Thursday, August 6, 2009

The UFT Survey Says (Gag, Gag).....

There's been a load of discussion on the current 35 page UFT survey on blogs and listserves. Accountable Talk is urging people to send it in blank in this post How to Fill Out Your UFT Contract Survey with this proviso:

But I am going to do one thing: I am writing across the front cover, in red marker, two simple words: PROTECT US. I urge you to do the same. Tell your friends and colleagues. Email this post to them. If the powers that be at the UFT HQ see enough of these, perhaps they will get the message.

Sorry, AT. Once the UFT allowed the cow of total principal power is out of the barn, there is no way to stuff it back in. At least not without a powerful rank and file movement that is willing to go to the mattresses with BloomKlein: NO COOPERATION ON ANYTHING

Merit pay? NADA.

Agreeing to data reports? NEVER.


Call it a Winston Churchill WWII attitude. We will fight them on the beaches, etc.

But you know the answer. The UFT is incapable of this attitude. So you might get tough rhetoric from Mulgrew, but the UFT is so far in bed with BloomKlein he could not extricate it even if he wanted to.

One of the things I enjoyed the most when ICE's Jeff Kaufman was on the Executive Board was his take no prisoners approach, which infuriated Randi and the UFT/Unity Caucus suck-ups. I'll be the first to admit that when Jeff was chosen to run I barely knew him and had no idea he would bring this former cop/lawyer attitude to the table. But watching that show for three years was worth the shlep into Manhattan every two weeks. And of course the free buffet.

Anna Philips at Gotham Schools quoted Jeff :

Jeff Kaufman, a member of ICE, an opposition party within the UFT, sat on the union’s negotiating committee in 2005, but he said he never saw the survey results.

“If they get 10% response, I would be shocked. And the response they get back, you can’t tabulate — there’s no way they sit for hours putting these numbers together and reading the comments,” he said. “We do everything else electronically. I am certain a good percentage of these end up in the garbage.”

The survey, which at a bulging 35 pages long barely fits in its return envelope, lists a series of desirable changes to the contract under headings like “Class Size,” and “Respect and Professionalism,” and asks respondents to rate the importance of each on a scale of one to five. It must be returned by August 13, and may surprise more than a few union members who could return from summer vacations to find the deadline has passed.

Absent from the survey is any mention of tenure or the Absent Teacher Reserve — the pool of over 2,000 teachers who have lost their jobs and have yet to find work within the city’s school system.

Note the way the class size question is formulated. Did it ask if teachers want it as part of contract negotiations? Does it explain that there have been no significant changes in class size since it was last negotiated - in the late 1960's. I think the Beatles were involved on those negotiations.

ICE's partners in the upcoming UFT election, Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) has takes a different position than Accountable Talk.

Note that Marian Swerdlow has an additional analysis on the UFT attempts to make it look like they are democratic and will send it out to those who ask, but she doesn't want it published on the internet. Email me and I'll forward your request to Marian.

The "Member Contract Questionnaire" sent to all UFT members is a beginning, however belated. But if membership input stops here, this will be a bad mistake. We hope there will be more complete follow-up questionnaires designed for use in and with discussion in chapters.

First of all, the timing of this questionnaire could scarcely be worse. Received the first week of August, it must be returned by August 13. This is the heart of most UFT members' vacation times, when the greatest number will be on vacation or out of touch. Why is it done now, with such a ridiculously short "window period" for return? Furthermore, the administration of this questionnaire to individuals by mail during vacation precludes collective discussion and sharing which always optimizes group decision-making. TJC is going to try to remedy this by offering some input of our own, via email, and encouraging more from you. We hope and expect our sister opposition group, ICE, will do the same with its email and its blog.

It's great that this questionnaire provides some opportunities for the respondents in "write in" their concerns. We want to encourage TJC supporters to think about the following writing in their thoughts on these issues when answering the questionnaire:

Excessing Procedures -
In 2005, the UFT started allowing principals to decide whether they will allow a teacher into their schools. The result has been an explosion in the number of teachers relegated to "ATR." This questionnaire basically ignores this problem. We need rights, protections and guarantees for excessed teachers.

Negative Material in the file -
Also in 2005, the UFT gave up the right to grieve a letter in the file on the basis of it being"unfair and inaccurate." This has made it much easier for administrators and supervisors to harass, intimidate, U-rate, remove and fire UFT members. The questionnaire does refer to this problem, but in ways that are too vague. For example, page 2, question 9 asks the respondent to rate "strengthen the grievance procedures" as a "negotiating priority." On page 9, it asks whether the respondent "strongly supports" 10 statements including "Restore Letter in the file grievance procedures." This is not clear enough. It should at least say, "Restore the right to grieve a letter in the file if it is unfair or inaccurate."

The Grievance Procedure in general:
Another specific way the grievance procedure could be strengthened is by imposing penalties on the D.o.E. for lack of timeliness. As of now, all the penalties for timeliness are on the UFT member: if we don't grieve on time, it is too late. However, the principal or the Chancellor's office can stall forever before rendering a decision, and there's no penalty. The result is that people can wait years until they get a decision on a grievance. In the mean time, the abuse can go on and on. If a lack of a decision within a time limit meant the grievant would win, we would get timely decisions, and violations could be curbed.

The 2005 so-called "Open Market Transfer Plan"
Does it serve our needs? Should we be fighting to restore the seniority plan, or aspects of it that could put checks on principals' arbitrary powers?

Rights of accused members
Do we want better protections for members against allegations? One important example: When there is an allegation against a member, the D.o.E. carries out an investigation. However, the accused member has no corresponding right to carry out an investigation, and doesn't even have the right to know the charge while the investigation is going on. This puts our members at a tremendous disadvantage and all the evidence is one-sided. Do we want better enforcement of due process rights and other rights of reassigned (removed) members?

New professional and administrative assignments
The only question here about this is whether there are too many of the latter as compared to the former. But do we want administrative assignments at all? The old way, both union and principal had to agree to add an activity to the menu, and what the "expectations" should be, and disputes went to a union-management committee. Now the principal has final say. Do we want to go back to the old way?

There is no mention of sabbaticals. Members are often denied sabbaticals and the explanations are irrational and/or violative. The union seems powerless to protect our sabbatical rights. Repeatedly, we hear sabbaticals are an endangered species. How important is it to us to have stronger protections for sabbatical rights and to make sure sabbaticals are preserved for our newest UFT members to enjoy as they accrue seniority?

Perhaps these issues can be included in follow-up questionnaires and discussions.

Individual questionnaires, and even group discussions, are important but not enough. It's great to go into a contract struggle with demands for generous raises and no givebacks. But sometimes a choice is unavoidable between taking one giveback or another, or launching or continuing a strike. It is imperative to consult the membership at such junctures. Even when you are making gains, during negotiations unforseen choices arise over which gains the membership wants more. The importance of membership control grows as negotiations intensify. In addition to Delegate Assemblies, membership meetings on the regional, borough and even union-wide level should be introduced to implement this control.

Unfortunately, the UFT's past record in this regard leaves much to be desired. For the present contract, there was an almost identical survey in August 2006. We had slightly more time to fill it out. There was no follow-up. When the contract was settled prematurely in October 2006, it had hardly any relationship to anything in the questionnaire, as evidenced by the fact that this questionnaire is practically identical to its predecessor: There seems to be only a single instance of winning the many priorities and issues we were asked about in the questionnaire: the five-year longevity. In the light of this, we have the right to feel skeptical over how much this questionnaire will mean.

2006 vs. 2009: A Section-by-Section Guide to What Can We Learn from Comparing Two Questionnaires

How has the questionnaire changed? What does this show us about our union's trajectory? What clues can the changes give us about what lies in the future? To get a copy of Marian Swerdlow's comparative analysis of these two UFT attempts to "look democratic," reply to this email. (EMAIL ME AT NORMSCO@GMAIL.COM)


  1. ...and to top it all off, the returning envelope is not big enough for the questionnaire!

  2. At our first city-wide D.A. meeting, the rank-and-file must voice this issue passionately. I am one of the members on vacation and will not be able to fill out the survey, and this will be the first time ever that I am excluded in this democratic process! Why would a 350-member committee agree on an 8/13 deadline? I don't understand the reason behind the exclusion of so many members from participating in this survey. Is it cost-efficient not to have so many members available to fill out the survey?

  3. This survey is garbage because we have a union that gives away everything. Waste of paper.

  4. The tone of the questions on the survey speaks for itself. There is no mention of seniority rights, rubber rooms, atr's, but the issues of the younger, temporary work force are in play such as maternity leave, child care, and affordable housing. Once again it is pitting old against young, by throwing the newbies and teach for America types a few bones so they will vote to ratify the contract at the expense of the older teachers whose rights are being eroded with each new contract.

  5. To Anonymous 2:14..We did not agree to this deadline. We did not even know the survey questions would be finalized without vigorous discussion.
    I recommmended that they extend the deadline to return the survey for at least for another week, and no dice. Hopefully, we all can open the envelopes and review the contents. I really don't know who is going to tabulate the results.
    However, I believe we all show have a look at the ones that come in based on which members we represent.I will certainly request this.

  6. Can anyone answer this question for me. I am my schools delegate and I was contacted by a Para about a question on the survey under miscellaneous in the para section.

    #13. Provide articulation time for paraprofessionals.

    Like her I have no idea, and an internet search has been very enlightening.

    Thxs for the help.



  7. Sorry for the followup. My post was supposed to read the internet search was NOT very enlightening.



  8. I think it might mean "preparation" time. A prep for paras is an issue that has been brought up recently. Maybe that "articulation" thing is a misprint. I'd tell the para to write in the word prep time and answer as if that's what it meant.

    Unless, of course, someone suggests something better!

  9. The survey is the first step in gathering data, not the last step. It takes time to print, mail and analyze a survey of all members. Do you think it would have been a better idea to wait until October. The the accusations would come that the union did not prepare. As a classroom teacher I was thrilled to have a voice in the process. I do not sit on the committee because of time constraints, but as a delegate I know if I was not chosen, there was a means to request participation.

    A challenge, create a survey of your own and give me a chance to review...I have a doctorate in soc/political science methodology and would like to see how you can improve upon my union survey.

    Folks, there are issues in our jobs, big issues...but to think that our union can wave a magic wand and make it right in "your minds" a bit unreasonable.

  10. How come they sent the surveys now in August, when they Know that most of us are on vacation? Why they didn't send it on June before the closing of the schools? This is very suspicious. I agree with all of you that major concerns that we have are totally omitted. These protests should reach the ears of those, who make these decisions.

  11. I might not have a doctorate in soc/political science methodology or a doctorate, period. However, there should have been acommon sense approach to this process of having the committee of 300 formed in Mar or Apr 2009, the survey formed and **emailed** in May, and provide a preliminary feedback to the members in June. Our members' future is at stake and you don't need a doctorate to realize this. Let's protect the members' rights and let's NOT waste anymore time. It is an insult to those reading this to be given this challenge of creating a survey now when it was upto the union leadership to have given this challenge to the members in a timely fashion and not in a belated manner.

  12. To me the survey is a form of posturing democratic governance when in fact it is nothing more than a pile of trash. We know it and the UFT leadership knows it too. We do not want dead surveys but real conversations in the Union grassroots about issues we care about. Our Contract Document Demands should be a synthesis of these living conversations and debates throughout the Union.


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