Members of the opposition parties (caucuses) within the UFT are often asked how we would be different if we ran the union. One of the major differences between ICE-MORE as opposed to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus concerns how we would negotiate a contract.
Having been on negotiating committees for two UFT contracts, I can say the committee does virtually no negotiating. Instead, UFT leadership tells the committee some of what is going on behind the scenes and then asks for the committee to rubber stamp leadership's positions. Since UFT committees usually contain a large majority from the ruling Unity Caucus who have pledged to support whatever comes from the top, the committees exist mainly for show.
If an opposition group or coalition was ever to win power, we would try to institute a totally different way of negotiating contracts. There is no general UFT election until 2016 (important Chapter Leader and Delegate Elections take place this spring) but let's just say we were in an alternate universe and the opposition could negotiate the extended time provision for next year.
Our work day is six hours and twenty minutes each day plus a total of 150 minutes of extended time each week (in addition there are faculty and grade conferences). Multi session schools just put the extended time into the school days but single session schools do it differently.
The extended time portion of the contract agreed to by Mulgrew and the DOE last spring is a one year citywide pilot that needs to be renegotiated by June 15 or single session schools will revert to last year's time schedule. Here is the actual contractual language from MOA Article 5--Workday:
Detailed below are the terms for a one (1) year pilot to occur during the 2014-2015 school year only. Should the parties wish to continue this model they must agree in writing to do so by June 15, 2015 to do so. If no such agreement is reached, the workday shall automatically revert to the provisions of Article 6 in the 2007-2009 teachers' collective bargaining agreement and corresponding articles in other agreements.
This language gives the UFT some actual leverage over the time schedule for the future. If we don't agree to continue this year's 80 minute professional development Mondays and 75 minute parent engagement and other professional work Tuesdays along with four open school evenings rather than two, then we automatically go back to 37.5 minutes of small group instruction four days per week and a six hour and twenty minute day on Friday along with only two open school evenings but faculty meetings and grade/department meetings would still take place for forty minutes after school twice a month.
(I am not taking a position here on which way is better. I currently work in a PROSE school that has 50 minute extended time sessions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and six hour-twenty minute Mondays as well as Fridays. Some of our extended time is spent with the kids while the rest is for PD and parent engagement.)
The UFT should be seeking feedback throughout this pilot year on the extended time provision from the membership, School Leadership Teams, Chapter Leaders and Parent Teachers Associations. At some point the union should be polling each school community to see how the current extended time schedule is working out in schools and asking what members want for next year. Smart money says there are probably as many opinions on extended time as there are schools.
We should attempt to build some kind of consensus on how we want to proceed. The leadership could then go into negotiations in a position to either obtain maximum flexibility on how to use the time or to advocate for a specific position if a huge majority of schools want it.
Instead, what will probably happen is after the state budget is decided by April 1 (expect the union to declare victory no matter what is given away in Albany), the UFT will then remember that they have to renegotiate the extended time provision.
President Mulgrew will mention it at a Delegate Assembly and then prompt his followers that maybe the extended time provision needs some minor tweaking (maybe a couple of more acceptable School Based Options). He will then go and negotiate with minimal input from anyone. An agreement will be reached and it will be rubber stamped at the June DA by the loyalty oath signing Unity faithful. Even though it is a contractual provision, there might not even be a vote by the membership.
Then in September, UFT members will return to school. Some will be happy but many others will start complaining about the extended time provision.
There is a better way to negotiate but pressure has to come from the rank and file. It is up to us to mobilize to try and fight Cuomo's plan to destroy us as our main priority. However, we also need to remember that we should have a say in the nuts and bolts, day-to-day aspects of our own working lives, including how to use the extended time provision. I suggest everyone start conversations about how we want the extended time to look next year and bring these discussions to their Chapter Leaders, School Leadership Teams and parents.
Ultimately, it is in our hands.