Tuesday, September 01, 2020

UFT Delegate Assembly September 1st, 2020--We Approve Agreement with City

UFT President Michael Mulgrew
--Been a long time since March. We made sure our system was shut down. We did all our work with no support or plan, but looked at how we could open safely. It was clear that this had to be our prime priority. We went through something no one else did. We needed a plan that was approved by our independent expert outside medical professionals.  

We also needed more than medical safety. We needed to follow the older CDC guidelines, masks, distancing and cleaning. We also needed a greater voice over individual schools. What happened in March cannot happen again. We can't have individual school leaders making up rules. We needed people at the building monitoring conditions.

We need to know what happens when someone doesn't feel well, goes to bathroom, where we'd place sick people. We said we wouldn't go back without that. No one listened in April at height of pandemic. Mayor didn't pay attention. We kept saying we need these things to go back.

Slowly rate came down because of all our hard work. Then people started talking to us about opening, because it was "safe." Things continued to remain low while virus surged elsewhere. We demanded the same things--medical procedures deemed proper by medical experts, and a list of equipment and supplies, and procedures for things that do happen or might happen.

People said our infection rate was low, but this was personal for us, because of what we went through. People elsewhere may not understand. We promised not to open unless all those things were in place. They thought we were kidding in July. Thankfully, it became more serious, especially when we started to prepare for a strike.

At first they thought it was just a negoitiating strategy and I told them it wasn't. People said it was ludicrous at this time, with pandemic and layoffs, but they didn't go through what we did. So last night's Executive Board and today's DA was to prepare for a strike, though it was a dangerous thing, especially considering economics, but safety was paramount.

Odds were against us in court, but we would've tried that. Over the weekend city realized we were not kidding about this. It was clear schools weren't ready for next week. So we need to deal with that now. Mayor last week said he wouldn't push it back. 

We trained 100 people to inspect over a thousand schools so far. We would've used it in court if we had to. Now we will share it depending on what happens today. We want schools to understand we know when they don't have PPE. Last night I asked EB to allow me to negotiate or let me do a strike vote.

At 9:30 AM, while I was driving to the city, we came to an agreement. Medical experts say we're the afest school system with the right policies. 

The last piece is we all understood trust was broken in March between us and the city. We needed an independent way to have a quick remedy in case policies are not followed at school level. We need immediate fast relief if something is not being followed. We now have that.

Two thirds of this agreement are already in the State Plan. Our checklist is there. Equipment, ventilation, etc. Our folks go in, check the list and look. We send it to our folks and it's not up for debate. If we don't have it, it needs to be here now. We need to make sure procedures are done properly. We have Covid building response teams. Most important committee in school until we get through pandemic. Will design and ensure implementation of all procedures that must take place.

We didn't like DOE training and will start our own on Thursday. 

Start of school year--full instructional day September 21st. 16-18 you will use about an hour for instructional orientation. We will check that they can log on and use different tools. Rest of time is about planning. Safety issue will be huge. Educational and instructional plan will be complex, must be up and running. Instructional materials, scope and sequence, coordination with live and remote. Remote will be 70% of instruction.

We know how much better things can be. We will get to them and drill down on them. 

Mandated testing--Our doctors have been very clear. As science changes, they will give us info. Most important things are masks, social distancing and what you do in buildings. But if someone has symptoms, they shouldn't go to school, if in school they will be isolated.

You need a medical monitoring program. You can monitor and identify asymptomatic people if you do monitoring. If schools act quickly you can isolate or quarantine and avoid big problems inside of school. Face masks, social distancing, cleaning, ventilation and medical monotiring

We wanted to test everyone but our experts said that would only be good for three days. Would've made people feel better but would not be effective. We will have 10-20% of entire building tested on a monthly basis. We have 1700 buildings. Huge undertaking. 

Doctors tell us if under 500 20% 500-100 15% above 1000 10%. This is chosen to get a representative sample, should be adults, different ages and grade levels. We went a step further. What if your neighborhood has an issue? City saw that, flooded zone with testing and got rates down. We got that for our schools too. This will be an important safeguard. 

All of these additional thing are part of an amendment that DOE filed with NYSED for Covid response. Not part of CBA, therefore not subject to regular grievance process. We call DOE if there's no PPE. If not, everyone is out. We will go to court or NYSED. These things have to happen. Not debatable. 

We've been saying this for months. No one took us seriously as our colleagues died. No one took us seriously until we started organizing a strike even as city was sending layoff notices. We made a pact to make sure that everything I described was in place and we had a way to remedy what would happen quickly.


I didn't know if we'd get to this moment. I kept reminding people I understood arguments. But this was personal for all of us because of what we went through. And right now we can say that our union has risen up to protect our school system. We have the most aggressive policies and safeguards in this country.

Do we move forward, with this work, doing what we have to do, protecting our safety? I always said it would be the decision of top epidemiologists at Harvard and Northwell. We now say, Tuesday morning, no PPE? You're not going in. That would not be a job action. It would be a legitimate safety issue, and our lawyers are now confident courts would go along with us. We will have things fixed within hours or shut down.

I hope it doesn't come to that. DOE has been trying, but we can't take them at their word. We need this in place, and we now have it. 

I know many of you wrote me you didn't want to strike. It's scary. Turn on the TV and you're frightened. But with this agreement, I know we've done everything we said we were going to do.

I'm putting it before you for questions, and for a vote. Medical professionals and lawyers have approved. We have the power to do what we need to do to stay safe. It's been a long road and I wasn't sure we'd get here. We are at a crossroads and both are rough.

Every UFT member can hold their head high. We are the guardians of our students. Parents also had our back, stood with us saying the mayor is wrong and the teachers are right.

I thank you for all the work you have done. A lot of unions are looking at us and wanting what we have but this wasn't a political battle. It was a personal battle. We wanted NYC done right or we weren't going in.


Q--What safeguards will be in place for D75 when students can't wear masks or social distance?

A--We have the most work to do for D75 and 79. DOE did not engage until a week ago when we insisted and they became number one agenda items. They said everything was in place and it was not. We need a lot more PPE in D75. Our private sector nurses have been looking at this challenge for a month. There will be fewer students but many challenges. Procedures at schools and PPE has to be enhanced. 

There are some that need a hospital setting and that will have to be in place. Tomorrow and Thursday we will have intensive meetings about this.Unbelievable that DOE waits to deal with those that need the most support. We looked at this with advice from our medical people. DOE was woefully unprepared. People would have been put in harm's way. Now answers will have to be put in place. Covid response team will reach out to us and we will make sure everything is in place. 

Q--On days we are at PD with no students do remote teachers have to come to building?

A--People with medical accommodation will not. We will have remote teachers without medical accommodation because almost 40% of students are remote. With accommodation everything is from home. Remote teacher without accommodation would come to building on PD days.

Q--School personnel should not be reponsible to clean classrooms.

A--Custodians are responsible for cleaning. This will be a great challenge, because if they aren't able we'll have to tell DOE they can't open school. Ionizers are at schools but there are issues with inappropriate chemicals. That's being worked on. They agreed and are taking care of it. We want to make sure custodians have what they need. Wiping down during school day is a big issue. Covid building team will have to make sure that's in place. 

Q--For Covid building reponse team, are principals in charge? Mine chooses who she wants to do her bidding. I'm a delegate so she never chooses me. We need pushback. Who will make sure PPE is in place? Who chooses team?

A--BRT will have UFT members, chosen by UFT. In terms of checking, reach out to district rep who will reach out to Jeff Povalitus. If they do something not in our agreement, could have building shut down in less than a day. We're not playing, or calling DOE legal. We're going to court. PPE is checked by Covid response team and also by us. We won't stop visiting. We need evidence.

Q--Covid testing--Is it students, staff or both?

A--First month we will get permission slips. There is HIPPA so we need permission slips. First month, September, we will use students only with permission. Next month will be mandatory. If they refuse to test we will then place students on remote. We want to first encourage everyone. We will get the best testing in the city, It will be at or near the school with 48 hour turnaround.  DOE is doing a big outreach, Our testing numbers have been going up, and we have availability. Feds never helped us so we developed a lot of our own capacity, Northwell has developed a lot of testing capacity. CSA is with us on this. 

Our fight with DOE and city hall galvanized a lot of school communities. 

Jeff Povalitus--There are three people in every building response team. They will be safety agent, nurse and custodian. UFT members will be ours to choose.

Q--I'm visually impaired, but have members who've been denied accommodations for disabilities not included in CDC. I have difficulty with social distancing. City isn't helping people who suffer from depression, or live with cancer victims. What is UFT response to this? 

A--On accommodations, they are only for person with medical conditions. I will talk to city about your condition. Any other, not on the list, will not be approved at this time. In terms of family members, we are working on that. I have that issue. Our position is we have to try and figure something out here. We have a lot of students remote and would like to work out something. Can't promise right now. All of our lawyers say law is clear, only goes to person with medical disability.

Q--Are we getting a calendar, and will delay affect it?

A--We are getting it and no.

Q--When will we get results of testing UFT has done?

A--Plan to get it out Thursday. PPE is essential. Without it, schools won't open. We think it will be there. You will look at what else is missing and what else needs to be there. If we go in on Tuesday, there will be no staff meetings in small spaces. That will have to be broken up. If admin needs multiple meetings, so be it. Social distancing at all times. Doctors say face masks and distancing are the most important problems. 


LeRoy Barr--to authorize UFT President and leadership to safeguard schools and communities and make sure this agreement is followed by DOE and State. (paraphrase)

Joanna Gomez-- for

Noreen--in favor

Peter Lamphere--Offers amendment.

Mulgrew--Can't do amendments at virtual PA

Lamphere--Much mobilizing chapters, worried not enough detail or chance for member input. Only reason de Blasio came to table was strike. We need that organization as safeguard or nothing to prevent him from turning on agreement.  

Ellen ?--Happy to be on call. In favor of agreement, Has relieved anxiety in students and staff. We have a powerful union, a powerful agreement and a strong union. My members are in favor of this agreement. I know schools will do better with UFT supervision.

Mulgrew--Thanks CLs for working in August.

Clara Walker--Have reached out to many staff members. Many members don't feel safe because we have no results.

A--You should have them Thursday.

Elise Ritter--A concern is there's been no trust with DOE. I need to see it in writing and clear for all principals. Some are saying you're only remote if you have accommodation and you have to come in even if you're remote. We need to know Tuesday we don't walk in if filters aren't in place. 

Jennifer Colona--Thank you for hard work, In favor of agreement, Many staff members were happy about the outcome.

Ana Maria Blanco--We have a lot of apprehension because we're worried about staff. Yesterday we weren't ready to go into buildings but today we are. We hope right decision can be made for safety of staff.

Dana Bataglia--All for agreement. One question. Randomly, if we get tested on Tuesday, and someone gets sick on Thursday, what is tracking system?

A--We know you can be tested one day and catch virus three days later. It's going to be what independent doctors recommend.

Rashad Brown--Rises in favor. (unclear)

Laticia Dominich--Votes in favor. Is secretary. Concerned about how secretaries are represented. 

?--Very much in favor, adores it.


Passes 82% Yes 17% No

Mulgrew--We have to now make this real. I give you my word, in terms of going to court, union is there, but CL and delegates must make sure this is implemented in school. You have to be safe, you have to follow this plan, and this is no longer up for debate.

Please take some time this weekend, but be proud of what you have done. Our schools will open with most aggressive policies and greatest safeguards. I thank you all.

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