Tuesday, November 6, 2018

School Scope: UFT Contract Passes, Pre-Midterm Thoughts

My column submitted to The WAVE for Nov. 9, 2018.

Written Monday, Nov. 5.
School Scope: UFT Contract Passes, Pre-Midterm Thoughts
By Norm Scott

As further proof that I don’t have a life, I did my due diligence as an unpaid reporter for The WAVE by spending over half a day last Friday at the American Arbitration Association (AAA) attempting to observe the vote count for the new UFT contract. It turned into 5 hours of watching 30 workers opening over 100,000 outer, then inner envelopes before a nugget of a ballot with either a YES or NO or a “Go to hell” written on it emerged, to be stacked and ready for counting. Since there were 14 separate contracts being voted on, there were 14 colored ballots. I can’t imagine the range of 14 colors once we get beyond the primary ones.



When I left at 3:30 not one vote had been counted yet. I also had to sign a non-disclosure statement that I would not reveal the results until the Sunday official announcement. At least they served lunch (so Mark, don’t worry about me asking for expenses from The WAVE.)

Sunday afternoon the results were released and UFT members voted 87% in favor overall on a new contract. But due to those 14 separate contracts (secretaries, paras, social workers, etc.), the numbers varied. The teacher contract covering around 65,000 people is the largest component and as of this writing (Monday morning) the numbers released were somewhere between 80 and 85%, lower than the average, which means most non-teacher chapters ratified the contract with numbers in the 90s. (I would have loved to watch those colored ballots fly through the counting machines.)

However, one contract was not ratified, the Occupational/Physical therapists chapter, which also includes school nurses. (I don’t have the exact numbers on the NO vote yet.) In the 2014 contract, OT/PTs were also unhappy but voted YES, although it was the lowest total of any group. This time it seems they have had enough. Getting into the exact reasons would take up more than a few words, so at this point I won’t get into the weeds. But I will point out that rejecting a negotiated contract is a serious matter and theoretically forces the UFT leadership to go back to the bargaining table. The leadership sells contracts to the members in massive propaganda campaigns with the message that they won’t get anything more by saying NO (though when the teachers rejected the 1995 contract in the first vote, the union did come back 6 months later with a better contract (though not much better). Thus I expect the leadership to do little or nothing as a way to punish them for their rejection. He very quickly announced they would not be getting their raises.

Mid-terms, anyone?
I hear vague rumors that another election is taking place tomorrow and the impact of the UFT contract vote pales in comparison. I’m going to do something I never do: Vote straight Democratic ticket, though when it comes time to check off the box for Governor Cuomo I don’t think I can do it without having a barf bag ready. Usually I would vote 3rd party Green but at this time I don’t feel we can afford to talk about fringe voting even when I agree with their platform. For now we are stuck with a two-party system and the lesser of two evils argument is more apt then ever. Two years ago I thought we were sinking into a one party system as the Democrats seemed to be sinking. I never thought I would be happy over a mere two parties, but for now it’s enough, though I do not expect to see a blue wave.

There are lessons about how fast things can turn sour in any nation or even civilizations that have fallen in the past, sometimes in a blink of an eye, a lesson we learned on a recent two week Road Scholar tour of Croatia, one of the numerous parts of the former Yugoslavia, a nation that came tumbling down in a seeming NY minute. I remember the wonderful 1984 winter Olympic Games in the beautiful city of Sarajevo in Bosnia which adjoins Croatia. In less than a decade it was a war zone, as was most of Yugloslavia, with more than a bit of ethnic cleansing, for which people were and are being prosecuted for war crimes. Yugoslavia broke up when age-old Balkan nationalism with doses of religious differences thrown in, reared its ugly head.

We don’t have competing nationalists asking for their own territory based on where we all came from. Instead, we have race and racism as issues of division, as witnessed by the Civil War, which is still being fought by some people in black churches, schools and synagogues.

Next week we’ll look at where we stand as we turn into the 2020 presidential campaign where we expect to see a cast of thousands. Meanwhile, I gotta run, as there’s this massive caravan from Central America coming down my street.

Norm will be blogging about all of the above at ednotesonline.com.

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