Through this COVID-19 pandemic, UFT leadership has not stepped up to protect the working conditions of its teachers. The inaction of those in power is a common thread tying together all working people dealing with this crisis. Like our government leaders, UFT leadership has not properly advocated for teachers and families during these unprecedented times, such as when we were required to attend work in the middle of a pandemic and when our Spring Break was taken away. Of particular importance, UFT members still do not have a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). An MOA is a temporary agreement that states the rights and conditions of workers for a certain period of time. Although the UFT contracts are still in force, they did not predict the variety of new problems that have arisen during remote instruction. Thus teachers and related service workers need a pandemic MOA now. This MOA could also serve as the basis for future crises, which are only going to become more common as the effects of climate change continue to be unaddressed.
The United Teachers of Los Angeles have already bargained for a strong MOA during COVID-19. Modeling off the work of our UTLA colleagues, UFT-MORE demands an MOA that contains the following conditions:
1. Teachers work four hours a day at a schedule of their own making. That time can be spent by lesson planning, grading, contacting families, attending teacher meetings, and teaching.
2. Teaching can take any form that teachers decide- whether that be video conferences, posting articles, sending emails, using Google Classroom, or otherwise.
3. Substitutes receive the same pay as they were receiving before
4. Students can continue to receive one-on-one counseling and special needs services as far as is practical and possible
5. Teachers have complete control over grading and may choose to not lower grades of students unable to complete work.
6. Teachers are not to be evaluated, and administration is not permitted to micro-manage remote teaching (e.g. dictating a schedule, requiring certain platforms, requesting access to live video calls).
7. Teachers are not required to enter student attendance, as this is redundant and not meaningful during a quarantine.
8. Teachers and administration are not re-creating a virtual form of brick-and-mortar schools. Rather, they are supporting the management of a crisis.
9. Staff and students are entitled to all breaks and holidays that they had before the pandemic.
Currently there are vast disparities in the working conditions of our teachers under remote learning. Some are expected to teach to a bell schedule. Others have administration joining video conferences unannounced. It is not uncommon for teachers to be working 12 hours a day. Therefore, by establishing an MOA with these conditions, teachers will have more autonomy over their profession to better serve their communities and their own families.