Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Randi Weingarten Ready to Sell UFT Down The River

ICEUFT-Blog reports that the United Federation of Teachers and the city are all but ready to make a deal on the teachers contract.

First, let's remember that the UFT and the city had reached an impasse and had agreed to take the contract negotiations to the Public Employee Relations Board for a non-binding "fact-finding report." The PERB returned these recommendations:

10 more minutes of work a day to be added to the 20 minutes from the last contract to create a 30 minute class for "small-group instruction"
3 extra days of work (2 in August and 1 lost holiday during the year)
10 extra class coverages for secondary school teachers
loss of seniority rights
loss of Circular 6 rights (meaning a return to pottyroom, lunchroom and hallway duty)
loss of right to grieve a letter in file
Retro: 0% first year; 2% second year; 3.5% first six months of the third year; 5.5% second six months of the third year.

Many New York City public school teachers were outraged by these recommendations and expected the UFT to immediately declare them unacceptable. Instead UFT preznit Randi Weingarten rammed a resolution through the UFT Delegates Assembly declaring that the PERB recommendations could be used "as a vehicle to conclude negotiations" on a settlement.

More anger followed from many New York City teachers who were outraged that the UFT would agree to use the PERB recommendations as a basis for negotiation. Still, many teachers were hopeful that the union would not actually agree to the odious PERB report.

Nonetheless, ICEUFT-Blog declares Randi is all but ready to deal with the mayor and that the PERB recommendations will become the new teachers contract with one minor subsitution. Here are the details:

Tonight’s Executive Board meeting sent a clear message. We are not only to accept a contract based on the fact-finding report we are taking the report as our contract. With one modification it appears that a contract has all but been signed.

At the Executive Board meeting Weingarten reported on her one hour bargaining session today letting out that the City is ready to drop the fact-finder’s demand for 10 free coverages in the secondary schools for our allowing them to implement the Lead Teacher Postitions provisions slated in the fact-finder’s report to be used in the future.

So the one concession from the PERB recommendations by the mayor was on the 10 free coverages, but in return he demanded merit pay for Lead Teacher Positions.

The New York Times "reports" today (and take this with a grain of salt) that the city and the union are ready to make a deal but are still wrangling out the details of the 10 extra minutes and a few other contentious issues:

As New York City and the teachers' union returned to the negotiating table yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg weighed in with unusually pointed comments about the contract talks, saying that he wanted a deal nailed down within two weeks or that the sides should accept a compromise recently proposed by arbitrators.

"We're willing to talk, but this has gone on, I think, long enough," he said.

But even as the mayor expressed his greatest optimism yet that a deal was within reach, officials involved in the talks said that a dispute had deepened over how to use 10 minutes per day of additional instruction proposed by the arbitrators.

The fight over how to structure a longer school day is not trivial. In their most recent contract, which expired on May 31, 2003, the teachers agreed to work 20 extra minutes per day. But the Bloomberg administration has had trouble determining how to use the time, and it has changed the school schedule four times in the last four years.

The disagreement also indicated how hard it would be for the two sides to cut a deal, even if they focused on the arbitration report - which was ambiguous not only over how to use the 10 minutes but in several other areas. In one positive sign, however, the negotiating teams agreed to meet again today.

The arbitrators have called for an 11 percent raise over 37 months for the city's teachers, with the increases tied to a number of substantial concessions and productivity increases, including lengthening the school day, adding three teacher training days and eliminating some highly prized seniority rights in staffing decisions.

In many ways, the basic elements of the contract talks were overshadowed yesterday by Mr. Bloomberg's public comments, which he made during his daily news conference.

"The arbitrators have come with suggestions and we would live with those suggestions if we can't negotiate a better deal," the mayor said. "I want to commit to make sure that all of our teachers get the compensation they need so they can focus on doing their job."

It was the first time since the arbitrators issued their report on Sept. 12 that Mr. Bloomberg fully endorsed its findings. Previously, City Hall officials had said that they agreed with parts of the report and disagreed with others. But the mayor said yesterday he was prepared to accept the report as is.

One change he still hopes to achieve, however, involves the expansion of a lead teacher program, in which veteran educators are paid $10,000 a year extra to be mentors to less-experienced colleagues. A pilot project, in District 9 in the Bronx, has been well received. But the arbitrators said the program could not be expanded without additional state money for the city schools.

"We want to be able to pay master teachers more now with savings that we can achieve and not wait," Mr. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Bloomberg's spokesman, Edward Skyler, would not comment on the dispute over the 10 minutes. "We don't negotiate through the media, but we look forward to the bargaining session tomorrow," he said.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the union, the United Federation of Teachers, said she was not necessarily encouraged by the mayor's remarks. "I don't know where it is going to go," she said after yesterday's bargaining session. "I have seen them optimistic before publicly and then doing absolutely nothing privately."

The mayor said he hoped for a deal within two weeks. "Over the weekend a number of teachers asked me, 'How long is it going to take?' " he said. "And I said, 'You know I think we could have a contract in a couple of weeks.' There's no reason why not."

Now it surely sounds from the mayor's statements and the ICEUFT's post that Randi is ready to sell the UFT down the river even if her public pronouncements are more demure.

What would it take for Randi to reject this abomination masking as a contract deal? She's decided to give 20 years of contract provisions back in one fucking contract for a measly 11.4%. ICEUFT notes that with all the concessions, added work, extra time, and a sixth class, the contract actually amounts to 20% pay cut. NYC educator writes that this contract will make New York City public school teachers the most overworked and underpaid in the metropolitan area.

And yet Randi is ready to deal.


Why is she so adamant to turn the clock back to 1950 for New York City public school teachers and throw away so many hard won rights for so little money?

Why is she so adamant that a deal must get done using these PERB recommendations?

Why can't she do what's in the best interests of her membership?

Reject the PERB recommendations! Tear 'em up and tell the mayor they are unacceptable! Then start an ad campaign comparing the treatment of NYC school teachers with the treatment of teachers in surrounding districts. Call the public's attention to the shitty physical environments kids learn in and teachers work in. Call the public's attention to the huge class sizes, the antiquated books and outdated learning materials, the absurd DOE guidelines for bulletin boards and reading rugs. Call the public's attention to the rise in test scores, say it was teachers who helped kids achieve this and yet the mayor wants to create a mass exodus to the suburbs by creating even more adverse working conditions for teachers.

It will take a couple of years, but if the UFT went on an intelligent, coordinated advertising and publicity campaign to show New Yorkers what the conditions in NYC schools really are like and how magnificently most teachers actually perform under such difficult conditions, we could actually win over more public support in our battles with the mayor and his union-busting lapdog.

And then maybe we could negotiate a fair contract that would help attract and retain good teachers for the NYC public school system instead of accepting a 20% pay cut and a return to 1950.

Very powerful, as was today's post on Edwize.

I hope someone is listening.
Thanks, NYC Educator.

We just have to work hard to vote this abomination down. UNITY will have the money, the power, and the juice to muscle this thing through. But when I talk to teachers in my building, even the younger ones who think some reforms or concessions are necessary, they almost all see this contract as giving back too much for too little.

We can fight this. The secondary school teachers have so much to lose if this contract goes through, the school aides have so much to lose if this thing goes through (how many will be laid off when they replace school aides with teachers for pottyroom duty?), even elementary school teachers shouldn't want to lose seniority rights, grievance rights, days and time.

I am hoping that Weingarten makes the worst deal possible with Bloomberg actually. The more egregious the deal, the less likely it will pass. So let her accept the PERB recommendations minus the 10 coverages (but with the Lead Teacher Positions added). I have to believe Weingarten will have to get some Diebold machines and hanging chads in order to win that vote.

Which I wouldn't put passed her. But we'll deal with that question later. First, we have to mobilize UFTer's to let the UFT leadership know we will hold them accountable for this contract disaster.
The UFT vote is monitored by the American Arbitration Association, I believe, and in 95, they lost.

So it can happen again.
I heard that the UFT votes are always monitored by an independent arbitor from my chapter leader too.

I guess I'm just a bit gunshy after Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. Or maybe I'm just paranoid.

I am starting to think if we get the PERB recs minus the coverages we can still vote this down though. The more I talk to people around my building, the more I'm hearing anger and a sense of betrayal from the staff. People don't seem to be in a mood to give much and they really don't seem to be in the mood to give back what Randi wants to concede.

Here's hoping...
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