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Vote no on NYC teachers deal

By Megan Behrent, United Federation of Teachers | October 7, 2005 | Page 11

NEW YORK--The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a tentative agreement on a contract for New York City October 3 after nearly two and a half years of working under an expired contract.

Unfortunately, the deal is a complete slap in the face to educators in the city as it contains massive concessions which will only increase the workload for overworked teachers while doing nothing to minimize the pay gap between city teachers and those in the suburbs.

The recent contract was announced after a week of negotiations sparked by recommendations of a state "fact finders" panel released on September 13. Unfortunately, the union leadership accepted these recommendations as a "vehicle" for negotiations, which paved the way for huge concessions.

The current memorandum of agreement would force teachers to work an extra 10 minutes a day and an extra three days a year. Worse, it would allow principals to give teachers onerous assignments, such as hall patrol or lunch duty and eliminate current grievance procedures for letters in their files. This latter provision would give school administrations carte blanche in harassing and intimidating teachers and severely weaken the union's ability to protect its members.

These concessions are tied to a total raise of about 14.25 percent over 52 months–including a 5.5 percent raise to cover the two and a half years without a contract. The actual raises would amount to under 9 percent over four and a half years--less than 2 percent a year, below the rate of inflation. What's more, once pay for extra work is factored in, the basic pay increase is only about 8.5 percent.

In the past few weeks, UFT President Randi Weingarten has said that if there were no deal reached by the next delegate assembly on October 11, there would be either a strike authorization vote or an endorsement for Fernando Ferrer, the Democratic candidate opposing Bloomberg in the mayor elections.

Unfortunately, Weingarten and her Unity caucus never launched preparations for a successful strike--which was no surprise to longtime activists in the union.

Now is the time to begin mobilizing in our schools to vote no on the contract settlement. There's immense anger among New York City teachers--which means there is a real possibility of organizing that sentiment to vote no on a concessionary contract.

Members of opposition caucuses within the union, such as Teachers for a Just Contract, have already begun circulating leaflets and a petition in schools to call for a "no" vote on any contract based on the fact finders recommendations and demand real raises with no givebacks.

We need to mobilize now against givebacks and prepare for a vote no campaign which can show the city that teachers are not willing to accept these horrific concessions and are willing to fight for a decent contract with real raises and better working conditions.

For more information about Teachers for a Just Contract, go to teachersforajustcontract.org.

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