Sunday, November 04, 2018

UFT Contract Overwhelmingly Passes

This has been a pretty strange trip for me, but I went the way I had to go. I was part of negotiating the teacher contract and fewer observations mean less stress. As someone who actually works in a classroom every day, and as someone who represents a whole lot of others who do the same, I can tell you less stress is something we've needed more than money for some time now.

I'm pretty surprised at some of the criticism of this contract. I understood why, in the past, there were things to complain about. I understand why there are still things to complain about. This notwithstanding, I do not follow how we are supposed to move the contract back twenty years, and also get a higher raise, at no cost to anyone.

Most everything is negotiable, I suppose. I also suppose we could get rid of some of the onerous factors of the 2005 contract if we really wanted to. One way would be to forgo money. We'll take a smaller raise if you do this. Personally, I would've been more than willing to forgo a raise if we could've lowered class size. I was in the minority on that in the Contract Committee, though, and I'm certain I'd be in the minority of rank and file as well. In fact, I'm not at all convinced rank and file would vote to forgo a raise for any reason whatsoever.

Sure, we could go on strike. We'd appear a whole lot differently to the public, though, than teachers in West Virginia who need to choose between doctor visits and gas for their cars. I don't see a whole lot of public sympathy for teachers striking in NYC in 2018. In fact, I don't imagine rank and file would vote that up either. 

The 05 contract was an abomination. It was a huge tactical error and it set the path for a lot of what's wrong now. The givebacks were a mistake, and they weren't worth the money. On the other hand, if I'm in the DOE and you want to take them back, I will offer them out for a price. You want to get rid of the ATR? I want to give you less money. You want to grieve file letters? I want to give you even less money.

It's easy to tear things down. I revel in tearing things down when they merit it. The current agreement, I keep saying, is not a panacea. I don't expect every problem to go away. I don't expect it to solve every issue in every corner of New York City. What I see in it is a serious improvement in working conditions for a very large percentage of my brother and sister teachers. I see a long overdue improvement in status for those who work as paraprofessionals.

No, I don't expect the contract to cure every ill in this huge unwieldy system. It's funny that critics demand we not only do that, but also get more money. It's funny that none recall exactly what we had to do to break the pattern, which, again, we did back in 05. Current critics seem to want us to break the pattern, have no givebacks, and also take back all the givebacks they (and I) complained about in the past.

Now I'm not Michael Mulgrew, and I'm not part of leadership. If I were, my thoughts would be something like this--I will never make these people happy, no matter what I do. They demand everything, and they offer nothing in return. Why should I make concessions to them when everything I concede will be rejected as not enough?

Speaking for myself, I was part of the UFT Executive Board that pushed for parental leave. I thought winning it was a great victory. Members in my building were jubilant. Those of us who wouldn't be able to take advantage were very happy for those of us who would. From the opposition, I read pages of nitpicking and invidious arguments. I certainly understand there are pros and cons of various ways of doing this. My understanding is that UFT wanted to achieve fully paid leave and that's why we went this way.

I see a 100% chance that if we'd gone with the state model of partially paid leave, the same critics who lambast the current program would be screaming that it isn't fully paid. They'd be demanding that UFT achieve something fully paid. You could certainly make that argument if that's what you're determined to do.

Speaking for myself again, I was part of the UFT Contract Committee. I did indeed push for two things--a reduction in class sizes, and fewer observations for teachers. I did my best in the class size committee. I went with prepared arguments, and it was easy to improvise others when questioned. When the DOE asked me how I'd pay for lower class sizes, I told them I'd put all the ATR teachers to work. They said well, we can't place a teacher from Brooklyn in Queens. I told them if I were an ATR from Brooklyn, I'd leap at the opportunity to work at Francis Lewis High School, and why don't they just ask? At that point, the same guy who asked me the question told me we were off topic and refused to take it further.

On the other hand, I happen to know that Michael Mulgrew personally pushed for two observations. I saw him tell the DOE that was what we wanted. In the end we won this, something I've read a million times on blogs that we needed, and something people have told me to my face they wanted for years. We now have fewer observations for a huge number of working teachers. I believe this affects the overwhelming majority of tenured teachers.

Of course, that's not enough. People who didn't come in summer days to work on the Contract Committee say it isn't enough. I now know I did my level best and it isn't good enough. I now know that whatever improvements we make in the future won't be good enough either. Those people who never show up to Exec. Board, who couldn't be bothered with the Contract Committee have a very clear idea of what we should be doing, and that is whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want. We should get all that and give up nothing.

I would be for that, actually. But I'm also for what works on this particular astral plane. History says we beat the pattern via givebacks. I don't want to do givebacks anymore. I want to move in the direction this contract propels us, and I want to find other ways to improve our working conditions. That's my priority.

That's what I will continue to work for.
blog comments powered by Disqus