Three stories in this week's Chapter Leader Update caught my eye. The first was on contract negotiations. The UFT Contract expired on September 13.
The city has agreed to sit down with the UFT for the first negotiating session on Thursday, Oct. 13. Under state law governing public employees, the terms of an expired agreement remain in effect until a new one is reached. Salary steps and differentials remain in effect, but we need a new contract to secure the across-the-board pay increases we deserve. The current DOE-UFT contract expired on Sept. 13. The union’s 500-member negotiating committee is meeting on Sept. 28 to prepare for the start of bargaining. The results of our all-member survey will direct their discussions.
Aviation HS Sixth Period Grievance Win
For over twenty years, shop teachers and other non-shortage area teachers at Aviation HS were teaching an extra class all term but were being ripped off by getting paid at a lower daily coverage rate instead of the higher special per session rate. The UFT did nothing to stop the cheating until 2021 when new Chapter Leader Ibeth Mejia did the research on why this practice was improper and then mobilized the shop teachers to fight back. One of those teachers won a precedent-setting grievance arbitration case this summer. 20 others grieved. The DOE is still fighting but soon the teachers et.al. case will go to arbitration and the teachers should be getting back pay.
The UFT has won an arbitration decision confirming that the Department of Education must pay the shortage rate — not the coverage rate — to any teacher asked to teach an extra period every day as part of their program. While the practice is not widespread, we now have a precedent-setting decision that providing coverage pay for teachers who teach a sixth-period class on a regular basis is a violation of the DOE-UFT contract. A principal may offer a sixth class to a teacher only if they get approval from the schools chancellor and pay the shortage rate. The arbitration began as a grievance filed by an Aviation HS teacher with an aviation mechanics license who taught a sixth-period class every day and received coverage pay. The DOE argued that since the aviation mechanics license is not on its list of shortage areas, the principal had the discretion to offer a sixth class to aviation mechanics teachers at the coverage rate. The arbitrator sustained the grievance, stating that the DOE-UFT contract is clear that the coverage rate is for covering a class on a day when the regular teacher of the class is not available and a substitute teacher could not be hired. The shortage rate is the only rate available in the contract for teaching a sixth class, regardless of whether the class is in a shortage area or not.
UFT says the practice of principals shortchanging teachers who teach an extra class is not widespread. Are they right?
Oppose any Healthcare Givebacks
The Municipal Labor Committee (an umbrella group of over 100 city government unions) is working with the city to try to get the City Council to change the Administrative Code (city law) on city employee healthcare benefits.
The UFT Contract entitles UFTers to a choice of premium free healthcare plans (see Article 3G1). The change in the law would make it only a choice of health plans. This is part of a checklist on what the UFT is currently doing that is part of the Chapter Leader Update:
Lobbying the New York City Council to amend the administrative code to state explicitly that the city must negotiate with the Municipal Labor Committee on all employee health care plans and must allow that city unions may negotiate for employees to have health care plan choices.
Notice they don't say choice of free healthcare plans. A judge threw out the city-MLC's attempt to move Medicare-eligible retirees into a Medicare Advantage Plan (privatized healthcare or what we termed Mulgrewcare) or pay premiums for what they have now.
The city is trying to change the law so they can easily end choices for premium-free coverage and impose the inferior Mulgrewcare. They could then charge around $400 a month for couples to keep traditional Medicare-Seniorcare that today costs $0 in premiums. Unions like the Professional Staff Congress are opposing the change. The city and MLC will be able to end premium-free healthcare choices for active UFTers and non Medicare retirees if the change passes in the City Council.
Go to the Professional Staff Congress (CUNY union) page for more information and to get involved in the fight to oppose healthcare givebacks.
United for Change (opposition group in the UFT) had a resolution for the UFT to draw a line in the sand and oppose healthcare givebacks for UFTers. It had 49% support at the Delegate Assembly last year. Let's bring it up again and move it over to majority status to make it UFT policy.