Putting our contract into action
It’s the beginning of a new school year with a fresh set of challenges.
We spent all of last year organizing and mobilizing for a new contract alongside the already incredibly strenuous job of educating the children of our city. It was no small feat. We used time outside our workday to come together and make waves in our communities and in the press. We engaged with our colleagues and our community, and we discussed our needs and priorities as educators. Our voices echoed across the city and, because of our hard work, the city could not ignore us at the bargaining table.
Our organizing work put us in a stronger position in so many ways. Not only did our contract campaign produce a tentative contract deal in June, but the participation rate in the contract ratification vote was one of the highest this union has ever had. More importantly, it’s made us much stronger as we enter this new school year. We know how to come together and make our thousands of individual voices ring as one. We should be proud of what we accomplished together.
We will need this strength as we put the 2023 contract into action this school year.
This contract will lead to significant improvements in our working conditions. We have many new rights we didn’t have before (see our special contract section on pages 3–8 for details). But a contract is only words on a page. It’s up to us to make it real.
Last year taught us that our power is in our collective voice. We need to keep up our activism in a different way this year — by exercising our new contractual rights and using our collective voice to speak out if the new contract is ever ignored. Respect for the contract should become the norm across our school system.
Contract enforcement all starts with understanding what the new agreement entails. Everyone should read the new contract — it’s the most important living document we as UFT members have. If the Department of Education and school administrators know that we know what this contract says, they will think twice before trying to work around it.
Our vigilance must also extend to enforcing the state’s new class size law. Again, it was our collective action as union members that led to the passage of this historic law to lower class size limits in New York City. We know better than anyone else the difference that smaller class size will make in our schools. 2022–23 was a year of planning, and 2023–24 will be the implementation: This year, 20% of city classrooms must be in compliance with the new limits. This first year will be an easy lift, but the DOE needs to create a serious, detailed plan for how it will adhere to the new limits in the following four years. It will be up to us to monitor and keep the pressure on school officials.
In the past two years, our advocacy and organizing have produced great changes for our school system. Now the power to ensure these changes take effect lies with us. We must continue to stand together as union members and claim what we have fought for and won, so that our communities, and most importantly our students, can benefit.
Our jobs are not easy, but hopefully the rights we’ve gained under this new contract will give us a strong start for what I hope will be an amazing school year. We will continue to push for more of what we need as educators and what our students need.
I thank you for all that you do every day and wish you a happy and successful start to the school year.