UFT Contract Update: Countdown for ‘Chump Change?’

It seems like everywhere we’re getting signals that UFT leadership is readying for contract ratification. To get a ‘yes vote’ though, they’ll need membership to agree – whether it’s a good deal or not. And that work needs to start now – before we see the details and have second thoughts. At this moment, we don’t know much. We know that our raises are going to be bad -really bad. And we know nothing about changes to working conditions, except that our negotiators ‘had not necessarily heard back what they wanted to hear.’ So what’s that leave UFT leadership? They can’t promise us things we aren’t going to get if they want us to vote yes, so they have three ‘yes vote’ techniques:

  • Start selling the parts of the contract that they do know we are going to get, so that when it’s announced, members focus only on those few wins and forget the many demands that went unmet (or worse).
  • Begin focusing on when we get a raise, rather than how much will be in it. If we rush a bad contract, after all, we can get limited money quick. Summer is around the corner –a tempting time to dangle a few bucks in front of teachers and say ‘sure, we didn’t fix any working conditions, but wouldn’t you rather have this money now than wait until Fall to renegotiate?’
  • Host special events that serve to bring members together to feel good about the contract – and how successful we were in negotiating it.

All the data we have supports the inference that UFT leadership is using all three of these methods to rush a yes vote. As Carl Cambria put it during Monday’s UFT Executive Board Meeting:

 ‘The pattern is out there, it’s not in our members pockets. We have to wrap up negotiations and put something before our members so that they can have something to ratify and get that money in their pockets and everything else. A lot of people putting in a lot of time. We’ll continue doing that until May 23rd and will have a fuller meeting then.’

The emphasis here is on getting something before our members (not necessarily something of quality). As for when, one key date, May 23rd, is raised. On that day, the full 500-member negotiating committee will all be together with only about a month to spare before we break for summer vacation. Might we vote then on a tentative agreement? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps instead, UFT leadership will really push the limits and wait until June, as they seemed to suggest in a recent chapter leader update. But, with only about a month to hold votes in the contract committee, the executive board, and the DA, before sending it out for a full membership vote, I’d be more surprised if we didn’t get that ball rolling on May 23rd. Then, in the invitation to the May 24th contract action—a mere day after that negotiating committee meeting—this is the language used:

“How many lessons have been planned, students have been served and services have been provided since our contract expired? It’s been a full year without a raise in sight. The DOE continues to believe that if they aren’t micromanaging our time, we aren’t working. Every day, we give our all so our students can have what they need. We have had enough! Let’s make our voices heard. The time is now for UFT members to get the contract we deserve.”

The wording here is telling.

  • The email mentions one possible win: less micromanagement of our time. Therefore, I might infer that some sort of win is projected on working conditions. Micromanagement of time would seem to refer to C6s and/or the extended day. If we could get some serious wins on that, many of us would be happy. Maybe other more critical demands will not be met, but that’s why they aren’t mentioned here. If teachers are going to vote yes, UFT leadership needs them to be laser focused on gains we’re actually getting, however minor.
  • The email does not mention the amount of money we will get. (Indeed, that number is quite low). It just says that we ‘deserve a raise now.’ It highlights the fact that it’s been a very long time since our last wage increase – but leaves out that UFT negotiated the 2018 contract to not have raises in its final year. Why are they twisting their own bad negotiating to get us to agree to a new deal now? My guess? The decent raise option is already out the door. Therefore, UFT leadership is shifting language from talking about the amount of a raise we deserve to its timeliness. Timely summer money is really the only counter Unity would have to opposing ‘no vote campaigns, should they arise. If opposition unionists were to argue that the deal wasn’t good enough to approve, UFT leadership could paint us as keeping people from getting their money. That’s money we’d likely get anyways as retro if we waited, so the value of getting it early is dubious if it means also committing to mediocre gains elsewhere. So again, the only argument would be ‘money in time for summer.’
  • I’ve always said that we should use every tactic at our disposal to negotiate better terms for our members. But if UFT is signaling everywhere that we’re about done, and if we’re likely to vote on or close to May 23rd, why the strike style’ event a day later? I mention this, because word from NAC members/affiliates is that the preparation meetings for May 24th have been feel-good Unity-heavy events that seemed to lack substance. Moreover, using an event like what is planned on May 24th for ‘yes-vote’ purposes rather than negotiating purposes would keep with the MO of other ‘Taylor law proud’ union leaders, such as those of DC37, who held a major rally on Feb. 16, only to announce a tentative agreement with the City the next day (Feb. 17). That deal, we now know, cemented one of the worst patterns in the history of the NYC labor movement. That pattern, we’re now stuck with. But it’s OK. As Mayor Adams put it moments ago:

Thanks Eric Adams. And thanks UFT leadership. By not organizing for a pattern that would pay us what we deserve, you’d almost think they agreed we ‘don’t do it for the money.’ To close: A reminder that these are New Action’s contract demands. If we don’t get them in this contract, I don’t intend to vote yes in exchange for ‘timelier chump change’ and slightly less micromanagement during my C6. I intend to fight for better.


  1. Pay raises in line with surrounding districts
  2. Maximum salary should be reached in 10 years like many other unions
  3. Reduce class size in every division
  4. Reduce caseloads of counselors, school psychologists, and other titles
  5. No agreement to place new hires into HMOs 
  6. End Fair Student Funding/Return to Unit Costing to end discrimination/harassment of veteran teachers
  7. Fight the attacks on Chapter Leaders and chapter members
  8. Fight abusive principals and place abusers on a UFT Watch List/Send teams into these schools
  9. Reinstitute seniority transfers
  10. End ATR pool by placement in vacancies
  11. Work to end school segregation
  12. Work to increase staff diversity
  13. Restore the right to grieve letters in the file
  14. Allow members to challenge principal’s judgment on observation reports
  15. Remove the Danielson Framework and decouple test scores from evaluations. Reform the evaluation system to be teacher led.
  16. Set penalties for administrators who repeatedly violate class size provisions
  17. And NO MORE healthcare givebacks!!!!


  • Avatar
    Mike D.

    Outstanding write up. I think that the 500 Member Committee will meet on the 23rd and then send send a tentative contract for a vote to the DA right after. UFT will have almost a full month to “sell” the contract to the membership. I, like you, am SERIOUSLY hoping for a change to the extended time.

    • BaconUFT

      Thank you, and I agree. Maybe I’m a week or so off with the when, but I’d be surprised if it’s by much. A positive change to extended time is about the only way they sell this deal. Let’s hope whatever they’re alluding to really is in the books – and that it’s more than just a minor tweak.

  • Avatar
    Johnny Change

    What about sign-on bonus? DC37 got $3000.

    • BaconUFT

      That’s part of the pattern too. UFT might negotiate that as part of raises or do it as a signing bonus. If they do it as signing bonus, that will increase the carrot of ratifying a mediocre contract right before summer. Vacation money…

  • Avatar

    I could swear I have seen this movie before. Didn’t they pull the same last contract? Rally scheduled for after the “500 member committee” was to meet, but contract pulled out during the meet, everyone agreed it “scraped the skies,” and on it went to full DA for vote?

    My guess is, they will come out w/ a 5 year contract w/ 3%, 3%, 3%, 3.5% and 3.5%. Probably similar “signing” bonus, as commentator above noted. They will say it’s better than DC37, so must agree right away. Contract agreement w/ leadership will come at same time debt ceiling impasse is occurring in DC, w/ the attendant market volatility that will bring, underscoring the need to agree NOW before the city decides the pattern no longer holds b/c of imminent recession.

    22 year UFT member, most of the contracts feel like WWE wrestling shows – “conflict” between union leaders and mayor put on for effect, outcome delivered with “This is the best we could do, considering the economic and political environments…”

    One thing that never changes – the perks, power and privileges enjoyed by Unity leadership.

    • BaconUFT

      Agreed. There will be carrot and stick to shove the contract through – money in time for summer, scare tactics about the economy. Even if the details are absolutely abysmal, a no vote campaign would be no picnic.

      By the way, your analogy to WWE wrestling shows is fitting – very fitting. Luckily, I think many of the ‘fans’ are starting to realize that the stories might be ‘fake.’

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