DC37 Makes Sub-Inflation Pattern Official

As expected, DC37 has voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new contract. This is important news for teachers, because the contract is pattern-setting. In other words, the economic details will also apply to the UFT. I hope the contract turns out to be a fair one that improves working conditions for our fellow unionists. But, we already know the economic details aren’t good.

The numbers come down to about 3% in annual wage increases, along with a $3,000 signing bonus. In the end, that will come to about 16.21% over 5.5 years. That might sound like a big number, but it’s less than inflation. It’s also less of a pay increase than what workers are getting on average across the United States – and most U.S. workers aren’t in labor unions. For a unionized comparison, in Los Angeles, where public sector workers have and exercise the right to strike, SEIU 99 just negotiated 30% raises. In New York, where labor leaders argue against even having the right to strike, DC37 just agreed to about half that.

Still, DC37 had access to the numbers and still voted in the contract. We don’t know the ins and outs of their negotiations and what led them to settle for less. We do know that DC37’s membership was strongly encouraged by their union leadership to take the deal. We also know that, other than the pertinent financials, DC37 members did not have much information about their contract. They didn’t receive a full copy with their ballots. All they had was this one pager. And, while I hope the document was accurate, we’ve also seen hidden appendixes get voted in before.

Speaking of hidden appendixes, we also know that healthcare is being negotiated in parallel to our contracts. So, we aren’t just looking at a disappointing pattern. We’re also facing the possibility of being switched off our health plans for something cheaper. And unless we are successful with our petition, we won’t even have a say in that decision. Some DC37 dissidents tried to urge a no vote based on healthcare uncertainty alone. However, DC37’s progressive opposition is smaller than the UFT’s, and their union is much larger and more difficult to organize without the advantage of leadership’s institutional resources.

There are still loose ends to uncover. Soon enough, we’ll learn the specifics of in-service healthcare changes. With time, the full DC37 contract will also become available for analysis, and we’ll have more detailed information about what their deal means for us. Once we know more, we’ll publish more. In the meantime, I hope DC37 maximized the improvements they were seeking.


A Glimpse into a Day of Organizing: Grade-Ins and Healthcare Petitions

Writing can only be one small piece of unionism. Directly after publishing my piece yesterday analyzing the grade-ins (which was blatantly and maliciously misrepresented by Unity), I organized. Like many others in New Action and across the union’s progressive opposition, I did my part and shot over to a contract event near my school, where I participated in a morning protest asking the City to do right by our educators. Dozens of teachers and other UFT members from several schools on the Lower East Side / Chinatown came together to ask for better pay and working conditions. Members of the community cheered us on and joined in. Here I am, along with fellow H.S. Executive Board member, Alex Jallot (MORE) – one of the successful event’s primary organizers. (Hopefully UFT leadership doesn’t sue over the sign).

After the event, I walked the ten minutes to my school and worked a full day, teaching the kids of our city in exchange for normal teacher wages. I’m not paid a UFT central salary to organize full-time. But, I do organize. Plenty of teachers in the opposition do, but not necessarily in the ways that Unity wants us to. During my duty-free breaks, I spread the healthcare petition around my chapter. Despite reports that Unity Caucus members are using their titles/positions as paid UFT staffers to try and dissuade our membership from signing the petition, teachers in my school are signing it in droves, seeking to stop the City (and our complicit Unity-elected leaders) from making major changes to our healthcare without democratic member input. Petitions, by the way, are a great way to have 1:1 conversations about union issues with members of your chapter – members who you may not have a chance to regularly speak with throughout a busy school week. So don’t just sign today, take it to your chapters and get other members to sign as well.

Organizing against a stacked deck: analyzing the UFT ‘Grade-Ins’ today

Today, we’ll witness phase 2 of UFT’s official contract actions. The flagship of this phase is the ‘grade in,’ where members will choose a public place near their schools and perform paperwork, planning, grading, or other administrative duties. Here is the idea from UFT’s official materials, put succinctly: “

  • Meet up, bring your work, stack it up, and get to work.
    • Idea: stacks of grading, planning.
    • Idea: One pile of important work you would like to do, one pile of paperwork/other work that you are being forced to do that is taking up your time.”

Many in our union’s progressive opposition, including a number of members affiliated with New Action, are pursuing grade-ins and related activities. Some are enthusiastic, others are more pessimistic, but dutifully going through the motions. New Action hasn’t taken an official stance on the grade-ins, but here are some thoughts going in:


  • Organizing with fellow members on contract-related activities can be a very good thing. It increases a sense of intra- and inter-chapter solidarity. I’m looking forward to meeting up with fellow UFT members near my own work-site today for an informational picket for that reason.  
  • This can be a very good moment to demonstrate to the broader public just how much work teachers do.


  • Many members now see contract actions as pointless. With the pattern set below inflation, and with teachers going in already knowing that we’re getting a pay cut that our leadership did nothing to stop, a lot of members no longer see the point in organizing at all.
  • There’s something that feels insincere and performative about doing ‘contract actions’ with the most important parts already set. We also know that the City is unlikely to take any of this seriously.  UFT leadership has proclaimed that they are against members even having the right to strike, so I think Adams has pretty good idea that these ‘grade ins’ are about as far as we’re going to go as a union.  
  • The idea itself of a grade-in is arguably flawed from the get-go. Do we really want to normalize to the City that we do extra work at home after our contractual hours? And is this contract-action really inclusive for the diverse range of titles held by our membership or is it too teacher-focused?
  • With members having been threatened with legal action by the UFT’s own law firm for organizing even slightly outside of the box the last time around, many unionists feel turned off from official CAT actions this time. Members are also worried that they’ll be sued themselves for making some sort of error here. This feeling is compounded by the fact that UFT leadership admitted that they encouraged members to modify previous contract materials and sent their lawyers after us anyways.

I’ll admit. Weighing the pros at cons, at this point, the design of the CAT actions may feel futile. Is all this really designed to convince the City of anything? When the City already knows we’ll accept a pay cut and fight against our right to strike, do they really have an incentive to change anything else? Is the real audience actually UFT members themselves – just infrastructure for a yes vote, as I worried from the get-go?

Perhaps. Nevertheless, I don’t want to discourage members from having them. These sorts of events can be great places to organize with our colleagues and build solidarity. Just make sure to bring copies of the healthcare petition We aren’t just organizing against the City at this point; we’re organizing to get our own UFT leadership to do the right thing about our healthcare.

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Content of signed articles and comments represents the opinions of their authors. The views expressed in signed articles are not necessarily the views of New Action/UFT.
April 2023