Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weighing in on Layoffs

In evaluating any deal, I think you have to look at the terms in their entirety. Last night's deal to avert layoffs certainly isn't perfect, but I believe in the end it strengthens our hand in future negotiations while surrendering very little.

Yes, it sucks if you were eligible for a sabbatical in the 2012-13 school year, but did anyone think sabbaticals would have survived the next round of contract talks? I think it's a miracle we've had them this long, and it's pretty much a done deal that they will be sold off in the next contract. (FTR, I was denied a sabbatical once under the slug Klein, so I know the pain of this for eligible teachers and I am not trying to downplay it).

As for the ATR deal, I think this may actually strengthen their hand. The city's big kick against ATRs was that they supposedly didn't have anything to do and were costing the city millions. Now that schools will be forced to use ATRs, the city loses its argument that the reserve pool is draining the system of money.

The ATR issue was one of the city's main weapons in trying to destroy seniority. Had they gotten us to concede on ATRs, then seniority and job security would have been effectively destroyed, as they would have used school closings and budget cuts as a means to create more ATRs who could be fired in short order. As it now stands, the city has little reason to create a larger reserve pool because these teachers will still be working day to day and the argument that they are a financial drain has vanished.

So, what did we lose in this deal? We lost sabbaticals for a year, and realistically, probably for good. ATRs may now be used to fill the role of per diem subs (which may not be a loss at all). Class sizes will increase slightly, as 2600 jobs will be lost through attrition. And Christine Quinn comes out smelling like a rose, which, to me, is a negative as she stabbed us in the back on extending Bloomberg's term limits.

On the positive side:
  • We saved 4100 teacher jobs.
  • We did not give in to Bloomberg's stick-up job on the health care fund (although Mulgrew wanted to).
  • We have weakened this mayor by exposing his layoff threats as a sham for the third time. This may not seem a big deal, until you remember that almost no one believed his threat this year, and will believe it even less next year should he choose to pull that tired rabbit out of a hat again.
  • We have preserved seniority and defeated the mayor on LIFO.
  • ATRs should have increased job security under this plan.
  • E4E has effectively been castrated as their signature issue is gone.

If you still hate this plan, remember that the UFT does not operate in a political vacuum. Look at what's happening to teachers all across this country. Look at other large cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, DC, etc. Look at the evisceration of union and teacher rights in states like Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island. Look at New Jersey, where union workers will have to pay higher pension and health care costs, and where collective bargaining is more restricted. Look at our own state, where the CSEA agreed to a five year deal with no raises in the first three years and 2% in each of the next two years, in addition to nine furlough days, in order to avert threatened layoffs.

Yes, you can be a purist and say that we shouldn't have given up anything, and in principle, I agree. Given the political realities and climate, we have come out of this better and stronger than any other union that I can see.

The challenge now is how we proceed. Can we wrest a reasonable contract from Bloomberg? He is weakened, and now is the time to attack him on all fronts. We can effectively argue that its time to end his scandal-plagued no-bid contracts such as CityTime and direct that money to schools. We can call him on his lies about layoffs. We can lobby for higher taxes on the rich in order to preserve jobs for the middle class--a position that is overwhelmingly popular with voters right now.

No, the fight isn't over, but we are in the late rounds of this bout, and Bloomberg is on the ropes. We need to deliver a knockout blow to him and his policies. It's not good enough to play Rope-A-Dope until a new mayor comes along. We have the upper hand.

And hopefully, the 4100 teachers whose jobs were saved will see the value of their union. Perhaps this deal can unite us.


ASTRAKA said...

I am not in the ATR. However, I believe that their position has been diminished again. From veteran teachers in good standing, they have become substitutes. I am trying to anticipate what will happen to any teacher whose school may "close" in the near future, and I see a big problem. When a union is demeaning a part of its membership repeatedly it demeans every one of us. The Bloomberg administration is perhaps on of the most corrupt in recent years. They can not be trusted. It seems to me that we give it the rope that it will use to hang us in the near future

Pogue said...

I agree, many ATR's were left positionless through no fault of their own. Now, they have to report to different schools on a weekly basis? "Demeaning" is the perfect word.

I would like to see the union fight for going back to teacher salaries paid out of the DOE Central Fund, not each school principal's budget.

Many ATR's would be given real positions if this was so.

ATR Joe said...

It appears the UFT line will be how they strengthened the ATR bargaining position and you drank the Kool-Aid. Substitutes cost the DOE $153 per day almost $400 per day on average. Substitutes have always been marginalized and now they are all out of a job. How long will ATRs, most senior teachers, put up with being moved from one school to another before they voluntarily leave or get served with charges to get them out? How long with the City and UFT agree that we should keep paying more than twice (plus benefits)for the same job a cheaper person can do. No, what this does is institutionalize the divide between ATR and the rest of the teaching staff to make more permanent an under-class in our profession.
I, for one, am not looking forward to be harassed from school to school each week.

zulma said...

ATRs are teachers, educators. They need to be in a classroom preparing their students for the future. They need a routine of following a curriculum, lesson planning, correcting students' works, and the other tasks that involve their profession. ATRs are professional people with masters and Ph.ds. It is unfair to treat them as nomads. Of course, I'm glad to hear that no one is being laid off, but there was no need for layoffs anyway. By treating ATRs as substitute is like telling an experienced surgeon that he/she can only work behind a desk as intake-clerk. Do we tell them, "at least you have a job". I wonder what will happen to them next year when there's another faux budget crisis and the mayor proclaims that ATRs are too expensive as subs and they must be terminated. I have a lot of reservation about this and I know that in other states collective-bargaining is under attack. However, those attacks are made by the rich running the political agenda so that the rich can continue to see their profits grow.

Mr. Talk said...

I agree wholeheartedly that ATRs are treated like crap in this system. It's a shame that the union has left them out to dry this long. However, that was never going to be addressed in this agreement, anyway. The question, to me, is whether this makes things better or worse for ATRs.

For the record, I am not an ATR so I may not have the firsthand knowledge that some of you do. But as I said in my post, ATRs were definitely on the chopping block before and it seems to me are less so now. Bloomberg loses his claim that ATRs do nothing, and he can not claim that they drain the system of money if they are all working every day. If those things are true, it will be much harder for Bloomberg to say ATRs must go.

The ATR situation must be addressed, of course. I can't imagine how much it must suck to be one. Still, I think the long term position of ATRs has improved as a result of this deal for the reasons I mentioned above. If someone can show how those things aren't true, I'm willing to reconsider that point and write about it.

ed notes online said...

Mr. Talk
You assume there would really have been 4000 teachers laid off. I never believed that. In fact I believe they will run a shortage. So many of the newer people are leaving for many reasons, one of which are those who had their tenure extended which is a very large number. There will also be higher numbers of retirees than expected - the UFT counselors are totally booked and no appointments are available.

The UFT leadership's hand has never been strengthened in all the years of dealing with Bloomberg. Hard to believe it was this time no matter what the early returns are. Watch them use the subbing ATRs as a way to get many of them for being incompetents even when teaching out of license.

Philip Nobile said...

There are two species of ATRs--the innocent and the guilty. Those who were merely excessed and those with the stain of a 3020-a conviction or settlement admission.

I was shoved into the ATR pool in January despite acquittal on all three specifications. The Arbitrator totally believed me and knocked the DOE's attorney, theories, investigators, and witnesses. So why wasn't I returned to my school?

It is the fashion of arbitrators to split verdicts. Mine decided to magnify specks of alleged misconduct--which the DOE denied occurred and thus never charged-- into a $10,000 fine. The Judge is still considering my appeal papers.

As one of Lincoln High School's ATRs, all I did was sub. I don't get the advantage of moving us around week to week. In contrast, Mulgrew says today we'll do short and logterm longterm replacements. Something is missing from this picture.