Sunday, May 21, 2023

United for Change: OUR BIG 5 UFT CONTRACT DEMANDS – OR WE MUST VOTE ‘NO’! - Take the Pledge to vote NO! If They Are not included

If Mulgrew is serious about class size implementation and enforcement, he’d support a class size guarantee in our next contract. The United For Change coalition is calling for one as part of their BIG 5 contract demands. -- Educators of NYC

Sunday, May 21, 2023

United for Change (UFC) is pointing to 5 big must haves in the upcoming contract: Fair pay, Healthcare, Class size, Working conditions, and a host of other issues.

The UFT leadership is anxious to wrap up the contract by hook or crook before the end of the school year - so they can focus on screwing retirees on healthcare when their move to Aetna takes effect on Sept. 1. 

But rest assured, changes are coming to working teachers on healthcare AFTER they vote on the contract. Unity is selling the idea we can't negotiate on healthcare but Mulgrew can through the MLC. The UFT constitution calls for a vote on all contracts but Unity has been violating this constantly. 

There is another big rally on healthcare at city hall this Wednesday at noon. I will be there.

That is why we need to keep circulating our petition calling for a vote on healthcare.

I will have a follow-up piece on the gaslighting from the faux 500 Unity Caucus dominated negotiating committees (bet on their voting to ratify even if there's dog shit on the contract) and the upcoming "let's call an emergency DA, give people 10 minutes to read the contract and vote, then a big push to threaten the rank and file with dire consequences if they vote no" campaign.

We have already seen Unity attacks and scare tactics about a NO vote. Remember the NO vote in the 1995 contract which originally raised max years from 20 to 25 years, the main reason people voted it down? Sandra Feldman said we must be smoking something if we think we will get something better. Yet we did -- knocked down the max to 22 years, still a loss and a giveback but not as much. Even in the 1975 strike which Shanker lost for us, he still claimed that by striking instead of losing 15k jobs we only lost 13k. Wowser! The OT/PT unit turned down the last UFT contract and won some improvement in the follow-up. So there is a history of winning a better deal by turning down the first one.

In 2005 ICE and TJC (New Action was then aligned with Unity) led a NO vote and almost pulled it off with 40%. That contract still haunts us today as it killed a lot of seniority protections and opened the doors for Bloomberg to closed schools and created the ATR situation with no guaranteed regular jobs. The rank and file were aware and rose up to a great extent but just not enough. If they could have re-voted two years late that contract would have lost. 

Now for the last 50-something years until I retired and could not vote, I always voted NO because there was no improvement in class size. The union would not even negotiate it. But the UFT claimed the big lobbying "victory" on a recent law on class size and I was yelling at my colleagues on the negotiating committee to demand class size be included because the contract protects us against fudging with the law and even reversals when there is a budget crunch.

So lo and behold I wasn't surprised to see this from our esteemed mis-leader:

"Meeting the new class size standards is going to require a real plan -- and so far, the DOE hasn't managed to create one.  This document is missing a strategy for implementation and a targeted proposal for where and when new seats should be built. The state passed the small class size law and increased funding to New York City public schools to pay for it. We will work with the state to make sure the New York City Department of Education fulfills its obligations and complies with this law" - Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers
Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters eviscerated the Adams/Banks administration, which opposed the class size law and is working actively to gut it.

On Friday, DOE posted what is purported to be their draft five- year class size reduction plan, in accordance with the new state law.  As I was quoted in the Daily News, “It’s a big nothing burger.  There is no plan. They’re hoping just to coast on enrollment decline until it’s too late to do anything real.”

There is nothing in the plan about providing more space or staffing to lower class size, or capping enrollment at very overcrowded schools.  There is nothing about creating space by using more creative strategies, e.g. by possibly moving more PreK seats out of elementary schools to CBOs which have thousands of empty seats. There is nothing at all about how the benchmarks will be achieved in the out years, especially given how DOE intends to continue cutting school budgets and has proposed to slash the capital plan by $2.3 billion and 22,000 seats.  In fact, there is not a single mention in the proposed Feb. amendment to the capital plan, released six months after the Governor signed the class size bill into law, that even mentions the mandate to lower class size.

I will keep saying this - Class size has not been lowered in the contract for over 50 years -- codify the state law. 

Now the UFT is calling for rallies this week on Thursday and UFC is supporting these rallies even though some of us see them as staged to give the impression that they can influence the contract -- like Adams will be influenced. OK. I'll go along. Some cynics think there is already an agreement and the UFT is staging events and holding off to squeeze the issue into the final two weeks of June to try to circumvent a No vote campaign. I'm shocked, just shocked -- (Yes I watched Casablanca again last night for the 100th time.).

The United for Change coalition (New Action, Retiree Advocate, MORE, Solidarity, ICE, EONYC) began meeting again with the pressure of the new contract and has produced a fabulous leaflet which we handed out at the DA last Wednesday. 

While the UFT leaders "sell" the 3% pattern --- I even heard at a recent ex bd meeting the chief negotiator say we need to keep fighting for that pattern since we haven't attained it yet. As a social security recipient I'm getting 8%. It pays to be old.  Did you notice the wins of other teacher unions? How about Oakland? Sam Seder interviews Vilma Serrano of the Oakland Education Association (OEA). The contract includes a historic raise for all full-time teachers and stipends for specialty educators and staff.

Daniel Alicea of Educators of NYC has been the architect of the campaign, showing his many talents.

And HS Ex Bd member Nick Bacon has been on the case. Let me point out that two years ago Nick was in Unity and Daniel was looking to work with Unity (both voted for Unity in 2019). These are not the usual oppo suspects (like me). It says something about the waning of internal power and influence of Unity. Daniel and Nick make a dynamic duo.

UFT: Let’s Fight for the Contract We Deserve

With the first tentative agreement likely to be presented within the next few weeks, every last action matters. Reposted from the New Action blog at

MAY 21, 2023

On Wednesday, May 24th, our union will hold what is likely to be the UFT’s final organizing action for the 2023 contract. Members will assemble at five sites (one in each borough) to rally for a fair agreement. I am hopeful that attendance will be good – not just by staffers, but by regular rank-and-file teachers, paras, and related professionals. And yes, I plan to attend, and have encouraged members of my chapter to attend. I encourage you to attend too.

Sure, I have some reservations about whether the specifics of this event are good enough to get us the contract we deserve. I think it’s a mistake that our union’s leadership is so committed to keeping working teachers from having the right to strike. I think that their over-reliance on bureaucratic ‘Taylor Law’ tactics undermines the potency of our organizing. And, I worry that if UFT leadership is relying on the threat of PERB rather than the culmination of good organizing (i.e. the viable ‘strike’ threat), the City has little reason to react to the limited organizing it does see.

But strike threat or not, the more of us that show up to contract actions, the more of a reason the City has to listen to us. So, I’m showing up. I’m showing up, because, like it or not, this is the official organizing we have. It’s what we’ve put our entire union’s dues, staff efforts, and volunteer work into producing.

 Read it all at The Wire:

Here is a copy and paste for those wanting to share with their staffs.

We need a truly fair contract that we, our families and school communities can live and thrive on. Anything less - means we must vote ‘NO”! Take the BIG 5 pledge:
- We demand raises for all UFT members that match or outpace the skyrocketing cost of living in the NYC area.
Paraprofessionals should be paid a living wage. Occupational therapists and physical therapists, with entry level masters or doctoral requirements, should have pay parity with other educator titles.
We should be close to top pay much earlier in our careers.
We live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and inflation has hit us hard here. With numbers at 6% and cost of living at 9%, none of us can afford 3 or 3.5% raises.
Some of our titles are being hit particularly hard. Paraprofessionals, for instance, form the backbone of our schools. They have some of the most physically demanding jobs, but are not paid a living wage. They deserve pay that reflects the reality of their hard work.
There are also some titles that make less than UFT-represented positions with comparable labor/education requirements. Occupational therapists’ and physical therapists’ salaries top out at $81K while other titles with similar degree requirements top out near $120K. They deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. We all do!

PREMIUM-FREE, QUALITY HEALTHCARE - We demand that our choice and quality of existing healthcare plans be expanded and improved - not diminished or replaced with inferior options.
If significant changes are proposed, they must be fully disclosed to us and put to a vote by members. Voting on such collective bargaining items is our right.
(See healthcare referendum petition:
 Our healthcare, and the healthcare for our families, should not be leveraged in salary negotiations. Healthcare is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining that to our detriment has been greatly diminished, especially in the last 2 contracts - 2014 & 2018.
In 2018, the City and Mulgrew agreed to “cost savings" of $600 million dollars every year, in perpetuity. Since then, retirees have been forced into an inferior privatized Medicare Advantage plan. In-service members have seen increases in co-pays, dental, eye and mental health care deteriorate, and our entire plans are about to be changed. This was done without member consent. Changes were not fully disclosed at the time of contract votes. Let us have informed votes on significant changes.

SMALLER CLASS SIZE GUARANTEE - We demand that new NYS class size caps for grades K-12 be contractually guaranteed.
We need enforceable mechanisms to ensure that the City follows the new law.
The newly passed state law that sets lower class size caps must be fully implemented by 2028. However, the City is already balking at implementing the law and not fully funding schools or capital building investments to this end. Also, there are at least four existing loopholes in the law that will result in the lack of enforcement of the new caps.
Our existing contractual class size caps are over 50 years old. We have a golden opportunity to codify the new law contractually. Putting the new class size limits into our contract adds needed teeth to a law that otherwise might go unenforced. Give us the ability to grieve oversized classes, so that our students get the small class sizes they deserve.

REAL TEACHER AUTONOMY, ALONG WITH REDUCED CASELOADS We demand an end to micromanaged professional periods and unproductive PDs. Teachers are the best judge of how to use our non-teaching time. Let us decide how to use it.
The caseloads of IEP teachers, related service and guidance counselors must be contractually capped.
Day after day, teachers are pulled to work meaningless C6 assignments that have nothing to do with their instruction. What could be an extra period to plan, assess, and collaborate, becomes yet another moment of meetings and paperwork. Every Monday, this is compounded in long ‘professional development’ periods that take over an hour of our time for meetings no one needs. As a result, teachers end up doing much of their work at home, which eats into their personal and family lives. The same can be said for IEP teachers, counselors, and related service providers, whose uncapped caseloads force them to bring their work home. Give us our time back. Cap caseloads and eliminate unnecessary meetings/C6 assignments.

IMPROVEMENTS TO TENURE, EVALUATIONS, PAID FAMILY LEAVE AND TIER 6 PENSIONS - Tenure and pensions are under attack. Evaluations are out of control. Paid family leave is insufficient.
The City must agree contractually to lobby the State for reforms and changes. We’ve made agreements like this in the past, and they’ve worked. It’s due time we do so again.
The Danielson rubric has been weaponized against us, instead of being supportive. Tenure is being denied for 8 or 9 years, leaving new teachers without due process and forcing them to leave the system. Under Tier 6, teachers will need to be teaching nearly 40 years to retire! We should have 25/55 offered to this tier. Paid family leave for most New Yorkers is 12 weeks. Educators deserve the same.
Union leadership has chosen to tell us a half truth when it comes to these issues. We’ve been told that we can’t negotiate these issues because they are linked to state laws and other regulations. Nonetheless, they fail to tell us that we can, indeed, get the City to commit to lobbying the state to make or approve needed changes. In some cases, the City itself can make the changes. We’ve successfully done so in previous contracts.

  Watch the interview Sam did with Vilma Serrano, the Oakland Teacher.

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