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A matter of respect

[This editorial originally appeared in the May 15 issue of the New York Teacher.]

The proposed contract reflects the importance of having a negotiating partner in City Hall who understands and respects the work that UFT members do, both in and out of the classroom. It’s a striking difference from the modus operandi of the previous administration.

Case in point: the reluctance of the Bloomberg administration to pay the hundreds of UFT members who spent days and nights at 76 evacuation centers throughout the city in the wake of Hurricane Sandy 18 months ago.

Our members staffed the evacuation sites — many but not all were in public school buildings — and took on a variety of tasks: setting up cots, delivering supplies, organizing children’s activities, treating ill and fragile evacuees and even walking dogs.

Some members worked in 12-hour shifts; others worked around the clock. Many had suffered their own losses in the ferocious storm, but put those concerns aside to help others.

Members waited months for payment for the hours they spent assisting Sandy victims who sought refuge in those evacuation centers — and then Bloomberg’s minions decided the city would pay them only for hours greater than their normal workday, even if schools were closed on those days.

The UFT initiated a grievance on behalf of those members to challenge the decision, pointing out that the policy was tantamount to lengthening the work year without additional pay for educators who stepped up to help in shelters since UFT members who stayed home were also paid for the normal workday.

As a result of the grievance victory, members will get paid for all the hours they spent at the evacuation centers in hard-hit communities, including Far Rockaway and Staten Island. It was slow in coming, but in the end, fairness prevailed.

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