Monday, September 01, 2008

Chapters Actually have Some Leverage with the Parking Agreement

by James Eterno; UFT Chapter Leader; Jamaica High School

Bloggers and others have already pointed out the negative aspects of the new parking agreement between the UFT and the City Department of Transportation. Jeff Kaufman was absolutely correct in his previous post here that the UFT acted contrary to a resolution that was passed in January which said that we would not give up any of our placards. We gave up tens of thousands of them.

The old system of giving virtually everyone a placard who asked for one (in many schools) and delegating the spots, daily on a first-come-first-served basis, was probably the fairest way to allocate parking. However, nobody was guaranteed a placard or a spot, even if a school had ample parking. The new agreement for the first time gives UFT members, through their Chapter Leader, a real voice in how a school determines its parking procedures. This is a right we never had before. As a Chapter Leader, I have negotiated many agreements on parking with nothing on paper to back me up. Now, we have some say in the process.

The actual language of Paragraph 3 of the parking agreement states: "With respect to the recipients of the on-street and off-street placards, principals and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Chapter Leaders will decide on one of the following distribution methods: (1) assignment to individual staff; (2) pooling of placards for use each day; or (3) some combination of these two options." The paragraph further states that if the Chapter Leader and Principal cannot agree, then the UFT President and the Commissioner of the Office of Labor Relations, or their respective designees, will make a final decision.

While this is not independent arbitration, the UFT President is involved in the dispute resolution process. This agreement marks the first time the UFT has used collective bargaining to empower us since Circular 6 was negotiated way back in 1996. Since that time, it has been one concession after another. Here, in exchange for giving up tens of thousands of parking placards, we have gained a voice in how the actual parking spaces are allocated.

Now the question comes down to the implementation of the agreement. I recommend that every Chapter Leader ask his/her Principal how many spots, both off the street and on the street, a school has been allocated. If it is too low, then appeal. Find places on school grounds to show that there is "additional off-street space that is underutilized" and appeal through the Mayor's Office of Operations. Next, find out about the building's current parking arrangements. I often drive by a school that has one spot on the grounds where the Principal parks. That staff should scream loudly. Even if they don't get any new spaces, they now have a little leverage over the Principal. What will the Principal do in exchange for his/her parking space? Maybe we can get something.

In any school where there are reserved spaces for a Principal or the custodian or someone else, the UFT members should negotiate through this agreement to ask what the administration is offering in exchange for keeping their individual spots? We might be able to make some gains in terms of parking or we could negotiate away spots for something else the Chapter wants. Rank and file UFT members should make sure that their Chapter Leader involves them in the decision-making process, and they should hold the Chapter Leader accountable if he/she does not.

The parking agreement does not exactly give us a huge say in our working conditions, but it gives us something, which is more than we usually have these days.


NYC Educator said...

"Here, in exchange for giving up tens of thousands of parking placards, we have gained a voice in how the actual parking spaces are allocated."

OK, James, but does that sound like a good trade to you? Despite your apparent enthusiasm, I'm not convinced this equals a net gain for our members.

Anonymous said...

How about instead you folks fight for things like parking cash-outs, free transit passses and better bicycling facilities around schools? Sounds like a more productive strategy than fighting for scraps -- you may have noticed that the automobile is going to play a smaller role in our society in the future. Best plan now.

Anonymous said...

"Find places on school grounds to show that there is "additional off-street space that is underutilized" and appeal through the Mayor's Office of Operations"

This is a terrible idea -- a sure-fire way of turning your school into a building surrounded by an ocean of parking. Think about the impact this would have on your students: more parking = more driving. That means a greater risk of injuries and fatatlies due to car crashes, more asthma, etc. One could even argue that this would discourage students from arriving by walking or bicycling.

Your students are primary, parking is secondary.

Anonymous said...

You may be right Mr. Educator. The trade might not be a gain. I was trying to say that we should do what we can to make the best of this. In the last few years, it's been "The Principal decides," on every issue. Finally, that has changed a little. That tiny empowerment does seem like a small step in the right direction.

To Anonymous at 7:50 p.m.

If you appeal and they say there are more parking spaces than they originally thought, then you get more parking placards. That's something most of the people I represent would want.

As for the assertion that more placards mean that more people will drive and and that has a bad impact on students and the environment, you have a point but if we don't distribute the placards fairly, then only the wealthy and privileged (i.e. the principal and the custodian) can drive. That's not very egalitarian.

I represent a school in Eastern Queens where many members live in the suburbs and need to drive or take a year and a day to get to school by public transportation. Many members who work in places that are not accessible to public transportation are going to use their cars. People will create more pollution driving around for hours looking for a parking space than if they park on school grounds. How about giving placards to people who carpool or who have hybrid cars? There's room for compromise here.

If you realistically want fewer people to drive, then improve public transportation. But, if you make the working conditions more and more difficult, then there might not be too many people will want to teach, particularly in neighborhoods that are difficult to get to.

James Eterno

Anonymous said...

We've appealed at my school- we got 20 placards and there are about 30 spots. To be honest, I don't think the city is going to happily give us those additional passes. Then we'll have ten spaces where no one can park, in an area where parking is already difficult.

I'm with NYC Educator- I just don't see how this is a gain, not when I arrive at 6:45 to a bunch of spaces that I can't use.

Anonymous said...

When a union leader is used as a way to distribute scarce working conditions of employment the union leader stops acting like a union leader and starts acting like a boss. While merit pay is insidious for a variety of reasons the worst part of it was leaving it to the Chapter Leader and Principal to divvy up the spoils. While I understand the scheme seems to empower the Union in the long run it will cause greater resentment and complicity.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with NYCEd.

James you are getting excited over something that never should have happened at all. And, its unfair to show preference to suburban teachers rather than city residents. Not everyone who lives in the same borough as their school has easy mass transit alternatives.

This issue, like merit pay, may lead to hard feelings among the staff.

Today Bloomie is making a case to continue control and all Randi is saying is it needs to be tweaked,
No Randi!! It needs to be gone!!!

NYC Educator said...

Actually I would love to use public transportation, but it's not viable for me. It would at least triple my travel time, make it very difficult to reach my second job, and make it almost impossible to get home from my second job.

I lived in Europe for a while and it seemed you could take the train anywhere. It's just not like that if you have to come from LI to a city school that isn't near the LIRR or a subway.

Incidentally, I don't have a parking pass and neither does anyone in my 250% capacity building.

Anonymous said...


"we should do what we can to make the best of this" ??

Your beginning to sound like a Unity hack.

Did they give you a job? A plum committee assignment? Promise of a second pension?


Anonymous said...

There is no way my chapter leader or anyone else for that matter, are going to try and take the Principals, AP's or Custodians private spots in my schools 1 driveway. That is career suicide. Given the realities we all now face as teachers (thxs to UNITY) no one needs to make an enemy of their Principal, and I sure as hell want to keep the custodians on my good side. While I agree that from a certain point of view there is a small win, what we lost way over shadows it. Again the Bloomie, Klein & Wein brush one large stroke over an issue that needs some degree of nuiance. What we all need to do is keep our eyes and ears open for the beginning of the UFT UNITY spin of the issues they probally already know they are going to give away in the next contract. Sadly our union is on the ball with manipulating its own, when their focus should be on manipulating the public, press and DOE into accepting our ideas and goals. I don't care what any reformer says, what's good for the teacher is good for the students. You want to put children first then put the teacher first.


Anonymous said...

No Union job for James. He was at school today.