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Sunday, August 9, 2020

UFT Members Demand That UFT President Michael Mulgrew Represent Them Properly and Not Promote Secret Changes To The Contract

The coronavirus has added another historical moment to UFT activism. 

NYC teachers are seeing the disaster that collective bargaining by President Michael Mulgrew and other top people at the teachers' union has brought to effective representation and members' rights. The UFT is, it seems from their actions in the past decade, too politicized to follow their own principles. New lawsuits are popping up in Federal Court citing the collaboration of the Department of Education AND the UFT in pursuing harm to members - or at least playing along to get along.

UFT members are not blind to the lack of support the rank and file get when a problem arises such as workplace injury, discrimination, false charges of incompetency, or misconduct. At least most who have had, or continue to have, a problem in his or her workplace have been frustrated by the lack of fair representation at hearings or getting relief.

UFT Secretary and Staff Director Leroy Barr

Two recent cases show what I mean. In one case: a probationary paraprofessional who worked without any disciplinary actions for 18 years, suddenly was accused of swinging a small boy - whose para left him for a moment - in the air and yelling at him. He has autism. One person described this alleged "event" to the principal, and the paraprofessional was discontinued. She filed for arbitration with ADCOM and was shocked when she received the decision, written by Staff Director Leroy Barr who was not at the hearing yet cited her "confession" as stated in the principal's testimony, not the paraprofessional's own testimony, to dismiss her case and deny her the arbitration she requested. 

Tenured members also get shoddy treatment. Tenure is created to protect the rights of teachers to due process and to fight the whims of false claims, and this is something that the UFT is denying members. I know many UFT members who are assaulted by violent students in their classrooms and are denied LODI (line of duty injury) relief by their principals or are told to not go back to their schools and then charged for not stopping the violence, and sent to a 3020-a hearing to be terminated. 

Where is the UFT in this absurdity? 

JANUS V AFCME also made a dent in the all-powerful pocketbook of the UFT as well as other Unions, albeit minor, so far.

Over the last couple of months, members have been demanding the UFT make the Department provide guaranteed safety measures in the fall so that they can go back to in-person teaching without worrying they are going to die. What does the UFT leadership do, but alter the contract without the rank and file voting on the changes! This is what UFT member Michael Flanagan, Ed.D., UFT Chapter Leader, District 10 the Bronx writes, re-posted below.

We hear you, loud and clear.

Betsy Combier

                                                              August 6, 2020

Dear UFT President Michael Mulgrew, 

I am a 34-year member of the United Federation of Teachers. This morning I received an email from you informing me—and the other 77,000 or so UFT members—that you unilaterally agreed to drastic changes of our working conditions. Those working conditions were voted on by the rank and file members of the union that you were elected to represent. They cannot be changed by you or by the city without another rank and file vote by the members. That has not occurred.

I represent 110 staff members in a school, and I need to protect those members’ rights, from a disease, from a Mayor who is willing to send us back into harm’s way and now, apparently, from my own union. And I will do so.

I am linking our current, legally enforceable UFT contract, for your review. I am also including the email you sent this morning entitled “Your Work Day If School Buildings Reopen

It is interesting to note, that these very same revisions that you agreed to, were sent out to principals by the Chancellor’s office a week ago, I am linking the video of the Chancellor’s Presentation to the principals, dated July 30th. I was presented with these revisions by my own principal two days ago.

Why is it we, your union members, only hear from you today?

When did these negotiations take place? Who was on those committees? Why were none of these new conditions brought to your members for a vote? Why did the principals know about this a week before your members?

As UFT President you do not have the right to change our contract without a vote by your members. If we are forced to work under these conditions, we will be forced to resist.

With or without you.

Many will claim that teachers in New York City cannot strike, because of the Taylor Law. Well under the Tri-Borough Amendment of the Taylor Law, if our contract expires, we continue to work under the conditions of that expired contract until a new one is approved by the union’s membership. The City of New York will be violating our contract’s working conditions if these “agreed” upon changes go into effect. UFT members will have no choice but to engage in job actions. They may include any and all of the following:

1. Working to the letter of our CURRENT CONTRACT

2. ALL of the UFT members working remotely, and none of us showing up in the physical buildings

3. Mass sickouts

4. A strike

5. Class action lawsuits against the NYCDOE and The UFT for contract violations

If we strike under the Taylor law, we will lose two days' pay for every one day we are out of work. Our union will be fined one million dollars a day, and the union leaders will be arrested.

Due to the health risk of the Coronavirus pandemic, many union members are prepared for that. More will be, the closer we get to the reopening of school.

There is also the unfortunate option, of union members defunding the union, until we get real representation during this crisis. Under the Janus decision, we are all VOLUNTARILY paying union dues. If we are not represented by our leadership, then we have no leadership.

I would urge you to reconsider your email today and this “agreement” you entered without the voice or consent of your union members.

Put these proposed changes TO A VOTE. Now.

Represent your members.


Michael Flanagan, Ed.D.
UFT Chapter Leader, District 10 the Bronx.