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Archive for the ‘Contract’ Category

Landmark Agreement For Pension Benefits And School-Wide Bonuses Bring Professional Gains To NYC Public School Educators

At 12 Noon today, the UFT, New York City and the NYC Department of Education agreed on mechanisms to implement two of the outstanding provisions of the 2005 collective bargaining agreement. The agreements create positive, pro-active programs that address two major issues which face our schools: attracting and retaining quality educators in our schools, and creating collaborative learning environments where teachers have real voice.

First, current New York City educators who have 25 years or more of service will be able to retire at age 55 without a reduction in benefits. Second, a voluntary school wide bonus program will be established on a pilot basis in a number of New York City’s highest need schools. Finally, building on the victory of making ‘per session’ pay pensionable, this agreement makes coverage pay pensionable. More »

The Green Dot Los Angeles Contract

What follows are highlights of the Green Dot contract in Los Angeles that may be of interest to Edwize readers. The contract itself can be read here.

Commitment to Teacher Leadership: Article 34 states that the school and union “agree to establish a teacher led school environment, where teacher talents will be utilized to their fullest potential, offering perspectives in administrative, curricular and extra-curricular decision-making.”

Commitment to Meaningful Union Involvement: Article 34 also states that the teachers union shall have “representation on all leadership bodies.” More »

Transfers and Seniority: The Evidence [Updated]

From time to time, one finds comments posted here with a common ‘urban myth’ — the notion that senior teachers’ ability to transfer to another school was harmed by the changes in the transfer system adopted in the Fall 2005 collective bargaining agreement.

In the interests of having such discussions informed by actual evidence, I took the raw data from last year’s 2006 transfers, the first under the new system, and the data from the previous year’s 2005 transfers, the last under the old system, and organized each year by seniority levels. The results are in the below table.

Seniority

2006 open market transfer

Total 2005 transfer

2005 seniority transfer

2005 SBO transfer

Less than 3 years

532

27

9

18

3 and 4 years

670

135

22

113

5 through 9 years

812

246

100

146

10 through 14 years

270

134

79

55

15 through 20 years

168

120

93

27

More than 20 years

163

143

119

24

Total

2615

805

422

383

The results are quite powerful. In general, UFT members were able to obtain many more transfers in 2006, under the new system, than they did under the old system — more than three times as many transfers in general, and more than six times as many seniority transfers. What is more, the numbers of transfers increased at every level of seniority: every seniority class of member, from the most novice through the middle years to the most senior, had significantly more transfers under the new system than the old.

UPDATE:

‘Urban myths’ die hard, as the comments section illustrates.

One can parse the above evidence however one pleases, but the numbers are undeniable: every class of teacher did better under the new system, from the novices to the most senior. Moreover, more than three times as many teachers were able to obtain transfers, and more than eight times as many teachers transferred as under the seniority transfer system. For an union dedicated to principles of solidarity, that is as easy a choice as one could face. The suggestion that it was a mistake to give up the seniority transfer system that produced far less for all teachers defies common sense.

Given that NYC public schools now have a teaching force where nearly 1 in every 2 teachers have five years or less of seniority, it makes perfect sense that they would have similar portions in a transfer system open to all teachers. In fact, one would reasonably expect an even greater rate of transfer in the earlier years, greater than that evinced last year. The longer a teacher has been in the system, and the more opportunities she or he has had to move to a school where they want to teach, the less likely that they would seek another transfer. Teachers are not likely to transfer once they find a position in a school where they feel professionally fulfilled.

New Contract Documents

The full text of the Memorandum of Agreement for the proposed contract can be accessed here.

The salary schedules of the proposed contract can be accessed here.

Delegate Assembly Approves Contract

This afternoon, the UFT’s Delegate Assembly approved the proposed contract, sending it on to the general membership for ratification. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of sending the agreement to the membership: less than 50 of the Assembly’s delegates voted in opposition, while more than 1450 delegates in attendance voted in support.

The UFT Contract In The News

New York Times:

Charles M. Brecher, research director for the Citizens Budget Commission, a business-backed group, faulted Mr. Bloomberg for giving the teachers what he said was a generous raise without having first nailed down concessions on health costs.

“I think it’s a big mistake managerially,” Mr. Brecher said. “Why would they give up something now in the hope that they might get something in return later? Why is he putting all this money on the table and letting them walk away, hoping that they’ll be nice someday in the future?”

And:

But many principals voiced anger about the teachers’ deal because their union, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, has been without a contract since June 30, 2003.

In a letter to union members, the union’s president Jill S. Levy said: “There is nothing I can say to you that will minimize your sense of rejection and disrespect from the chancellor and mayor.”

New York Daily News:

“Teachers were very happy,” said Geof Sorkin, the union chapter leader at Intermediate School 259 in Brooklyn. “I heard an overwhelming, ‘Thank you. Wow, this is amazing. This is great.'”

New York Post:

“Politically, it’s a big win for Randi and I also think it burnishes Mike’s image as the guy who can get things done,” said Sol Stern, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. “But to me the loser here is Joel Klein. Where is the push for reforms that he’s been talking about? There are no pushes in this contract.”

New York Post:

For art teacher David Klaw, the new contract means two things: more money in his pocket and peace of mind.

“I’m really excited that we’re getting something and not having to compromise too much,” said Klaw, 31, who works at PS/IS 217 on Roosevelt Island. “It seems like quite a victory.”

New York Sun:

The research director of the Citizens Budget Commission, Charles Brecher, who advocates for restraint in government spending, was mystified, however, at what he perceived as the mayor’s weakness in the face of the union’s demands.

UFT Delivers A New Contract

Late Monday evening, the United Federation of Teachers and the City of New York reached a tentative agreement on an unprecedented early contract which provides substantial salary increases, while holding the line on no ‘givebacks.’

The proposed collective bargaining agreement, covering the period from October 13, 2007 to October 31, 2009, provides for an across the board compounded raise of 7.1%. The raises will be payable next school year: a 2% increase on Oct. 13, 2007 and a 5% increase on May 19, 2008. An additional one time cash payment of $750 [pensionable and payable January 2, 2007] will bring the total salary package increase for all members to over 8%.

The contract has no additional time, no diminution of teaching and working conditions and no reduction of pension and health benefits.

A new five year longevity for teachers and guidance counselors with 5 through 9 years of service will provide an additional $1000 of annual salary. A new five year longevity for UFT para-professionals with between 5 and 14 years of service will provide an additional $500 of annual salary. There will also be a new 5 year longevity for most other titles, with different amounts by title. The 5 year longevities will commence with the May 19, 2008 salary increase.

Under the terms of this contract, the top salary for a New York City public school teacher will now reach $100,000 annually. With the adoption of this agreement, salaries of public school educators will have increased between 40% and 45% since 2002.

The City will also increase its contribution to the UFT Welfare Fund, allowing the UFT to enhance its current benefits, and to cap drug co-payments at $1000 per family.

A voluntary severance buyout will be made available to educators who have been in excess for one year without finding a regular assignment.

The number of paid extra-curricular sessions will be increased by 12.

In addition to the salary increases, the proposed contract includes a number of improvements in the teaching and working conditions of New York City public school educators. The highlights include clauses which:

*expunge from personnel files all allegations of corporal punishment which are proven unfounded;
*on a voluntary basis, bring into the 3020-a dismissal process for incompetence a third-party professional educator who makes an independent evaluation of a teacher’s performance, providing a new measure of protection against unfounded charges [this program is very similar to a PIP Plus program, building off our current Peer Intervention program, which the UFT proposed in previous contract negotiation];
*provide a new restoration of health sabbatical for lab specialists and secretaries;
*create a joint UFT/DOE Committee to develop recommendations to reduce or eliminate unnecessary, excessive or redundant paperwork;
*place all new UFT employees on direct deposit, and expand Transit Check; and
*establish a labor-management committee to deal with summer work for nurses and therapists.

A ratification process will now begin. The proposed agreement will go to the UFT Executive Board tomorrow, Tuesday November 7th; if approved by the Board, the UFT Delegate Assembly will vote on sending the agreement to the membership on Wednesday November 8th. Once adopted by the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly, the agreement will go to the UFT membership for final ratification.

This agreement came out of the most open and complete negotiations the UFT has ever conducted, with the participation of a negotiations committee of over 300 school-based, rank and file members. The committee contained members from every school level, the functional chapters, and every political caucus within the union.

In February, the UFT Delegate Assembly voted to explore contract strategies of ‘no contract, no work’ and coalition bargaining. In June, the UFT formed a coalition with nineteen other municipal labor unions, and the pressure of the coalition led to an agreement between AFSCME’s DC37 and the City which paid 6% over 20 months, with ‘no givebacks.’ Going forward as a lead negotiating union for the coalition, the UFT sought to use that pattern aggressively.

The UFT leadership and the negotiations committee believed that there was a ‘window of opportunity’ to get to an early contract on desirable terms, and that we needed to seize the moment. With a settled contract, New York City public school educators will have a much deserved period of labor stability, and we will be in a position of strength for moving forward on such important issues as class size.

In the negotiations committee and in the schools, our members told us that they wanted an on-time contract, with a real raise, no additional time and no givebacks. With this agreement, the UFT has delivered.

The Chalkboard Does A Humpty Dumpty Jig

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “who is to be master – that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

In our last collective bargaining agreement, New York City public school teachers agreed to add ten minutes to our work day. When combined with the additional twenty minutes from the previous agreement, and reconfigured across 4 days [Monday through Thursday], this additional time created an 37.5 minute at the end of the school day. The agreement to create this time period involved a rather clear and unambiguous definition of its purpose: it was to be dedicated to providing students at risk for academic failure small group, tutoring and test preparation assistance. This is the only time of the school day expressly used for such support.

In order to protect this purpose, explicit language was written into the agreement which limited the size of the groups [no more than ten general education, or five special education students], and which defined the activities that would take place on it as “tutorials, test preparation and/or small group instruction.”

There are those who question the need for such explicit language in our agreements, but they have obviously never attempted to work with school management such as that at Tweed. More »

Bloomberg Blinks

If anyone thought UFT Prez Randi Weingarten was just spinning wheels — or playing politics — when she urged union members to prepare for the next contract round more than a year before the expiration of the current one, the events of last week proved how right she was.

And for those who thought that putting together a bargaining coalition of 20-plus unions to say “Enough!” was just impotent trade union bluster, those same events showed how wrong the cynics can be.
Because last week the mayor blinked.

After months of swearing there’d be no new contracts without significant reforms (read CUTS) in pension and health benefits, he signed a 3-year 10% deal with DC37 that not only failed to achieve those reforms, it also contained no further producitivity givebacks to pay for the raises.

And while ever-loyal Labor Commissioner Hanley gamely insisted that the much-touted benefit savings would be negotiated separately, it doesn’t take a bargaining pro to know that you don’t get to keep playing after you’ve laid down your hand. With a no-giveback “pattern” already set, the ball, if anywhere, is in the unions’ hands. It’s they who are now in a position to say yea or nay to discussions of benefit changes and to set the terms if the city still wants long-term savings in pensions and health coverage.

Why did the city back down? The Times had two possible explanations. One is that the mayor was just too embarrassed, in the face of a $5 billion surplus, to continue to cry poverty. Funny, that didn’t embarrass him in the last round, when the surplus was a mere $3 billion. And he continues to insist, as he did last time, that the surplus is illusory and big deficts loom in subsequent years.

The second possible reason, speculates reporter Steve Greenhouse, is the only thing that has changed since a year ago, the just-birthed union bargaining coalition. Apparently, says Greenhouse, “the new union militancy” is giving the mayor pause.
You may remember that the city — and some editorialists and right-leaning policy analysts — brushed off the coalition as toothless without the cops and firefighters. But it wasn’t lost on Greenhouse (and surely not on Com’r Hanley) that the coalition is headed by the very same person who heads the Municipal Labor Committee, Randi Weingarten. Hanley may think he can ignore the coalition, if he wants to bargain health benefits, by law he cannot ignore the MLC .

Pension benefits, of course, can be changed only by the State Legislature. That’s the same Legislature that just approved in overwhelming numbers (with not a single opposing vote in the Republican-controlled Senate) a bill not to shrink but to EXPAND pension benefits for government workers. The bill offered the same retirement opportunity to current employees that pre-1973 hires have had. That opportunity (to retire with full benefits at age 55 with 25 years of service) has not been available for more than 30 years, but the UFT got it through.

As expected, the governor vetoed the bill. Still, what chance is there that the city, without strong labor support, can get from that very same Legislature changes that would move in the exact opposite direction?

That’s not to say that the MLC should not consider reasonable ideas to contain costs for either healthcare or pensions, provided benefits don’t suffer and the price is right. (After all, no one wants to let skyrocketing health costs break the bank.) But now that the city has already played its longest suit at the contract bargaining table, the unions can control the bidding.

So, before the new coalition has even sat down at the table, Randi’s vision for it has already borne fruit. Every one of the city’s 300,000 workers should be cheering, “You go, girl!”

And we in the UFT can be proud we have a leader who learned well the secret of being a good teacher (and a good lawyer). That secret? Be prepared!

A Guide for the Gullible: Hess and West on Teachers’ Contracts

The legendary mediæval Jewish sage, Maimonides, wrote one of the more marvelously heterodox texts of religious thought, A Guide for the Perplexed. For those who did not study Maimonides as part of their youthful religious education, such as this Irish Catholic boy from Brooklyn, A Guide for the Perplexed is a text written for an educated, discerning reader, one who would not be satisfied with unquestioning faith and its a priori dogmas, but was capable of grappling with the most difficult and complex of philosophical and theological inquiries. For Maimonides, the art of questioning, the application of the rational, thoughtful and open mind to complicated, perplexing issues, is the only path to truth.

The op-ed “Time To Take On The Teachers’ Union” which appeared in yesterday’s New York Daily News, and the study upon which it was based, A Better Bargain: Overhauling Teacher Collective Bargaining for the 21st Century, are anti-Maimonides texts, written for an uneducated, ignorant reader who will accept any dogma, provided that it conforms to an already existing prejudice. Let us call these texts A Guide for the Gullible.

Make no mistake about it, you have to be pretty damn gullible to buy the Hess-West argument about the evils of collective bargaining in education. Consider their very first example of the clauses of the agreement they consider to be so educationally damaging. “For instance,” they opine, “the contract stipulates that ‘excessed’ teachers unable to find a position will be placed in vacancies in their district, on the basis of seniority, regardless of their previous performance.” Anyone who has even casually followed developments in the collective bargaining agreement in New York City knows that it now operates on the basis of an ‘open market,’ such that an ‘excessed’ teacher has no automatic placement in another school of the sort described above. An ‘excessed’ teacher is placed in another school only when he and the principal and personnel committee of the receiving committee all agree it is the right match. In light of the above, one could call the references to “seniority” and “previous performance” red herrings that embellish the misrepresentation, but that would miss their rhetorical function: they are the red flags of anti-union discourse, to be waved in front of the gullible reader just like the bull-fighter waves the red flag to excite the slow-witted bull. [It is also worth noting in passing that, by definition, an ‘excessed’ teacher lost his position due to a decline in the number of teaching positions in his school, so the presumption would have to be that his performance was satisfactory, since it is the clear responsibility of his supervisor to have him removed for cause if it was anything less than satisfactory.]

So here we have two individuals presenting themselves as experts on the NYC and other contracts, and they can’t even get their first basic fact right.

Unfortunately, this misrepresentation fits a pattern that characterizes the entire argument developed in A Better Bargain. Attempting to make the case that teacher unions are hostile to educational change, Hess and West assert that innovative and collaborative teacher union leaders are voted out of office by their members, and then cherry picks a total of three anomalous examples to make their case, ignoring the far more numerous instances where the most outspoken union reformers, such as Adam Urbanski in Rochester and Tom Mooney in Cincinnati, were re-elected for decades. They find that school districts in so-called ‘right to work’ states such as Texas and Georgia, where collective bargaining for teachers is legally proscribed, adopt the very same bureaucratic regulations and procedures they condemn when they exist in school districts which are engaged in collective bargaining. Yet rather than face up to the all too plain implications of their own research, that collective bargaining can not be the source of the problem, Hess and West evade this conclusion with a series of rather implausible ex post facto rationalizations. Perhaps the most outlandish is the suggestion that state legislatures which deny teachers the right to bargain collectively are going to turn around and do the bidding of teacher unions on all of the substantive educational issues, such that the state law becomes a proxy contract. Flying pigs would fit right in A Guide for the Gullible.

On issue after issue – whether teachers are underpaid for their professional status, merit pay, transfer policies, dismissal procedures and on – Hess and West look only at the literature which supports their predictably anti-teacher, anti-union position, and ignore the scholarly research which reaches a different conclusion. Even when the contrary view represents a strong scholarly consensus on the subject it merits not even a passing citation. Rather, their footnotes are filled with right wing critiques of teachers, teacher unions and public education. The supposition appears to be that you can make a report fly, even with only the wing on its right side, so long as the reader is gullible enough.

Hess’ and West’s op-ed appeared on Wednesday, April 5th of this week, the very same day as the widely publicized expanded negotiating committee of the UFT met for the first time. The timing was neatly arranged by Tweed, as was the publication in Tweed’s house organ, the Daily News. Tweed even kindly provided Hess and West with a copy of Randi’s recent letter to the membership on the subject of contract negotiations. None of this played a role, of course, in Hess’ and West’s conclusion that Klein is a “savvy negotiator.” Skepticism on that count would be what you would expect from “the perplexed.” And this is A Guide for the Gullible.

An Agenda In Search Of A Supporting Argument: The Story Of The New Teacher Project’s Unintended Consequences Report

Two weeks ago, a Washington DC educational policy think tank, the New Teacher Project, issued a report entitled Unintended Consequences to great fanfare. The report demonstrated that staffing rules in union contracts were “bad for kids,” Eduwonk proclaimed to the blogosphere. So we decided to take a careful look at the claims. And here’s what we found…. More »

The Courage of Their Convictions?

The opponents of the contract have produced a list of thirty ways to berate UFTers who speak in support of ratification of the contract, in the form of a list of questions.

In the pedagogical spirit of inquiry, let us propose a question or two about the questions.

Take Question 23. It reads:
Given the choice of evils, wouldn’t it have been better to do what the police did and cut pay for future hires to get annual 5% increases without major givebacks for incumbent officers rather than agree to these draconian givebacks that the UFT is accepting? 5% is greater than 3.4% isn’t it?

Are we to understand from this question that the member of the Executive Board who authored it, and the caucus he represents, is advocating that the UFT negotiate to cut the salaries of new teachers in order to finance a salary increase for senior teachers?
More »

The Red Riding Hood Syndrome OR Watch Out for the Wolf in the Nightgown

The Red Riding Hood Syndrome
(OR Watch out for the wolf in the nightgown!)

As a default position, it sounds fairly benign. Say No to the contract and send the leadership back to try to do better. What can we lose?

Coming from those activists who used to call for a strike every time talks hit a snag, it even sounds like a safe, reasonable middle-of-the-road stance.

Don’t let them fool you. It’s a trap to get us right where they wanted us in the first place. (I can just picture them sitting around one September evening wondering why they’ve attracted so few supporters. Suddenly a light bulb goes on. “I know,” beams one of their brightest. “We’re scaring people with all this strike talk. We sound too militant. Let’s just advocate a No vote. Then they can’t blame us if we end up on strike. And we can blame the union leadership.”)

The idea that voting No will bring the city back to the table eager to appease an angry membership with a better deal is the most dangerous of all the deceits about this proposed contract currently being circulated. It’s a wolf in Grandma’s nightie, and members should not be taken in by its harmless appearance.

Let’s be real. What’s our leverage after Nov. 8? Instead of sweetening the pot, isn’t it much more likely that Bloomberg, after winning the election by a landslide, would just get tougher with us? Talk about having nothing to lose, he’s the one in that position then! The only thing he’s left to worry about is those out-year budget deficits.

And this time we wouldn’t even have the state to fall back on. Their job is finished. We reject and we’re on our own. And by then, will there be another union that hasn’t already made its peace with Bloomberg left to stand with us?

We could lose not only the 15% and the retro, but a lot more. Think about all Bloomberg and Klein wanted but didn’t get. And we’d be handing them a golden second opportunity!

Worried about seniority transfers? Say hello to forced transfers.
Worried about easier dismissal for sexual misconduct? Say hello to the end of tenure and dismissal on the principal’s word.
Worried about 55/25? Say hello to the end of retiree health benefits a la GM.

What’s to lose? Plenty.

It’s easy to see how this scenario leads us straight to the picket line. And with no re-election to worry about, Bloomberg couldn’t care less.

And Klein? He’d be ecstatic! Say hello to our next Secretary of Education if the Republicans stay in the White House.

Of course, we could just play it safe, sit tight and wait. My friends, that means you’re looking at another 4 or 5 years without a raise – a total of 7 or 8 years. No city budget can fund 7 or 8 years of retroactive pay. If we thought two zeros were unacceptable back in 1995, try swallowing 7 or 8 of them. No matter how generous the next mayor, we’d be so deep in the hole we’d never make up that many years of lost raises.

So next time someone suggests we “Vote No and send Randi back to the table,” ask that person to let you see his/her canines. This is not your sweet, harmless Granny talking.

Evaluating Our Options

As we each individually look at the proposed contract and try to understand its plusses and minuses, it is important to remember the context in which this contract was negotiated. This round of bargaining was nothing like the normal course of bargaining. The City and DOE delayed the start of negotiations, only agreeing to meet and hear our demands three months after the expiration of the contract because we complained to PERB about their failure to negotiate.  Five months later they came back to the table and instead of telling us where  they wanted changes in the existing contract, the Klein and Bloomberg administration came to the table with a brand new eight-page contract and said this is what we want.  They wanted an end to tenure, to any voice for teachers and total discretion for principals on transfers, excessing, layoff, administrative duties and on the number of teaching periods.  They basically wanted us to work an eight period day and a much longer school year.  In addition, for stripping us of all our rights and protections they were prepared to give us a 4.17% increase; the below inflation pattern established with DC37. 

Nineteen months and many un-kept promises to negotiate a contract quickly later, they finally come to the table and engage in real discussions using the fact finders report as the starting point.  Many people in the press and the administration will say this proves the Taylor Law works.  The process outlined in the law from negotiations to impasse to mediation to fact finding worked to generate a contract.  We know better.  The Taylor Law allowed the Klein/Bloomberg administration to drag out negotiations without penalty to them but at a real cost to our members who worked without raises for more than three years while the cost of living continued to climb. 

More »

Why Ratify the Contract?

I work at Christopher Columbus Campus, in the Bronx. The campus consists of Christopher Columbus High School, a large overcrowded multi-session high school co-existing in a campus setting with four small schools. As the UFT Teacher Center site staff there, I work with a large number of educators for whom the contract, or lack of one, has become a stressful and at times divisive issue.

Why ratify the contract? If you want the abbreviated version it is simple. The alternatives are highly unappetizing. If we attempt to go back to the bargaining table with Bloomberg all indications are that he will fall back to the fact finders’ report. If we reject this, our only option is to strike. From the chatter around this building, I just don’t think we have the will as an organization to go through the suffering it would entail to come out on top of such a monumental battle. This leaves only one realistic possibility at this time – to ratify the contract.

There are a number of benefits that the contract has over the fact finders’ recommendations. One very obvious improvement is the elimination of the proposed 10 free coverages. Another has to be the increase in back pay by 65% over the recommendations.

Examining the contract in more depth though, we should be able to recognize that there are other positives we should lock in with the offer currently on the table. Very significantly, we at last have an agreement that the city and union will work together to get the 25/55 retirement agreement from the State. This will provide a major benefit to all of us who are on Tiers II,III and IV, a substantial shortening of our length of service.

This contract also maintains our health benefits as they stand. Since the cost of healthcare has risen by 73% for employers over the past five years this is a very significant positive for us. Most of our friends in other professions have faced massive increases in the cost of their healthcare, expected to shoulder increasingly high contributions and co-payments as the cost of health insurance skyrockets.

There are voices urging us to vote down this contract. They seem to think that we can do better. This does not strike me as a rational conclusion. Since the mayor has not only agreed to accept the independent fact finders’ recommendations, but has actually worked with our union to give something that most would consider better, the general public will not expect him to turn around and be even more generous. They are more likely to expect him to take a tough line. It seems as straightforward as the following multiple-choice question to me:

Vote to
a) Accept the contract
b) Accept the fact finders’ recommendations
c) Strike