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A member-made contract

New York Teacher
Michael Mulgrew Headshot

Michael Mulgrew

We have a contract, thanks to you. UFT members made their voices heard about the issues that are most important to them when we surveyed every division and dozens of functional chapters last winter. Our 400-member negotiating committee used those survey results as a road map to our new contract. Members of this negotiating committee — rather than a law firm or other outside negotiator — bargained with the DOE and City Hall. And then UFT members had the opportunity to exercise a fundamental right of union membership by voting on the agreement.

This contract was truly member-made.

Our last contract, signed in 2014, took effect five years after the previous one expired. This time around, we had true partners in Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza so we seized the opportunity to negotiate the contract four months ahead of schedule, unheard of in a national climate hostile to unions and working people. The results of the ratification vote will be announced on Nov. 4.

At the heart of this contract is the belief that if you want to achieve something significant, you have to empower the people who do the work.

Chapter leaders and their school-based consultation committees will be empowered to raise and resolve issues about working conditions that members told us were important to them: safety, curriculum, professional development, basic instructional supplies, workload and space. Every school must be organized for these committees to be effective. Principals will have five school days to address an issue; after that, it goes to the UFT district representative and the superintendent.

Class size has been an ongoing challenge for many of our schools, yet the process for ensuring all classes are below the contractual class-size limits did not offer quick relief for teachers and students. This contract accelerates the process. The chapter leader and the principal get a first shot at fixing oversize classes from day 1 to day 10; after that, the issue goes to the UFT district rep and the superintendent, who have another 10 days to bring these classes down in size. Any classes that remain above contractual limits at that point will be brought to me and the chancellor and an arbitration demand will be filed if necessary. Teachers will no longer wait for months on end for relief.

The Bronx plan has drawn a lot of media attention and for good reason. We are offering a new and promising strategy for schools that face the most serious challenges. The Bronx plan entrusts the educators in those schools with devising the strategies that will lead to change on the premise that they know their school communities best. These schools will form joint labor-management committees and be provided with support to make significant changes in school operations. Each school will make its own decisions on how to improve school climate, reduce teacher turnover and increase academic achievement. A salary differential for teachers in hard-to-staff licenses or titles is just one of the options that these teams will have at their disposal.

This contract also provides economic security for you and your family. The pay increases over the agreement’s 43 months exceed the predicted rate of inflation, which is never a given, and you will continue to have the option of premium-free health insurance. It’s a strong economic compensation package at a time when the wages and health care benefits of workers are under attack across the country.

This contract gives you the voice and support you deserve, and it honors your work and commitment to your students.

Opinion