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If the contract is not ratified…

May 24, 2014 am31 7:19 am

Probably the contract will be ratified. Across the city, teachers, while not enthusiastic about the money or the language, are relieved to be getting something. Now, if it were just the Bronx high schools voting, it would fail, 2:1 or even 3:1, but that’s the high schools, and the Bronx. How can we really know what happened across the City?  With the rush, and the $1000 signing bonus, and little time for teachers to talk to each other and ask questions, I think it’ll pass. But if I had to guess I’d say this contract passes with an unenthusiastic 70% or so. Compare the TWU, who just ratified by 83%, or the 90% for the last UFT contract. I don’t expect it as tight as the 2005 UFT contract, which was approved by just 60% of teachers and 63% overall. (You can imagine Bronx HS numbers that time!)  But I don’t know.

But what if somehow there are more no voters, and the thing fails. The UFT leadership will go back to the negotiating table. We will be first in line (ignore the rhetoric – I think it’s clear we go first). What do we want our leaders to change?

Some might be tempted to ask that every aspect be renegotiated. But imagine a contract defeat. Maybe 45% yes – 55% no. Both the UFT negotiators and the City will want to quickly come back with an agreement that does just enough to get the thing passed, which means, just enough to get 6% to switch. (Actually, they will shoot higher, since they would want a slightly safer cushion.) That speaks to one or two changes. What would you want them to change?

1. Health Care. Take it out of the agreement. Might cost money on wages. Probably can’t be done while improving wages. Making health savings a material part of the contract, and giving an outsider the right to determine if we are in breach, and another the right to mandate changes – this is an astounding error. It should be removed.

2. ATRs. People who are ATRs (few of us), were ATRs (more of us), have former colleagues who are ATRs (many more of us), etc, get nervous when their status is changed. Changing the 3020a process, even for a small number of teachers, raises fears. Read Lynne Winderbaum’s moving appeal. I don’t care how benign the intent was, that’s enough to say, let’s get rid of that language. There is nothing that stops the DoE from bringing charges, we know that, we see that. This wasn’t necessary, and it scares the hell out of some people. Plus, you know, unions, sticking together, all for one – the kinds of ideas that say separate provisions for separate groups, especially a targeted group, are just plain wrong. Get rid of the expedited 3020a.

Then two changes that do not need to be negotiated. These are wrongs committed the first time around by the union leadership. And the union leadership can (theoretically) address these (if a second ratification vote is needed).

3. No rushing us. Give members time to read, ask questions, discuss. The question “Why the Rush?” has no good answer, unless you think that ‘giving people time to discuss would have made ratification less likely’ is a good answer. You should not. Publishing the details of the Lump Sum Payments from the 2009-2011 Round, and the MoA language on Health Care (care to guess why that is in the Wages section?) on the Friday before the ballots went out is just bad practice. If your agreement cannot withstand serious scrutiny, you should not bring it to us.

4. No selling. Some people in the schools were annoyed when they learned that the immediate raise from this deal would be 2%. The leadership sold this as 4 and 4. But some people were angry when they realized that they’d been sold a line. Same mix of reactions when people realized that the “retro” had not yet been earned, or that there was no interest. Of course the special reps in the schools are individuals – but some were heavy spinners, others clearly did not understand what they were saying. That’s just not the right way to treat members. One man’s selling or spinning is another man’s misleading or misdirecting. There are people who are still voting yes, but are feeling distrusted by the leaders because of this behavior. But this is tough. This leadership spins every mistake they have ever made. Could they actually stop long enough to provide members accurate information?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. chaz permalink
    May 24, 2014 am31 8:16 am 8:16 am

    Good analysis. As one of the “targeted group” and an “untouchable” to boot. I believe the union failed in its mission to treat all the members equally and selling out the ATRs is bad policy no matter how they spin it.

  2. Dave permalink
    May 25, 2014 pm31 9:53 pm 9:53 pm

    No, they can’t stop because then members would see the scam. Nice analysis, a shame most won’t know, understand, or appreciate.

  3. Bennett Fischer permalink
    May 28, 2014 pm31 5:35 pm 5:35 pm

    I think there is a fair chance this contract proposal won’t pass. Everyone seems to assume that though their site will overwhelmingly vote “no,” they’re in a bubble that prevents them from seeing the big picture (and assumes a union-wide “yes” vote). Yet, when I talk with teachers across Brooklyn, who I assume are going to vote ”yes” I’ve been consistently surprised by their responses.

    I work in a District 75, K-5 school (24 years), and I can assure you that my site is overwhelmingly voting “no,” and when I talk to the general ed teachers who occupy most of the elementary school building we’re housed in, they all say they’re voting “no.” And when I go to my per-session job at a large Brooklyn high school, and ask around over there… everyone I talk to says they’re voting “no!” As my high school math teacher friend said “I think there is something our union leadership forgot – we’re teachers, we know math.”

    The “no” sentiment seems to be spread across the board. None of the young teachers at my site are falling for the pro-proposal rhetoric. They know what the 2% increase coming in November looks like to them – a pittance. They know they won’t see any of the retro pay if they leave teaching, or if they get a teaching job out of the city. The veterans can do the math, and aren’t scared by the “back-of-the-line” propaganda.

    The only “yes” sentiment I’ve heard, comes from teachers who are retiring by June 30th, and from teachers who have been in the system, say, 8-15 years, who are simply tired of working without a contract. They figure they’re entrenched in the system, they’ll be here to (eventually) get the full raise and retro benefits, they’re tired of waiting, and well, they just want a contract already!

    So, I guess it’s still a long shot, but I think this proposal could go down in flames.

    • June 1, 2014 pm30 1:55 pm 1:55 pm

      My sense is that more of the solid yeses are coming from elementary schools, and schools with all newer teachers (looking for any money, even if small, less concerned about the longterm).

      Reminds me that if we are to turn this system around, we need to make this a career once again, not a 2-3 year filler.

  4. Suzanne Knabe permalink
    May 31, 2014 am31 9:36 am 9:36 am

    Bennett Fischer, thank you for your comment. I’m feeling tremendous despair with this proposed MOA. I voted NO, and I have close to 29 years in the system, and I think this is one of the worst contracts I have ever seen. Firstly, they’re throwing the ATRs under the bus, secondly, health care cuts/arbitrator… Personally, my last year in terms of my FSA; I cannot total in my summer pay(retirement takes effect June 2014). I hope you’re right about teachers voting down the contract, but I anticipate it will be ratified by a slim margin. Anyway, we’ll know by next week.

    • June 1, 2014 pm30 2:00 pm 2:00 pm

      Suzanne, while I voted NO, I would say that 2005 was in a different league than this one. 2005 was loaded with givebacks that continue to plague us (start with the Open Market)



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