Ellen Driesen (pictured far left), a teacher at P.S. 69 and a UFT representative for District 20, marched with other UFT members to demand what they said would be a fair contract from the city.
A steady stream of blue flowed down the Brooklyn Bridge Wednesday afternoon as union teachers marched in solidarity with more than 100 other labor organizations that are without contracts for the first time in New York City's history.
Public school teachers haven’t had a contract, or a raise, in more than four years since it expired in 2009. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew has said that either Mayor Bloomberg or his replacement will have to find the money to pay his members more than $3.2 billion in back wages.
"It's time, it's overdue," said Rosalina Vazquez, a school librarian. "Not just for the UFT, but for all the unions. We're here as one, united."
The teachers ended at City Hall Park where they joined police, fire fighters, sanitation workers, nurses and other public employees who make up the city's 300,000 workforce for a rally calling on Bloomberg to negotiate back pay in their contracts.
Teachers at Green Dot New York Charter School are getting a raise, a bonus, and a little less job security.
These are some of the modifications that are set to appear in a two-year renewal of Green Dot's landmark contract with the United Federation of Teachers. Green Dot offered its teachers a 28-page "thin contract" a year after the school opened in 2008, leaving out many of the work rules and policies – including tenure and seniority-based layoffs – that are found in the bulky union deal with the Department of Education.
That contract expired in August and Green Dot and union officials have spent the last few months hammering out a new version. It was tentatively approved by board members on Sept. 26, but details of the contract had not been shared with teachers until this week.
In a statement issued today, the chief negotiators, Leo Casey, a UFT vice president, and Gideon Stein, who serves on the school's Board of Trustees, shared details of the contract.
Under the new terms, the staff will receive a 3 percent raise each of the next two years, amounting to what will be 20 percent above the current salaries in the Department of Education. Last year's teachers will also receive a $2000 bonus because of the school’s high performance. The school’s first students are now seniors so graduation data isn't available, but 95 percent of students have passed the Regents exams they have taken, according to the Green Dot web site.
"The teachers and other staff are being paid more in recognition of being part of a very successful school," Stein said.
In one concession, teachers will no longer be able to use an independent grievance process in their first year. Instead, they can be fired any time during their first year for any reason. Once the first year is complete, any grievance would return to being handled by an independent arbiter.
The city's teachers union offered the first glimpse of its contract demands tonight, but remained silent on the possible pay raise many have predicted — and on whether the union plans to sweeten its chances at a good contract by endorsing Michael Bloomberg.
The glimpse came at a meeting of the delegate assembly, the union's ruling body, where members were given a seven page list of demands that fell under categories such as compensation and health.
Union president Michael Mulgrew addressed the crowd, which spilled out of the room and into the hallway of 52 Broadway, the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers. The event was closed to the press, and union members were told not to share the seven-page document with reporters.
According to several in attendance, Mulgrew lectured on the grim state of the city's economy and the need to get the union's new contract finalized quickly. One teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said Mulgrew seemed to be pushing the union to reach a deal quickly, before the economy worsens. "They're presenting it like there's this brief window of time, because of the economy, in which to rush the contract through," he said.
On his first day of work, Mulgrew visited teacher Carla Greene at P.S. 329 in Brooklyn. (Courtesy of Miller Photography/UFT)
New York City's teachers union is gearing up for its contract negotiations in the fall, sending out thousands of questionnaires to poll its members about what they want.
The negotiations will be the first serious test of newly elected UFT president Michael Mulgrew who, in the survey's cover letter, warns that the talks will be "tough" at a time when the city is slashing budgets and laying off employees.
The survey, which at a bulging 35 pages long barely fits in its return envelope, lists a series of desirable changes to the contract under headings like "Class Size," and "Respect and Professionalism," and asks respondents to rate the importance of each on a scale of one to five. It must be returned by August 13, and may surprise more than a few union members who could return from summer vacations to find the deadline has passed.
Absent from the survey is any mention of tenure or the Absent Teacher Reserve — the pool of over 2,000 teachers who have lost their jobs and have yet to find work within the city's school system.
"The questionnaire was designed by our negotiating committee, and it's a key part of the process because it allows members to weigh in on the issues important to them," UFT spokesman Brian Gibbons wrote in an email. "The information we'll get from this survey will help us shape our goals, priorities and demands as we move forward with collective bargaining."