Sunday, June 08, 2014


Bloggers have already crunched the numbers on the UFT contract ratification vote (see tallies below) and Norm Scott reported that the vote count was fair.  Members in schools that were largely opposed to the contract  are incredulous that three out of every four teachers supported another inferior contract

I'm a little surprised, not that the contract passed, but that the numbers approving ratification were so high but if one looks historically, 75% approval from teachers (77% overall with non-teachers included) is not unusual. 

Digging a little deeper shows why this result should have been expected.  The vast majority of chapter leaders belong to the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) or are independent.  Very few are in the opposition (MORE).  Busy members generally ask their chapter leaders for advice on union issues. If they asked about the contract, the Unity faithful would have informed them that it was great and so people naturally approved it.  Then when these same teachers have to live with what they voted for, they will probably become disillusioned quickly.

What is truly bothersome is how our expectations have been lowered by the steady bashing we have been subjected to since the Giuliani-Bloomberg years.  Obviously, our morale is quite low.  I don't see that changing much in September when most of us will come back to the new contract's endless "professional development" that has been nicknamed "teacher detention".

UFT President Michael Mulgrew says the contract empowers us.  Does it?  We are basically being asked to form school committees to choose between the lesser of evils. What kind of "professional development" do we want?  Do we want to stay after school two or three days a week for professional development, parent outreach and other professional work?  What kind of junk science (teachers being evaluated based on student test scores) do we want to use for our annual ratings?  The joke is truly on us as the principal has veto power over anything we come up with and then there is nothing we can do.

On professional development the actual language of the contract says, "The Principal shall review the SDC’s (Staff Development Committee's) work but shall have final approval of Professional Development."

I may be an anomaly here but in 28 years in the system, I cannot recall one professional development session that was truly worthwhile. Having 80 minutes every Monday is not something to look forward to.  About the best I can say on this provision is that most people think administrators will lose interest and will just give up after a few weeks in many schools.

The only cure for our depressed state is for the rank and file to start acting like we are in a real union and demand more. If a few hundred people who voted against the contract were to step forward and become chapter leaders, our world would change rather quickly.  The battle over the future will be won at the school level. 

Back in 1995 when the membership voted down a contract, there was a much stronger opposition to Unity in the schools as compared to now.  In those days Bruce Markens, an independent, was actually a UFT District Representative.  District representatives were elected by chapter leaders until 2003. 

If we follow the script set in 2005, when there was a 40% no vote among teachers opposing a horrific contract, people will subsequently crawl back and hide and not become more active in the union. Then UFT President Randi Weingarten knew the rank and file was not happy and quickly recovered by producing an early contract the next year that had enough money in it to stop any momentum from building for the opposition. If people just accept their fate in 2014, then the deterioration of our working conditions will just continue as we muddle on through. 

Absent Teacher Reserves, a category I will most likely join in September, have the most to lose in the new contract.  We can be terminated after a one day hearing if two principals cite us for undefined problematic behavior.  ATRs need to join together collectively to avoid getting picked off one-by-one by the DOE. It is called being a union and we sure could use one now.

As for the contract vote count, I agree with Norm that the American Arbitration Association and the UFT didn't mess with it although at the school level, it would have been easy to vote early and often.  Any chapter leader could have easily stuffed the ballots as the printout provided with the ballots had the identifying information of every chapter member. I could have voted for any member who forgot to cast a ballot. I am not accusing anybody of anything here.  I am pointing out reality.

Ballot box stuffing, or rather express mail envelope stuffing, was not how the contract was ratified. However, in the future there must be safeguards put in place so everyone is confident that the vote cannot be tampered with. 

Ratification by the numbers
Category# Yes# NoPercent
School secretaries2,12541184%
Guidance counselors1,80645980%
Psychologists and social workers1,30726583%
Occupational/physical therapists1,05826380%
Staff nurses3152293%
Lab specialists and technicians571975%
Supervisors of school security38393%
Supervisor nurses/therapists22679%
Sign language interpreters11379%
Directors of alcohol/substance abuse programs66% 


Anonymous said...

We have met the enemy and they are us.

bb said...

And I would have quit if they had not decided to withhold, illegally, all of the retro I have already earned.

Anonymous said...

That's no reason to stay.

Anonymous said...

Excellent overview. I know when I first started teaching I would go to my rep for guidance. After I became a rep and saw firsthand what goes on, it was time for me to do my own research and my own thinking.

Now I am interested to see how other unions deal with their contracts.

As for principals having final say over PD, so much for collaboration. When Farina was deputy chancellor, she issued an edict saying school committees should form the agenda, now she has backtracked on this as well. I cannot tell you how many hours of boredom I have sat through thanks to my principal.

deBlasio turned out to be a turncoat and Farina is continuing the Klein regime. This should have been our year to right the wrongs of '05, sadly things are getting worse.

Hats off to anyone retiring the end of the school year even if you voted yes. I voted NO in '05 and I was very close to retirement. But keeping basic seniority rights and transfer rights meant more to me. And losing the right to grieve a letter in your file was horrible. Maybe I should take a page from the 75% and become selfish because who cares if ATRs lose due process rights.

Anonymous said...

On the ballot it asked for your last 4 digits of social security number, or eis number or file number. Was this information actually used in validating votes? If it was (as I think it should have been), then manipulating the vote would be more difficult.

James Eterno said...

Since this information was on the member list sent to every chapter leader, a chapter leader could vote for anyonewho did not cast a ballot. I do not think AAA was verifying signatures.

Anonymous said...

Wow! At first the leadership was to blame, but now there is something wrong with the voters?
I don't know about electing anyone into office that would blame others for having a difference of opinion. Is this a democracy or not. At least this current leadership does not stoop to denegrate its members who have opposing views!

Anonymous said...

Who's blaming the members?

Anonymous said...

it would be a democracy if there was an equal debate on the contract. UFT leadership would never allow that.

Anonymous said...

i heard from a reliable source that non-votes were automatically counted as yes votes. e.g., if a member was on jury duty or sick during that actual vote, that member couldnt vote yet they had in absentia "yes" votes counted for them, as if they had actually voted.
anyone know if this is true?