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Defending ATRs and RTRs

November 4, 2008 pm30 6:20 pm
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Right now, the most vulnerable members of the United Federation of Teachers are ATRs and RTRs.

ATR (Attendance Teacher Reserve) are mainly teachers whose schools closed and were not picked up by a new school. Many of them have decades of experience. They keep a job, but that job is not teaching. In some schools they are daily subs, in others they are given little to do. The New York City Department of Education wants to fire them, although they cannot without reopening our contract, which the union should not do. The union thinks, I think, probably most of ATRs think that they should take jobs as slots open, and that the DoE should not hire off the street while there are ATRs waiting to be placed. This year some brand new NYC Teaching Fellows had jobs, but got excessed, and became ATRs as well.

RTRs (don’t know what the first R is) are mostly NYC Teaching Fellows who were trained this summer, but not placed. The Department of Education hired too many teachers – probably with the intention of sowing insecurity. The RTRs are being threatened with firing December 5 — and that threat is real.

1. We need a clear, forthright statement that our union will stand up and fight for our most vulnerable members. And we have it.

2. We need to raise public awareness. Jeez, saying “let teachers teach!” is easy, and the message makes too much sense. The November 24 rally is an important step.

3. We need to challenge the predatory Department of Education. In the case of ATRs, we have remained firm on not reopening the contract, on no layoffs. We have also raised a moratorium on new hiring, until all ATRs in that license are placed, but we should campaign more on that.

4. We need to challenge the Department of Education’s threat to fire the RTRs. Last week Central filed a union-initiated grievance, arguing in effect that the DoE had extra-contractually entered into individual agreements with each Teaching Fellow (in violation of collective bargaining.) They expect to bring this forward to arbitration, and even court, if necessary.

But they could also have (and perhaps still should, I am not a grievance specialist or lawyer, so honestly, idk) argue based on the Teachers’ Contract, Article 1, Paragraph 5:

During the term of this agreement, should the Board employ a new title or category of employees having a community of interest with employees in the existing bargaining unit described herein, employees in such new title or category shall be included within the existing bargaining unit, and upon request of the Union the parties shall negotiate the terms and conditions of employment for such new title or category of employees;

that there are negotiations that must be entered into.

5. If we are unable to stop the DoE, we should argue for the creation of a “Preferred List” of Teaching Fellows — those who were RTRs — and we should insist that they be the first hired for cohort 18 in the Spring. This could be something like the preferred lists we maintained during and after the 1975 Fiscal Crisis, to protect our members who lost their jobs.

6. Finally, in unity (small u) there is strength. I understand that some RTRs, poorly treated by the Department of Education, have turned their anger against the union. I understand the frustration, but it is being poorly directed. A few are trying to organize a meeting directly with the DoE, without the union. We should not fall into the employer’s divide and conquer trap. I am sympathetic to the situation of those who are attempting to organize the meeting, but I am opposed to any and all efforts which divide us.

This past summer I spoke with over 100 of the 1600 new teaching fellows. I provided a sober assessment of how difficult their first year would be, warnings about horrible schools to avoid, advisement to avoid looking like the principal’s pet, direction to seek out experienced teachers, direction to participate passively for now in their UFT chapter, membership, Health and Welfare and COPE forms… I attempted to show them the difference between their rights as written in the contract and their rights as upheld by their chapter (and some warning about strong chapters, weak chapters, principal’s chapters, and non-existent chapters).

And more of that sort of stuff. That kind of education work is important. I think, done more widely, it would tend to produce more pro-union fellows, more who would work with central to address these issues. We need to reach more next summer.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Cindy permalink
    January 12, 2009 am31 2:02 am 2:02 am

    Someone told me today that February 5 will be the last day for the RTRs. This is insane, because the DOE has websites and signs up inviting new teachers to teach for New York. She should announce a hiring freeze make sure that the teachers in the ATR and RTR get positions when they come available.
    I attended a workshop today at the UFT Center for ATRs, and the place look like a senior citizen center. This entire episode has been something out of a horror movie. However, I hope justice prevail.

    • January 12, 2009 am31 6:49 am 6:49 am

      The number of RTRs is down about 50%. I think maybe 45 are left?

      Sigh of relief as they find jobs. But then, let’s remember. The DoE intentionally overhired. These people need to be stopped.

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