Disappointment

June 3, 2014 — 25 Comments

For the first time in almost five years, UFT members finally have a contract. But almost one quarter of the membership (23%) voted against the deal. Most of the members with whom we spoke who approved this contract only did so because they felt it was the best our union could do. We disagree, this contract does not provide the same pay raises that other municipal labor unions received in 2009 and some of those unions are already stating they will reject these terms if offered. We believe our union can and should do much better than this.

Under this new contract, teachers who were excessed from their schools because they were closed will have weaker due process than those whose schools survived. Different titles of teachers, with different pay and different expectations, will now be created and over ten percent of our schools will operate outside of UFT contractual rules and DOE regulations. This creates a union membership increasingly divided against itself and members who will have even less of a reason to stand together in solidarity.

This contract, which was negotiated in secret and approved by the union’s Negotiating Committee and Executive Board without seeing it in writing, represents a leadership that is out of touch with the union membership and students we serve. Educators everywhere want an end to high stakes testing and the seemingly non-stop test preparation that goes along with it, a decrease in class sizes and caseloads for guidance counselors and an increase in services for the children we serve. Instead, we have a contract that codifies the testing regime, ignores class size and caseload limits and makes it easy to terminate some of our colleagues.

Many educators voted against the contract for the simple reason that the raises negotiated, averaging to 2% annually over the 9 years of the deal, do not keep up with inflation. Cost of living in New York City is increasing by at least that much and expected to rise even faster in future years, resulting in an effective pay cut. Furthermore, while other city unions received 4% raises in 2009 and 2010, teachers will have to wait until 2018 to see those raises fully incorporated into their salaries, and will not receive all the money they are owed until 2020. This is two years after the contract expires, leaving open the possibility of having to renegotiate with a different Mayor. Much of this weak economic package was financed by a set of health care changes that remain unclear. Reforms could range from innocuous, such as making sure dependents covered by the health care are valid, to the disastrous, perhaps forcing teachers to sacrifice 2% of wages to pay for premiums, wiping out some of the already paltry wage gains this contract has to offer.

Occupational and Physical Therapists provide services that are essential to the success of our children most in need, but still receive wages far below other professionals in the DOE. Paraprofessionals are still receiving salaries that make it difficult to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Secretaries who retire are being replaced with part time workers. The funding formulas for school budgets are not fair, because they favor hiring inexperienced educators at the expense of those who have been in the classroom for many years. The lack of diversity within our workforce was never even discussed. With a lack of Black and Latino educators we have removed the most consistent advocates for a historically accurate, culturally relevant and inclusive curriculum. This contract is a lost opportunity to address these inequalities.

Last year, fewer rank and file educators voted to endorse Michael Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus’ style of unionism than ever had before. This year, instead of involving the entire membership in the contract negotiation and organizing with our parents and students, Mulgrew negotiated behind closed doors.  This strategy caps off a full decade of growing frustration with UFT leadership’s old way of doing things. MORE has a new vision and will continue to work with parents, students, and community members to achieve the public schools all our children deserve. In the spring of 2016, MORE will proudly field its second full slate of candidates to run against Unity for leadership of our UFT.

25 responses to Disappointment

  1. 
    Disappointedteacher June 3, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Teachers are just about the “smartest dumb people” out there…. We teach our students to know their worth and strive for the best. Why settle for a B when you can revise and edit for an A? We need to start practicing what we preach instead of acting like scared bunch of sheep.

  2. 

    What about school nurses? Salaries for nurses are far less than teachers. Nurses didn’t even get a mention in this article.

  3. 

    So no MORE strategy except to push for election in 2016? This is a political struggle that requires uniting the working class to fight for a workers government but MORE cannot think beyond their trade unionist struggle. The UFT props up the Democrats and de Blasio who is responsible for this reactionary contract, as is Cuomo and Obama, part of the assault on public education and all other democratic rights and social gains of the last 100 years. Yet nothing said about de Blasio and the need to break from them and the Democrats and the necessity to be honest and point out that there is not defense of our right without a struggle for socialism. Outrageous complacency by a caucus of wannabe bureaucrats.

    • 

      Give me a break. You ultra leftists have done more to divide the working class than anyone. That’s why when you put 2 of you in a room you end up with 3 sectarian groups fighting with each other over their “purity.”

  4. 

    A lot of people not paying attention. Very disappointing. Ya’ reap what you sow.

  5. 
    Philip Nobile June 3, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Let me put this idea in MORE’s Suggestion Box: a watchdog committee to expose and prevent investigative abuses by the cops in OSI and SCI. The UFT has totally abandoned us to these gumshoes who live to frame members at the behest of hostile principals. Special union reps who accompany the accused to interviews at OSI are worthless, refusing to call out corrupt investigators. This is a winning issue within the ranks and will bring more hearts and minds to MORE.

  6. 

    As a union, we will NEVER win back what we literally gave away! Sad, sad day

  7. 

    You mention that 23% of the membership votes against the contract but you do not mention the fact that 77% voted for it! I wonder do you not support the majority of our membership! In my eyes 77% represents a landslide! You also continue to mention the failures of the contract when in reality it is a huge win for our membership. When was the last time we voted on a contract where we received an increase that will amount to an 18% increase, the entire retro and No givebacks! I’m glad I voted for this contract! I have faith in our Union Leadership and I am looking forward to the positive changes this contract will bring to our schools.

    • 

      14 years of steady givebacks. A contract few other unions will follow. I hope you’re not an ATR.

    • 

      Democracy is majority rule but with minority having a voice. Yet here you go attacking MORE for expressing the views of the 23%. What you want is for these voices to shut down. Maybe Unity Caucus runs on democratic centralism but the UFT itself does not. Don’t attempt to impose Unity Caucus discipline on MORE which by the way allows all sorts of views in open discussion.

  8. 

    Teachers who voted “yes” for this piece of garbage are going to be hurting from more than a hangover once the reality sets in after spending that 600.00 on a big weekend bender this summer.

  9. 
    I noticed that... June 3, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Once the 77%ers stop celebrating this sellout contract then reality will be the box they will need to check off. In the meantime, I truly feel that the MORE caucus will have the opportunity to use the ratified contract as their platform for the next union election in 2016.

  10. 
    IteachNYCkids June 3, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    You say you are the voice of the rank and file. I must be missing something beause the rank and file 77% of them voted for this contract and you whine that they are wrong and dumb. You obviously don’t represent the voice of the rank and file. They spoke and you demonize them for it. You say unity squashes dissent… look in the mirror. MORE is LESS

    • 

      Wrong. I do outreach at schools in upper Manhattan and the Bronx. Most people… esp. in the elementary schools …. have never *heard* of MORE. Where people DO know about us… esp in high schools… we do very well ( MORE’s presidential candidate pulled more votes in the HS division than the incumbent Unity candidate.)

      “Voice of the Rank and File” refers not just to our support in the schools but also to the fact that ….in contrast to the Unity leadership…. we are full-time, professional educators. As opposed to full-time, professional double-dippers.

    • 
      Joseph Behrman June 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      Perhaps if the MORE caucus, organization or whatever you are could specify what additional benefits you would have negotiated for, you will be more credible to the rank and file. For example, we all are against the high stakes testing that is working against our teachers. What would you have negotiated for to reduce this? You need to remember that this area is being imposed upon by the state and federal government. What price should our membership pay in terms of how much longer we go without a contract in order to negotiate for any additional benefits (salary, work conditions etc.)? Does MORE believe the COMMON CORE should be scrapped, or reintroduced? If reintroduced, how? If you have answered these concerns, please direct me and others interested as to where we can find the answers

      • 

        MORE has supported and many members helped lead the parent opt-out movement while the power of the UFT sat dormant. That is how we ally with parents to drive a stake through the heart of high stakes testing. Our friends in Change the Stakes helped organize boycotts of the current field tests that waste kids and teachers’ time. Now tell us what you have done.

  11. 

    This Contract ON Teachers is more than a disappointment. It is a travesty. A national disaster. We are very horribly divided. Those who voted yeas voted to further marginalize their fellow experienced and credentialed colleagues who have now become in writing second class citizens in the ATR pool. This contract provision for the ATRs ratifies race,gender, age discrimination and segregation.The working conditions for all of us are demoralizing and our students who predominantly of color are suffering.
    Those of you who voted yes, re-read critically and you feel you erred join MORE.

    I will join MORE to prepare for the next election and we must create a hotline of advocacy and intervention because the abuses will increase and accelerate for us all. We cannot rely on some of the chapter leaders to help us and we can’t always get our union to intercede on our behalf when not only violations to the contract occur but our civil and human rights are violated too.

  12. 

    This Contract ON Teachers is more than a disappointment. It is a travesty. A national disaster. We are very horribly divided. Those who voted yeas voted to further marginalize their fellow experienced and credentialed colleagues who have now become in writing second class citizens in the ATR pool. This contract provision for the ATRs ratifies race,gender, age discrimination and segregation.The working conditions for all of us are demoralizing and our students who predominantly of color are suffering.
    Those of you who voted yes, re-read critically and you feel you erred join MORE.

    I will join MORE to prepare for the next election and we must create a hotline of advocacy and intervention because the abuses will increase and accelerate for us all. We cannot rely on some of the chapter leaders to help us and we can’t always get our union to intercede on our behalf when not only violations to the contract occur but our civil and human rights are violated too.

  13. 

    This Dave says that just the fact that our money is deferred is reason enough to have voted no, and there are many other reasons. The vote is not a surprise because most members are sheep and we have pulled our own wool over our eyes.

  14. 
    Harris Lirtzman June 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I hope that there will be a full, extended and complete discussion about the “next steps.” The presumption that MORE should jump straight into organizing for the 2016 UFT election is just that, a “presumption.” Yes, we did well enough at the high school level in 2013 but the fact that 77% of the members voted for the contract, despite the confusion and incomplete information available about it, doesn’t tell me that 2016 is the logical next step…just because it’s on the calendar doesn’t automatically make it the obvious next organizing focus or “campaign” for the group. I don’t want MORE to fall into “group-think” where the next year or two gets devoted to “building” for an election that would be very difficult to win or even to demonstrate MORE’s “strength” to the union membership (remember the retirees). We simply cannot cherry-pick facts or statistics to build a case that is not obvious to some, perhaps many, of us in MORE.

    I simply urge us to take as much time and energy as it will require over the summer and fall to review what has worked and not worked for us during the last 18 months and to develop a plan that takes the relatively small resource base we have and use it effectively and with great discipline.

    It was necessary to oppose the contract. But let’s not claim that a 23% no vote is anything more than it is or that it can be explained away by UNITY nefariousness. To me, that result is not a springboard to anything but a period of reflection, truth-talking and a hard, difficult assessment about who we are and what we want to accomplish.

    To be clear, it is not at all obvious to me that a full campaign in 2016 is “the next step.” If the organization jumps straight into that mode without fresh and extended contemplation about who we are and how we move forward we may be moving forward to nothing. I’ve offered these thoughts many times and have always been told some version of “no, wait” or “no, not everyone needs to be involved in that” or “no, we know what we want already” but the same retiree tidal wave awaits us in 2016 and UNITY will be coming for us in the high school division and it’s not clear we’ve made any other real gains in the other divisions. And we continue to chase many objectives, usually in the name of “recognition” or “coalition-building”–well, fine, but someone please explain to me in greater detail the recognition or coalition building we have actually accomplished beyond adding names to our contact list–how many of these people are being converted to full, active MORE membership?

    I hate even to be talking about 2016 in this post. MORE claims, above, that “MORE has a new vision and will continue to work with parents, students, and community members to achieve the public schools all our children deserve. In the spring of 2016, MORE will proudly field its second full slate of candidates to run against Unity for leadership of our UFT.” I admit that I haven’t been as involved in MORE for the last few months as I have been but I would be hard-pressed to articulate the “new vision” and even harder pressed to articulate how that “new vision” necessarily leads straight into the 2016 election.

    Is “union power” in the conventional sense what we want now? How would we achieve it in the face of a tidal wave of retiree votes for UNITY? What exactly would we do with it, specifically and in detail, if we got it? How would we “govern and lead” with a very large part of the union in opposition to every single thing we would do for three years?

    Let’s please think before we jump.

    • 

      Thank you for the thoughtful reflection on next steps for MORE. I hope you and others will be there Saturday, June 7th (12-3pm) where we can discuss next steps at length – see sidebar for details.

  15. 

    When will the class action lawsuit be initiated for teachers that left? Hoosick falls teachers in the same situation sued for their retro and won. There is no precedent to deny teachers in the years covered by retroactive pay to be omitted.

  16. 

    The UFT is disgustingly slow in getting news out to its membership. First we had our district reps visit schools that couldn’t convey information regarding the contract that was readily available on the uft website. Then the UFT sent out the wrong amount of ballots to my school so I’m sure they did it to others as well. Immediately after the vote the city comptrollers office delivered a report stating that we’d be getting our ratifications bonus before June 30th. I found out that we were getting this bonus this morning and they’re not conveying this information until 10PM on a school night. One would assume that we are getting the 1% + 1% retro payments after they apply our retro rate increases on September 15th, but the UFT won’t post that information until November. We have a new contract, new evaluation system and new standards. Why do we have uninformed retirees running every aspect of our union?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. UFT Contract Reactions - CITE - June 4, 2014

    […] The MORE Caucus, the “social justice caucus of the left” put this statement out.  […]

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