Know Your Rights

Knowledge is power. As educators we know that, and try to teach it. All too often though, we don’t even know the rights we have on the job — rights to professional and fair treatment and to working conditions that help make a tough job more doable. The totality of these rights has been negotiated in a give-and-take process with management (the Department of Education and the City of New York) over half a century. Some chancellors have wanted to work with the union, and with them we’ve been able to forge greater professionalism for our members (see, for example, Articles 7 and 8 of our contract) and others have wanted to strip our members of the wherewithal to do their job.

But the contract is no more than words on paper if it is not used. Unless members exercise their rights and raise their voices, unless we demand fairness, oppose arbitrariness and speak out when we believe it is in the best interests of our students, our voice will fade to a whisper. So it’s important to become familiar with your rights and benefits, and use them. When teachers are respected, students benefit.

These rights, listed alphabetically, have been explicated in an easy-to-read style. It is by no means exhaustive and can’t substitute for reading your contract (and the many arbitrations that have interpreted it), as well as some hard-fought laws, such as on tenure.

If you have a question or need help, do not hesitate to ask your UFT chapter leader or call your UFT borough office, where there are experts on different topics to advise you.



class size

disciplinary charges



health benefits

injured on the job

leaves of absence

letter in the file

observation & evaluation

per session

professional activities

program preferences


school-based option


teaching help




transit programs

shortage areas

environmental health

school safety

special education


school-based positions

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