrote and if you have questions you can get me at [his email address]

MY RESPONSE BACK TO HIM, with a couple of bits omitted:

I had LOTS done against me last year, and was ALREADY under major attack from the district. They didn't like the principal who had picked me, rumor has it that they thought I was her 'friend" (which I wasn't), and they decided that I had to go when they installed principal no.2. From DAY 1 of the installation of that new principal, whom I had never met earlier, I was under attack. In fact, I had a successful career until that point -- all great recommendations and thank you's for the music program I had helped to create at [my school], and straight Satisfactory ratings -- until the Super. at this new school decided to mount a huge attack on me. The only thing that stopped them from driving me out of the profession was when [my Dist. Rep.] told the Superintendent to BACK OFF, that the Union was going to file Harrassment charges against the principal. So they did back off.

So when you say "it is clear that if it is not in your personnel file it can not be used against you." I continue to say: BULLSHIT. They trumped up ridiculous Obs. reports (which got rescinded from my file by me and [Dist Rep] fighting), they trumped up discip. charges (which [Dist Rep] called them on as fraud, and they withdrew it). It was [the Dist Rep] that saved me -- not the fact that they couldn't use things in my file. That quaint little rule didn't stop them one bit and nearly lost me my career, thank you very much.

Who is being naive????? In fact, as CL at two separate schools, I was under this kind of attack for almost two straight years. I hate that the UFT contract did not work for me at all. [The Dist Rep] did. By consistent personal intervention on my behalf.

Anonymous said...

I think it says it all when our district union rep started by telling us about all the trials and tribulations of poor hardworking Randi, then proceeded to describe ICE members and others as a bunch of crazies, (without being in the least familiaar with the substance of the issues they raised), and then finally declared: "Well you have to look at it from their (meaning Bloomberg's and Klein's) point of view. THIS IS A SELLOUT.

Anonymous said...

Poor Randi is earning $230,000 per year ''on the books'. She will not be subjected to potty patrol, lunchroom patrol, letters in the file or children throwing things at her because they are made to stay 37 minutes later.

Isn't it odd that this is the best she can do? Randi, you are paid 5 times as much as most teachers from dues that come out of our paychecks. You are paid a mere $20,000 less than Fuhrer Klein.

Randi, is this the best you can do??