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UFT Members: Why are we being misled on contract negotiations?
UFT higher-ups are directly contradicting themselves when discussing certain details of contract negotiations. In this article, I ask why. Full version of article on https://newaction.org
At last night’s Executive Board Meeting, UFT leadership disappointed many rank-and-file attendees when it came to contract. UFT leaders have been misleading us about something big, effectively lying (at least organizationally), and making us ask ‘why?’ and ‘what else isn’t being shared accurately with members?’
Specifically, during a report, Carl Cambria claimed that only the UFT wants to get a contract before summer; that the DOE could care less. Cambria’s claim contradicts directly what the UFT has been telling us in official communications. In a Chapter Leader Update as recent as May 18, we were told “Negotiation meetings are taking place daily as the UFT, the DOE and the city try to reach a contract agreement by the end of the school year.” Notice, here it isn’t just the UFT who wants to reach a contract by summer – it’s also our employer. And at the May 17 Delegate Assembly, Michael Mulgrew told us directly that ‘We are trying, both us and the City, to get this done before the end of the school year.’ That’s two places now – two – where UFT leadership has told us directly that the City also wants the contract done soon.
So why is Cambria now telling us the opposite?
I can think of a few reasons: (1) it’s a good rallying cry to get a yes vote – now the timeliness of the contract becomes what we’re fighting for; it will seem like a win when we get it in June if members believe that we had to fight for a contract before summer. (2) It helps UFT leadership justify rushing out the ratification process. Indeed, while I had initially thought we’d get the ball rolling as early as this week, I’m now starting to think the UFT might actually wait until June to even start. (3) Alternatively, maybe the nontruth was earlier, when the UFT signaled that the City wanted the same things as UFT leadership (a contract before summer). Maybe our top negotiators misread things so badly that they put into print something that wasn’t true. And (4) Maybe UFT leadership is lying organizationally but not personally. Maybe Mulgrew is saying one thing he believes (and including it at the DA and in the CL update), while Carl is saying what he believes (and including it in the executive board update). If that’s the case, that means the top layers of our negotiation team aren’t in sync, and both are conveying opposite positions in official UFT forums mere days apart. That possibility means our organization is broken. It makes me equally pessimistic on our contract future.
I’m beyond disappointed. At some point, someone in leadership misled us. And that makes me extremely skeptical about the contract process. To add insult to injury, Unity voted down a basic common sense resolution on giving delegates time to read the contract before voting. Some of their arguments were frankly ridiculous. Liz Perez, for instance, noted that a no vote campaign already exists (it doesn’t – she’s likely thinking of UFC’s vote no if we don’t meet five basic demands campaign). And she suggested that one reason 2 weeks would be a problem was because then people might publicize negative things about the contract. But that’s precisely the point – if there are negative things in the contract, delegates deserve to know about them before we vote on them, no?
That brings me to my conclusion: What reason could UFT leadership have to rush through a contract? My guess: the deal probably isn’t very good.
*Nick Bacon is a member of the UFT High School Executive Board and a Co-Chair of New Action / UFT. For more information on contract, curriculum, class sizes, and other items from last night’s UFT Executive Board meeting, see the full version of this article, which includes informal meeting minutes.