Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rubber Room Representation Still Unavailing After All These Years

If you can believe the rhetoric the UFT is finally taking seriously its duty to represent members who have been sent to the rubber room. A closer look shows we have a long way to go.

Everyone knows, either through personal experience or through the experience of colleagues of the dreaded “reassignment” to the rubber room. I first came into this system when a well respected and loved teacher was “removed” from Franklin K. Lane High School for an allegation made by a student. Of course, at the time, the teacher did not know anything official about the reassignment.

He was very concerned about his students and wanted to keep them on track toward passing the Global History regents so he called me incessantly to make sure that I was providing them with the best instruction I could. His dedication was incredible.

We also spoke, after a while (he was in the rubber room almost a year) about his experience in purgatory. I couldn’t believe it. He was offered the standard UFT advice….”Don’t worry, you are being paid. Most of all do not speak to anyone about this.”

I asked him how he was going to prepare for his 3020a hearing and he told me that when he was served with charges a NYSUT lawyer would contact him. I advised him that no one waits months (or even years) to investigate a case unless they are in denial or they want to be certain that they are dismissed.

This was almost 10 years ago. After a recent stint in the rubber room I realize not only has nothing fundamentally changed in the way the Union deals with our reassigned members, things are getting worse since the number of reassignments have markedly increased.

How do we currently represent reassigned members?

Chapter Leaders and District Reps generally do not deal with reassigned members issues. This might actually be a good thing since the Union makes no effort to train line leaders on how to handle any of the issues that result in reassignment or charges being drawn. This leaves the member with basically no representation when he or she is reassigned.

When I was in the rubber room last year a member told me “his story” about an allegedly forged medical note. It appeared that after the teacher spoke up about the number of special ed student in his class (he worked in District 75) he was injured by an autistic student. He went to the doctor, who according to the eventual allegations, filled out a note which the teacher changed. The teacher claimed that the note was changed by the doctor. The doctor divulged the teacher’s medical records to DOE investigators which indicated that the note had a different (later) date than the records.

I asked the teacher what contact he had with the doctor and he told me he was specifically told not to talk to him. Did the NYSUT attorney send an investigator or make any attempt to contact the doctor or in any way investigate the matter?

Recently, a NYSUT attorney amazingly told me that there are no investigators and that the attorneys are overwhelmed with cases to provide the defense that our members need.

This might explain why, at a recent 3020a hearing I attended I was not subpoenaed nor had contact with the NYSUT attorney until the night before my testimony.

The only way we, as a Union, tolerate this misrepresentation of our members is because we don’t really care about these members. Just remember, however, the next rubber room reassignment might be for you!


NYC Educator said...

Perhaps you'd be better off hiring your own attorney. While it's unconscionable that we're apparently so poorly represented, there seems little alternative.

Unless, perhaps, we dump Unity next year.

Chaz said...

What is the percentage of teachers that are sent to the "rubber room" and actually charged under 3020a?

Anonymous said...

A disproportionate number of those in the "rubber room" are chapter leaders, delegates, and those over 40. What is Randi doing about this? Nothing!

NYC Educator said...

Maybe. But don't forget, she's very good at that.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me if the UFT's own people (chapter leaders and delegates) are not finding help, maybe that's a good enough reason not to grieve violations in the contract, or what little is left of the contract.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't you writing about this:

New York Daily News
Time to trim pensions of city workers?: Yes
Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Mayor Bloomberg has taken a bold and important step to address the spiraling cost to taxpayers of the pension benefits of the city's municipal workers. It's prudent, and also fair, because it would affect only newly hired workers. Nobody now on the payroll would have their benefits reduced.
In the current fiscal year, taxpayers will contribute about $4 billion to the pension funds of municipal workers and pay another $900 million for retiree health insurance. If nothing changes, pension contributions in 2010 will be more than $5.7 billion - exceeding the projected budgets of the Police and Fire departments combined.

These expensive benefits are far more generous than those of workers in the private and public sectors. They were once justified because municipal employees were paid less, but state and local government employees in the New York region now earn more than private-sector workers in most categories. In a 2004 survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that average hourly wages for public employees were 15% above those of private firms; among blue collar workers the advantage was 30%.

The city's pensions are also out of line with those of other large private and public employers. In the private sector, most employers have converted to so-called defined contribution plans, like 401(k) plans; only one-fourth of private workers have pensions that are defined benefits, usually a guaranteed share of their salary for the rest of their lives.

Defined benefit plans are still common in state and local governments, but New York's are among the most generous. New York's benefit formula includes overtime earnings, a practice rare in other systems, and city workers contribute a smaller share to the pension fund than do most others. Also, most New York City employees are eligible to retire at 55, well below the age for full Social Security benefits (rising from 65 to 67 in coming years).

New York should always provide the salaries and benefits needed to attract qualified workers for its crucial services. The mayor's proposal does not jeopardize that. The city still will be able to recruit a capable workforce, workers will be fairly paid and taxes will be kept from skyrocketing.

Brecher is research director of the Citizens Budget Commission and a professor at NYU's Wagner School.

Anonymous said...

Chaz said...


Why don't this blog comment on the NY Times Article?

First, the issue is about the "rubber room" representation, not the attack on the unborn pensions.

Second, nobody I know wants a Tier V pension and until contract negotiations are started between the UFT and the City when the city will propose it, it makes little sense to discuss this major giveback. "Just say no pension changes" should be the union position! Do you agree?

Third, Why don't you complain to your Unity buddies about their lack of response to a Tier V pension or are they too busy dealing with Darfur, Iraq, and other world issues?

Anonymous said...

Why haven't you guys updated your webpage about DA's since Oct. 2005? It's been 9 months! The Ex. Bd. update hasn't occurred since Dec. 2005. 7 months!

What's up!?!?

Anonymous said...

This is so important and tragic at the same time:

New Attack on IEP Teams

Anonymous said...

I am in the Rubber Room, falsely accused and set up. I feel the UFT is not helpful and not really on my side. I'm so depressed that "school" will be starting in just a few days. While surfing Rubber Room, I found this site. Any suggestions from those who've been there or others? I'm a para.