I wrote a previous email about our consultation committee and its structure to help support staff to ensure our rights are maintained and that our school can function well. An additional support that we have is one hierarchical level above that committee: a group from the UFT that helps support consultation committees in making sure that our issues are properly addressed. In the case that something is not addressed fully at consultation, the chapter leader can send the issue to this more central committee to advocate on our behalf. This often involves the superintendent, who will then come back to principals to push for a swift resolution. While we have not had to use this tactic at BCS, it is good to know that we have the option at the ready.
As you all know I think it is important for us to know and understand all pieces of our contract. To that end sometimes I'll share things that might seem like they are coming because "something happened at school." I assure you this piece below is purely informational and not because anyone has been injured at BCS.
To that end, you may have heard in other schools where a pedagogue has been 'injured in the line of duty.' This is a technical term used to determine fault and payment of medical expenses. A summary is located at this website but essentially this coverage is provided by the UFT and DOE in the case of an "unprovoked attack by a student, parent, or stranger" on the pedagogue. While I do not wish this to happen to any of us at BCS, it is important to know that if you are hurt in one of these situations, your financial and health related matters will be covered as you recuperate. For anyone curious about the technical language, please see Article 21, Section K of our contract.
I attended the Delegate Assembly last Wednesday and took notes. Please read them here. One big takeaway is that we need to support NYC running an accurate Census. NYC gets a lot of money from the federal government, depending on our population count. If anyone has time to spare to help with the effort, please contact the UFT to help.
Additionally, as part of our internal union workings we are allowed to work together to endorse candidates for various positions. The major one on people's minds is the Presidential election coming up next year. The MORE Caucus has created a form to fill out to ensure we have a democratic process for determining which candidate the UFT will support. Please consider signing this petition to ensure we have a democratic process.
The UFT has various awards given to its members every year. I don't know if we've had a nominee in quite some time so I am forwarding this link here: Nominate teachers. Please read through the descriptions and see if you want to nominate someone.
Every year it is important to remember what the policies are surrounding sick and personal days. For pedagogues, they may take up to 10 self-treated days per year without providing a doctor's note. Within those 10 days, one may take up to 3 as "personal days" with approval from the principal. They may be used to care for a family member or to conduct business that can't be taken care of outside of the school day.
For non-pedagogues (which includes paraprofessionals, school nurses, certain therapists, etc.) they have to provide a doctor's note after 3 consecutive days absent.
There is more extensive information here.
As members of the UFT you have access to a host of benefits that come into play later in life. One of them is the Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA). This benefit means money comes out of your salary pre-tax and is put into an investment account of your choosing (from a small list) that can gave interest at a higher-than-average rate over time. The Teacher's Retirement System provides this benefit and is open not only to teachers and pedagogues but also to paraprofessionals. One of the funds available has a guaranteed 7% return year after year for members in Tier VI (the most recent tier of the plan). Since The Federal Reserve's rate is currently around 1.5-1.75%, this is incredible!
Talk to any of the veteran teachers for more information about this if you'd like - many of them have been investing for years.
Additionally, I wanted to share the blog version of the Consortium Worker. If you didn't get a chance to read the pamphlet, please take a few moments to look at it.
This week I sent a more detailed and specific update to my staff but one component of it relates to the New York State law that has been on the books for quite some time but for some reason was sent out over email to me through several different avenues. The law says that any employee in New York State is entitled to up to 3 hours off at the beginning or end of their shift in order to vote, if they can demonstrate evidence of need. I find this particularly interesting timing because this year is the first year of early voting in NY State. I don't honestly think there is any kind of conspiracy here but it seems to be redundant to a certain respect since there is early voting now. But, my colleagues reminded me that there could still be legitimate reason behind it. So, if you needed the time, I hope you took it!
In the most recent contract agreement the UFT, City, and DOE agreed to specific wage increases over the next few years. The major piece of information here is the 2% increase on February 14, 2019, followed by a 2.5% increase on May 14, 2020, and a 3% increase on May 14, 2021. There were also various other changes that you can read here or from the UFT website:
It has been a very long time since I've written on here but honestly I have been too busy trying to make sure I work well with my students to write anything large. With that in mind, I've decided to share little tidbits about the UFT contract with folks who are interested. I write these once a week for my staff and want to make sure you know about them as well! Here is one from yesterday:
Did you know that Professional Development days are contractually 6 hours and 50 minutes long? This is true even if the PD day falls on a Monday or Tuesday when there would be extra time in the schedule already. So, for example, Election Day is coming up on Tuesday, November 5 and since we normally start school at 8:45am we will only stay at work until 3:35pm (instead of our usual 4:30pm). Alternatively, if it falls on a day that normally ends at 3:05pm, we still stay until 3:35pm.
Keep this in mind!
Much like what happened after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, LA, it seems that the government in Puerto Rico is calling for a reduction in public school funding and implementing new charter school reforms. Due to that impact, the teachers in PR are calling for a national strike to push back against the funding and charter menace. It is unfortunate that individuals in a country that barely has an electric infrastructure that is better than it was before being hit by Hurricane Maria (and lost many more lives than the official count) is going to potentially lose its educational infrastructure as well. Good luck to the teachers!
As you are probably aware the Supreme Court filed their latest decisions this past week, including the landmark case, Janus vs. AFSCME. As expected (but very unfortunately) the conservative-majority court voted in favor of Mark Janus and against Union interests. For those unaware of what this court means, here is some backstory:
In a 1977 Supreme Court case, Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, there was a similar issue being argued: should employees who benefit from collective bargaining be forced to pay full Union dues or not? These employees argued that since they don't agree with the Union they should retain the moneys being forfeited to pay for their benefits. They also argued that their dues were being used for political ends. In the end, the Court ruled in favor of the Union, saying that the dues themselves were not inherently political in nature, and these employees still benefited from the collective bargaining. This was the introduction of "agency fees" being paid by individuals who work alongside public sector Union members but were not members themselves.
Fast forward to 2018 in New York City. The UFT has a collective bargaining unit of approximately 200,000 employees, with only 2,000 of them being "agency fee payers." That means around 1% of the people who benefit from Union negotiation don't pay the same rate. The total cost of being either a Union member or agency fee payer is currently around $1,400, so there is a lot of money being funneled into the UFT coffers with which they can properly protect our membership from the forces that be.
Enter: the Janus case. In a 5-4 decision on very political grounds, the Supreme Court sided with Mark Janus. Everyone is now wondering what is going to happen to public sector unions across the country as 22 states had rules following the 1977 Abood decision. Some view this as a potential rallying cry to get behind and really start connecting membership to union leadership again. I'm sure groups like the Movement of Rank-and-file Educators Caucus in NYC is hoping its grass-roots efforts will have a positive affect on union membership (and I think they are right).
The most influential aspect of this case to me, however, is something I read in this EdWeek article. In it, the author points out "The justices also ruled that unions cannot deduct fees from employees' paychecks without their express consent." What this exactly means for places like New York City, I'm not sure. It could simply mean that any new pedagogical employee is not automatically joined into the UFT as it is now. Or, worse, it means that any current member is automatically kicked out and has to opt back in. In the latter case, much of the time spent next year by Chapter Leaders and District Representatives will be spent trying to ensure everyone signs up. That could take a lot of time and money away from other, more long-term impacting things like the current contract negotiations happening between the City, the Department of Education, and the UFT.
I hope this situation can be turned into a rallying cry in general in politics to ensure we have more progressive candidates put into office (like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and to get our Union to be more connected to its membership.
I am a math teacher in the New York Department of Education. I infuse technology and real-world problems into my curriculum in order to prepare my students for the future. I would love for people across the country to recognize we teachers can't do it alone. If you don't believe me, come visit my classroom!