Rank and file angry after 18 months without a raise
By a UFT member | May 17, 2002 | Page 11
NEW YORK--After 18 months without a contract, more than 90 percent of teachers at last week's delegate assembly of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) called for a strike authorization vote. More than 1,500 delegates voted to authorize UFT President Randi Weingarten to organize a ballot in which union members could vote for a strike.
Ballots will be sent out over the next few weeks to all union members, who will be asked to vote on whether or not to authorize union leaders to call a strike some time between June and September.
Some union leaders warned of the possible risks of a strike, since teachers' strikes are illegal under New York's Taylor Law. The law allows striking teachers to be jailed and fined two day's pay for every day on strike.
"Lawmakers and school officials generally think that Ms. Weingarten has no intention of calling a strike, but that she feels obligated to saber rattle to convince her members that she is doing everything possible to get a contract," the New York Times reported. The anti-union New York Post declared, "It's all talk."
In fact, the strike authorization vote was an indication of the frustration of teachers who have been working without a contract for 18 months--and without a raise in over two years. And the vote comes on the heels of a rally on May Day, at which thousands of teachers rallied at the Board of Education in downtown Brooklyn at a rally called by the UFT to demand a new contract. More than 5,000 teachers attended the rally, carrying signs with slogans such as "Enough is enough."
Despite the fact that both the teacher's union and the city have tentatively accepted the recommendations of a recent fact-finding report as the parameters for an agreement, there has been no serious move toward settlement. The fact-finding report's recommendations call for a 9 percent raise over 27 months with an additional 6 percent pro rata raise linked to a longer working day.
While the union has accepted the recommendations as a basis for negotiation, the longer workday is a major concession to which many teachers are opposed.
Officials allied to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have said that they are too "busy" and have continued to stall on negotiations. The truth is that Bloomberg is pushing for direct takeover of the school system from the Board of Education--and wants more concessions from teachers.
Rank-and-file teachers need to vote "yes" on the strike vote to keep up the pressure--and continue to organize for a new contract that provides real raises with no concessions.