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Resolving workplace issues

New York Teacher

The DOE-UFT contract gives educators two mechanisms for addressing workplace problems and enforcing their collective bargaining agreement: the operational issues process and the grievance process.

Operational issues process

The operational issues process is a streamlined process for reporting and resolving certain violations of the memorandums of agreement negotiated during the pandemic and issues including excessive paperwork, basic instructional supplies, failure to provide a curriculum, professional development committees, and inadequate workspace or excessive workloads for members of specified functional chapters.

Chapter leaders must first attempt to resolve issues on behalf of the chapter with the principal, through a one-on-one conversation, an email or their UFT consultation committee. The chapter leader should file an operational issues report on that same day, since the clock starts ticking from the moment an issue is raised with the principal.

For the 2021–22 school year, a principal and a chapter leader have five school days to resolve the issue or the issue may be escalated to the district level. The district representative and the superintendent then have five days to resolve the issue at the district level. If not resolved there, the issue is escalated to the central committee, which meets every week.

Grievance process

For all other violations of the contract, you should speak with your chapter leader to get help informally resolving the issue or possibly filing a grievance. Violations of the contract involving program preference follow the reorganization grievance process. All issues involving nonpayment are resolved through the salary grievance process.

If you need additional assistance, you can call the union to speak to your district representative or a grievance specialist.

Don’t delay. Most grievances must be filed within 30 school days of the incident. Some grievances have a shorter time frame. Both per-session grievances involving retention rights and reorganization grievances, for example, must be filed within two days of knowledge.

Step 1 grievance

At Step 1, the chapter leader, at the member’s request, uses the union’s digital system to file the grievance, with copies given to you, your district rep and the principal or appropriate supervisor.

Upon receiving the grievance, the principal must arrange a grievance conference with you and your chapter leader. Be prepared for this meeting and in most cases, let the chapter leader do the talking. If the principal offers a resolution that’s different from your proposed remedy, you should have a private conversation with the chapter leader about the issue before accepting or rejecting the resolution.

If the matter is not resolved, the principal must issue a written decision within five school days of receiving the grievance. If the grievance is denied, the reasons for the denial must be in the decision. Upon receiving the decision from your principal, be sure to immediately send a copy of it and any additional relevant documentation to your district representative.

Next steps

If the principal denies your grievance, the UFT has 15 school days to appeal to the chancellor’s representative at Step 2. The UFT’s grievance committee meets to decide which of the grievances denied at Step 1 should proceed to Step 2. In making its decision, the committee discusses the merits of each case, keeping in mind that arbitration decisions set precedents for all members.

The UFT will assign a grievance advocate to represent you at the Step 2 hearing at the DOE’s Office of Labor Relations. The chapter leader also has the right to be present at the hearing and should attend. Following the hearing, the chancellor’s representative will issue a written decision and usually send it via email to your DOE email address. The union also receives a copy of all chancellor’s level decisions.

A grievance dispute that was not resolved at Step 2 may be submitted by the union to an independent arbitrator. The UFT Grievance Department reviews all Step 2 decisions to determine whether they have sufficient merit to proceed to arbitration.

It’s important to know your rights under a legally binding contract. Resolving contractual violations and enforcing collective bargaining agreements is a UFT priority.