Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Q&A On Proposed Contract

The ballots for the proposed Contract are hitting the schools so it's time to answer some frequently asked questions before you vote. Vote with your eyes wide open.

Question: Does a yes vote mean that mean we still have to go back to school in August?

Answer: Yes. The longest school year in the NY metropolitan area will continue through at least the 2009-2010 school year. Next year we are slated to return to school on August 30th for "professional development." Returning to school almost a week earlier than usual was not pleasant. Only by voting no could we have a chance to organize to win back this and the other givebacks from last year.

Questions: So, all the givebacks remain then if we vote yes? Does a yes vote mean I still can't file grievances for letters in the file or unsatisfactory observation reports? Does a yes vote mean that most of us will still have to work the 37.5 minute small group instruction period four days a week? Does a yes vote mean we are voting for hall, cafeteria and potty patrols? If the Contract is approved, can members still be suspended without pay for certain offenses before they have a tenure hearing?

Answers to all of the above: Yes.

Question: Does a yes vote mean that transfers are still up to principals instead of seniority or school based hiring committees like in the past?

Answer: Transfers will be up to principals if the Contract is ratified.

Question: What about if I am excessed? Do I have a right to be placed before new teachers are hired?

Answer: No. All you have a right to is a job as an Absent Teacher Reserve (day-to-day substitute) teacher somewhere in your district/superintendency. If the city has a fiscal emergency, we can be laid off.

Question: Many schools have been closed or reorganized in the last decade. If my school closes do I have preferred placement rights?

Answer: No. Under the current Contract and the new proposal, members only have the right to an Absent Teacher Reserve position. Even if you are a veteran teacher, when your school is phased out, there is no guarantee that you won't have to pound the pavement and find your own position.

Question: Shouldn't we be happy that the Contract is settled a year early with a salary increase that will put the top teacher salary at $100,000 in 2008 and adds a new $1,000 longevity for UFT members with 5-9 years in the system as well as other little sweeteners?

Answer: Many people will be looking at the money and no further. We believe that this is a "tunnel-vision" perspective. The salary increases (2% +$750 bonus in 2007, 5% in 2008 and 0% in 2009) will not even keep up with inflation while the worst working conditions in the NY metropolitan area won't improve at all (highest class sizes, most dangerous dilapidated buildings, etc…).

Question: Have we at least gotten the 25 years in the system, 55 years of age retirement incentive that was promised in the last Contract?

Answer: No, it must still be negotiated.

Question: What is this new severance package I keep hearing about for people who are in excess for over a year? Isn't it voluntary?

Answer: The Department of Education and the UFT still have to negotiate the package and we don't know what it will look like or if there will be pressure put on teachers who don't accept irrevocable retirement or resignation. We do know that the UFT should not have even talked about this subject as even the anti-UFT arbitrators from the last round were asked by the DOE to recommend that teachers in excess for 18 months be terminated and the arbitrators left no doubt by saying that they "specifically reject this proposal." Klein bringing it up again in 2006 was an insult. He should have been told emphatically no and then given strong UFT demands to win back all of what we gave back last time. Instead, Klein was able to take a second bite at the apple and won a severance package. The UFT asked for nothing and got nothing. You can't win big gains if you don't ask for them.

Question: Have there been any improvements made to working conditions in this Contract?

Answer: We don't see any. The UFT claims that three new provisions are improvements but we disagree. First, a new provision saying we won't get letters to our file if corporal punishment charges are unsubstantiated does not help us because we don't get letters to the file now if charges are not substantiated. Second, a new committee to reduce paperwork is just an extra committee added to the two committees we already have on this subject. Finally, a new peer Intervention Program that is not confidential and can be used against us in hearings to fire us does not look like a gain to us.

Question: What about our health benefits and Mayoral Control of the schools? Randi said there were no deals on these two subjects in exchange for the Contract. Is this true?

Answer: Let history be your guide on this one. In the 2002 Contract, New York State provided funding for our first swap of us working more time in exchange for money (6% extra for 20 minutes more per day that became "teacher detention" otherwise known as "professional development Mondays"). That particular Contract was so bad that it was renegotiated three times in the next three years. In 2002, Randi said that there was no deal with Governor Pataki for that money but he was soon thereafter endorsed for reelection by the UFT and he won the John Dewey award. Coincidence? You be the judge. Much is undecided today. What is certain is that the Municipal Labor Committee will negotiate the health plan and we will not vote again on it. In the last two Contracts, the MLC negotiated the health package before the UFT Contract was settled. In addition, Mayoral Control must be renewed by the state in 2009? We believe it should be opposed unequivocally by the UFT working with parents and replaced with real School Based Shared Decision Making.

Question: The DC 37 Contract that set the financial pattern that we are following was approved by 97 % of the DC 37 voters. People are so frustrated that they will jump at anything and no additional givebacks looks like a plus. Why should we vote no?

Answer: We are in dangerous un-chartered seas. We believe a yes vote is a very shortsighted move. Members should think very carefully about how they vote on this proposed Contract because the future of the school system and UFT members hinges a great deal on how this vote comes out. An overwhelming yes vote would send a signal that educators are content with the way the system is being run under Mayoral Control. Think about how it felt working in August; it didn't help students. Think about being an ATR. Think about suspension without pay. Think about the lost right to grieve unfair letters in the file; it's November and people are already being summoned in many schools to meet with administration over petty matters. Since Bloomberg has taken over the schools, we have seen our working conditions and rights deteriorate dramatically and there is no improvement in sight. A strong no vote would send a message that thousands of educators know something is wrong.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Contract: What’s the Rush?

The tentative contract agreement reached on November 6 between the DOE and the UFT, comes almost a full year before the current contract expires. Within two days it was rushed through the negotiating committee and the Executive Board and brought before the UFT Delegate Assembly. Most delegates had little chance to take a hard look at the details of the contract or inquire into the many questions that it raises. They certainly weren't given any time to consult with their school chapters. Why the rush? Did the UFT leadership want to get the contract signed, sealed and delivered before members had a chance to read between the lines and discover what may be lurking behind the "great gains" portrayed by the UFT and the news media?

The City is Flush

During previous negotiations we have grown accustomed to the mayor crying about the city's poverty, but let's take a look at the current fiscal condition of the city:

In the fiscal year that ended in June, the city had a budget surplus of $3.5 billion after predicting at the start of the year that there would be a shortfall of over $7 billion. For the current year the mayor expects a small surplus but come June the likelihood is that it will be much larger if the last few years serve as a guide to how accurate the mayor is in his estimates.

The stock market has risen greatly this year and this will enable the city to greatly reduce the amount it must contribute to meet its pension obligations.

The Campaign for Fiscal Equity's (CFE) lawsuit will certainly be settled shortly as a result of the recent election results. This will provide the DOE with additional school funding of more that $1 billion a year.

In these circumstances we should expect our union to bargain for a contract that would start to make up for lost ground economically and at a minimum relieve some of the pain foist upon us as a result of the last contract. So how does this proposed contract measure up?

Scraps From The Table

Despite the rosy financial picture for the city, the UFT leadership has agreed to raises that do not come close to even meeting the rate of inflation.

Raises of 7% over two years

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, has risen 5.2% in the first nine months of the year in the NYC metropolitan region

No raise during the last 18 months of the contract

Lump sum payment of $750 to be paid in January

A cynical person might conclude that getting a lump sum payment ten months before the old contract has expired could be a means of getting swift approval of the contract or that this payment will be made just a couple of months before the citywide UFT leadership elections take place. Perhaps they could save the city some time and money and just send the checks out along with the ballots.


The decision on whether or not to approve the proposed contract must be made with all the facts in front of us, but right now there is a lot that is not known. In the current tentative agreement we are being asked to reach a decision before all of the facts are known. Let's remember that we have still not gotten the 25-55 year retirement that was supposed to have been won in our last contract. Will the 7% raise turn out to be much less?

For the first time in UFT history a clause has been inserted into the agreement which specifies that negotiations will take place with the city and its unions with the aim of reducing health costs to the city and that the resulting agreement will not be voted on by the membership. In the past the Municipal Labor Council has negotiated changes to health insurance by tinkering with co-payments and deductibles, but the fact that this is being put into the contract for the first time implies that what is now going to be discussed will result in far greater impact to the membership. The mayor has made it very clear that he intends to force city workers to pay a much larger share towards the cost of providing our health insurance. We must keep in mind that the demand on the Transit Workers Union (TWU) was for them to pay 1 1/2% of their salary towards the cost of health care each year. If that becomes the new pattern for all of the unions we will lose a significant chunk of the 7%.

In the press release issued by the mayor's office announcing the agreement, there was a section talking about the increases being provided to the UFT Welfare Fund and the initiation of a new five-year longevity increase. The section was preceded by the following: "in order to address specific needs, the UFT generated internal funding to provide the following benefits." What does this mean? Are there agreements that have been made that we will find out about later?

Our union leaders are playing on our fear of something worse to get us to take the money and run. But UFT members must ask why Randi Weingarten and Mayor Bloomberg are in such a rush to have this contract - negotiated in a questionably short time – written into stone long before the expiration of the old one.

No Fightback For The Givebacks

Our union leaders, who don't work in the schools, have turned their backs on the increasingly difficult working conditions and loss of rights that union members have to face for the foreseeable future since there is NOTHING in the contract that deals with the tremendous givebacks. The approval of this contract will mean that we will live under our present conditions for three (instead of one) more years until October, 2009. These include a longer school day (which has not benefited our students) and school year and the stripping of protections against excessing or unsatisfactory letters in the file. It does nothing to give us weapons to fight back against abusive administrators. It does nothing to protect the thousands of us that will possibly face the closing of our schools that are deemed to be "failing" so they can be reorganized - the old staff excessed and left on their own to find other jobs or become day to day subs despite the number of years worked in the system. There is not a teacher in NYC that is safe from this happening to them. To add insult to injury, the new contract calls for the DOE to offer buyouts to those people who have not found a job after a year as a day to day sub. The price has not been set and will be left to some third party to decide. Can you imagine the pressures that will confront a teacher in that situation to accept the offer even if it means giving up their chosen career? The UFT puts this forward as a gain instead of the threat it is to every UFT member's job.

Diminished Expectations

It is a union's job to fight for better working conditions, not roll over and play dead like they have with this contract. It is only because the expectations of UFT members are so low as a result of the last few contracts and the abuses they have faced throughout the system without any noticeable protection from the UFT that this contract is being viewed as acceptable. It is a sign of how weak and mismanaged this union really is. Do we really trust that this leadership will fight for us in the next contract?

Sunday, November 12, 2006


As you ponder your vote on the proposed Contract that is basically asking us to extend the worst Contract ever for nearly three more years (almost a year remaining on the old one and two on the extension), ICE asks that you to take our Contract quiz.

Part I-- Givebacks from 2005 that continue in the two year extension that will last through 2009

  • Are you happy coming back to school in August?

    Yes No

  • Are you content knowing that NYC educators have the longest school year (190 days) in the entire NY metropolitan region?

    Yes No

  • Are you satisfied with the 37.5 minute small group instructional period that most schools have to endure four days a week?

    Yes No

  • Are you delighted with hall patrol and cafeteria patrol for teachers?

    Yes No

  • Are you thrilled that UFT members are now considered guilty until proven innocent and can be suspended without pay for 90 days for certain offenses?

    Yes No

  • Are you filled with joy knowing that administration can write anything they want and put it in your personnel file and you can't file a grievance to get it out?

    Yes No

  • Are you glad that administration can write unfair/inaccurate observation reports and you can't grieve them?

    Yes No

  • Are you rejoicing over the fact that transfers are now based on the whims of principals as opposed to hiring committees made up of a majority teachers or seniority as they were in the past?

    Yes No

  • Are you elated knowing that if you are excessed you have no right to a job and new people can be hired while you are demoted to a substitute (absent teacher reserve)?

    Yes No

  • Are you pleased knowing that if your school is closed or redesigned you no longer have preferred placement and can be stuck as a substitute (ATR) while new people are hired?

    Yes No

  • Are you satisfied with a shorter break if you are a school secretary or more work time every day if you are a lab specialist, social worker or guidance counselor?

    Yes No

Part II—The new two year extension of the worst contract ever that will last through 2009.

  • When the city has billions of dollars in surplus revenues as the Stock Market sets new records, should UFT members settle for salary increases (2% in 2007 along with a $750 bonus, 5% in 2008, 0% in 2009) that do not even keep up with the current NY area annual inflation rate of 5.2%?

    Yes No

  • Do we need Randi if a kindergarten student could go in with the city, present the DC 37 settlement and say, "Me too," and get it based on 30 years of precedent saying when one city union settles, the other unions are guaranteed to receive roughly the same percentage raises without givebacks? (The DC 37 pattern settlement was 6% over 20 months; UFT's extends it a few more months to make it 7.1 %.)

    Yes No

  • Is now the right time to settle the Contract right before Governor Elect Spitzer says he will soon settle the 14 year old Campaign for Fiscal Equity suit so there should be an influx of funds headed to the city schools?

    Yes No

  • The NY Times reported on November 7 that Mayor Bloomberg wants "separate talks aimed at achieving crucial savings and healthcare and pension costs." Should we give Randi Weingarten and Bloomberg a "blank check" to charge us for health insurance that is now free and not let us vote on any changes as we have in the last two Contracts?

    Yes No

  • Should we agree on a new Contract when the City still has not convinced the State to come through on a 25 years in the system and 55 year old retirement plan that was promised in the last contract?

    Yes No

  • DC 37 members won the right to live outside of the city in the current round of collective bargaining. Are these provisions actually gains for us?

-A new provision saying we won't get a letter for our file if charges of corporal punishment are "unsubstantiated" If charges are not substantiated, you don't get a file letter reprimanding you now.

-A new committee to reduce paper work on top of the two committees we already have in Article 8I

-A second Peer Intervention Program in addition to the one we already have but the new program is not confidential and can be used against us in 3020A hearings?

Yes No

  • Should we allow the city to offer a "voluntary" severance package that is irrevocable for people who are excessed through no fault of their own and can't find regular assignments because they are not politically connected?

    Yes No

  • If we continue not asserting ourselves, do you think the next Mayor will be any better to us when the city's labor commissioner has been James Hanley since David Dinkins was Mayor?

    Yes No

  • Have you been so beaten down by the school system that you are not willing to stand up for your rights and win back what was robbed from us?

    Yes No

Answer key:

The correct answer for every question is NO.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Sale Ends Today!

by John Elfrank-Dana, Chapter Leader, Murry Bergtraum High School

Ever been in an appliance store and were not certain about that big purchase? You wanna go home and think about it. But the salesman says, “The sale ends today!” Then you go, “Oh, what the hell!” and whip out that credit card. You weren’t sure, but it’s done. Now we’re being asked to decide something else in haste.

A new contract!!

Whew, that’s a relief. No more worries for two years! After taking a beating the last time your sighs of relief are well understood. But, does this contract have its own uncertainty built in? Look deep down the list of provisions to #17. It says that the bargaining of our health care benefits will be under the purview of the Municipal Labor Committee. The UFT leadership says it’s no big deal; that it’s practically always been that way. So, if that’s the case, why’s it in the Memorandum of Agreement? Something must have changed. Why haven’t we gotten an explanation to this question from the union? In a search for answers there are two pieces of information you need to look at; one from the New York Times and the other from the DOE itself.

In a November 8th article in the Metro section the Times stated that Randi Weingarten promised the mayor she’d help find a way for the city to save on health care costs. The DOE announced that the new teacher contract would be paid for by internal savings from the UFT. Wait a minute! What do they mean by “internal savings”? Could it mean that we will be paying health care premiums where we didn’t have to before and more in premiums for those already paying? I wonder how many months of health care premiums $750.00 would pay for. Or, that will be $750 MINUS the taxes, so about $590.00 worth of health care premiums. Say, a month or two? Given the catastrophic costs of health care, it’s plausible all of our so-called raise (about 3.5 percent a year, minus an average of 4 percent inflation leaves you at NEGATIVE .5). Ok, let’s call it a partial COLA, that doesn’t keep up with the one set by Social Security, which just went up 4.1 percent for 2006.

We said “NO” to a contract offer about ten years ago. Sandy Feldman had to go back and renegotiate. And that was against Giuliani! Remember him? Guess what? WE GOT A BETTER DEAL! The same arguments were made then: the mayor is tough and the economy even tougher. Well, maybe Bloomberg is tough too, but now the city is flush.

Could it be that Randi wants a quick deal because she’s up for reelection a few months after you get your $590 of chump change on January 2, 2007?

Add to this the following points:

1. There isn’t a single provision in this agreement that helps us at the school. No movement to reduce over- crowding, placing ATRs in classrooms to reduce class size, nothing to win the support of parents and to better serve our students.

2. The buyout of ATRs (likely victims of age discrimination in hiring under the new plan) could be opening the way for a future mandatory buyout. Who knows how much they will offer? Another unanswered question.

But there’s one thing you can be certain of from the contract- You’ll still be coming to work in August instead of September.

Precedent is being set and we don’t even have all the answers.

What’s the rush? The sale ends today!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Transit Workers Set a Precedent of Paying for Health Care. New UFT Contract: Could we be Next to Pay?

2002 and 2005 UFT Contracts settled any health care changes beforehand and were attached to Agreements. Read the language for yourself below this article.

The new language in the 2007 Agreement is different from what we had in the past two Agreements. Furthermore, in our old Contract in Article 3G1 it says, "The Board agrees to arrange for, and make available to each day school teacher, a choice of health and hospital insurance coverage from among designated plans and the Board agrees to pay the full cost of such coverage." (emphasis added by us)

The new Agreement would seem to potentially eliminate this robust provision. We don't think we are being paranoid in saying that the Contract that we were presented with to vote on this week is incomplete and if we approve it, we are giving Randi a "blank check" to force us into payroll deductions for basic health care that is now free. Look at how co-pays for drugs and doctor visits have risen in recent years. While we acknowledge that Article 3G permitted the city and union to incorporate changes into the health agreement, we never had language talking about a future "cost containment initiative."

What does this mean?

Shouldn't we be able to see what it means before we vote on the Contract?

The transit workers were able to vote as part of their contract package on whether they should have to pay for health benefits that previously were free. All we're asking is for UFT leaders to be open with us about this issue. When we raised the subject at the Executive Board, we were accused of fear mongering by Randi. We just want to be told the entire story.

The NY Times printed an article Wednesday, November 8 entitled, "New York Looks at Worker's Health Costs." The first line says, "After announcing a tentative contract with the teachers' union late Monday, the Bloomberg administration signaled yesterday that its next major negotiating goal was to achieve savings on health coverage for 300,000 municipal workers. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is quoted in the Times article as saying, "Randi [Weingarten] has said a number of times she has a commitment to try to see if the city can't provide better benefits more economically." Later in the article the Times says, "In the past, Mr. Bloomberg has said he would like to persuade the unions to have municipal workers start paying part of the premiums for health coverage." It seems perfectly reasonable to worry that other city unions are having a clause like our Section 17 (see below) in their Agreements and that when enough unions settle, Randi as head of the MLC will then negotiate away our free health coverage and there's nothing we will be able to do about it.

We're not the private sector. Many UFT members settled for lower salaries to be able to work with young people as well as to get stable benefits and some degree of job security. Tenure protections have been steadily eroded in our Contracts. Lately so have our health benefits. The city has 300,000 workers. It can afford large group rates. With the city swimming in black ink, there is no reason to even consider health benefit modifications. Does anyone at Unity ever mention how higher co-pays for drugs and health care have eaten into our supposed huge salary increases? Meanwhile, many more of us are going to need the health plans because the abysmal working conditions we toil under are making us sick. One thing we can all do to stop this:

Vote No!!

2002 Contract Section 5-Health Insurance and Welfare Fund

"a. The Health Benefits Agreement, dated January 11, 2001, is deemed to be part of this Agreement. The side letter agreement between the City Commissioner of Labor relations James F. Hanley and UFT President Randi Weingarten, dated February 8, 2001, is deemed to be part of this Agreement. Pursuant to those Agreements the parties have agreed to a series of payments to the Welfare Fund. Such payments are delineated in APPENDIX B.

b. Pursuant to the Municipal Labor Coalition Benefits Agreement, the Union Welfare Fund shall provide welfare fund benefits equal to the benefits provided on behalf of an active welfare-covered employee to widow(ers), domestic partners and/or children of any active welfare -covered employee who dies in the line of duty as that term is referenced in Section 12-126(b)(2) of the New York City Administrative Code. The cost of providing this benefit shall be funded by the Stabilization Fund."

2005 Contract Section 5-Health Insurance and Welfare Fund

"The Health Benefits Agreement, dated July 22, 2005, is deemed to be part of this Agreement. The side letter agreements between the City Commissioner of Labor Relations James F. Hanley and UFT President Randi Weingarten, dated June 30, 2004 and July 13, 2005, are deemed to be part of this Agreement."

Now look at the change in language on health insurance from the new Agreement which has been split into two sections.

2007 Agreement- Section 5 Welfare Funds

(This section describes Welfare Fund Improvements paid for according to the Department of Education with "UFT generated internal funding." What does UFT generated internal funding mean?)

2007 Agreement- Section 17 Continuation of Certain Health Benefits

"The parties acknowledge that collective bargaining regarding health benefits is within the purview of negotiations between the Municipal Labor Committee and the City. Cost-containment initiatives and program modifications in the City Health Benefits program shall be discussed with the Municipal Labor Committee."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tentative UFT/DOE 2007-2009 Contract at a Glance

Oct 13, 2007 to Oct 31, 2009 (2 years 18 days) 4 months 13 days longer than DC 37 Settlement

Givebacks from Last Contract Remain in Full Force
No improvements in teaching or learning conditions.
Hall and Cafeteria duty remains.
No ability to grieve unfair/inaccurate material in personnel files.
No ability to grieve unfair/inaccurate observation reports.
37.5 minute small group instruction period continues four days a week.
Longest school year in the region with 190 days continues that includes school in Aug.
Transfers for teachers subject to whims of principals.
Excessed teachers have no right for placement in a vacancy.
Teachers from schools that are closed or redesigned have no rights to be placed in a vacancy.
Members accused of certain acts are still guilty until proven innocent & can be suspended without pay.

Wages and Benefits
$750 one-time lump sum payment on Jan 2, 2007
2% effective Oct. 13, 2007
5% effective May 19, 2008
0% final seventeen months and twelve days of the Agreement
New five year longevity: $1,000 for teachers with 5-9 years experience and $500 for paras starts May 19, 2007
Direct Deposit for all new employees.
With this agreement UFT member salaries have increased at roughly the same rate as every other city employee over the last thirty years except we are working ten percent more time for 10% extra..
Increase in city contribution to our Welfare Fund to allow a $1,000 per family annual drug co-pay cap.
Per session activity maximums increase by twelve sessions.
Secretaries and Lab specialists hired after July 1, 1985 are eligible for restoration of health sabbatical leaves.
Transit-Chek program extended to include LIRR, LI MTA buses and Metro-North.

Healthcare & Pension Negotiations Incomplete
According to the November 7, 2006 NY Times, Bloomberg wants “separate talks aimed at achieving crucial savings on health care and pension costs, which have climbed in recent years.”
Contract assigns to the Municipal Labor Committee a “blank check” to negotiate cost containment initiatives and program modifications to City Health Benefits Program that are not subject to our approval.
If MLC agrees with Mayor, UFT members will not vote on any potential mandatory health care contributions. (Transit workers were able to vote on whether or not to contribute 1.5% of their salary for health benefits.)

They’re Giving us Sand in the Desert Provisions
If charges of corporal punishment or verbal abuse are not substantiated, UFT members won’t get a letter for the file. Currently, members should not get a file letter if charges are not substantiated.
New paperwork reduction committee on top of the two that already exist in Article 8I.
New Peer Intervention program (we already have one); new PIP is not confidential and can be used in 3020A.

Voluntary Buy-outs for Excessed Staff
The DOE may offer a voluntary severance package (the amount of which still must be decided) to all excessed personnel who have not secured regular assignments after a year. Excessed staff who accept the package must resign or retire “irrevocably”.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Negotiating Committee Approves Virtual Extension of Giveback Contract

In a vote with 3 members voting in opposition the negotiation committee agreed to a tentative deal, last night, with the DOE almost one year before our current sellout contract expires. The details of the agreement provide for a pattern increase (Randi will spin that this is larger but the contract is now extended for 24 months instead of the DC 37 pattern of 20 months.)

What is most disturbing is the failure of the negotiating committee to put before the DA a contract which deals with any of the givebacks of our current contract. We still can't grieve letters or go to step 2. We still have the 37 minutes and 6th teaching periods disguised as Circular 6 not to mention potty patrol and loss of seniority transfers and erosion of our workplace rights. The negotiating committee did not deal with the current pain that our members go through each and every day.

We lost the right to even question administrative decisions and we stand at the mercy of anti-union principals who control through intimidation. I guess in the final analysis we lost any attempt to return to the professionalism teaching once proudly exhibited.

The new contract proposal contains some items of concern which have been termed by Randi as "gains." These include a voluntary severance package to get rid of ATR's who have not found a job in a year. The right to have an outside person evaluate your lesson and have that report admitted at a hearing to terminate you. And of course a wonderful provision which basically waives our right to bargain about health benefits and gives this power to the Municipal Labor Committee. That, of course, means that we will never vote on any loss of valuable medical benefits.

It is clear that our Union's leadership believes that we are incapable of organizing our members, a promise that was made early on.Why settle a contract with one year to go this time and wait over two years last time? It is clear that the contract will be rammed through so that the membership will forget our current contract when the UFT elections are held next spring.

Why else is there such a rush?

The Executive Board meets Tuesday at 10 AM and the DA will have it on Wednesday. (Wow, are we lucky we reserved the Hilton. It's like we knew what was coming down the pike).

We can do better. Let the negotiatiors negotiate. Don't rubber stamp a contract that gives us nothing but the pattern and institutionalizes further the givebacks we current toil under.

Vote No!

Saturday, November 04, 2006



by James Eterno

ICE has no problem with the economic demands which the UFT Delegate Assembly endorsed for us, in coalition with other city unions, to advocate for in bargaining with the City. The economic demands, if achieved, would be a decent settlement and might actually even beat the rate of inflation. We voted for the economic demands at the the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly.

We also believed that the very limited non-economic demands that were put forward last month were part of our coalition strategy to work to get us a gain equal to DC 37's workers no longer having to reside in the city. (We already have that benefit.) We didn't think these demands were the complete list for the whole Contract and we don't recall ever taking a vote anywhere that authorized Randi Weingarten to close a final deal on an entire new Contract. However, with authorization to negotiate only an economic package, it appears that Randi is working to close a complete deal on a new Contract, not just a salary increase. This is a classic bait and switch. Bait us with money and then switch to make it a negotiation for the whole Contract so we can never talk about trying to win back what we gave away in the last round of bargaining. That's not what we sent her to do.

The DA never voted to authorize the negotiating committee to negotiate a complete Contract deal.

Our position is that we should attempt to get an economic package together as soon as we can and later work to achieve all of the non economic advancements we need such as fixing the excessing provision so excessed teachers get placed before new hires, winning back the right to file grievances for unfair letters in the file, ending cafeteria duty, getting rid of school in August, etc... If the money is settled, we could even ask for lower class sizes as we could battle with the Board of Ed and the issue would not be salary increases so we could easily garner public support. Imagine a contract fight that was not about money. We will be bargaining for better learning conditions for the students.

Unfortunately, the Unity bait and switch strategy may get us to a finished Contract before we know it and that would be a disaster for all of us. Forcing educators and students to endure two or three more years with this Contract's awful working conditions may be the death knell for many NYC schools. By the time the Contract ends, the UFT will be more of a dues collecting organization than a union and tens of thousands of educators may just give up all hope.

Finally, for those who say that we have to settle the Contract now or Mayor Bloomberg may pull the money, this is non sense. The DC 37 pattern 6% over 20 months without givebacks will be there for us. There are 30 years of precedent that says when one union sets a pattern for a settlement, then other unions are guaranteed that same pattern. We could send a kindergarten student in to negotiate and all he/she would have to do is present the DC 37 deal to the city and say, "Me too." We don't need to pay Randi and her team to do that.