Archives For Contract

I have been a proud NYC special education teacher since 2002. At the same time, I have to admit that we face untenable conditions. Currently, there are systemic shortages of time, resources, and staffing. Many of my colleagues and our students with special needs feel that they are not being heard or respected. We, the experts, are rarely called upon to inform decisions around school funding, policies that impact our students’ services, and the amount of paperwork we are required to complete. Piecemeal grievances and special education complaints are not enough to fix the root of the problem.

 

Jia Lee

 

A major problem is the Fair Student Funding formula, implemented under Chancellor Joel Klein, which changed the way schools are funded. Instead of having a separate budget for staffing needs, based on salary scale and special education provider needs, we now have a formula which allocates funding per pupil. Students with IEPs come with 1.5x the amount. This does not prioritize staffing needs but puts schools in a complicated position of being incentivized to hire fewer people and those who are lower on the salary scale. So, instead of putting students’ needs first, there is immense pressure to keep within a lean production budget. Our current union leadership has maintained support of the funding formula, as well as mayoral control, which has kept us in a powerless state as educators. Currently, the largest expenditure is in special education lawsuits with the city spending in 2017, $244.1 million in private school tuition for special education services. This is unacceptable in the largest and one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Imagine if that amount of funding was provided to schools where we, the specialists who work directly and understand the needs of our students the most, had more democratic voice. Instead, our union leadership has supported a multi-million dollar special education racket on the backs of our neediest students. We cannot wait for those in power to gain the sensibilities required to put power back into the hands who can make things better for our students and our working conditions. We need a union that leads from those who are working in the schools, and that is why I am running for the position of V.P. of Special Education.

-Jia Lee, Teacher and  UFT Chapter Leader at The Earth School

 

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I’m proud to be a UFT member, but we should not sit back and depend on top UFT officials or Mayor De Blasio to resolve problems that affect us as educators. As UFT rank-and-file members, and as working people, we have to organize from the bottom-up for the conditions that would make safe, culturally-relevant, meaningful educational work possible for all students, teachers and others in education.

 

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Above: John C. Antush, Chapter leader at City-As-School High School, MORE-UFT Candidate for Vice President of High Schools.

 

First, within our UFT chapters we can play a role in overhauling the UFT to make it an agenda-setting member-led union. MORE-UFT members and other rank-and-file UFTers petitioned in our chapters, conducted walk-ins, took to social media, and protested at City Hall to help win parental leave. We can use similar tactics on a larger scale to reverse the erosion of rights for new teachers such as longer pre-tenure probation, proliferation of meaningless tenure application requirements, and the lack of feedback and transparency when tenure applications are rejected. We can also push to restore defenses for higher-paid senior teachers, who are more likely to be targeted ever since principals were made more responsible for school budgets in 2007. Are older teachers, teachers of color, or LGBTQ+ teachers facing a higher-rate of 3020a hearings? In our chapters we can start to discuss and build momentum to find solutions for these and many other problems.  

Second, we can connect our chapters with our larger school communities including other DOE employees, parents and students, to address common issues. For example, we need a real conversation about class size. According to city statistics, in 2017, 595,000 students–over half the city’s students — were in overcrowded schools and classrooms. Encouraging Chapter Leaders to inform UFT central about class size violations is not enough. We need a grassroots movement to get at the roots of overcrowding. Active, organized chapters and school communities can start to ask: why do class size violations occur? Is it due to the structure of school funding? We can think bigger: Are legal class size limits too high? How would enforced lower legal cap sizes, with loopholes eliminated, transform schools? Another issue is staff-to-student ratios. What kinds of increases in staff are needed to ensure all IEPs are adequately serviced? What kind of staff ratios are needed to make schools safe so that effective restorative justice practices can be implemented?

 

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(Above: MORE-UFT members Annie Tan, Karen Arneson, and John Antush celebrating the victory of 83-85 Bowery tenants in Chinatown at Jing Fong Restaurant with National Mobilization Against Sweatshops and Chinese Staff & Workers Association.)

 

Finally, we can organize with others to address larger problems affecting us and other working people as a whole. Educators are scapegoated for problems of class and racism that affect students’ performance — such as the housing crisis. In the 2017-2018 school year, 114,659 of our K-12 students were homeless; one-in-ten lived in temporary shelters. How many more simply dropped out of school? I work at a transfer school. Some of our students live in temporary shelters or with friends. Many more have trouble in school because they are working jobs to pay for, or contribute to, rent. Aside from being a human rights violation and a horrible hardship that disrupts education, the affordable housing crisis impacts our job security. As student populations are displaced, school staff are excessed, depriving remaining students of arts, phys ed and the full range educational opportunities and support services. Wrap-around services, “community schools,” the Bronx plan, and “renewal school” aid are obviously not sufficient to ensure young people’s basic human right to an education. Further, many teachers cannot afford to live near their schools or even within the five boroughs. To address this problem, MORE-UFT members have joined others in the Citywide Alliance Against Displacement to organize for alternatives to De Blasio’s housing and rezoning plans, which are pushing low- and middle-income people — including education workers, students and their families — out of New York City.

 

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(Above: MLK Day 2018, Educators Against Displacement)

 

By organizing in our chapters to push back erosion of our working conditions; by uniting in our school communities with students, parents and other DOE employees around common issues like class size; and by organizing with other working people around larger issues we hold in common, like opposing housing and rezoning policies that displace our communities, we can fight for conditions that will make meaningful educational work possible and help establish the schools our students deserve.

My name is Aixa Rodriguez. I am an ESL teacher and I am running on the MORE-UFT slate for Vice President for Education-At-Large.

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I’m running in the 2019 UFT elections because MORE has the values and the work ethic that most closely match mine. When I heard who was running on the MORE-UFT slate, I was convinced that this was the time to put my hat in the ring. This slate is deeply involved in social justice movements and has the experience, savvy, creativity and energy needed to give voice and analysis to the issues impacting our profession. Privatization is destroying public education and teachers need to be plugged in to counter that. We can no longer just blindly pay dues to a status quo, appeasement-oriented union; in the post-Janus reality, rank and file need to participate and make our voices heard as members of our union.

Educational Justice is an intersectional issue. Every social justice issue that you hear about intersects with the problems in public education. Unions have the power to make change happen that benefits society as a whole; in housing justice, food justice, environmental justice, and racial justice. Under mayoral control, community participation is limited, democracy is limited.  Our jobs are impacted by outside realities that are out of our individual control. This is why our union has to push for justice.

When bad decisions on real estate development are made, local school enrollment shrinks, teachers get excessed, space gets taken by charter school parasites, class sizes in co-located schools rise, programs get cut, and students get a narrower curriculum. When kids become homeless, go into the shelter system, and struggle academically and socially, they bring those challenges to our schools. The kids who are hungry, sleepy, wearing dirty, unwashed clothes, and getting bullied are our students.Those conditions become our working conditions at schools that are underfunded, under-resourced and understaffed.  We teachers live and teach in that reality. We need more counselors, social workers, community workers, paras, and school aides, and therapists. CFE must be fully funded by Albany. Fair student funding is a failed formula.

When we chose to work in schools that serve struggling kids we get judged and evaluated on their progress on inappropriate tests. To survive, many teachers teach to the test even as it kills their passion and creativity, burns them out, then leads to turnover and unstable schools. The kids get a test prep curriculum and are robbed of a well rounded quality education. Our autonomy and professionalism is impacted by high stakes testing. We are blamed and scapegoated, and our schools closed, our positions lost. Those of us who get a new position are lucky. The Absent Teacher Reserve has become a next stop for many a veteran teacher. Our working conditions are impacted by the culture of testocracy compounded by funding inequities that institutionalize ageism.

As teachers we need our contracts respected, our salaries to keep up with inflation, and our schools to be well staffed, resourced and funded. We need support with discipline, smaller class sizes, prep periods that are not taken away lightly. We need an evaluation and tenure system that doesn’t push out teachers from the profession.These needs coincide with student needs for recess, small group tutoring and reading intervention, sports, clubs and electives. We have seen in the #Red4Ed movement across the nation that parents and students are our natural allies in the fight for public schools that serve all children well. Let’s join that fight.

 

Aixa Rodriguez for UFT Vice President for Education-At-Large 2019

 

 

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[Aixa taking a group selfie at the MORE general meeting in January 2019]

There is a disconnect between UFT leadership and rank and file membership. As a result, there is a void and that void has to be filled at a time when unions and labor movements are being attacked and destroyed by unfriendly forces: right wingers, ed deformers, and many of the 1% who have accumulated most of the wealth, all aggressively pushing to disrupt and destabilize public education. The UFT leadership has shown utter silence on what matters to our students, teachers, parents, and communities. I declare my candidacy with an affirmation that, when I am elected as President of the UFT in April, I will continue the fight for our schools. 

There is no mincing of words when I declare that social justice matters in public education and it matters now more than ever. The UFT leadership should not dance around these issues. That is why I am running on the social justice slate of the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) in the UFT elections this March. We are a collective of educators ranging from Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists to Counselors and Social Workers to Classroom Teachers to Paraprofessionals to School Secretaries to all of the other members of our union. 

 

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In solidarity with OT/PTs for Pay Parity at Panel for Educational Policy meeting.

(Myrie on left after speaking at the podium)

 

Our caucus is also a part of a nationwide collective called the United Caucuses of Rank and File Educators (UCORE). We are fighting for social justice in many states: Arizona, California, Colorado, and North Carolina, to name a few, and here at home in New York.

Our students and educators deserve schools with low student to counselor ratios. Our schools deserve more counselors and restorative justice coordinators. Each school must be rated on the equitable hiring and retention of Black, Asian and Latinx educators. Culturally Relevant Curriculum must be implemented in each school and measured by the Scorecard developed by NYU. In addition, resources must match the demographics of student populations in individual schools. The UFT does not have a contract that addresses pay parity for Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists. The UFT leadership has used parliamentary maneuvers to avoid a vote from the  UFT Delegate Assembly on the Black Lives Matter at School resolution two years in a row. Our schools and our students deserve better.

It’s time to change the leadership when members in every borough are subject to harassment from supervisors.  Forget about the “strong contract” emphasized by leadership when probationary teachers and vulnerable staff members are scared to file a grievance and when chapter leaders and district representatives are unsupportive. Calls to activate and publish the names of abusive administrators have been ignored. I will have this list ready on Day One when I am elected.

Please look at what is happening around you in the communities where you work. Is there systemic racism and oppression?  Is there gentrification? Are any of your students homeless? Are students’ suspensions on the rise? Do you have space for art, music, a library, and an OT/PT room at your school? What about oversized classes? Are you nervous to talk about any of this? Are your ICT classes in compliance? Does the paraprofessional have a duty free lunch? Are you being forced to have meetings on your lunch? Are you being asked to give up your preps? Do your children have adequate materials and resources? Would you like to advocate for your students, but you are scared?

The MORE slate is here to advocate and agitate. Under our leadership, we will lead the UFT to the position where our working conditions will equate with our students’ learning conditions. 

Thank you for the work that you do for our students. 

 

Dermott Myrie for UFT President 2019  

 

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MORE Caucus members running for UFT office  

(Front- Aixa Rodriguez- right, Jia Lee -left)

(Rear Kevin Prosen- left,  Dermott Myrie-right)

 

 

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PRINTABLE PDF: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_rTIKQeq2LLMzd2UUc0b3pjNHVNUVh1ZUVrWjc1Y05BTEsw/view?usp=sharing

 

As New York City gives away billions to Amazon and sits on billions in budget surplus we still have an underfunded and segregated school system, and raises in the recent contract fell behind the pace of inflation.

 

UFT Members and NYC students deserve better. Join MORE in our fight for:

 

    • Fair funding for all schools
    • Reversing the givebacks on health care
    • Strong protections against harassment and abuse
    • Parity for all titles, including OT/PTs
    • More diverse teaching and support staff

 

  • Adequate counselors, social workers and other support staff for students

 

 

Here is what educators around the country were able to win by taking action in the street as the wave of teacher rebellions spreads across the country.

  • In Washington State, teachers strikes netted raises of up to 10% this fall
  • West Virginia teachers and school support workers earned an immediate 5% pay increase statewide
  • Arizona teachers won a 19% pay raise after a 5-day strike.

 

Carranza calls Mulgrew his brother from another mother, the City has a budget surplus, and a teacher strike wave is sweeping the country with massive public support. In the meantime, Paraprofessionals make subsistence wages, and Occupational and Physical Therapists lag behind their colleagues by tens of thousands of dollars. If this is what we get in good times, what happens when we get another Bloomberg or Giuliani? Now is the time to organize and fight for MORE.

 

Get in Touch with MORE:

fb.com/MoreCaucusNYC

more@morecaucusnyc.org

@morecaucusnyc

http://morecaucusnyc.org

Call: (347) 766-7319

 

What is wrong with the UFT leadership’s strategy and how can we fix it?

 

The UFT’s longtime strategy has been to cultivate relationships with “friendly politicians,” by supporting them in elections, lobbying on their behalf, and supporting legislation those leaders want. Perhaps most importantly, they guarantee labor peace.

But as a result, the leadership is hesitant to take any action that might upset these politicians, like holding rallies or even going on strike.

The limits of this strategy are apparent in our new contract. We have a Democratic Governor who is eager to show his progressive credentials. Our mayor is the most progressive NYC has had in decades. The city has a surplus of $4 billion. Yet despite all this, we still got wage increases below the rate of inflation and were forced to make givebacks in our healthcare. So even in the best of circumstances, this strategy is limited at best. What will happen if those circumstances change – like say in a recession?

 

To get better contracts and improve our working and living conditions we need a new strategy that prioritizes building strong chapters at every school so members are organized and ready to take action both at the school and city-wide level.

 

Well before the expiration of the new contract our union should launch a member-driven campaign to set contract goals and decide on a course of action to win those goals. Borough and city-wide rallies can develop a sense of union solidarity and collective purpose. Finally, as a union we can appeal to various community organizations through joint actions which link our contract campaign to a collective effort to fund our schools and make our city livable again.  

 

Why we need to build independent rank and file organization: Join MORE today!

 

Only a stronger base of rank-and-file teachers, counselors, paras and all education workers, knit together in a common organization that can share strategies and mobilize our coworkers can push the union leadership to alter its approach, and eventually lead the union in a different direction entirely.

 

We have seen what a tremendous difference this kind of organization can make in Chicago and Los Angeles.  This spring and fall, the teachers rebellion was led by educators building up their rank-and-file networks so they could engage in workplace actions.

 

United, we are stronger – that’s why you should check out our website and find out how you can help now – www.morecaucusnyc.org.  Whether it’s something as simple as passing on a leaflet to an interested coworker in the teachers’ lounge, making a monetary donation, or organizing a solidarity photo for our brothers and sisters in struggle elsewhere in the country, your actions can make a difference.

Why does the UFT leadership negotiate contracts that don’t respond to our or our students’ needs?

The explanation most often given by the opposition in the UFT has been: the UFT leadership is out of touch, they’ve been out of the classroom too long, so they make the wrong demands, and are willing to accept givebacks.  This is a good start for an explanation, but there are important parts missing in this.

For one thing, this explanation implies DOE would give us what we need if our leaders would only ask for it, and if our leaders merely said, “No,” would withdraw demands for givebacks.  Clearly, that’s not true.

The DOE and the City Administration will resist any demands that spend more revenue on needs of working families and poor families, whether its own employees or most of city’s students: raises, benefits, class size, workloads, supplies and so on.  For complex political reasons, as well as fiscal concerns, it will resist giving employees more control over work.

So, the union needs a strategy to overcome this resistance to win enough to keep the union and its current leadership viable.

The strategy the UFT has adopted for over forty years has been to cultivate relationships with “friendly politicians,” mayor, state legislators, governor, city council, and so forth. Mainly these relationships are with Democrats, but sometimes also Republicans.

UFT leaders make “friends” with politicians most obviously by giving them support in election campaigns support: the UFT’s default policy is to support incumbents.  This is especially true of legislators. UFT leaders also lobby on behalf of political leaders, supporting legislation the latter want, such as funding for projects they want, or mayoral control.

But there is another “service” the UFT leadership offer in exchange for sufficient contract gains to remain viable, that is less obvious but equally, if not more, important.  It manages the membership to limit its demands on the DOE and the state. It does this by lowering members’ expectations, by instilling fear of fighting or striking, or of even rejecting a contract, and channeling membership anger and demands into limited safe, and harmless, activities, such as fighting to save their own school instead of fighting against the policy of school closings.  It sells “reforms” politicians want, like ratings based on student performance, to the membership. So, bad contracts are “baked into” this strategy: it can’t be used to get better contracts

The most important politician for the contract is the mayor.  UFT has tried to develop this relationship with every Mayor from Dinkins in 1990. The UFT and Democratic mayors have publicly portrayed each other as “friends”. UFT has “helped out” these mayors at members’ expense: In 1991, the UFT managed a delay of raises negotiated the previous year when there was a shortfall in the city’s budget.  The 2014 contract helped De Blasio by setting a low pattern for other city contracts, and giving up any real retro pay, postponing both receiving the supposed “retro” raises and the back pay to future times in the contract. The UFT and Republican Mayors have publicly treated each other as “foes.” But the UFT still managed the membership, seeking in return just enough to make that management successful by forestalling rank and file revolt.    

This did not protect the members from a two year pay freeze under Giuliani, the worst giveback contract ever in 2005 and then a 5 year pay freeze from 2009 to 2014 under Bloomberg.  So, members pay a price when the mayor is “friendly,” and do even worse when mayor is hostile.

To get better contracts, we need more than leaders recently in classroom, who are “in touch.”  We need a different strategy.

It isn’t difficult to imagine a strategy that would be more successful than the one the UFT is currently pursuing.  For the past half dozen years teachers around the United States have engaged in protests, job actions, and strikes. They have won victories in Chicago, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and in several school districts in the Pacific Northwest.

Unity/UFT leaders contend that our union members are unwilling to engage in that kind of activism. But that claim is hollow. UFT leaders have made no real effort to activate the membership or convince them that a confrontational strategy could work. They have no way of judging how far our members are willing to go.

The UFT can prepare our members for higher levels of activism. One or two years before the expiration of the new contract the union can launch a member-driven campaign to set contract goals and decide on a course of action to win those goals. The campaign could begin with multi-school membership meetings in which members can share experiences and determine what goals they have in common. The union could encourage joint actions such as color days, and “honor pickets” in which members rehearse for a strike by picketing outside school until a few minutes before start time and then entering the building together. Borough and city-wide protests can develop a sense of union solidarity and collective purpose. Finally, as a union we can appeal to various community organizations through joint actions which link our contract campaign to a collective effort to fund our schools and make our city livable again.  

Even the Unity/UFT leadership has led activities like this in the past. For example, prior to the 2005 contract the union encouraged chapters to organize pickets to demand a fair contract. There were UFT rallies at borough offices, honor pickets, color days, all of which culminated in a 20,000-strong gathering at Madison Square Garden in June 2005. Members demonstrated that they could be responsive to a leadership that wanted to organize them. Unfortunately, the following fall the UFT dropped the mobilization campaign and instead settled for a contract loaded with givebacks. Since then the union has negotiated three contracts: one beginning in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2019.  But it did not prepare an active contract campaign for any of them, which is probably why we have not won back anything that we gave up in 2005.

Following the victories of teacher activism and teacher strikes in so many parts of the country it should be easier for a teacher union to point to successful strikes as examples to follow. So why won’t the Unity/UFT leadership do this? Why do they continue with a business-as-usual approach? Unfortunately, the answer is that the UFT, like most unions in the United States, is run by people whose principal interest is to maintain the stability of the union as an organization. Since its founding in 1962 the UFT has evolved into a massive institution which collects more than ten million dollars per month in dues. This revenue stream sustains a vast bureaucracy of hundreds of office staff, district and special representatives, and union officers. For the most part they are paid more than we rank and file members are and have better working conditions. They make and carry out policies whose purpose is to maintain the stability of the UFT as an organization because that is the best guarantor of their higher salaries, better working conditions and their jobs themselves. They have little interest in mobilizing for the best contract we can achieve. Strike preparation is risky activity.   It raises members’ expectations, which makes us less likely to vote to approve contracts with givebacks and inadequate raises. It creates rank and file leaders, who could potentially effectively challenge incumbent UFT tops for office.

Strikes themselves are even riskier.  In New York public sector unions can face financial penalties along with the loss of collaborative relationships with elected officials. Union leaders avoid those risks because they threaten the bureaucracy’s ability to maintain itself at present levels.  Although as rank and file members we also face risks in a strike, it is also the only effective way for us to make significant gains. The union bureaucracy can raise dues and improve their conditions in safer and comfortable ways. And as long as the rank and file keep re-electing the bureaucracy’s candidates and approving their contracts by wide margins, they have no incentive to move outside their comfort zone.

The Unity caucus is the political arm of that bureaucracy.  Caucus membership is a necessary qualification for anyone interested full-time or even part-time employment with the union. And caucus membership requires unconditional support for the union’s leaders, its policies, and whatever contract it negotiates.

The Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which struck down state laws requiring all public employees to contribute at least agency fees to their union, could have been a wake-up call.  In fact, in 2017 it appeared that the union intended to prepare for the eventual court ruling by activating its membership. It sent “door-knockers” to the homes of tens of thousands of UFT members with talking points that urged members both to stay union and to get more involved in their chapters. These doorway conversations often lasted fifteen minutes or more. However, by late spring the UFT changed the focus. The conversations were moved into the schools, and were cut to 30-60 seconds.  Members were now only asked to commit to continue paying union dues. The UFT leadership showed that it is more committed to maintaining its income stream than in developing a more inspiring and activist vision of unionism.

Unity/UFT leaders believe they can sustain the union by maintaining close and collaborative relations with politicians. However, the 2019 contract shows the limits of that strategy. We just ratified a deal in which our wages will fail to keep pace with inflation and new teachers will receive an inferior health care plan. This deal was negotiated at a time in which New York had a Democratic governor and the most liberal Democratic mayor we have seen in decades. The 2019 contract, therefore, likely represents the upper limit of what our current union leadership can achieve.

Frighteningly, in the post-Janus world, a public sector union that cannot inspire members, risks losing them. In September 2018 UFT President Michael Mulgrew reported that no more than five active members had dropped out of the union so far. However, only 2600 out of 4000 new hires had joined the union. A union that mobilizes and energizes them can convince them that dues are worth paying. A union that cuts their health care benefits will have a tougher sell.

We can turn things around. Teachers around the United States are showing that another model of unionism is realistic and effective. We, the rank and file, must insist that, and pressure, our union to prepare for the next contract battle by engaging members to more actively protest around issues such as over-sized classes, abusive administrators, or unsafe and unsanitary building conditions. Concrete victories can demonstrate that union activism is worthwhile and prepare our members for bigger battles in the future.

-Kit Wainer, Chapter Leader Goldstein H.S., and Marian Swerdlow, former CL FDR H.S., retired

The new UFT-DOE contract makes no change in the 50-year wait for lower class sizes, a fair grievance procedure, and a rational job security process, among other issues. Newer teachers will still have to endure 4 or more years of harassment and hundreds of pages of tenure application paperwork, the DOE and administrators will still have the same ability to skirt the contract while chapter leaders and union members are held accountable for small offenses, and the general class size limits of 34 students in high schools will not budge a bit.

While the UFT should be applauded for negotiating minor improvements in the number of observations, the overall agreement is a readymade rhetorical exercise in the “students first” claims of education “reform” advocates who really just want to cut resources and spending from public schools. Press releases by both the De Blasio administration and the UFT leadership of Michael Mulgrew proclaimed that the tentative collective bargaining agreement goes beyond teachers and workers and instead focuses on improving the work of students in schools.

I, and many other teachers, care equally about learning conditions as we do about working conditions, because we have come to the conclusion that the two, at their core, are symbiotic, if not essentially the same. However, the details of the agreement seem to indicate this potential contract would be a continuing disaster for students, parents, and educators alike. While there are steps towards a more rigorous arbitration process over class size violations, it is unclear how much on-the-ground conditions will change, as administrators are already able to ignore legal limits during pivotal periods early in the year, and all the contract does is shift around some numbers and add more bureaucratic committees of UFT-DOE collaboration.

Notably, there are no reductions in the class size caps for K-12 courses, which run as high as 34 students in general education high school classes and 50 students in music and physical education high school classes. This is despite many assurances to teachers from   UFT leaders that class size was indeed a priority in these contract negotiations. As the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators has predicted for the past year, there was never any real commitment to lowering class size. Union leaders have admitted as much, saying that the city made it clear it wouldn’t be on the bargaining table.

Unfortunately, this is the type of position from which our union decided to bargain, instead of organizing the membership of educators to publicly demand a better contract, as has happened in states all over the country with teacher strikes, or at least strike readiness. The decision was to cave on core issues and assume that the allegedly progressive mayor would give a good deal. Instead, it is a deal riddled with givebacks such as a pay “raise” that doesn’t match inflation, second-tier healthcare for new teachers, prescreening psychological “stress” tests for new teachers, and an increase in remote education programming.

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While class size reductions would be a broad programmatic change that could benefit all students, the tentative contract instead includes more of the band-aid measures that have marked the warm 5-year marriage between the UFT and De Blasio, a marriage with a parsimonious attitude towards effective spending on education.  

In 2014, the De Blasio administration announced the beginning of the Renewal Schools project, which focused on funneling massive amounts of money, sometimes carelessly, into schools which the city had identified as low-performing. At the time, the UFT applauded the administration as rational and just, as if anything other than big Bloomberg-era austerity cuts and overt charter expansion was a blessing.

In 2018, the UFT and DOE have now announced the so-called “Bronx Plan”, which is similarly a band-aid measure. It focuses on certain struggling schools, claiming to give workers higher pay and more control, but also involving vaguely worded parallel structures to the main collective bargaining agreement,  leaving open threats to the security and solidarity of workers. Further, it does nothing to address the 100,000 NYC school children who are homeless, many of whom live in the Bronx. Nor does it address the 595,000 NYC students who attend overcrowded schools

The UFT, meanwhile, announced on October 11 that it wanted to convene an emergency session of its Delegate Assembly the next day, in order to recommend this agreement be presented to the overall membership for approval. However, the document was  over 60 pages and most DA members did not have time to adequately review this, let alone work the “emergency” assembly meeting into their schedules. [Why was it an emergency? That’s unclear. The current contract wasn’t going to expire for months.]

The union leadership is attempting to fast-track an agreement that its members are not even familiar with yet, and which lacks any progress on issues such as class size, which is demanded by and benefits teachers, parents, and students alike. At a time when New York’s mayor is a self-proclaimed progressive in the largest city in the country, we should be pushing for a bold contract. The UFT needs to mobilize membership to demand the DOE make a contract that doesn’t include more meager raises and band-aid programmatic changes. Of course, with ballots rushed and due by the end of the month, chances are this conversation and mobilization won’t happen. However, as more rank-and-file members become aware of the lack of democracy and the lack of any real progress in our bargaining agreements with the city, the tides could shift and this wave of apathy could wash away, along with many of our union and city government leaders who lack vision and bold ideas.

 

Andrew Worthington is an English and special education teacher and the chapter leader at PACE HS in Manhattan.