Monday, September 7, 2020

Another "win".

On Tuesday, when not very many people were paying attention, the UFT checked another box off of it's massive "Important Agreements That Must Be Reached" to do list: What to do with teachers who have quarantined family members.

Before we get into that, let's review the agreements reached over the summer:

First, the DOE and UFT decided to make it easy on teachers who could get sick and who could die. 

The medical accommodation agreement went online and turned months into weeks. This doesn't get enough attention because it only applies to about 15% of the workforce. But that was a total heart-felt-meets-government-policy action. It typically takes months for an accomodation to go through. For many, it tooks days and it was 100% guided through UFT negotiations. 95% of the applicants were accepted and the UFT assisted with appeals for those who were denied. 

Then, the DOE and UFT decided on a composition of teachers. 

It created three teacher roles and another role called "Virtual Content Specialist. I called the job a "good deal -maybe" because, while it looks good on paper, I don't expect it to be implemented in very many schools at all. It is an enormous task and the timeframe for schools is just too short. 

In addition to that, when you peel the onion back just a bit, you may realize that school-based staff all across the city have just given up on all of the systems around them. There is a mistrust and this "mistrust" that is being spoken of about the mayor, actually extends to the DOE, all 3 major unions and even beyond. And, just like I predicted, most school communities, seeing impossible-to-understand guidelines, will just turned inward to seek their own solutions. So it's a nice deal if you can make it happen! But many schools won't be able to. 

Then the deal about this strike was reached.  

See now, I came down a bit hard on my union when I wrote

I'm sure the UFT will find the best the deal they can. I'm sure, when it arrives, that they'll assure us that it was the very best deal they could make under the circumstances. I'm sure we'll mostly be fine when we go back and I'm absolutely sure that any voices expressing dismay will be quickly quelled with the sudden magical appearance of UFT Unity loyalists on social media -folks who don't know how to defend a teacher but who sure as hell know how to ridicule them- shaming them into silence.

So I feel a little bad. Truth is the union did reach the best deal they could. They ensured that teachers can have a safe environment to go back to. They made it as safe as anyone could make a school under these circumstances. No place, during pestilence, is safe. It is ridiculous to open schools. That said, the mayor wants to open and the UFT sees their job as making sure that the policy is as fair (and as safe) as it can be made. 

Was this a sellout? Oh, no.  While I was right about those Unity loyalists, they will also be the first to remind you that the UFT never ever wanted or advocated for remote learning in the first place. That's true! The UFT never lifted one finger to try to get blended learning. All they promised was no return if we weren't safe. And they kept that promise.

Did they realize that all these teachers wanted remote learning because they are scared for their health? Yes. But they never promised anything like remote learning, did they? They only promised no return if the buildings weren't safe. That's all they promised. Well they should have known that people wanted full remote. Didn't they see all of our posts? No yeah. They saw your posts. They know what you wanted.  If you wanted more than that, move to Chicago or LA, where that union refuses to let its members go back until this virus has ended. Here in New York, we were given no such union and we were given no such promise. Suck it up people. It's only September and like I said: Promise delivered. 

Now the deal for teachers who need more accomodations at home.

And that leads me to this week's very quiet deal. The DOE quietly updated their personal memorandum on September 1st. It includes a lot of help for people who have "symptoms" but have not tested positive for COVID. It Those folks get 2 weeks without dedication to their CAR. So, they can be sick, under care awaiting a test with no deduction to the CAR (don't forget, those CAR days are our compensation that is deferred for other things, like a day off. So not losing those days is a lot like not losing a day's pay. I'm not sure if you have work remotely during that time or not. That's something you'll have to look into. There is a link to the document here. 

And if you have a child care issue, the DoE is offering an application for 2/3 pay through the same memorandum. 

It's Labor Day. These things don't just happen because the sky is blue. They happen because there was a union saying "no". 

I say "win" because the better win would have been to keep school's closed until at least indoor dining and in-person classes at college resume (I teach high school. That's a bit easier for me to say). But, without that, the UFT (who is about to use its pension fund -the strongest in the US- to save New York City with a big fat loan) did it up pretty well. 

Update: Solidarity's attempt at an injunction got more press today. These 5 teachers were very brave to put their name on a lawsuit. And Lydia, who raised the funds and worked with Bryan Glass developing the petition has done yeoman's work there.  To date, no caucus has chosen to work with Solidarity on this and one, MORE, actually turned down Solidarity's invitation to work on and file an injunction as joint entities. I'm not sure what more proof you need that all union caucus' are terrible, but if you do need more proof, I'd be happy to break it down in painful detail.  

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Solidarity Lawsuit Strategy: Expand Reasonable Accomodations

Gothamist reported on UFT Solidarity's Lawsuit yesterday. In short, the caucus is going to court to argue that the DOE's "Reasonable Accommodation" should include people who have at-risk family members at home at home. From the report (I'm heavily editing):

Several New York City teachers will ask a state judge to keep schools fully remote for the upcoming semester and expand the criteria for instructors to teach from home, arguing that it's still too risky to bring students and teachers back into classrooms while the danger of the pandemic still exists. 
... hope a judge forces the DOE to agree to expanding the Reasonable Accommodation Request criteria—a set of DOE-approved medical conditions that allow impacted teachers to work from home instead of a classroom with the belief their conditions could worse if they return to school. 
The filing of an injunctive relief was brought by UFT Solidarity, a subset group within the UFT that's criticized the school reopening plan and the narrow. 
"It excludes certain groups of people, including people who are cancer patients, people who are parents of small children, who may have opted to go remote," said Lydia Howrilka, a teacher and organizer with UFT Solidarity. "People like myself who are caregivers of elderly parents and guardians who unfortunately will be putting our loved ones at great risk if we were to come into work. Educators have been given this Hobson's Choice of choosing between their livelihoods and their health."
Solidarity launched a successful GoFundMe to raise the funds needed to pay Bryan Glass' fees. 

The full article from Gothamist is here.