Thursday, November 02, 2006

Be Vewy Quiet....I'm Hunting faw Wabbit

I am constantly hearing about the UFT's new hush-hush contract proposals. Unity, the party that has controlled my union for 50 years, has decided to share its demands with members. It's made the remarkable request that said demands not be put into writing. Nonetheless, by using word-of-mouth, it hopes somehow to share the demands with teachers.

Who it hopes to hide them from is anyone's guess. Why it hopes to hide them is a little simpler.

Chaz says, and I agree, that financially we'll be bound by the DC37 agreement, which brings us almost (but not quite) to cost of living. We are, therefore paying millions of dollars to patronage employees so that we can continue to make marginally less each year for the next few years. That's worth hushing up, I suppose.

Perusing the Executive Board Agenda (and why they put that in writing is anyone's guess), I can't help but notice the largely innocuous non-economic proposals:

1. If accusations of corporal punishment or verbal abuse are ruled to be unfounded all records relating to such accusations shall be immediately expunged.

2. Provide procedures on a school/district/regional level for the identification and elimination of paperwork/data collection that is excessive, unnecessary, redundant and/or that diminishes instructional time.

3. When the DOE, region or a school introduces, promotes or directs use of an instructional methodology (e.g. balanced literacy) it shall be responsible for providing training and materials and otherwise enabling the teachers to satisfactorily use the methodology. Any costs incurred by teachers shall be reimbursed by the DOE.

4. Per session teachers shall be paid for all athletic and non-athletic extracurricular activities for all time actually worked.

5. Extend the terms of leaves of absence to serve in non-conversion charter schools to 5 years.

Naturally, I'm excited about the prospect of more training. Doubtless most city teachers weren't satisfied with the two days in August and wish to come in earlier for even more.

And it's comforting to know if I'm falsely accused of some grotesque offense, my records will be expunged. However, Unity's stacked bargaining committee is still OK with me being on unpaid suspension for three months while Tweed makes up its mind. Should I default on my mortgage and lose my home as a result, I'll have the dubious consolation of knowing my record will still be clear. Most other Americans are still innocent until proven guilty.

And what of the ATR assignments? Should Mayor Mike decide to rename my 250% capacity school, I, along with 50% of my colleagues will be out of a job and sent to sub indefinitely. Does anyone need to establish that I'm a bad teacher to do that? Absolutely not.

Is there anyone who doesn't believe ATR teachers are wearing targets on their backs? Is there anyone who doesn't believe that Klein (or someone else) will make dismissing 1,000 subs at full salary a talking point for breaking the union? Is there anyone who really believes Klein (or any principal) wants to hire 20-year vets in place of malleable newbies?

My sources say Unity doesn't want to ask for too much, because they feel this administration would then demand givebacks. In the past, their timidity has not produced rewards for us. Were inaction a virtue, John Kerry would be president and we'd have parity with our Nassau counterparts. The huge gap in teacher tenure it's enabled by refusing to deal with the ATR issue (which they think is just fine) will continue to go ignored.

Is asking for little or nothing is a sound negotiating strategy? So far, all it's won us is more work, fewer options, and a "raise" that didn't even match inflation (For those who've never seen one, a "raise" is actually receiving more money for doing the same job). Should we now jump for joy over a new contract, simply because we lose less with fewer givebacks? Or should we do something proactive?

For the salaries Unity makes (which are now even higher, and don't take into account DoE salaries or double pensions), I ought not to have to ask. If they were actually doing what we pay them for, their salaries wouldn't even be an issue.

I'm going to make sure my chapter sends a message to Unity saying it's time to stand up. I hope you'll do the same.
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