Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Q and A on Losing Vacation Days to Hurricane Sandy

If you are confused about why we must give up three vacation days in February, never fear. Our dear Unity leaders published a handy dandy Q&A chock full of reasons why this move was necessary. Unfortunately, they are all lies. On the bright side, Mr. Talk is here to translate Unity's gobbledegook into plain English for you. You can read the entire Q&A here, but for the sake of brevity and my sanity, I have chosen to translate only the most relevant and least repetitive parts. My translations are in red.

Why did we have to give up part of our midwinter break? There had to be better alternatives.
First of all, we didn’t have the power to negotiate over whether or not to give up days. (We only have 120,000 members and 125 million of your dollars, which means we'd have to do something and cut back on our croissant expenditures to fight this) State law requires that we make up those days. The discussions we had with the DOE were only about which days to use. (We forgot to bring the subject up) The state requires a minimum number of 180 instructional days and this school year, we were close to that minimum given how the holidays fell.(The number of days this year was an act of God. The hurricane was not. Oh, wait...)  If this were last year, when we had 186 days in the school calendar, we would have been able to absorb the lost time. (It would have been a LOT harder to give those days away last year, so we're glad it happened this year) We are dealing with this issue because we have the maximum vacation time in this year’s calendar. (We couldn't even make you work extra PD this June like we did last year!) The union explored every possible option (rolling on our backs with our feet in the air, hoping to get our bellies scratched) for making up the time, but state law and regulations would not allow us to convert PD days, get a state waiver, extend the day, come in Saturdays, work on federal holidays or use days at the end of the school year. The time had to come out of the Christmas break, the midwinter break, the spring break and one clerical half-day. There was no other choice. (We never looked for any other solutions. What do you want for your lousy $125 million?)

Why didn’t you consult with the members before agreeing to give up those three vacation days?
Time was of the essence in this situation so members and parents could make plans. (If we'd discussed this with those of you who had already made plans, you'd have been pissed and you might have asked us to do something) Under state law, the days had to come from one of the three breaks. (Trust us. It's a state law. Or we heard it might be, or something) The midwinter break was chosen because it was the only break that did not contain religious observance days.

The state has the power to grant a waiver in the event of a natural disaster. Why didn’t the state issue one in this instance?
By state law, we would have to use up EVERY vacation day in this year’s school calendar before the state Education Department or the State Education Commissioner can grant a waiver allowing New York City to have fewer than 180 days in the school calendar. (We are hoping that you won't notice that the state legislature MAKES the laws, and could have changed that one, too. We had to act before someone realized that that's what lawmakers do--make laws)

How have other school districts around the state dealt with this dilemma?
As of Nov. 20, 13 school districts on Long Island have already agreed to make up the time by taking away all or part of the February break and/or the spring break. (We are hoping your forgot about what we said earlier about it being impossible to take days from the spring break.) Others will be following suit in the days ahead. (We wanted to be the first to give up without a fight.) There weren’t better choices available for any school district. (Or if there were, there sure aren't now!)

I already booked a trip to visit my family in California. Do I have to cancel my plane tickets?
(What a stupid question. Everyone has to cancel their plane tickets, not just those of your going to California.) We realize that a number of you have already bought airline tickets or cruises for the midwinter break and risk losing a lot of money if you canceled those trips now. At our insistence, (no, we are NOT going to explain how we were able to insist on this, but nothing else) the DOE agreed to allow any UFT member who has purchased a vacation before Nov. 20 to go on the purchased vacation and instead deduct those days from his or her CAR bank. They will have to submit proof of purchase. If they have no days in their leave bank, they can either borrow days or take the days as days without pay. (You would have lost money either way. Win/win!) These absences won’t be used against those members in any disciplinary hearing or in their end-of-year rating (if they are pissed that you took those days, they will just have to find some other way to U rate you.)

Why didn’t the union insist on making up the lost instructional time by using Election Day and Brooklyn-Queens Day for instruction instead of professional development?
Under New York State law, school districts have the right to use up to four days without instruction in the calculation of the number of days to meet the state’s 180-day minimum requirement. The DOE already used four non-instructional days — including Election Day and Brooklyn-Queens Day — in its calculation so converting those days to instruction would not have helped solve the problem. (See above where we talked about how the state both can, and can not, change the law).

Why didn’t we make up the time by converting the last few days in June into instructional days or by extending the school year?
State law (which can never change, except sometimes) does not allow you to make up days to meet the 180-day minimum by adding instructional days after the completion of the high school Regents. That means we could not make up the lost time by making changes to the school calendar at the end of June. (And since the tests would already be over, the mayor wasn't interested, so we caved)

Why didn’t we convert Martin Luther King Day or Memorial Day into work days instead?
State law does not permit turning a federal holiday into a school day. (We like our Mondays off!)

Why didn’t we make up the time by extending the school day?
According to state law (which is more immutable than the Ten Commandments), you can’t add to the minimum number of required instructional days by extending the length of the school day.

Why is it that we frequently work more than 180 days per year without getting any days back?
Our contract states that we come back to work the day after Labor Day and up to the last Wednesday in June. (Let's ignore the fact that it also says that we get a week off in February) The length of the school year depends on where the holidays fall in a given year. This year, every holiday fell on a school day (see Act of God, above) so we were already at nearly the minimum number of required days.

The mayor ordered non-school-based members to report to their work site for the whole week after the hurricane. I walked miles to get to my school. Why do I have to make up that time?
If non-school-based members such as teachers assigned made it to work on any of those four days starting on Oct. 29, they will not have to make up those days that they reported. (No one gave a crap about you then, and we sure don't now)

Well, I hope that clears things up. Tune in next time when I explore the questions Unity SHOULD have asked, and the answers they should have gotten.


MORE Caucus said...

Dear respective bloggers. MORE (where members of former opposition caucuses ICE and TJC and current members of GEM have all joined forces) is fighting back, we are having meetings, held CTU solidarity actions, are preparing to run in the spring UFT elections, and are building our network of activists and allainaces. This recent sell out is just another example of how the current leadership does not have the best interests of our teachers or the well being of our students at heart. It is another example of backroom deals without any democratic process for rank and file UFTers. The ground swell anger of bloggers and tweeters must direct their energies to helping us organize. We can not hold rallies or meeting without all of you. We cannot have a change of leadership in order to save the UFT and make real educator led reform without all the great people writing on the web. We need all your help, it can be donating as little as $20 to our cause or even helping by joining our media team to publish MORE blogs and press releases. the time is now, the elections are coming soon, we all believe that The UFT can be a force for good, we can be even more powerful than Chicago's CTU becuase we're over 80'000 strong, but MORE cant do it with just a few dedicated members. it would be great if you all could help us get our names and literature out there, but you input and energy would be even more welcome, and to be brutally honest its going to be necessary- the voice of dissent will not survive without more people joining us.Find us at

Anonymous said...

All the whining is unreal. Especially from folks who didn't actually lose ANYTHING, fighting on behalf of the few (in perspective of the entirety) that did. And those folks aren't complaining.

Do you think time sensitive negotiations can be had after a vote at the D.A.? Maybe if the decision needs to be made for the 2013-2014.

Do you think three days of pay is worth a fight to change the laws? That's a pretty self-centered and immature ideology. Me, me, me. No big picture perspective.

Ever heard about picking your battles? Same goes about the complaints about contract negotiations. You want a new contract under Bloomberg? Can you realistically expect to get a new contract and NOT lose something by doing it now.

The complaints of having to go to work on Friday, really? Many folks went back to work the previous Wednesday. There are also folks who worked through the entire storm, people who are not "first responders". They had to get their butts to work whether it meant biking, hitch-hiking or walking. Others simply had their offices closed and lost a weeks worth of pay.

What a bunch of entitled ninnies. (And only a small portion at that.) They say that your emotional development is that of the people you spend the most time with. I guess that would explain the immaturity and the lack of critical thinking skills.

Complain, complain, complain. Grow up.

Augustus Talk said...

 If you want me to join your media team, blog for you, or whatever, I'm there. Let me know how I can help!

Anonymous said...

Email us at
Would be really glad to have some help