What’s Happening with Contract Negotiations: Why Teachers and the Mayor Are Willing to Wait, Patience is a Virtue.

The New York Post had a wimpy article about the status/non-status of UFT-DOE contract negotiations. Since, to the best of my knowledge the negotiations do not involve “sex, drugs or rock and roll” the Post editors had no real interest, except in pounding the union.
 
The Post speculated about the various stages of the process: mediation, impasse and fact-finding.
 
Public employee labor relations in New York State are regulated by a state agency, the Public Employee Relations Board, referred to as PERB.
 
PERB assists state and local government and labor unions in contract negotiations and the dispute resolution process. The Triborough Doctrine, embedded in the law after a NYS Court of Appeals decision, requires that contracts remain in full force and effect after their expiration date until the successor agreement is negotiated. It is commonplace for agreements to extend beyond their expiration date.
 
The parties can request PERB to assign a mediator.  If the mediation is not fruitful the parties can move to forward to the fact-finding process. PERB assigns a panel of three fact-finders, experienced arbitrators, who convene the arbitration process. The parties layout their arguments through witnesses and the submission of evidence, cross examine the other party and write briefs. The fact-finding panel produces a non-binding recommendation. The process takes many months. The UFT-DOE have gone through the process on three occasions (see latest PERB decision here).
 
It does not appear that any negotiations are currently being conducted and no pressure from either side to engage at the current time.
 
The contract expired fifteen months ago, why is there no urgency to negotiate a contract?
 
Joel Klein.  Although the union negotiates with the NYC Labor Commissioner, not the Chancellor, Klein would have done everything possible to sabotage the negotiations. His goal was to use the negotiation process to highlight his goal, basically, to weaken/destroy the union so that he can impose his policies. The union was content to wait for Klein to be fired, and let’s make it perfectly clear, Bloomberg fired Klein.
 
Budget deficits and layoffs. The state, which provides a portion of education funding is facing a $10 billion deficit. All parties appear to be aiming at the constitutional deadline of a completed budget by April 1. The City budget deficit, several billions, is due by July 1. The governor’s budget proposal will be released on February 1.
 
Last year, just before budgets were released to schools the mayor withdrew the threat of 4400 layoffs using funds put aside for contract negotiations, to prevent layoffs.  What will he do this year?
 
Cathie Black will be measured by her ability to reduce or avert layoffs.  The mayor vaunted her managerial skills, can she combine cuts outside the classroom and Bloomberg largesse to bypass layoffs?
 
The economy. Everyone knows someone who has been laid off, every teacher has a friend or relative who has been laid off. There is no pressure within the union memberhip to rush to a contract. Teachers are willing to wait for the propitious time to execute a contract.
 
Flexibility of dollars. In the summer of 2009, Jim Hanley, the City labor head testified that the City had put aside dollars anticipating a 4% + 4% teacher settlement. In May, 2010 the Mayor announced, without the involvement of the union, that he used teacher settlement dollars to avert layoffs.
 
It is politically difficult to bemoan revenue shortfalls and service reductions and at the same time negotiate raises.
 
Can the City “sell” a contract in this economic climate? Experienced negotiators can be creative in contracts. Retroactive dollars can be non-pensionable one time cash payments in lieu of percentage increases, contracts can be “back-loaded,” meaning the higher rate can be effective on the last day of the successor agreement. Dollars are “flexible.”
 
Non-budgetary issues. The ATR system is anathema to every teacher. There is absolutely no evidence that the ATR system has anything to do with improving student achievement. Every teacher is initially hired by a principal and evaluated each and every year. Klein succeeded in both stigmatizing teachers in the ATR pool, and, since many of them are higher salaried they are prohibitive due to the impact on school budgets. The ATR system costs the Department $100 million a year.  Klein’s proposal: fire ATRs. The UFT and Department can work out a system to assign excess teachers to schools permanently and abolish the ATR category.
 
Some months down the road Mayor Bloomberg, UFT Prez Mulgrew and Chancellor Black will be standing on the steps of City Hall touting a completed negotiation.
 
For the Post no contract will be satisfactory unless it includes the proverbial union “pound of flesh“. Since we are in the realm of Shakespeare, remember, “All’s Well That Ends Well.”
 
Yet, I pray you:
But with the word the time will bring on summer,
When briers shall have leaves as well as thorns,
And be as sweet as sharp. We must away;
Our wagon is prepared, and time revives us:
All’s well that ends well; still the fine’s the crown;
Whate’er the course, the end is the renown.
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6 responses to “What’s Happening with Contract Negotiations: Why Teachers and the Mayor Are Willing to Wait, Patience is a Virtue.

  1. Ed, you restate the obvious. Not only is there no intention to negotiate until the fact-finding comes out it is clear that the UFT’s failed strategy will cause us to lose even more. Without a contract we have already given up essential parts of our evaluation system and 3020-a rights. It is also clear that no one will get tenure for a while creating a permanent underclass of teachers. This is happening without out union saying one blessed thing.

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  2. I started with the DOE in 2005, the year of the Second Dreaded Contract Givebacks, when the extended day was introduced. At the time, the City and the UFT touted the “15% raise,” but neglected to mention that, in return for that “raise,” teachers had to add the approximate equivalent of 2 weeks to their workload. Over the course of the contract, it probably added up to about 1.5% to 2% per year. The most obvious problem with the ATR system is that higher-salaried, more-experienced teachers are being excessed, through no fault of their own, from schools that are being downsized or closed, then replaced by lower-salaried, less-experienced teachers, many of whom are from the TFA ranks. Then the City bemoans the fact that the ATR “system” costs $100 million. When confronted with the illogic of the situation, as in, “why not just place teachers in the ATR pool in open positions in other schools, rather than spending ADDITIONAL money to hire NEW teachers,” Bloomberg and Klein, and probably now Black, spouted that it’s about “choice” – choice for the principals to have a lower budget at the school, while simultaneously allowing them to “hire” ATRs as substitutes with proportional subsidies from the City. There’s definitely some sort of magic (I’m intentionally avoiding the pun “Black magic,” oops, I said it) going on at Tweed – magic that takes red ink from one book and transforms it into black ink in another, while somehow maintaining the public myth that the ATRs all deserve to be fired because “all they do is sit on their butts all day and collect full salary and benefits”. Most ATRs are working full-time with fully-loaded programs, but they don’t appear on the individual school’s budget, therefore, they remain invisible. And younger teachers, who intend to make a career out of teaching – BEWARE. You may think that LIFO is bad because you’re at the bottom of the heap, but one day you’ll be a senior teacher and wondering why no one is there to protect you.

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  3. Pingback: Remainders: More math required of NY’s younger students | GothamSchools

  4. Pingback: Remainders: More math required of NY’s younger students | GothamSchools « Parents 4 democratic Schools

  5. We have been missing a science teacher for 4 months in our school. With all the ATRs in the pool, our principal insists we couldn’t find one qualified science teacher. Instead, the kids were given a big textbook and told to teach themselves until we could find a suitable science teacher. We finally found one – she’s moving here from Alabama! Can you believe it. There was not one qualified teacher in all of NYC. This is what’s happening in our schools thanks to Randi Weingarten and crew. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

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  6. Thank you ” J from Queens”

    As an ATR, I recognize you are one of the few people that actually know what the hell is going on. Why is the UFT not screaming about this?

    Why buy the cow, if the milk is free?

    Mix Master P

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