Legal actions without strong on the ground support and well organized school chapters will never be sufficient to protect us from the growing DOE abuses we are now seeing in NYC.
MORE congratulates the UFT for the financial compensation they’ve earned our Special Education colleagues across the city. The SESIS case is another example of UFT leadership pursuing the same bureaucratic, top-down strategy it always pursues. Sometimes that strategy yields small victories. Nonetheless, because of this strategy the UFT is losing the war on several fronts.
First, the UFT did not involve rank and file members in this effort any more than it normally does. It issued surveys and asked chapter leaders to report abuses to district representatives. The UFT compiled the survey data and used it as evidence in the arbitration case. Members were not organized to respond collectively or actively in any way. There were no membership meetings, no mobilizations, no involvement of members in strategy discussions. The UFT strategy was purely legalistic and involved only the grievance department, some officers, and some lawyers. And this time they won an arbitration case. Can we expect more cases against the DOE: Teachers are currently being evaluated with the Danielson Rubric, educators are being compelled to spend hours upon hours writing curriculum in the form of Common Core Units of Study and are grading on Acuity well into the night , high school teachers are being forced to change schools during Regents Week, creating traveling and childcare hazards for our colleagues all across the city.
Many special education workers including Related Service Providers, SETSS Teachers, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Guidance Counselors have been forced to do excessive amounts of Data Entry work. This is certainly not in our contract. Yes, the right thing should be that workers get paid overtime for this labor, however, money was never the issue. It was the forced labor that we had to do on our own time IN ADDITION TO the other tasks we have always done largely after school hours including lesson planning and IEP writing (which takes more time on SESIS then on prior paper IEP’s). If we gain additional workers to do the data entry tasks required by SESIS, that would be a victory because it would allow more time for intervention and counseling with students.
At times the UFT leadership has won victories through its top-down approach. In the 1990s it successfully lobbied Albany to make per session pensionable. It used a court case and an arbitration case to stop two different rounds of school closings. It used arbitration to prevent the DoE from unilaterally ending sabbaticals. The problem is that we are still losing the war. The UFT has forced Bloomberg to follow the rules to the letter in order to close schools, but Bloomberg is still closing schools. It won a victory on SESIS but seems unable to do anything about the dramatic cuts in special education, under the guise of “special ed reform.” It has successfully used the Triborough doctrine to block Bloomberg’s desired concessions — ie., it has maintained the status quo by refusing to negotiate a new contract. However, the union leaders have no strategy for winning a better contract except to wait another year for a new mayor and hope for the best. Over that time we make no contractual progress and we get no raises.