September 27, 2008

Smoke, mirrors and lots of loose ends

Here's the Union's response to the 3rd item mentioned in this post:

"Any member has the right to file a grievance on their own with the principal at step 1. The Union created an online filing system to be able to track each grievance and look for trends and see what the issues are that our members are grieving. Any member who wishes to bypass the online system may do so, as per the contract, by handing in to the principal a paper grievance. Under our online system, the only ones to have access to the online system are our chapter leaders. The huge majority of our members will go to the chapter leader and have no problem with then putting the grievance online. If you choose not to go to your chapter leader, a copy of your grievance should go to the boro office so they can input it into the computer system." (Oct. 6)

NOTE: Mr Barr has not seen fit to clarify this on his Chapter Leader's Weekly series as of Oct 10th. It's really hard to believe they're working with us and not against us.

With all this talk of smoke and mirrors in the management office at the UFT, I wanted to draw someone’s attention three issues that seem to have evaporated into thin air, disappeared into the fog, or otherwise suffered the ultimate deep 6.

I don’t know about you, but when you drag a thousand or more chapter leaders and delegates down to 52 Broadway from all over the city at the end of a hard day’s work, it seems to me these people should be informed of any progress relating to any resolution they may have bothered to pass. It's easy, email has been around since 1971. You don't have remind me that many of the resolutions are set-ups and some are fairly inconsequential. There are a few that are absolutely fundamental to our well-being as DoE employees and career educators, and we need to know that someone is “resolutely” following up on what that august body told them to go and follow up on.

Specifically, someone needs to tell us why in more than nine months, we haven’t heard a word about the progress of the U-ratings appeal resolution passed by the DA on Dec. 12th. Two of the Whereas paragraphs brought chills down my spine back then and actually still do:
Whereas, since Joel Klein has been the Chancellor, decisions made by the Deputy Chancellor (U-Ratings) and the District Superintendents (Discontinuances) always go against the appellant or probationer; and

Whereas, there are reports of major procedural irregularities regarding the appeal process . . .
The Resolved items call for canvassing “members that have gone through this process,” analyzing “the DOE data and determine whether the resolutions to those appeals have been within the intent of Article 21D,” and if the contract has been violated, taking “all necessary steps to restore, correct, reinstate, and take appropriate legal action.”

Does anyone know anything about the progress of this canvassing, analyzing, determining, restoring, correcting, and reinstating?

I don’t, and I’m a pretty active delegate.

How about the Resolution to ensure letter-in-the-file rights, passed by the DA on Feb. 6th. Actually,
ICE had proposed something on this issue on Jan. 24th, and it’s worth quoting James Eterno's “Rationale” so everyone knows who threw the first ball. He wrote:
NY Teacher stated the following in the October 20, 2005 issue: “City Labor Relations Commissioner James Hanley wrote to the union that the city agreed to negotiate on the issue (reopening the letters in the file provision) ‘if there is a disproportionate increase in the number of letters to the file.’” The evidence is in and for the first year under the new Contract it is not a pretty picture:

1,333 Unsatisfactory ratings in 2006-07 compared with 981 in 2005-06. (U rating increase of 36%; Source: Chief Leader)
918 tenured teachers rated U last year up from 662 the year before. (U rating increase of 39%; Source: Chief Leader)
The number of teachers denied tenure more than doubled last year compared to the year before. (Source: Chief Leader)
The number of teachers forced to extend their probation increased almost fourfold in 2006-07 compared to 2005-06. (Source: Chief Leader)
The UFT’s own figures show that 4,606 teachers resigned last year, up from 2,544 who resigned just a few years earlier; it is sensible to conclude that many of those 4,606 were forced to resign.
Chancellor Klein in 2007 created a “gotcha squad” of lawyers and retired administrators to help build cases against tenured teachers.
There had to be a disproportionate spike in negative file letters to support all that increased discipline.
The DA then passed a watered down version of the thing. In the Whereas section it said “there are anecdotal reports that because of the pressure that principals are under to raise test scores, there has been an increase in the number of threats of U ratings and letters in the file” and that “if there were a disproportionate increase in the number of letters in the file as a result of changes in the 2005 contract, ‘the parties will sit down and negotiate the impact of that issue.’ ” It then resolved that the union should determine if there’d been a disproportionate increase in LIFs since 2005 and if so, use the procedure negotiated in 2005 to “go after such abuses.”

My feeling is that the UFT in general uses only the most primitive means to go about determining anything (if at all). While UFT management was not acknowledging much of a spike in nasty letters in the file, Eterno reminded them on Feb. 7th — as if it were the job of a chapter leader to remind the entire executive board of the union of anything — that while they were playing ostrich:
All of that 36% increase in Unsatisfactory ratings last year that the Chief wrote about must have just occurred out of the blue. The 39% increase in tenured teachers receiving U ratings was not supported by any unsatisfactory observations or any negative letters. To believe that requires one to willingly suspend disbelief.
A few months later, he wrote on the blog that the negotiations should have taken place right after U-ratings started going up a year ago, and I agree with him when he says we missed one royal opportunity to go on the offensive.

Does anyone know anything about the progress of this determining, sitting down, and negotiating relating to the abundance of LIFs?

I don’t, and I’m a pretty active delegate.

Now for LeRoy Barr and his weekly emails for chapter leaders, which some of us get a hold of and actually read. On Sept. 12 he wrote:
File grievances online: Remember that chapter leaders must now go to the UFT Web site to file all Step 1 grievances on behalf of members in their chapter. You must be logged in to the UFT Web site to have access to the private chapter leader section, where the grievance form will be housed under the heading “Grievance Briefcase.” . . . If you have any questions about the new online grievance process, contact the grievance liaison/contract coordinator in your borough office.
Wow, I said to myself, that’s a change. The grievance procedure was already compromised in the last contract, and here they’re adding a middleman between the grievant and the principal. Yucccch–yyy! What if you don’t like your chapter leader and don’t want him to know your business? Worse, what if your chapter likes the principal or is even holed up in his proverbial pocket? No, no, no. Not good.

So I write to some chapter leader friends, who swiftly right back: Look at the contract. ANYONE can file a grievance. Here it is:
22.B.1. a. School Level (Step 1)
Any employee within the bargaining unit may, either orally or in writing, present a grievance to the head of the school within thirty school days after the employee has knowledge of the act or condition which is the basis of the complaint. A grievance which is presented in writing shall set forth specifically the act or condition and the grounds on which the grievance is based, the contractual provision which is alleged to have been violated and the remedy sought. A Step 1 Grievance Form such as the one set forth in Appendix C shall be used, but failure to use the form will not result in forfeiture of the grievance. A grievance which is technically flawed at Step 1 may be promptly amended or refiled without regard to the stated time limitations.
And I contacted a union exec about the obvious disconnect and asked in fairly explicit terms:
Please can you tell me if members can file these by themselves, as per the contract, or MUST they now be filed by chapter leader. And if procedure has been changed, how could it be???????? It's not in the contract and makes grievances even MORE non-personal than they were before. What if a member doesn't want his chapter leader involved in Step I. It is his right. The UFT seems to have taken that right away.
I did get a response, that an answer would follow ASAP, but that was 11 days ago.

Does anyone know anything about the UFT’s attempt to change the grievance process for the worse and bash the contract while they’re at it?

I don’t, and I’m a pretty active delegate.


  1. woodlass:

    Do you really think Randi and gang really cares about anybody but themselves. Any negotiation between the UFT and the DOE has only resulted in worsening our profession. Furthermore, the UFT fails to ensure enforceability of what they negotiated with Tweed. Hence the ATR and "rubber room" crises.

  2. I think she and the others play the part of caring about us, like actors who "get into" their roles. Not all of them, mind you. Some of the reps are fighters, and I try to support them when I can.

    The purpose of this post was not to pressure her to negotiate — I question her skills in this area as you and many others do. I wrote this post more as a reminder of the way they work: speeches, showmanship, and press releases. Nothing's going anywhere, except perhaps backwards. We know that, and they know we know. That's why, as Norm always reminds us, they'll do everything they can to prevent the oppositional voices from gaining a forum.

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