Next week we will be voting on a proposed contract. I’m still waiting for ballots that should arrive any time. We will likely vote in the teacher cafeteria.
The elite invitation-only Unity Caucus will give you a handout that focuses on money. Understand that this is money you will get in dribs and drabs until 2020. Understand also that the city, after the contract expires in 2018, will surely have to consider it still owes us 50% of retro, billions of dollars, while negotiating the next contract. Understand that most of our brother and sister unionists have been receiving higher pay for four years while we must wait four years more.
I expected to wait years for retro. I did not expect to wait years for the raise most other unions have already received. I’m also less than proud we’ve imposed a pattern of 10% over 7 years, about 1.4% per year, on our fellow unionists. That’s the lowest pattern in my living memory, and quite possibly the lowest in history.
My primary reservations about this contract are not about money. First, we’ve established a system under which ATR teachers can be fired for two incidents of undesirable behavior. We don’t know what that is, but UFT President Mulgrew gave, as an example, shouting in the hall. ATR teachers will get a one-day removal process. I fail to see how they’d have adequate time to make their cases or call witnesses as they face the loss of their careers. Despite what leadership says, that is a giveback. Why are we giving back when we’re receiving so little? And how can leadership call this “fast and fair” when it’s never been tested?
In the past, when we’ve delayed payment, we’ve received interest or benefits. I’ve been teaching since 1984, and our class sizes have not budged an inch. This would have been a golden opportunity to say, okay, we’ll delay the raises and the money, but we demand to do something to make our schools better places. The only proven step I know is class size reduction.
Instead, we’ve got a few unproven ideas about paying a few teachers more, or tossing out the contract in favor of 5-year charter lite programs that may or may not pay off.
The UFT contract has only been rejected once, in 1995, and as a result teachers reach maximum salary at 22 rather than 25 years. They’ll tell you it’s this or nothing, but history suggests otherwise.
I urge you to reject this contract, vote NO, and send our leadership back to the bargaining table.
Arthur Goldstein, UFT Chapter Leader
Francis Lewis High School