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DoE blocked from firing RTRs today

December 12, 2008 am31 4:25 am

This year the NYC Department of Education overhired teachers. I think they did it purposefully, to sow instability in the system. But whatever, that’s just my opinion. Some of the Teaching Fellows they hired did not find placement. They are called RTRs, assigned to schools to sub and cover classes. And the DoE has been trying to fire them. And the UFT has been fighting them. [edit (left out imp. 1st step): We filed a union-initiated grievance earlier this fall] We went to court last week, and got an injunction against December 5 firings. We went back Tuesday, and got the injunction extended. And on defense today, we stopped a DoE attempt to void the injunction.

There are two negatives to point out:

  1. the mess, in part, was our own doing. We blundered badly on a previous contract, modifying the transfer provisions. The contractual change alone did not cause great immediate harm, but a series of small separate changes in DoE fund allocation, accounting, etc, combined with the contractual change to cause the current nightmare. We can’t make that many concessions without some of them having ramifications. Our leaders should have known.
  2. the UFT communication with the RTRs (and frankly all the Fellows) was inadequate through the summer and fall. Also, regular members should have been better-informed about what was going on. The DoE was threatening to fire members; that’s a big deal!  It seems that the UFT leadership did not want to release information unless there was something either a) positive or b) concrete to report. This is a mistake. Information should flow freely. An informed membership works to our advantage. It fosters unity within our ranks. And it leads to easier mobilization, better pushback on the school level.

However, now that we have something positive, our leadership has been excellent about getting out the information swiftly. This is the third update Chapter Leaders have received since last week. (see the two links above). The “keep you posted” attitude is especially appreciated. Here’s Randi’s e-mail:

The Department of Education went back to court today with an emergency application to ask the Appellate Division to vacate the trial judge’s Dec. 9 order preventing the DOE from immediately terminating you and 87 other Teaching Fellows.

I’m pleased to report that the Appellate Division denied the city’s emergency application and refused to vacate the preliminary injunction preventing your termination. Instead, the DOE and the UFT have to submit briefs on the issues by Dec. 19. That means your jobs are safe for the time being. Nothing will change until the Appellate Division rules on whether or not to vacate the order or an arbitrator rules in the union’s grievance, whichever is earlier.

In the grievance that the union filed earlier this fall, we argue that Teaching Fellows like yourself are being improperly targeted for termination because our collective-bargaining agreement, which has job-security provisions, supersedes the DOE pre-employment contract that you were required to sign that allowed for your dismissal by its Dec. 5 deadline.

Thanks to the court action today, we are still hopeful that the arbitration process will have a chance to work.
We will continue to keep you posted.

randi's signature
Randi Weingarten
UFT President
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