It worked well to reduce paperwork. So the UFT and the Department of Education agreed in the proposed contract to expand the process to resolve other school-based disputes.
The contract announced on Oct. 11 creates a new way for school chapter leaders and their chapters to fight for improvements in professional development, curriculum and basic instructional supplies — which now include paper and assessment materials. Functional chapter leaders can use the same mechanism to address issues of workload and inadequate space.
“This contract empowers chapter leaders to improve teaching and learning conditions at the school,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “The more organized the chapter is, the more clout they will now have at the school.”
Those issues will be raised first at the school, but the chapter leader can escalate them to the district and central levels if resolution isn’t reached.
“The paperwork process was very effective,” said Bennett Fischer, the former chapter leader at PS 231 at PS 54, Brooklyn. Fischer used it successfully in 2017 to push back on a principal’s demands to create burdensome student binders and multi-page unit plans. He said he was able to resolve similar issues previously through the grievance process, but “it was a lot more work.”
Under the new process, the chapter leader may raise these workplace issues in a one-on-one meeting with the principal or during a consultation committee meeting. The principal will have five school days to resolve the issue, after which it will be sent to the UFT district representative, who will bring it to the district committee.
If not resolved at the district level, these issues will be addressed by a central committee. The UFT can take unresolved problems surrounding professional development, curriculum and basic instructional supplies to arbitration.
UFT-represented employees who raise any school-related issue through this new mechanism will now have more protection from harassment or retaliation by a supervisor.
The DOE agreed to add new language in the UFT-DOE contract that specifically prohibits retaliation by a supervisor.
“The new language is much stronger than anything we’ve ever had,” Mulgrew said.