I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Statement of Newark Teachers Against the New Contract

I'm reposting the entire statement of the NEWCaucus - a group of teachers who were against the Newark teachers contract - here, mostly because I don't think they've been treated fairly in the press and they deserve to have their voices heard. (It's also probably easier to read it here, as they put out their statement in a GoogleDoc.)

I will save my comments for another post.

Now that we have a contract, do you have questions like:
What do I do if I feel I have been unfairly evaluated under the new evaluation system?
Under the new tenure law, what happens to me if I am or have been EWP’ed?
What do we do when Cami Anderson announces new school closings and “turnaround” schools in the spring?
If you have questions like these, won’t you join us - the Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus – to improve public education for all, and continue reading the below. 
The Newark Education Workers (NEW) Caucus acknowledges the passing of the contract by the Newark Teachers Union (NTU) membership. For the past three weeks NEW Caucus has worked to inform the membership about the details of this contract and how it will hurt public education, students, and education workers. We have seen in recent weeks what can only be described as overwhelming ambivalence from the NTU membership. While many members had hoped for a contract for more than 2 years, we spoke to and heard from few who were happy with what they were presented. 
After listening to and talking to fellow education workers, we have come to the conclusion that this contract was passed NOT because we believed that this contract is in the best interest of teachers and students, but because the membership did not have confidence that the NTU leadership has a plan, a will, or the ability to fight for something better. The membership reached this decision after witnessing attacks from the federal, state, and local governments for the past several years without any plan on the union’s part to fight back. The membership has seen statewide budget cuts, the closing of schools, hundreds of teachers’ robbed of their jobs and labeled EWP’s (Educators Without Placements), and a barrage of criticism from the media and political elites – all without a real response from their union. On top of this, NTU’s parent union, the American Federation of Teachers under Randi Weingarten, worked overtime to persuade, manipulate, and scare the membership into accepting this deal. AFT staffers called people at home, NTU leaders and AFT staffers made schools visits and stuffed teachers mailboxes with slick literature urging them to vote yes because we would get something while other districts were getting nothing, and because the alternative would be something worse. None of them proposed a plan to fight for something better! 
At the October 23rd Membership Meeting NTU leadership literally threatened the membership with the possibility of a strike. This was unsettling for a membership that understands how weak our union is at this moment in our history. The leadership had no intention of calling for a strike vote, and because the membership had not been informed in any way about the pros and cons of a strike, the implication that striking was the only remaining option created a sense of fear among the membership. This fear of an alternative that would certainly end in failure - along with lack of proactive leadership and the aggressive and well financed campaign for a yes vote – pushed many members to look past the many glaring problems with the contract, and vote yes to get the crumbs we were offered. 
With these circumstances, the NTU membership chose the lesser of two evils: a contract that offered at least a few thousand dollars of the tens of thousands owed and a salary scale that pays less over time, paying education workers thousands of dollars less than their previously negotiated salaries, versus the possibility of more years of frozen pay and a possible union-destroying conflict with a governor out to destroy us. In this situation, faced with two evils, it is understandable why many members voted yes. 
Unfortunately, the NTU membership was never involved in the negotiation process, or even asked what we would or would not be willing to concede, or what we might refuse to accept. Unfortunately, the NTU membership was never enlisted to give the leadership much needed strength and support by telling our stories to friends, family members, community organizations, and the media. Unfortunately, the NTU membership was never encouraged to become actors in their own story and take an active role in creating more favorable conditions in which the leadership might have better leverage in negotiations. 
With this lack of leadership and consequent lack of energy and solidarity even within our own union, it is no wonder that many Newark education workers chose to vote for a contract with obvious flaws. 
With the ratification of this contract, NEW Caucus recognizes the uphill battle that the NTU membership will need to fight to reenergize and revitalize this union to protect not only ourselves, but also our students and public education. Despite living in this time of weakness and ambivalence, we do not believe that all hope is lost. 
We urge NTU members to take an active role in our schools. We urge NTU members to talk to our colleagues about the future, about what WE want OUR schools and public education to look like. We urge NTU members to become leaders in their schools and in their communities, not just for ourselves, but for our students and the greater society. 
For too long we have allowed our “leaders” to keep us voiceless. For too long we have allowed or “leaders” to judge what is best for us without our input. For too long we have allowed our “leaders” to operate unchecked, without any democratic mechanisms making them accountable to us, the NTU membership. 
We hope you all will join us in a campaign to reenergize and revitalize OUR Newark Teachers Union, and make our schools, our students, and ourselves, into the positive forces for change that our society desperately needs.
Again, my thoughts in a few.


Teacher Mom said...

Separating from AFT isn't a bad idea.

Rod viquez said...

AFT in NJ is a joke. There needs to be a revolt from inside. I do know that the ATF and NJEA have a no poaching understanding, but at this point, the Newark leadership has proven to be incompetent. I still have no clue as to why non teachers, who are not covered were able to vote on this contract?

I'm also curious as to what contract will teachers with graduate degrees will be on if they refuse to go on the bonus contract?

NewarkTFA said...

I heart Jersey Jazzman.
NEWCaucus hearts Jersey Jazzman,
and all of NTU should heart Jersey Jazzman as well.

I just want to clarify that NEWCaucus did not suddenly appear in reponse to the contract vote. It is the product of several years of hard work and organizing by a small, dedicated group of people.

The NTU leadership has actively sought to crush NEWCaucus througout its development. For example, they brought pressure to bear through the NPS bureaucracy to have permits for our meetings revoked at the last minute. At one point, we had to meet in a church for months.

Mr. Del Grosso has dismissed us as "communists" on more than one occasion. As in, "Are still letting those communists meet in your bulding?"

The NTU has even used the Human Resources Department of NPS against its own members to have members disciplined for using NPS email to share information about NEWCaucus, even though they regularly use the same email system for union business.

At one point in the last year, the NEWCaucus sent an editorial to the Star Ledger replying to an editorial by Tom Moran. We were told that NEWCuacus wasn't "important enough" to be allotted the space it would take to publish an editorial, yet we suddenly became "important enough" to be vilified as liars.

Are we important enough now for our voices to be heard?