Archive for January 9th, 2023

Who actually needs time to read a contract anyways? – Executive Board Meeting, 1-9-2023

Summary: The full minutes are below, but here are some highlights:

  • The meeting started with two librarians talking about the specific issues they face. They called for better union infrastructure, such as the creation of a functional chapter.
  • Then, Luli Rodriguez (ICE/Solidarity) was ‘sworn in’ as the replacement for Lydia Howrilka (Solidarity), who recently left the DOE and thus her HS Executive Board seat to pursue other opportunities. We thank Unity Caucus for not running a candidate of their own against Luli. They agreed that UFC should keep the seat we won. I look forward to working with Luli in the future (her full endorsement by Ibeth Mejia can be seen below in the full minutes).
  • Two resolutions were presented on the floor. One, made in solidarity with the nurses, had no opposition. The other, motivated by Nick Bacon, was supported by MORE, New Action, Solidarity, and ICE, but voted down by Unity. That resolution asked that (1) After the experience of 2018’s rushed contract vote, especially in the DA, UFT members be given more time to read/understand contracts before holding pre-ratification and ratification votes; (2) all changes to contracts be summarized neutrally – i.e. not just claim in the ‘contract at a glance’ or equivalent that ‘there are no givebacks and we preserved premium free healthcare,’ if we actually ‘bargained’ away $600 million in healthcare ‘savings,’ basically compelling the privatization of Medicare; and (3) we get to vote on all MOAs, which function as addendums to contracts but often aren’t voted on even when they have profound effects on the workday (think ‘mandatory per session office hours when any student in your class has COVID). In any case, this resolution met with fierce resistance from Unity. Some of the points made sense. Carl Cambria in particular made a few fair arguments, like that the resolution would prevent timely votes if agreements came up in June. I still think an informed executive board, delegate assembly, and general membership is more important than a quick vote on something as important as the contract. But his point is taken. Amy Arundel, on the other hand, gave ad hominem attacks on either Nick Bacon or the High School Executive Board more generally depending on how you read her arguments – accusing the motivator(s) of having political motives. She also argued that somehow ‘being in schools and talking to members’ (a strange false dichotomy to make as a UFT staffer in opposition to school-based members) or doing the ‘teach in’ in January (where there won’t be a contract to read) is what is really needed, not additional time to actually read said contracts. It was a confusing set of ad hominem attacks and irrelevant points in an otherwise calm meeting. But, nevertheless, many in Unity applauded when she was done. And they voted down our right to vote on MOAs or have time to understand our contracts before we vote on them. A disappointing finish.

Full minutes below:

Open Mike

Victoria (Librarian): 22 year veteran. Came in as a teacher. Always felt like I had a union presence in district 85. Feel like I’ve been thrown into the waters since I’ve moved into being a librarian. Gave up money coming out of teacher leadership to become a librarian, find out I’m teaching 6 different courses and a librarian all at once. I want to be fair – a lot of people tried to help. But, no one really knew. Got into contact with other librarians. Felt like I had to come down and speak for those librarians. We went to school to be librarians and are treated like substitute teachers. Need support on a union level. UFT librarian ‘Check me out’ shirt design was disturbing. Good intentions, but our questions weren’t answered. So I’m just here to see we need help. I’m on my way out, but we’ve got new people coming in and they deserve help – the kind of union that I saw helping me all my years as a teacher.

Daniel Leviathan: Long-time librarian. Was also at the above UFT librarian meeting. The question of what can be done in libraries, especially in elementary schools, is a big question. There are library tasks (e.g. skills) that we can teach while teachers focus on content. But that isn’t happening in most places. We often find that UFT unable to help here. So, we need to ask about a functional chapter for librarians. This will help students get what they deserve.

LeRoy Barr: Introduces new district reps. Minutes approved.

Reports from Districts:

Karen Alford: For this year, instructional coordinators and social workers will remain in their original positions and not be excessed. Know the fight isn’t over, but enjoying this moment.

Amy Arundel: Update on success academy. Hearings on Success Academy. Well attended – long hearings. Asking people to get ready to come to Long Island City to join us in being vocal opponents to co-locations. Success will bring plenty of people, so we need to do the same. Another vote for a Bronx school coming up.

Debra Penny: In March of 2020, COVID death benefit, created. It has been extended to December 2024. Amazing benefit, but I hope no one has to use it. 50% of salary + health benefits for qualifying beneficiaries.

Seung Lee: Some well attended pension meetings mentioned. CDC training weekend. Next week, Asian American Lunar New Year banquet tickets. Everyone is invited to buy a ticket (March 10).

Adam Shapiro: District 21 met CLs and want to do district-wide contract negotiation activities. Button making, 75 people volunteered to donate their labor.

Nancy Armando: Feb. 2, Brooklyn will celebrate SRP event.

Carl Cambria: 500 negotiating committee. Wednesday, Feb. 1. Over 800 schools with CAT teams. Going to hold trainings for CAT members. Gearing up for teach-ins late January so they can gather to discuss contract benefits.

(one speaker missed).

Special Order of Business: H.S. Executive vacancy.

Ibeth Mejia: Nominates Luli Rodriguez (H.S. for Economics and Finance). Leader who received the majority of high school votes in her campaign for Treasurer. She was tapped for this for her extensive experience of accounting. She can follow the money on school budgets. Led evacuations out of the World Trade Center on 9/11.  Staunch advocate for students of disabilities. Used to call her the IEP maiden when worked together. Battled two abusive administrators who were trying to change IEPs. She is respected for these reasons. Elected as a UFT delegate and a member of the consultation committee in her current chapter. Her experience in advocacy makes her the ideal candidate for this position.

With no other nominations, Luli gets the nomination. She is welcomed to the Executive Board.

Resolution Supporting Striking NYSNA Nurses:

Mary Vaccaro: We support the NYSNA nurses that are striking seeking a better nurse to patient ratio, so they can provide better patient care. We support patients before profits.

Resolution passes unanimously.

Resolution Supporting Full Disclosure of Finalized Tentative Contract Agreements and Memorandum of Agreements.

Nick Bacon endorses the resolution. Full language is here. This resolution is inspired by the experiences of many chapter leaders, delegates, and regular members during the 2018 contract vote and during 2020. In 2018, there was a sense that CLs and delegates didn’t have any time to read the contract (only a few hours) before having to hold a pre-ratification vote. There was also a sense that some of the changes in that contract (later I note the commitment to healthcare ‘savings’) weren’t adequately and neutrally communicated to members. So this resolution would give members a bit more time before each vote to read over the contract. It would also ask UFT leadership to communicate neutrally and completely any changes in writing to the various bodies before their pre-ratification votes. Finally, it would obligate that all MOAs in the future are held to a vote. Many MOAs during COVID, for instance, changed our working conditions (e.g. mandatory per session ‘office hours’ when students tested positive for COVID). But we didn’t have a chance to vote on them at all. This resolution would mean future MOAs would be subjected to a vote.

Karen Alford: Stands in opposition. Charged with taking information back to our schools. It seems like a bureaucracy. We’re entrusted to make a decision. Teach in becomes very important as we make contract decisions. But we don’t negotiate in public. Would hate for all our work to lead to stuff getting leaked and the City saying ‘deals off.’ This isn’t what happens for negotiations for any City.

Alex Jallot: Supports. Giving folks to read over what’s going in our contract and to be informed decision is not just good for morale but good for participation in our union.

Ilona Nanay: Supports. Understand some of the concerns, but what we’re asking is that members have a chance to understand what they’re voting on before they vote. In elections, we have time to think about things before voting. But what often happens here is that we’re given an hour or so, don’t even understand what voting on, and asked to vote. Under COVID, I often got MOAs from my principal before the union even sent anything out. I certainly never had a chance to vote.

Mike Sill: One resolved at that time. Says it’s theatre because all this is done in terms of appendices for collective bargaining. COVID was not a typical time, was unrealistic to do some of this. Summarized.

Geoff Sorkin: Opposition. Don’t negotiate publicly. If you wait too long, beneficial agreements go away.

Carl Cambria: Stand in opposition. Can’t do everything in this reso. It will put our membership at a disadvantage. Can’t wait until every member understands every part of everything before we vote. How could we do it? Good goal, but how would it be possible. Second resolved is something that already done. Contract at a glance form is an example of that. That’s used for many functions including arbitration. Orally, not sure what’s meant there. Certain people will have certain opinions. Parts of this reso would require ratification only in Fall/Winter if something came up in the June resolution. We’d be handcuffed by some of the language.

Amy Arundel:  Ask people to join us in what we’re doing at the school level. When I read these, I wonder if people are in schools. I had lots of meetings. We had lots of structures that bring member voice back to our leadership. Speaking hostilely, says she’s offended (looking at Bacon) at all these political resos that make it seem like people aren’t doing their jobs. The key is the ‘teach in.’ Asks everyone here to join the teach in.

Nick Bacon: Point of personal privilege. This isn’t political. We’re here today because people need more time to read contracts before we vote on them. We’re here because things aren’t communicated neutrally – Michael Mulgrew said there were no givebacks. It turned out we were promising healthcare savings. Teachers didn’t know and didn’t have time to analyze. Not sure what teach-ins have to do with anything since there’s no contract there for people to read/understand.

Name Missed: Question called.  UFC votes in favor. Voted down by Unity.


The Case for Tier 6 (and later Tier 4) Members to Oppose Changes to Our Healthcare

Tier 6ers have it rough. We have to work for larger portions of our lifetimes and contribute to our pensions fat higher rates, only to receive fewer proportional benefits if we even make it to the absurd minimum retirement age of 63. But, many of us will stick it out, and will therefore receive medical care under whatever system is left for retirees. So, Tier 6 needs to care about what’s going on with retiree healthcare right now. As it turns out, Tier 6ers and younger Tier 4ers stand to lose the most if City Administrative Code 12-126 is changed.

  • Additional payroll deductions will hurt Tier 6 the most. There’s been a lot of propaganda about 12-126. We’ve been threatened that if we don’t get it changed, and if retirees aren’t switched over to a Medicare Advantage program (MAP), currently active DOE employees will have to start paying premiums. But, 12-126 literally exists to protect both in-service and retired members from paying premiums up to the HIP benchmark. By amending the City’s requirement to provide for our healthcare, we’d essentially be ensuring the existence of premiums by the midpoint of our careers. Tier 6ers already have to worry about huge deductions from our check to contribute towards our pensions for our entire careers (something most Tier 4ers got to stop worrying about by year 10); we can’t afford to have medical insurance costs deducted from our checks as well. And that’s one big reason that we need 12-126 preserved as is. 
  • Medicare Advantage is already bad now; it will be worse when Tier 6 retires. When Tier 6ers retire, we don’t want lower quality Medicare Advantage programs, with their restricted networks, history of corruption, and Kafkaesque business model of delaying/denying care. Those issues are already bad now, but by the time we retire, they can only be worse. A group of brave retirees didn’t want these issues either, so they fought the move and won (temporarily) based on the language of Administrative Code 12-126. That’s why UFT leadership wants to change the code now: because that’s the quickest way for them to deliver the City the money they owe and get the ball rolling on a privatized Medicare Advantage program.
  • Amending 12-126 is a permanent change based on a temporary program. Even if you think Medicare Advantage is no big deal, the only reason the MLC is pushing it is because the federal government will cover the City’s portion of retiree healthcare if (and only if) they switch retirees over to a privatized Medicare Advantage program. The catch? That program isn’t necessarily going to last. We’re talking about permanently eliminating the City’s obligation to pay for retiree healthcare based on a federal program that could dry up tomorrow. And if the Feds get their way and everyone is moved out of traditional Medicare and put onto managed care plans operated by private insurers, do you really think they’ll keep up the incentive? I for one don’t see why they’d bother. And I don’t want to leave my healthcare up to the whims of a Congress that is far less progressive than our City Council.

So that’s why Tier 6ers should support keeping Administrative Code 12-126 as is. Any savings the City makes will be a short-term gain. By the time we retire, we can be pretty much certain that no one will be paying for our healthcare anymore. And that means we’ll be the ones paying it. There’s only one way to prevent us from losing what little we’re getting in our pensions to healthcare costs – and that’s by keeping the City responsible for paying them. One way to make that happen? Keep 12-126 as is. So write your council member today, and better yet – submit written testimony in today’s  hearings.

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January 2023