UFT Contract Update: Countdown for ‘Chump Change?’
In mere weeks, we may have a tentative deal with the City. But will it be worth the paper it's printed on? Reposted with permission from the New Action blog at https://newaction.org
It seems like everywhere we’re getting signals that UFT leadership is readying for contract ratification. To get a ‘yes vote’ though, they’ll need membership to agree – whether it’s a good deal or not. And that work needs to start now – before we see the details and have second thoughts. At this moment, we don’t know much. We know that our raises are going to be bad -really bad. And we know nothing about changes to working conditions, except that our negotiators ‘had not necessarily heard back what they wanted to hear.’ So what’s that leave UFT leadership? They can’t promise us things we aren’t going to get if they want us to vote yes, so they have three ‘yes vote’ techniques:
Start selling the parts of the contract that they do know we are going to get, so that when it’s announced, members focus only on those few wins and forget the many demands that went unmet (or worse).
Begin focusing on when we get a raise, rather than how much will be in it. If we rush a bad contract, after all, we can get limited money quick. Summer is around the corner –a tempting time to dangle a few bucks in front of teachers and say ‘sure, we didn’t fix any working conditions, but wouldn’t you rather have this money now than wait until Fall to renegotiate?’
Host special events that serve to bring members together to feel good about the contract – and how successful we were in negotiating it.
All the data we have supports the inference that UFT leadership is using all three of these methods to rush a yes vote. As Carl Cambria put it during last Monday’s UFT Executive Board Meeting:
‘The pattern is out there, it’s not in our members pockets. We have to wrap up negotiations and put something before our members so that they can have something to ratify and get that money in their pockets and everything else. A lot of people putting in a lot of time. We’ll continue doing that until May 23rd and will have a fuller meeting then.’
The emphasis here is on getting something before our members (not necessarily something of quality). As for when, one key date, May 23rd, is raised. On that day, the full 500-member negotiating committee will all be together with only about a month to spare before we break for summer vacation. Might we vote then on a tentative agreement? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps instead, UFT leadership will really push the limits and wait until June, as they seemed to suggest in a recent chapter leader update. But, with only about a month to hold votes in the contract committee, the executive board, and the DA, before sending it out for a full membership vote, I’d be more surprised if we didn’t get that ball rolling on or around May 23rd. Then, in the invitation to the May 24th contract action—a mere day after that negotiating committee meeting—this is the language used:
“How many lessons have been planned, students have been served and services have been provided since our contract expired? It’s been a full year without a raise in sight. The DOE continues to believe that if they aren’t micromanaging our time, we aren’t working. Every day, we give our all so our students can have what they need. We have had enough! Let’s make our voices heard. The time is now for UFT members to get the contract we deserve.”
The wording here is telling.
The email mentions one possible win: less micromanagement of our time. Therefore, I might infer that some sort of win is projected on working conditions. Micromanagement of time would seem to refer to C6s and/or the extended day. If we could get some serious wins on that, many of us would be happy. Maybe other more critical demands will not be met, but that’s why they aren’t mentioned here. If teachers are going to vote yes, UFT leadership needs them to be laser focused on gains we’re actually getting, however minor.
The email does not mention the amount of money we will get. (Indeed, that number is quite low). It just says that we ‘deserve a raise now.’ It highlights the fact that it’s been a very long time since our last wage increase – but leaves out that UFT negotiated the 2018 contract to not have raises in its final year. Why are they twisting their own bad negotiating to get us to agree to a new deal now? My guess? The decent raise option is already out the door. Therefore, UFT leadership is shifting language from talking about the amount of a raise we deserve to its timeliness. Timely summer money is really the only counter Unity would have to opposing ‘no vote campaigns, should they arise. If opposition unionists were to argue that the deal wasn’t good enough to approve, UFT leadership could paint us as keeping people from getting their money. That’s money we’d likely get anyways as retro if we waited, so the value of getting it early is dubious if it means also committing to mediocre gains elsewhere. So again, the only argument would be ‘money in time for summer.’
I’ve always said that we should use every tactic at our disposal to negotiate better terms for our members. But if UFT is signaling everywhere that we’re about done, and if we’re likely to vote on or close to May 23rd, why the strike ‘style’ event a day later? I mention this, because word from NAC members/affiliates is that the preparation meetings for May 24th have been feel-good Unity-heavy events that seemed to lack substance. Moreover, using an event like what is planned on May 24th for ‘yes-vote’ purposes rather than negotiating purposes would keep with the MO of other ‘Taylor law proud’ union leaders, such as those of DC37, who held a major rally on Feb. 16, only to announce a tentative agreement with the City the next day (Feb. 17). That deal, we now know, cemented one of the worst patterns in the history of the NYC labor movement. That pattern, we’re now stuck with. But it’s OK. As Mayor Adams put it recently:
Thanks Eric Adams. And thanks UFT leadership. By not organizing for a pattern that would pay us what we deserve, you’d almost think they agreed we ‘don’t do it for the money.’ To close: A reminder that these are New Action’s contract demands. If we don’t get them in this contract, I don’t intend to vote yes in exchange for ‘timelier chump change’ and slightly less micromanagement during my C6. I intend to fight for better.
NEW ACTION/UFT PROPOSALS FOR CONTRACT DEMANDS
Pay raises in line with surrounding districts
Maximum salary should be reached in 10 years like many other unions
Reduce class size in every division
Reduce caseloads of counselors, school psychologists, and other titles
No agreement to place new hires into HMOs
End Fair Student Funding/Return to Unit Costing to end discrimination/harassment of veteran teachers
Fight the attacks on Chapter Leaders and chapter members
Fight abusive principals and place abusers on a UFT Watch List/Send teams into these schools
Reinstitute seniority transfers
End ATR pool by placement in vacancies
Work to end school segregation
Work to increase staff diversity
Restore the right to grieve letters in the file
Allow members to challenge principal’s judgment on observation reports
Remove the Danielson Framework and decouple test scores from evaluations. Reform the evaluation system to be teacher led.
Set penalties for administrators who repeatedly violate class size provisions
And NO MORE healthcare givebacks!!!!
Nick Bacon is a member of the UFT High School Executive Board and a Co-Chair of New Action / UFT. For more information about New Action and how to join the movement to achieve a reasonable contract, click here.