Life is supposed to be a two-way street, particularly when you are a worker in a union. However, when you have Michael Mulgrew and the Unity Caucus in charge of the UFT, you have very weak negotiators working on your behalf. While the UFT-DOE grievance process has been mostly suspended since March of 2020, the UFT and Department of Education quietly agreed last November to open processes for disciplining UFT represented employees. They even made up remote rules. Why didn't the UFT simultaneously demand a fully remote grievance process? (Yeah, we could have had that spring break pay arbitration and many others.)
We don't hear about this agreement on UFT member discipline from Mulgrew in his town halls but Jeff Kaufman put in a Freedom of Information request with the DOE for all UFT-DOE agreements made during the pandemic. While it took a long time for the DOE to respond to Jeff, below is a DOE-UFT agreement concerning disciplining employees and links to other agreements. As part of this discipline agreement, the Union agreed to "toll" time limits so we basically waived our right to timely hearings.
Before we get the comments that individuals should use this as yet another reason to opt-out of paying UFT dues, I think it would be a better idea to organize with your colleagues for a real union rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We need a properly functioning union now in these perilous times as much as ever. Tell your colleagues, please, that we can improve things if we organize and finally get Unity out.
Below the November 18 discipline process agreement letter that we copied in full are links to all of the UFT-DOE agreements that were sent in response to Jeff's Freedom of Information request. Happy reading.
November 18, 2020
Howard Friedman \
New York City Department of Education
52 Chamber Street
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mr. Friedman,
I write to confirm certain mutual understandings and agreements between the United Federation of Teachers, Local 2, AFT, AFL-CIO (“UFT”) and the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York (“DOE”), effective November 18, 2020, with respect to the process for conducting investigations by the Office of Special Investigations or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This Letter Agreement will sunset on June 30, 2021, unless both parties agree to extend, in writing, this agreement no later than May 1, 2021, or upon such time as schools resume full in-person instruction, whichever is earlier.
In the interest of moving investigations forward, interviews of UFT-represented employees shall take place remotely via video conference through Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Such remote interviews are intended to replicate in-person interviews to the maximum extent possible and all parties shall make good faith efforts to participate in such interviews. These interviews may not be recorded by any party. All notifications shall be sent via email to the employee’s official DOE email address and shall include a request for a read receipt.
Investigators will initiate the meeting on one of the approved platforms (Microsoft Teams or DOE-approved Zoom). Investigators must conduct the interview in a private setting that ensures confidentiality. Before commencing an interview, investigators should first ask the participant(s) and his or her union representative, if any, to confirm that they each also have the privacy necessary to discuss the incident. Should there not be sufficient privacy, the interview may not proceed until the privacy issue is resolved.
The DOE’s right to pursue disciplinary action, either pursuant to 3020a or by placing a letter in the subject’s file, has been tolled until such time as the parties commence interviews of UFT-represented employees under this agreement. The DOE’s time to impose discipline shall be further tolled as detailed in the section titled Subject Interviews.
Nothing contained herein is intended to alter any existing right that UFT-represented employees are not mandated to appear for an interview during non-work hours.
UFT-Represented Subject/Respondent Interviews:
1. UFT-represented employees who are the subjects of investigations retain the right to have union representation during the interview.
2. Nothing prevents subjects of investigations or respondents to complaints from being in the same room with their union representative during remote interviews.
3. The UFT will provide sufficient space so that the subject/respondent and the union representative can be socially distanced in the same room. The UFT will also provide the appropriate hardware for the UFT-represented employee and union representative to connect with the investigator.
4. Should the DOE deem it necessary for the investigator to be in the same room as the subject/respondent and union representative, the DOE will provide an appropriate space.
5. In keeping with current practice, should a subject/respondent not be able to join his or her union representative because the subject/respondent is on an approved leave, the interview will be postponed until the subject/respondent returns from the leave. There will be no prejudice to subjects/respondents who are not able to appear because they are on an approved leave. The time for the DOE to bring a disciplinary action pursuant to Education Law 3020a in matters where there has been a delay in scheduling interviews due to the subject’s/ respondent’s approved leave shall be tolled. Similarly, the time for the DOE to place a letter in the subject’s file shall also be tolled.
6. Any documents about which the subject/respondent might be asked to comment will be provided to the subject/respondent during the remote interview and adequate time shall be provided to allow for the subject/respondent to review any such documentation and take notes, including those needed for conferral with the UFT-represented employee’s UFT representative.
7. The UFT-represented employee and his or her representative will be provided opportunities, as necessary, to remove themselves from the video-conference to confer privately.
UFT-Represented Witness Interviews:
1. Witness interviews may proceed via video-conference.
2. Should a witness have reason to believe that the witness may become a subject of investigation/ respondent to complaint, consistent with current practice, the non-subject witness will be interviewed in accordance with the subject/respondent protocols listed above, upon request.
3. In keeping with current practice, if, during the course of an interview, it becomes apparent to the non-subject witness or UFT representative, if one is present, that the witness may become a subject of investigation/ respondent to complaint, the witness shall have the right to stop the interview immediately. In keeping with existing protocols, such employees will be provided with notice consistent with current practice.
4. Witness statements will be collected in a manner consistent with current practice and regulations.
5. Any documents about which the witness might be asked to comment will be provided to the witness during the remote interview and adequate time shall be provided to allow for the witness to review any such documentation.
UFT-Represented Complainant and/or Victim Interviews:
1. Complainant and/or victim interviews may be conducted via video-conference and shall follow the same protocol as set forth in the Witness Interviews section, above.
2. In keeping with current practice, if the UFT-represented employee has representation, the UFT represented employee and his or her representative will be provided opportunities, as necessary, to remove themselves from the video-conference to confer privately.
Beth A. Norton
General Counsel United Federation of Teachers
Accepted and Agreed:
General Counsel New York City Department of Education