Thursday, June 19, 2008

UFT and Grievances: Daring Not to Win

UFT grievance procedure: Go in young, emerge ready to retire.

I attended the UFT Delegate Assembly yesterday (see James Eterno's full report at the ICE blog) and so many issues came up, I am going to tackle them one at a time in separate posts.

Randi Weingarten made a big deal about an arbitration decision based on a grievance filed by teacher Todd Friedman over getting a U-rating based on taking more than the 10 days as specified in the contract. He took 11. He had an illness and his dad died and he had to go to Florida and he took a few extra days beyond his bereavement time.

His arbitration victory means circumstances of the teacher like illness and death in the family must be taken into account by principals before they bestow a U-rating for excessive absence.

Now, we have heard that principals are will nilly deciding to give U-ratings based on whatever number of days they decide is too much. They want to show Tweed they are rooting out evil doers.

They are able to do this because of the enablers at the UFT.

Randi celebrated the fact that Todd had the guts to stand up and file a grievance and said the union can't do anything unless a teacher stands up. Huh? Don't get me started with this "blame the victim" attitude on the part of the union. There's plenty they could do but choose not to.

"You see, you have to fight City Hall," said Randi as she called Todd up to speak.

"I had to fight the union grievance department to get them to file the grievance the way I wanted," said Todd. "It was only after I appealed to Randi that I got them to change it."

Ooops! Fighting City Hall turns out to be the union grievance department itself.

Randi sort of stood there with egg on her face and repeated her statement about fighting City Hall, even if it's her own grievance department.

Later, I caught up with the special rep who handled Todd's case. "Nice job," I said. "But the people making these decisions that force a teacher to appeal to the union president should be punished," I said. We have to be careful not to risk lose cases that would hurt more people was the gist of her answer.

That attitude has been our complaint for 35 years - first allow incredible loopholes that allow administrators who know what they're doing (and the Leadership Academy has made sure to train principals to expose every loophole) to hammer teachers and then don't take a militant stand in the hope some principals don't know better.

But here's the real rub. Now that we have this "victory" let's say a principal ignores it and does the same thing. What recourse does the teacher have? Do they get an expedited "show them the arbitration and the U comes off immediately?"

I bet not. The union will tell them to, guess what, file a grievance and cite the arbitration.
Follow the bouncing ball:

Step 1: Principal says he/she doesn't accept the teacher's reasons.
Step 2 - oops! The UFT gave that up in the 2005 contract
Step 3 - the chancellor's level where the hearing officer works for, guess who? - Joel Klein. Automatic win for the principal, who is always right.

Now wait a year to go to an arbitrator who might rule in favor of the teacher (not a sure bet as the arbitrator could look at the circumstances and say the principal was right - these people have to split the wins between the union and DOE to stay employed, so if your turn comes up bad, too bad.)

In the meantime, the teacher's U-rating has prevented him from getting per session or maybe even taking a transfer.

Thus, the great union victory on grievances.


  1. I am waiting for my grievance to go to arbitration for a year. I reminded Michael mendel during the ATRs meeting about this. To this day no news.

  2. Me, too. They said it took so long because they needed more information. But what they're finally getting around to asking me to send in are things I provided them at Step I, before Step II, at Step II, and after Step II. I am not aware of a scrap of information they found out on their own.

    Then after everyone saying it was a slamdunk, they refused to take it to arbitration.

    In short: I persisted, and apparently it will go to arbitration, and when it is all done, I will have a LOT to report on. It's either a case of profound stupidity or profound mendacity. I don't know which.

    In my opinion, they sold out the grievance system and thought arbitration would handle the slamdunk cases. Then the slamdunk cases became overwhelming for them, so they delay, obfuscate, deceive, and hope you get scared off. Only the experienced or hardened people will carry on fighting. There's no hope for the average Joe teacher who doesn't know how suspect this whole process is.

    One more thing to think about. Since the UFT is not going out on a limb for anything that's not a slamdunk, you can think of the hundreds of grievances that might have been sustained at the former Step II level of previous contracts but have no chance of proceeding because the UFT doesn't want to take the chance it'll lose.

  3. Unsigned letters in the file.....
    Under what circumstances may these be used? If the Teacher requests union representation, and is denied union
    representation....are these meritorious grounds for refusal to sign? Or, proof of insubordination?

    1. Must the Rating Officer generate a further letter....asserting Insubordination on the part of the Teacher?

      IF Rating Officer fails to do this...can letter still be used?
      If Teacher demands union representation....regarding an adverse letter.....and Rating Officer denies representation through the working of a conflict of interests....
      Then, what.....??

  4. Any blogs...or lawyers that address the use of unsigned letters in the Griefvance process? Posit that the Rating Officer is a manifest LIAR....
    No Administrators will witnesses that Teacher refused to sign the write up. He has names of persons not identified.
    Does the Grievant have the right to union representation...confronted with a U Observation....hostile write up?


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