UFT members have some important rights regarding time and attendance issues according to agreements the UFT has worked out with the city. However, the UFT leadership has negotiated away most members’ ability to enforce these rights. The grievance process is still frozen and the operational complaints process is backlogged. Therefore, we believe that members should encourage their chapters to discuss whether or not their rights are being violated and craft collective responses if they believe they are. Members can circulate petitions, force administrators to explain time and attendance policies at faculty conferences, and raise these issues at consultation meetings. Well-organized chapters may also consider the kinds of protest activities that many of us led in September: pickets and protest actions. This kind of membership-driven action can compel the union leadership and the Department of Education to force administrators to comply.
The key items we summarize below are outlined in the DoE’s Personnel Memorandum #2 (September 2020). At present those members who are working in school buildings will be impacted the most by these policies. But eventually all members will feel the effects.
- Absence policies for those with symptoms. All members who show symptoms of COVID-19 are entitled to two weeks of fully paid leave time. In fact, members with symptoms are not supposed to return to school buildings until ten days after their symptoms started or three days after fever has subsided, whichever is longer. It is important for members to know that administrators cannot compel them to use Cumulative Absence Reserve days for such absences.
- Members are entitled to up to two weeks of partially paid leave time to care for children under 18 whose school buildings have closed or whose childcare providers are unable to work. The partial pay cannot exceed ⅔ of the member’s daily pay or $200, whichever is less. We believe the language in the Memorandum would allow members who need to take care of children to work from home at full pay. However, the language is a bit vague and chapters may have to organize to enforce that interpretation.
- The work hours of members working from home should be equivalent to the traditional contractual work hours of teachers from before the pandemic. School administrators are supposed to work with members to determine what activities members can reasonably perform. Again, the language is a bit vague. In schools with weak chapters and abusive administrators, principals and assistant principals will likely attempt to overload members with work responsibilities. However, we believe that if chapters organize to resist they can effectively pressure administrators to agree to reasonable workloads.
The Working Conditions Committee of the MORE-UFT Caucus is working on literature to help UFT members know their rights during this murky time of COVID19 emergency pandemic learning. If you would like to learn more about the committee, contact firstname.lastname@example.org which meets certain Tuesdays at 5:15pm!