If the contract is not ratified…
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?