On Oct. 12th after school, all UFT delegates & chapter leaders were summoned to an emergency delegate assembly to vote on whether or not to endorse the contract they negotiated for us (click here to learn more about how a UFT contract is negotiated and voted on). As we have for every contract in the 50+ year history of the union, the body voted to endorse it and send it on to the membership. I voted no at the delegate assembly, I will vote no again with my paper ballot as a UFT member, and I urge all of you do the same. I have a lot to say about this contract, but I have summarized some of my main reasons below:
— The “raises” are not raises, they are not even cost of living adjustments: 2%, 2.5% and 3% over 3 years and 7 months will not keep up with the national inflation rate under even the most optimistic projections, to say nothing of the much faster rising cost of living in NYC. Our buying power with our paychecks will be weaker than it is now when the contract is over in 2022 (as was the case with the contract we are currently finishing). NYC educators deserve better.
— There is no class size reduction: This is consistently the #1 request from both staff and parents on the NYCDOE school survey, and class sizes, which are significantly larger than in neighboring suburban districts, have not budged in more than 50 years. There is some language about more strictly enforcing the existing rules (which are routinely ignored), but it’s pretty weak sauce as far as I am concerned.
— Healthcare givebacks: President Mulgrew keeps repeating, as he always does, that there are “no givebacks” in this contract. This is disingenuous; the NYC public sector unions have collectively already agreed to find more than a billion dollars of healthcare savings for the city during the life of this contract. You’ll recall we had something similar in our last contract, with x number of billions of dollars every year being cut from the money the city spends on our healthcare (which lead to the higher copays for urgent care and ER use among other things). This is to make sure we can still look at our paystubs and see that we are contributing $0 to our health insurance, which is nice and all, but our healthcare coverage being eroded in less visible ways that we feel less viscerally than deductions on our paychecks is no less real and problematic. These givebacks weren’t purely a UFT thing, it was all the city unions (in the form of the Municipal Labor Council), and that deal was already signed (without our vote) in July. You may hear from the UFT that this isn’t an issue of this contract since it has already been signed and involves other unions, but the fact that it was agreed to by our leadership months ago without consulting us does not make it any better; in fact, it makes it much worse. A “NO” vote on the contract from the rank and file membership would be an unmistakable message to leadership that we demand better.
— They did nothing with the extended time/extra parent teacher conferences: The former was a huge giveback in the 2005 contract, and the latter was from the last contract with Carmen Farina, which also included re-working the 155 minutes. The extended time was ridiculous when we were arguing about how to time the 37.5 minute increments, it was ridiculous when we were trying to figure what to do after we stopped meeting with the kids during that time, and it’s ridiculous today. This contract doesn’t get rid of it entirely, which is what should really happen, but it also doesn’t even try to make it less onerous. Between that and the extra parent teacher conference/meet the teacher days, there were a bunch of failed, silly experiments that needed to get cleared out with this contract and were not.
— We can do better: How do I know? Because we haven’t even tried. There has been zero mobilization of the membership. Leadership used to at least pretend they were trying to leverage the people power of the ~200,000 UFT members for a better contract with a lame rally, but they can’t even be bothered to go through that charade anymore. They think their backroom dealing and political contributions will save us, but that is not the moment we live in. In the last nine months, educators have risen up and won significant victories across the country with aggressive picketing, rallies, PR campaigns that get the parents onboard, occupying state houses, credible strike threats and actual strikes- most of this in red states with hostile anti-labor governments where striking is just as “illegal”*** as it is for us here, and where the teachers aren’t even unionized in a way that we would recognize in NYC. They weren’t retaliated against because they had demonstrated their power, and even “Right-To-Work” Republicans were not willing/able to punish the striking, militant educators. There are some very good things in this contract; the one that stands out to me is the pay bump/introduction of due process rights for paras, and those things must be preserved as part of a better contract when our leadership is sent back to the bargaining table after a successful “NO” vote. The argument that we have it better than educators in WV, AZ and OK (where the pay and conditions are atrocious), so we should be happy with whatever we get and not fight for better, which has been circulating among many UNITY caucus people, strikes me as truly bizarre coming from union activists/staffers.
UFT Chapter Leader, PS 58, The Carroll School
*** “There Is No Illegal Strike, Just an Unsuccessful One”