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.
Delegates told me that Mulgrew did not say whether the UFT would endorse a candidate in the mayoral race. Making an endorsement could affect contract talks. For instance, it’s possible that the union could offer an endorsement and hope for a more generous contract. It’s also possible that the union could dangle the possibility of a future endorsement as leverage to get a better contract.
Members said the list of demands contained few surprises. Among the demands were changes to teachers’ hiring salary, maternity and paternity leave, and the requirement that schools that assess teachers on how they use technology provide instruction on how to use it. Delegates said the Absent Teacher Reserve pool was discussed briefly, but would not say whether it was on the list. The reserve pool is made up of teachers who have been laid off from schools that closed, or could no longer afford their salaries because of budget cuts.
Though several people in the audience proposed amendments to the list of demands, such as reinstating the senior transfer policy, delegates said the measures were voted down and the speakers were booed. Following some debate, the delegate assembly voted to approve the contract demands.
The delegates also heard from politicos, among them comptroller candidate John Liu, public advocate hopeful Bill de Blasio, and a Democratic nominee for City Council, Daniel Dromm, all of whom were endorsed by the UFT.
Arthur Goldstein, a chapter leader at Francis Lewis High School in Queens, and a contributor to GothamSchools, was attending a delegate assembly meeting for the first time. He said that while he enjoyed hearing Liu speak, he was “disappointed that we spent very little time discussing the contract.”
Another teacher who would not give his name said he found the meeting “very undemocratic.”
“I was amazed at the utter lack of tolerance for differences in opinion,” Goldstein said, who was attending a delegate assembly for the first time. “It was like something from a Fellini movie; it was surreal,” he said.
Union officials would not comment on the meeting. “This really is our internal process, so we’re really not answering questions,” UFT spokesman Dick Riley said.
“There is already a contract,” said Michael Fiorillo, a delegate from Newcomers High School and a member of the internal opposition party ICE. “Maybe he’s [Mulgrew] tinkering around the edges, but it’s inconceivable that with so little experience he would be negotiating.”