Teachers Go To the Polls: Over the Next Week Union Members Will Vote on the Proposed UFT Contracts.

On Monday UFT members will begin to cast ballots in school. In my high school we set up a table by the “in-out” cards (once upon a time an actual time clock) and as teachers arrived or checked their mailboxes they picked up a ballot, signed the roster, voted, placed their ballot in an envelope, sealed the ballot, and placed in our ballot box that the shop teacher made years ago. Different chapters, actually titles, i.e., teachers, guidance counselors, school secretaries, paraprofessionals, psychologists and social worker, etc., cast separate ballots.

Social media sites, from Facebook to Twitter to blogs are urging colleagues to vote “yes” or “no.”

Facebook has hundreds of comments, with many “likes” and “dislikes,” although Facebook comments represent only a tiny fraction of total membership.

Some questions and answers:

Did the members even vote down a contract?

Yes, in 1995 teachers voted down a contract, about six month later the members approved a very similar contract.

Can the mayor or the governor or the City Council or the state legislature impose a contract?

The legislature can pass a law – which would require the votes of both houses and the approval of the governor, I don’t think it has ever happened.

At this point if a contract is voted down what are the next steps?

Both parties could go back to the bargaining table, or, the mayor could walk way and negotiate with another union, or, the fact-finding panel could release their report.

Is the fact-finding report binding?

No, although the report is public has been the basis be settlements in the past.

Does the union currently know what’s in the report?

No, although they do know the positions of the city on the issues – both sides testified at great length and placed scores of documents into evidence and witnesses were cross-examined.

Can the fact-finding report recommend that ATR’s are laid off after a period of time?


Could the legislature change the law and require the layoff of ATR’s?


Would the governor support a change in the law that would require ATR’s are laid off?

Let me answer with another question: could the governor fully support charter schools?

Are the retroactive 4% raises for 2009 and 2010 “locked in?”

Nothing is “locked in.”

Doesn’t the “pattern bargaining” principle guarantee members will receive 4 + 4 in retroactive?

No, the “pattern bargaining” and “ability to pay” principles are guidance for the fact-finders; however, there is only a contract when the parties agree to a contract.

Shouldn’t we get more money going forward – the increases barely cover the cost of living?

The increases going forward are very much in line with other teacher contracts in the school districts surrounding the city.

Why do we have to wait so long for the retroactive increases?

The fiscal year begins July 1 and the city simply doesn’t have the dollars, and, the bookkeeping for the retroactive increases are under attack – the city operates under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and there is a question of how the city is paying for the raises. See New York Times,
“High-Power Tug of War Over Teachers’ Deal

Behind the scenes, a high-stakes tug of war unfolded between the city’s two most powerful elected officials: Mayor Bill de Blasio, eager to trumpet the first big labor contract of his young administration, and the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, whose team had discovered basic accounting problems with the deal.

The issue identified by Mr. Stringer will not add to the total cost of the deal, city officials said. But the comptroller’s office said it represented a breach of stringent accounting rules adopted by New York after the 1970s fiscal crisis. “Our goal from the very beginning was to protect the city’s financial integrity,” said Eric Sumberg, a spokesman for Mr. Stringer.

Some have said if we vote down the contract we have to go to the “back of the line,” behind the 151 other unions, why couldn’t we simply go back to the bargaining table?

It’s up to the city. Since 2009 Mayor Bloomberg wanted to bargain, it was the union that decided to wait for the next mayor. Both sides have to agree to go “back to the table,” and might be more advantageous for the city to negotiate with a weaker union.

What options does the city have?

They could negotiate with other unions – for example – they could move on to DC 37, the largest union, and negotiate a “pattern.”

The Police (PBA) and Firefighters have already criticized the pattern – can the police and the firefighter receive greater increases?

The fact-finding process for police and firefighters are binding – a plus and a minus – it is commonplace for the uniformed services to choose to go “to the end of the line.” hoping to extract a better settlement. – obviously there is a “risk/reward.”

Waiting so many years for the retro just doesn’t seem fair and we work so hard – don’t we deserve larger increases and a quicker payout for the retro?

Let me be honest – “fairness” and “working hard” are irrelevant in the world of high stakes negotiations – The outside world argues teachers should be paid according to student achievement? The settlement is solely up to the parties to the negotiations.

Could we go another two, three or four years without a contract?

Yes, the PERB rules end in a non-binding fact-finding report – there no requirements or time limits to complete negotiations.

Why could the Chicago Teachers go on strike?

The Illinois labor laws allow for a strike with a super majority vote of the members, teacher strikes are legal in Chicago.

Remind us, what are the penalties in New York State?

Teacher strikes are against the law with penalties: Loss of an additional day’s pay for each day on strike (2:1) – on strike for five days and lose ten days pay, loss of union dues check off and court imposed fines on the union and members.

Could we have some sort of job action?

Under NYS law all job actions, and the law is strict, are considered strikes with 2:1 wage deductions and possibility other penalties.

In my view the contract falls within the “pattern” for retroactive and going forward, and, the only way to find the dollars is to spread the payments over a number of budget cycles – the non-budgetary issues address many teacher concerns and most of all the contract links labor and management, the union and the department, a major change from the last adminstration. I understand there are members who only care about dollars and the only “reform” would be to leave them alone – in the current climate the contract addresses “reforms” that involve teachers, a rarity in negotiations around the nation. Thomas Wolf wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” the past is gone – the contract, hopefully, creates a new path.


One response to “Teachers Go To the Polls: Over the Next Week Union Members Will Vote on the Proposed UFT Contracts.

  1. I’m going to vote no. I’m not scared of collectively bargaining again, especially when this proposed contract stinks.

    Article 3, sections H and I, are very scary. I want a detailed list of how those saving will be obtained. Health clinics? Fraud and misuse corrected? Mail in drugs? What would my share be if these savings cannot be found?

    The city is not broke. I cannot read that a billion is wasted on a 911 system that doesn’t work, or the city time fiasco, and for one second, believe that my raises and retro, and the raises and retro of other city agencies, would break the bank. There is NO valid reason that the day we sign, our salaries at the very least cannot go up a minimum of 10% for the years worked since 09. Any year with 0% is an insult. Retro can be payed out slowly…not a big deal. And ultimately, taxes can be raised to pay for city services like teachers.

    The UFT needs to poll its members. Changing the times worked does NOT work for teacher-parents or teachers with second jobs. As a teacher and parent, some of my “raise” now has to go to child care on Mondays and Tuesdays…not fair. I would guess that 70% of UFT members fall into the parent/second job categories.

    If you read this, please vote NO. Do not listen to the fear mongering about how this contract is the best we can do. Poll the members and get a feel for the important issues.


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