Archive for January, 2022

Why New Action is running with United for Change, not Unity

United for Change is the rational progressive choice in the next UFT election. New Action’s participation with this unprecedented alliance of caucuses should signal just that.

New Action is the oldest existing opposition caucus in the United Federation for Teachers (UFT). We have a long history of both opposing and supporting UFT leadership, and have often been seen as a more ‘moderate’ progressive opposition caucus for this reason (an attribution we don’t necessarily agree with, but understand). Indeed, we work with Unity when we feel it’s the right thing to do. In 2002, we formed a 14-year long bipartisan alliance with Unity to help withstand Bloomberg’s attacks on our teachers and schools. That alliance lasted until 2016, and led to myriad accomplishments such as an organizing committee that helped Chapter Leaders and staff in over 230 schools, the establishment of the Principals in Need of Improvement Program (PINI) to expose and help get rid of abusive administrators, and the establishment of a UFT Social and Economic Justice Committee. 

While we stand by our original (2002) decision to ally ourselves with Unity, by 2016 we realized it was no longer the right thing to do. Unity reneged on many of its promises, canceled our shared programs, allowed our union to weaken, and swung way too far to the right on too many issues.  

Under the current leadership, our union is far weaker than it has to be. Without opposition voices to help guide them, UFT leadership has swung more to the right than ever.  Never before has Unity’s abject failure been more apparent. Never before has the need for new leadership been greater. This year, the various opposition caucuses: New Action, MORE, Solidarity, ICE, and Retiree Advocate have decided to run against Unity, as the United for Change Coalition. While we have our differences and span far across the political spectrum, we have agreed to a shared platform. This represents an alliance like no other in UFT history.

So if you’re union strong and want a better union, vote United for Change in this next election cycle. It’s the only progressive choice.

Some thoughts on the Spring Break Decision

On January 5th, the arbitrator reached a decision on our compensation for spring break time. For each of the seven days we worked, we will receive a ‘vacation day.’ Subject to approval from school administration, and being given ‘expedited arbitration’ if we are denied a request, we can theoretically use these vacation days to take vacation during the school year. If we don’t use all 7 days, we can get the full value of the days upon termination of employment (with CAR days it’s only half the value). Some other notes:

  • We’ll apparently get these days officially credited to us on Feb. 1, 2022. 
  • Those of us who used CAR days during break for whatever reason may only get 3-6 vacation days (because 4 of our 7 vacation days are being converted from what we got added to our CAR). 
  • Anyone who retired or otherwise left the DOE will get compensated with the unused vacation time. 

This is a much better decision than it could have been. There was a time when it looked like we’d only be getting 4 CAR days after all and the best we could hope for is maybe 7 CAR days. A maximum of 7 vacation days with 1:1 exchange value is much better than that. However, I would like to raise a few concerns.

  1. We waited almost two years on a decision for working during a time we never should have had to work. Michael Mulgrew’s emails to us at that time are reproduced here. Note that we did not fight Cuomo on this. In fact, Mulgrew visibly backed Cuomo up on making us work Spring Break, noting  “I know it’s not fair, but it’s not fair for a lot of people right now.” Our union leadership should have fought this then–not publicly accepted it and waited for an arbitrator to hopefully side with us on compensation later.
  2. These vacation days are likely going to be harder to use than we think. For one thing, right now it would be impossible for an administrator to approve them. Our staffing crisis, caused by schoolborne COVID-infections at a time when it’s unsafe for us to be working in person, is making many of us work coverages on a day to day basis. It would be impossible for a principal to allow us to take a vacation right now, and we frankly don’t know if/when it ever will be possible. But assuming things get better, we can expect red tape from some principals. Chapter leaders will have to work to secure vacation rights in many schools, adding to their already too-long list of battles to choose whether or not to fight.
  3. A 1:1 exchange feels fair, but shouldn’t we have gotten more than that? When most workers are forced to work on a holiday, they get time and a half or more. Why are we only getting time?
  4. While I think vacation days can potentially be a very good thing, their addition to our timekeeping repertoire could spell disaster in upcoming contract negotiations. Remember, Adams wants to extend the school year. Unity Caucus extended our school day before for very minor raises. Flexible vacation days that have to be approved by principals (with the right to expedited arbitration if they deny) could very well become a model that the DOE brings to us in exchange for cutting or repurposing our summer break time. And that’s something very dangerous that at least needs to be on our radar. 
  5. Update 2/1/2022: We’ve heard reports that people who are owed 7 vacation days are only seeing 3 added in their CAR, especially if they have negative CAR balances. This means that ironically, many of us may have LESS new days in the system than we had before the arbitration decision (when we still had the 4 CAR days that have now been taken away). Make no mistake – this is what happens when you rely on arbitration decisions instead of actually organizing. Because of the convoluted process of adding 3 days for all, but 7 days only for some, many of us will undergo huge hassles to get the days we are owed added to the system. The headache of dealing with HR, because Michael Mulgrew didn’t do the work, is the antithesis of vacation.

State of Schools Event this Sunday, 1/2/2022

Please join New Action, and our friends in the United for Change Coalition at our State of the Schools virtual event on Sunday, 1/2/2022 at 4:00 PM. You’ll meet many of our top candidates, who will speak to the urgent situation in our schools as Omicron spreads, along with a variety of other key issues outlined here in our platform.

Sign up for the virtual event here:

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January 2022