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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sign Here?: Ask Your Questions First and Rely on Reason, Not the Forces of Intimidation or Fear

I have read the primary sources, U.F.T. press releases, and other viewpoints to try to understand the contract. There are good points to the contract, but I am very saddened by the lack of honest debate and the fact that the contract has been pushed along in a highly questionable manner.  Unity reps. are out and about selling it.  Some have appealed to a base sentiment of human fear rather than reason:  I can't tell you to vote for it, but if you reject it who knows how much longer you will have to wait or even if you will get anything better (as teachers did in 1996 after the rejection of the 1995 contract).  The issues demand more debate.  For me, many questions and concerns remain unanswered: 

1. Will our salaries keep pace with the rate of inflation? 

2. By the time, we get our retroactive pay, will it be worth much of anything?

3. Why do we give the City an interest-free loan on money that other unions earned in 2009 and 2010? Why does this loan extend to 2020?

 4. Why will teachers who resign between now and 2020 lose their back pay? 

 5. What will happen if the predicted healthcare savings are not met and the Municipal Labor Committee decides, at a future time, of its own accord, to make us pay into the system. There is a memo circulating that indicates a possible payment plan in that eventuality.  It would largely negate our raises (averaging 2% for nine years).

 6. Why are A.T.R.s subject to a disciplinary process different from other teachers?  The  U.F.T. argued that A.T.R.s should not be given a separate chapter because it would divide the Union. So, why divide it now?

7. Why designate some teachers as superior when the metrics are so "messed up"? Again, we are dividing teachers for foolish reasons. 

8. Why must we waste time writing Unit Plans "for show" to carry around every day, properly formatted, and ready to be submitted to a supervisor?  Many of us have been teaching many years. These Unit Plans will in no way help students progress. They are just a thorn in our side and a tip of the hat to the idea that teachers come into the classroom and teach any old thing on any given day. 

9. Why need we spend endless hours more on professional development?  Some is healthy; too much is an admonition that one thinks teachers do not know what they're doing. 

10. Why will PROSE schools exclude valuable union members from contractual rights, but still make them pay dues?  Aren't we weakening our union? Provided any school signs on by the 65% vote, what will happen with the other 35% who may not agree? 

11.  And if this contract is so great, why must they dangle $1000 like a bribe before us for signing?  

We should welcome U.F.T. reps. to our schools, but we must understand that they come as Unity reps., and, as all Unity representatives, they have signed a Loyalty Oath to uphold all views of the Unity Caucus outside the Caucus.  They can provide facts, but, ultimately, they are beholden to support this contract come hell or high water. 

I value freedom of speech, free inquiry and debate. I would never recommend forming opinions based primarily upon fear. We have waited long for a contract. I have no fear of waiting longer. The contract was ramrod down the throats of our 300-member contract committee before distribution of the M.O.A (Memorandum of Agreement)--which was notably M.I.A. until the eve of the D.A. (Delegate Assembly).  We are an important Union. Our profession is most important despite the views of the Bloomberg administration. We will set a pattern with our contract, but it may not be a healthy one.  Other unions seem to think it is not.  

Ultimately, one must make informed decisions based on weighing the arguments of both sides.  In order to do so, one must be exposed to both sides.  Debate is generally the best means to this end.  Do not expect to see "a balanced diet of both pro and con union leadership commentators."  You must look elsewhere for views to balance against those of Unity and you must not be afraid to ask the important questions, even with follow-ups if necessary.  It is the next nine years of our lives and that of our students which is on the line.   

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