United For Change (UFC), our coalition of united UFT teachers, paraprofessionals, related service providers, retirees, and UFT represented support staff, along with major caucuses and groups, who want to see a positive and meaningful change at the top of our union, in our contract, policy, and decision making, and in our school communities, last week released its BIG 5 CONTRACT DEMANDS for the upcoming UFT contract.
United for Change ran together as a united slate for the 2022 UFT election against Mulgrew’s Unity caucus. Last May, UFC won 7 high school seats on the UFT executive board. While over 42% of teachers voted for the United For Change slate.
Post-election, UFC continues to collaborate and organize together on the important issues facing our union, including the pending UFT contract agreement that is imminent.
Find our Big 5 Contract Demands below and here. This is our collective voice:
We need a true fair contract that we, our families and school communities can live and thrive on.Anything less means — we must vote ‘NO”!
Pledge to stand by the Big 5 contract demands. Join thousands of UFT members, just like you.
Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.
Demand 1: FAIR PAY WITH RAISES WE DESERVE AND PAY PARITY
We demand raises for all UFT members that match or outpace the skyrocketing cost of living in the NYC area.
Paraprofessionals should be paid a living wage.
Occupational therapists and physical therapists, with entry level masters or doctoral requirements, should have pay parity with other educator titles.
We should be close to top pay much earlier in our careers.
We live in one of the most expensive cities in the world and inflation has hit us hard here. With numbers at 6% and cost of living at 9%, none of us can afford 3 or 3.5% raises.
Some of our titles are being hit particularly hard. Paraprofessionals, for instance, form the backbone of our schools. They have some of the most physically demanding jobs, but are not paid a living wage. They deserve pay that reflects the reality of their hard work.
There are also some titles that make less than UFT-represented positions with comparable labor/education requirements. Occupational therapists’ and physical therapists’ salaries top out at $108K while other titles with similar degree requirements top out near $130K.
They deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. We all do!
Editor’s Note: Even retirees saw Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments increase by 8.7% in 2023. This is the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) required by law. In-service workers need a comparable yearly increase.
The Workers’ Family Party reports that, “In 2022, unions on average won 5.7% pay raises – the highest since 1990. Nearly 100 contracts included double-digit hikes within the first year.” In contrast, Mulgrew’s Unity caucus has delivered sub-inflation raises ONCE AGAIN.
Demand 2: PREMIUM-FREE, QUALITY HEALTHCARE
We demand that our choice and quality of existing healthcare plans be expanded and improved – not diminished or replaced with inferior options.
If significant changes are proposed, they must be fully disclosed to us and put to a vote by members. Voting on such collective bargaining items is our right.
(See the healthcare referendum petition for more information on this demand: http://hcpetition.educators.nyc)
Our healthcare, and the healthcare for our families, should not be leveraged in salary negotiations. Healthcare is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining that to our detriment has been greatly diminished, especially in the last 2 contracts – 2014 & 2018.
In 2018, the City and Mulgrew agreed to “cost savings” of $600 million dollars every year, in perpetuity. Since then, retirees have been forced into an inferior privatized Medicare Advantage plan. In-service members have seen increases in co-pays, dental, eye and mental health care deteriorate, and our entire plans are about to be changed. This was done without member consent. Changes were not fully disclosed at the time of contract votes. Let us have informed votes on significant changes.
Editor’s Note: Although the UFT has chosen to allow the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) to bargain over our healthcare, Section 12-307 of the Municipal Code and the Taylor Law require the employer to bargain in good faith over healthcare with each union, or certified employee organization.The MLC began to collectively negotiate for most of the city’s unions in 1967, and the UFT did not join the MLC until well over a decade later.
We even have unique contractual provisions in our UFT teacher contract regarding healthcare that you won’t find in any other city union contracts. See 3G of our current contract. This shows we have the right to negotiate healthcare independently and have done so in the past.
More importantly, we have an autonomous and sacred right to vote on important matters like healthcare as a union in order to tell leadership what we collectively want our officers to do on our behalf, within the MLC or independent of the MLC. They have a fiduciary responsibility to us, first. Moreover, we already decide on similar matters directly when we ratify our union contracts, or in our local chapters with a School-Based Option.
Demand 3: SMALLER CLASS SIZE GUARANTEE
We demand that new NYS class size caps for grades K-12 be contractually guaranteed.
We need enforceable mechanisms to ensure that the City follows the new law.
The newly passed state law that sets lower class size caps must be fully implemented by 2028. However, the City is already balking at implementing the law and not fully funding schools or capital building investments to this end. Also, there are at least four existing loopholes in the law that will result in the lack of enforcement of the new caps.
Our existing contractual class size caps are over 50 years old. We have a golden opportunity to codify the new law contractually. Putting the new class size limits into our contract adds needed teeth to a law that otherwise might go unenforced. Give us the ability to grieve oversized classes, so that our students get the small class sizes they deserve.
Demand 4: REAL TEACHER AUTONOMY, ALONG WITH REDUCED CASELOADS
We demand an end to micromanaged professional periods and unproductive PDs. Teachers are the best judge of how to use our non-teaching time. Let us decide how to use it.
The caseloads of IEP teachers, related service and guidance counselors must be contractually capped.
Day after day, teachers are pulled to work meaningless C6 assignments that have nothing to do with their instruction. What could be an extra period to plan, assess, and collaborate, becomes yet another moment of meetings and paperwork. Every Monday, this is compounded in long ‘professional development’ periods that take over an hour of our time for meetings no one needs. As a result, teachers end up doing much of their work at home, which eats into their personal and family lives. The same can be said for IEP teachers, counselors, and related service providers, whose uncapped caseloads force them to bring their work home. Give us our time back. Cap caseloads and eliminate unnecessary meetings/C6 assignments.
Demand 5: IMPROVEMENTS TO TENURE, EVALUATIONS, PAID FAMILY LEAVE AND TIER 6 PENSIONS
Tenure and pensions are under attack. Evaluations are out of control. Paid family leave is insufficient.
The City must agree contractually to lobby the State for reforms and changes. We’ve made agreements like this in the past, and they’ve worked. It’s due time we do so again.
The Danielson rubric has been weaponized against us, instead of being supportive. Tenure is being denied for 8 or 9 years, leaving new teachers without due process and forcing them to leave the system. Under Tier 6, teachers will need to be teaching nearly 40 years to retire! We should have 25/55 offered to this tier. Paid family leave for most New Yorkers is 12 weeks. Educators deserve the same.
Union leadership has chosen to tell us a half truth when it comes to these issues. We’ve been told that we can’t negotiate these issues because they are linked to state laws and other regulations. Nonetheless, they fail to tell us that we can, indeed, get the City to commit to lobbying the state to make or approve needed changes. In some cases, the City itself can make the changes. We’ve successfully done so in previous contracts.
Editor’s Note: Mulgrew’s Unity caucus knows that we have brokered what are called “contingent agreements” with the City that go into effect after State approval. Pensions, like healthcare, are mandatory subjects of bargaining. For example, in 1990, the UFT worked out a yearly 5.5% raise using creative reallocation of pension fund financing. In 2007, the Tier 4 25/55 pension deal was made through a collective bargaining agreement with the City. Then, mayor Bloomberg backed a plan in Albany that would allow all teachers to retire earlier. While this deal was made in exchange for the highly controversial merit pay experiment, this underscores that contingent agreements are very much in our union local’s purview.