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Work begins on next contract priorities

Ernst Raymond

Members of the contract negotiating committee listen intently at the group’s first meeting on Jan. 10 at the UFT’s Manhattan headquarters.

More than 300 UFT members packed Shanker Hall at union headquarters in Manhattan on Jan. 10 for the first meeting of the negotiating committee that will help shape the union’s priorities for its next contract with the city Department of Education.

“The bargaining environment is difficult with an administration in Washington, D.C., that is targeting workers and unions and attacking public education,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said after the meeting. “Our negotiating committee has its work cut out for it.”

The union’s current contract, negotiated in 2014, is set to expire at the end of November.

The committee was assembled with an eye to reflecting the union’s diverse members. “Every DOE chapter of the union is represented on the committee,” Mulgrew said.

Patrick Bernal, an ESL teacher and chapter leader at the Marble Hill School for International Studies in the Bronx, sees serving on the committee as an opportunity to fulfill his responsibility as a union member. “The union reached out to us,” Bernal said. “They need people who are willing to put in the time to sort this out and advocate for our members, so I wanted to help my district.”

Dermott Myrie, a first-time committee member like Bernal, is the chapter leader at MS 391 in the Bronx. The committee is “about participatory democracy,” he said. “It’s about giving voice to the rank and file.”

Catherine Scott is a veteran of the process, having helped to shape the current contract. “It was helpful being involved and having input and seeing what people as a group want,” said the Spanish teacher at Bronx Engineering and Technology Academy. “I like being aware of what’s going on.”

Caroline Murphy is the chapter leader at PS 212 in Jackson Heights, Queens, and the speech therapists’ liaison to the committee. “I’m interested in seeing what input I can give both as a speech teacher and as a chapter leader. I think the committee is how we need to start, and then we break it down and figure out what each chapter needs.”

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