Mulgrew, respect the OT/PTs ‘NO’ vote and go back to the table!

Ratification votes have consequences. Yes means ‘contract approved’, and no means ‘back to the table’ – unless you’re Unity Caucus that is.

Since the birth of collective bargaining in the UFT, contracts with the City have always been decided through a voting process analogous to that which took place in June. A simple majority of votes (say, 50.00001% of voting union members) determines whether or not a contract is approved. Because of the many flaws that New Action Caucus saw with the TA, I personally wanted teachers to vote down the 2022-2027 contract so that we could renegotiate better terms. But, a majority of teachers voted to approve what we had, and I accepted that this means the agreement is a done deal.

Meanwhile, another UFT bargaining unit voted ‘no‘ on their contract. With a record 2/3 of ‘nay votes,’ OT/PTs, who for some reason are also grouped with audiologists, nurses, and the supervisors (yes, supervisors) of OT/PTs and nurses, voted down their contract. With a resounding ‘back to the table!,’ you’d expect to be hearing more about UFT Leadership doing whatever it takes to get in the bargaining room again. After all, one of the main reasons the contract flopped was that UFT negotiators committed OT/PTs to highly unpopular new language on ‘9th sessions’ without checking with them first. Wouldn’t you expect UFT negotiators to at least rush back to the table to right that wrong? Well, instead, UFT leadership, along with members of their Unity Caucus, are doing everything organizationally possible to dishonor the will of the majority – undermining what little is left of our union democracy to avoid going back to the bargaining table.

When we left off (see parts one and two of the saga here), President Mulgrew had been MIA since a Zoom meeting last week in which UFT leadership planted seeds to break up the bargaining unit and hold a revote. Now, he’s sent out an email doubling down on this possibility. I copy the entirety of this email below, and will follow it with some analysis.

Full Text of Email from Mulgrew to Bargaining Unit:

We held a meeting on July 13 with members of the chapters representing occupational and physical therapists, school nurses, supervisors of nurses and therapists and audiologists to discuss possible next steps and answer your questions and concerns after your particular contract, which covers the members of these four chapters, was not ratified. At the conclusion of the meeting, we said we would get back to you by the end of this week with an update.

At the meeting, the concern was raised that all four of your functional chapters share the same contract and the follow-up question was asked if the bargaining unit could be changed – if each functional chapter could stand alone and have their own contract. We explained that we could not pursue that idea with the city until each of your respective chapter leaders and executive boards discussed it internally.

Those discussions subsequently took place, and we can report that the leadership of the School Nurses Chapter, Audiologists Chapter, and Supervisors of Nurses and Therapists Chapter informed us that they all want to pursue this idea of “separation.” They are pushing hard to separate as soon as possible because they feel it is unfair that, although members of each of their chapters voted overwhelmingly in favor of ratifying the contract, they will not get the new contractual benefits because their particular contract failed to get a majority of the overall votes. We will now be meeting with the city and the DOE to discuss how we can move forward with splitting up the bargaining unit. We cannot guarantee an easy road ahead, but we promise you that we will fight to get this done.

At the meeting last week, members, including a number of members of the OT/PT Chapter, also raised the idea of a “revote.” Because the UFT is a representative democracy, and the chapter leader and executive board members are elected by the members of that particular functional chapter, we are waiting for the OT/PT chapter leadership to tell us their position on a revote before proceeding. So far the chapter leadership has been noncommittal. In a straw poll conducted at a meeting last week of the OT/PT Executive Board and the OT/PT Negotiating Subcommittee attended by the UFT, the two groups could not agree. We will meet with the OT/PT Executive Board to further discuss this member-driven suggestion on Monday. After this meeting, we will inform members of the OT/PT Chapter of their executive board’s official position on a revote.

In the interim, we are trying to get the city and the DOE to come back to the bargaining table. The city has told us they don’t have time to meet with us because they are now negotiating with the other municipal labor unions. We will keep pushing and inform you of any developments.


While Mulgrew readily admits to his fiduciary responsibility to represent the OT/PT bargaining unit, likely due to his legal need to do so, he conveys in every other respect that he has no intention of getting the job done.

  • Breaking up the bargaining unit: On splitting up the bargaining unit so that chapters who voted yes get their contract, Mulgrew notes states “we promise you that we will fight to get this done.” As this was an oddly gerrymandered bargaining unit to begin with, exacerbated by the outlandish decision to group subordinates (who voted no) with their supervisors (who voted yes), I might be able to see the argument here. But note that Unity has no problem with gerrymandering other groups when it meets their goals. For instance, after NAC’s Michael Shulman beat out a Unity candidate for the the High School Vice Presidency, UFT leadership took away the right of high school teachers to elect their own vice president. To this day, high school leadership is determined far more by elementary voters than by high school voters, explicitly because Unity aggregated our ‘voting unit’ to disenfranchise an opposition-leaning division.
  • Revoting: Mulgrew here grossly misconstrues how democracy works, failing to mention just how high the ‘no vote’ (2/3) was for OT/PTs and instead suggesting that it was ‘members’ who put forth the idea of a revote. He fails to mention how many members this is (1, 50, 200, everyone?) and whether they were a part of the original minority group who voted yes. If a resident of Georgia, one who had already voted for Trump, suggested that the state should revote (to overturn the election of Biden), would it be democratically prudent to listen to him? What if he said he voted for Biden but wanted to change his mind? What if he additionally wanted this election to happen during Summer Vacation, when most Georgians would be away from their polling sites? Would we go through an entire new election in that case? After all, under Mulgrew’s logic, wouldn’t that be a ‘voter-driven suggestion – and thus consistent with democracy?’ Clearly, a revote is an absurd premise that flies in the face of everything we know is right about collective bargaining. As Arthur Goldstein has pointed out, there’s no way UFT would allow a revote if members suggested they wanted another chance to vote down a contract. UFT leadership is only humoring the idea because a minority group wants to overturn a ratification vote in a way that suits Unity – getting a yes vote and ending the bargaining work.
  • Dividing a Chapter Against Their Non-Unity Leadership: One of the most abhorrent parts of the Mulgrew email is how he puts the entire decision on the mostly non-Unity OT/PT executive board. There’s no precedent for a contract revote, so there’s no precedent for a small executive board deciding to have one. But, rather than take ownership of the decision to do something so undemocratic, he’s putting Melissa Williams and her team into the crossfires. This is a political move, strategically right before chapter leader elections next year. If Melissa says ‘no’ to a revote, she’ll alienate the group that wants one. It might cause her to lose their vote. If she says ‘yes’ to a revote on the other hand, she’ll alienate the group that wants to keep negotiating. It’s a blatantly unfair decision, especially because the ‘revote’ argument is artificial. Just a week ago, 2/3 of voting members were certified as saying they wanted to go back to the table. It is not that 2/3 of members who are saying to revote now—a concessionary move that would have dire precedential implications for renegotiations, City-wide, by the way—but a small minority, allied with Unity-leadership, who are devising this false and divisive option. That same group has much to gain politically by doing so, and UFT leadership shouldn’t be using their positions of power to bolster their election chances.
  • Doing the Work of Renegotiating: It is only at the end of Mulgrew’s email that we see anything about renegotiating. This line stands out “The city has told us they don’t have time to meet with us…” While the words “keep pushing” follow, It’s language like this that shows that Mulgrew has no intention of being anything more than a mouthpiece for the City. Is UFT leadership our union representation or are they just the communications department for Adams? Unions shouldn’t speak of negotiations like the City’s hired reporting secretaries; they should show that they really are pushing. Indeed, that’s the only place that union leaders should not take no for an answer. But, why would Mulgrew really want to show that he’s pushing? Implying that renegotiations won’t happen anyways only helps his case to ‘revote’ so that he can close out negotiations and stop doing the work.

Mr. Mulgrew, it’s really this simple: no doesn’t mean you keep asking until you get a yes vote, while throwing your political opponents under the bus in the process. It means you act like a union president and get back to the negotiating table.

There’s something you can do:

In the meantime, readers should send a clear message to our union leadership: “Get back to the table and fight for the contract our therapists, nurses, and audiologists deserve”. Send them an email now (modify as needed) :  Or use this doc:


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    If we, (UFT) can break up a bargaining unit, then can we break with MLC and pattern bargaining?

    • BaconUFT

      Interesting point. Then again, it’s Mulgrew who is doing much of the front-facing work to devalue our healthcare in the MLC. If we left the MLC and negotiated healthcare independently, I suppose we’d just see UFT leadership concede to cuts in that context instead.

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