A Report from the Floor of the Liacouras Center

IMG_4113.jpgIn this contract ratification process, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers makes several steps towards allowing a more democratic and transparent system for the rank and file to review and understand the terms of the offer. Improvements to this process included:

  • Providing a two-day reading period for the contract terms
  • Running a webinar to review select points and answer questions about those points
  • Posting both a summary and complete terms of the change online so they could be accessed by all members
  • Making the procedure for the vote clear, and specifically clarifying that the vote was via paper ballot, not the symbolic voice vote.

The Caucus of Working Educators is pleased with this shift towards giving members a chance to review the offer. We assembled a “contract crunch team” to comb through the terms and make sure that any confusion could be explored and addressed and sent our questions to Jerry Jordan hoping for a response. We built a spreadsheet to help employees at all step levels calculate exactly what their future salaries would be under the new offer. We organized contract reading parties around the city on Sunday to help people make sense of the offer together, and supported members around the city in facilitating discussion in their own buildings the day of the vote.

All of these shifts made us hopeful that our vote at the Liacouras Center would have given us a chance to ask questions for clarity and have an honest discussion about terms that we did not yet understand.

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Unfortunately, the meeting consisted of a video, a Power Point presentation, and a move to call for a vote while dozens of members were still waiting to speak, with no opportunity to ask questions or gain the clarity we were hoping for.

When the call to close discussion was made, many members objected – and also questioned why others would seek to shut things down when they had the option to cast their ballot and leave the meeting at any time.

This shutting down of discussion and discourse threatens to repeat our path in 2010. At the last contract vote, when we had mere hours to review the terms, many members were confused about a clause on “Renaissance Schools” – a provision that was also approved without discussion, and resulted in dozens of schools being handed over to charter operators.

Shutting down discussion served no benefit to those who supported the move, and only alienated those who wanted clarity about the contract that defines our lives for the next three years.

To be clear: we are pleased with the result of the vote, in which nearly half of PFT’s membership voted – in contrast to 2010, where only 16% of members cast ballots. In our own internal poll, a majority of Caucus members also approved the contract offer, and we were excited to lend our support at the meeting while still seeking the clarity we needed to move forward in our work and our lives.

Every PFT member deserves a union that considers open debate and discussion a sign of strength, not weakness. WE believe that democracy makes our union stronger and will continue the push for discussion and transparency, into the next contract negotiation and beyond.

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Cast an Informed Vote on the PFT Contract Proposal!

Earlier this year, the Caucus of Working Educators surveyed PFT members across the district to determine what they most want to see addressed in a new contract.

 

ballots.pngThe top five priorities WE heard from our colleagues included compensation, health insurance, class size, building conditions, and retirement and pensions.

 

The proposed contract changes released to the PFT membership this past weekend address these priorities in important ways. We have shared this analysis to help PFT members make an informed vote about the contract offer. To be clear, we are not advocating members vote a particular way. We simply want to provide adequate information for all parties before they cast their ballot.

 

1. Salary

The tentative agreement attempts to make up for our lost time and money by giving PFT members multiple-step jumps, lump sum bonuses, and recognition of advanced-degree lanes into 2020. It also includes just one COLA increase of 2% in 2019 -- the only true raise given to the PFT between 2013 and 2020.

 

To see what your salary would be under this contract, go to:       www.tinyurl.com/PFTsalaries

 

2. Health insurance

All PFT employees will have to pay a percentage of their base pay into health insurance - 1.25% for the first two years, and 1.5% in the years thereafter. Covering spouses who are eligible for insurance with their own employers will incur a monthly charge of $50 for the first two years, and $75 after that. Keystone HMO premiums and Personal Choice copays are both increasing, and the Medical Insurance Opt-Out has been eliminated. Also, the District is making fewer payments to the PFT Health & Welfare Fund.

 

3. Retirement and pensions

The Commonwealth manages PSERS, and our contract does not codify any agreement between the District and our union on pensions. However, PFT members leaving the District for good may face other issues relevant to them in the future. Staff hired after July 1, 2017 will receive upon retirement only 75% of the paid-out value of personal days that current staff receive. Also, resignation/retirement decisions must now be made by March 15 instead of April 15.

 

4. Class size and 5. Building conditions

The tentative agreement does have provisions designed to help teachers teach and students learn, including teacher collaboration during common planning time and training in restorative justice. There were no contract improvements to building conditions or class size.


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Before you vote, please use this "Contract Terms: What’s There, What’s Not" flyer and this list of "Contract Offer Questions" to discuss what is most beneficial for your students, schools, families, and your profession. Bring your questions and concerns to the Liacouras Center on Monday so you are completely confident in your decision when it is time to cast your vote!

 

Additional resources to help you make an informed decision include:

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Questions? Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org

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Still have questions about the PFT contract proposal?

questionmark.pngWe’ve got until Monday at 4PM. How can you make sense of the PFT contract offer? Here’s how to prepare for the vote, in five easy steps:

 

1. Watch the presentation from Saturday’s PFT Webinar and read the changes to the PFT contract. Log on to the ‘members only’ section of the PFT website to access the information at PFT.org. Read the latest from the Inquirer, Newsworks and the Notebook.

 

2. Attend one of five Contract Reading Parties happening on Sunday, June 18 across the city.  Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org with any questions.

 

  • Center City:  10-11:30am at Chapter House (620 S. 9th Street Phila 19147)

  • Northeast:  2-3:30pm at Kate Sannicks-Lerner’s (684 Meadowbrook Drive, Huntingdon Valley 19006)

  • Northwest:  2-3:30pm at Nat Bartels' (7807 Ardleigh St. Phila 19118)

  • West:  4-5:30pm at Jesse Gottschalk’s (5118 Catharine St. Phila 19143)

  • South:  4-5:30pm at South Philly Tap Room (1509 S. Mifflin St. 19145)

 

3. Organize a Contract Reading Party at your school on Monday. Making sure every PFT member has the time and space to read the proposal and make an informed decision is crucial. Have a breakfast meeting before school. Meet up at lunch to talk. Or plan to get to the Liacouras Center as early as 4pm on Monday, stake out a spot for your school and meet there. Use the following resources to help guide your discussion:

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4. Prepare for the contract vote on Monday June 19 at 6:00pm (doors open at 4:00pm) at the Liacouras Center 1776 N. Broad Street at Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

  • Arrange childcare and transportation to the Liacouras Center. Carpool or take the SEPTA Broad Street Line to the Cecil B Moore station. (Here is the parking guide for the Liacouras Center.)

  • Wear your PFT red!

  • Bring a school sign or banner to the ratification vote so your staff can easily find each other and sit together.

  • Make sure you have each other’s cell phone numbers programmed into your phones before the meeting so you can find each other and communicate during the meeting.

  • Bring your postcard: Every PFT member should have received a red and white postcard in the mail, which is your ticket into the contract ratification vote. If you did not receive it, bring a photo ID and your most recent pay stub to the meeting -- and call the PFT office immediately at 215-587-6738.

  • Know what to expect: All 11,000 members of the PFT union are invited to the meeting to hear about the proposed contract changes and then vote yes to approve or no to reject. This vote always occurs via private ballot, which will be counted by an outside agency called the American Arbitration Association (AAA). There may be a symbolic voice vote, but the contract is not ratified or rejected until every member present at the meeting has their vote counted by the AAA. All PFT members are welcome to stay and witness the vote count.

 

ballotbox.png5. Vote using the paper ballot. As mentioned above, the voice vote is merely symbolic. It’s the paper vote that counts. REMEMBER TO COMPLETE YOUR PAPER BALLOT AND CAST YOUR VOTE BY PUTTING IT DIRECTLY INTO THE BALLOT BOX BEFORE LEAVING. You can vote as soon as the doors open at 4pm. Do not hand your ballot to anyone. Be sure your vote gets counted. Put it into the box yourself.

 

Have other questions? Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org

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Are You Prepared for the Contract Vote on Monday June 19?

This afternoon, PFT members learned that a tentative contract agreement has been reached and that the membership will vote on the proposal on Monday June 19 at 6:00pm (doors open at 4:00pm) at the Liacouras Center (1776 N. Broad Street at Cecil B. Moore Avenue).  

 

Screen_Shot_2017-06-16_at_10.16.04_PM.pngWhat happens at the vote?

 

All 11,000 members of the PFT are invited to the Special Membership Meeting/Contract Ratification Vote at the Liacouras Center to hear about the proposed contract changes and then vote 'yes' to approve or 'no' to reject the proposal. Voting occurs via private ballot, which will be counted by an outside agency called the American Arbitration Association (AAA). There may be a symbolic voice vote, but the contract is not ratified or rejected until every member present at the meeting has their vote counted by the AAA. All PFT members are welcome to stay and witness the vote count.

 

What should you do to prepare for the vote?

 

PFT Contract Webinar: Join the PFT Contract Webinar tomorrow Saturday June 17 at 10:00am. The PFT leadership will be sharing information and answering questions about key provisions in the new contract. To register for the Webinar, log in to the “Members Only” page at PFT.org.

 

Contract Reading Party: Schedule a before-school, breakfast or lunchtime Contract Reading Party at your school on Monday. Make sure every PFT member in your building has the opportunity to read and discuss the contract proposal and make an informed decision.

 

Contract Vote Postcard: Every PFT member should have received a red and white postcard in the mail, which is your ticket into the contract ratification vote. If you did not receive one bring a photo ID and your most recent pay stub to the meeting - and call the PFT office immediately at 215-587-6738.

 

Getting to the Vote: Arrange childcare and transportation to the Liacouras Center on Monday. Carpool or take the SEPTA Broad Street Line to the Cecil B Moore station. (Here is the parking guide for the Liacouras Center.)

 

Screen_Shot_2017-06-16_at_10.52.48_PM.pngPaper Ballot: As mentioned above, the voice vote is merely symbolic. It’s the paper vote that counts. REMEMBER TO COMPLETE YOUR PAPER BALLOT AND CAST YOUR VOTE BY PUTTING IT DIRECTLY INTO THE BALLOT BOX BEFORE LEAVING. Do not hand your ballot to anyone. Be sure your vote gets counted. Put it into the box yourself.

 

Want tips on how to organize a “Contract Reading Party?” Have other questions? Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org.

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Teacher Contracts: How Does Philly Measure Up?

We all know what the contract terms look like for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, but how about in other cities. The Caucus has gathered information from contracts in peer unions around the country: Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. The full contract for each city profiled is linked below. No two situations are identical, but taking a look around can help us better understand what is possible and how the PFT compares. (Click here to download a copy.)

Union

Employee Health Care Contribution

Teacher Salary Schedule

Cost Of Living Adjustment (definition)

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

(AFT Local 3)

 

Status Quo Contract

(2009-2012…)

HMO: No personal contribution

Philadelphia Salary Schedule

Starting Salary with Bachelor’s: $45,360

 

Top Step with Bachelor’s: $67,705

 

Top-step: Food Service Manager IV: $60,448

Top-step NTA: $41,857

Increased by 3% in 2011 and again in 2012

Union

Employee Health Care Contribution

Teacher Salary Schedule

Cost Of Living Adjustment (definition)

Chicago Teachers Union

(AFT Local 1)

 

2016-2019 collective bargaining agreement

 

Increased by 0.8%.

 

Individual annual payment maximum: 2.2% (of base salary)

 

Family payment  maximum: 2.8% (of base)

Chicago Salary Schedule:

Starting Salary with Bachelor’s: $48,686

 

Top Step with Bachelor’s: $82,185

 

Top-Step Teacher assistant: $46,567

Will be increased by 4.6% by 2019 school year

Union

Employee Health Care Contribution

Teacher Salary Schedule

Cost Of Living Adjustment (definition)

Pittsburgh (AFT Local 400)

 

2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement

HMO: 5% of annual premium costs

 

PPO:  5% of annual premium costs

Pittsburgh Salary Schedule:

Starting Salary with Bachelor’s: $37,120

 

Top Step with Bachelor’s: $75,800

 

Top Step: emotional support aide: $3,551 per month

Increased by 1% for the 2015-2016 school year and 1.8% for the 2016-2017 school year.

Union

Employee Health Care Contribution

Teacher Salary Schedule

Cost Of Living Adjustment (definition)

Los Angeles UTLA (AFT Local 1021)

 

2014-2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement

No personal contribution

LA Salary Schedule:

Starting Salary with Bachelor’s: $54,565

 

Top Step with Bachelor’s: $62,658

 

Summer school hourly: $46.92

Increased by 4% July 2014 and by 2% three times: Jan 2015, July 2015, Jan 2016

 

 

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How to Host a Contract Reading Party

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Our union may soon vote on an all-important collective bargaining agreement. Use this guide to bring together colleagues at your school or home to determine if this contract deserves your vote. Democracy makes our union strong!

Why?

  • Discussion around contract voting is a normal right of a democratic union

  • Members deserve an opportunity to understand the contract terms so they can discuss it with their families in advance of the vote

  • Colleagues deserve an opportunity to discuss the impact this contract will have on their schools

How?

Gather everything to clearly read, discuss, and understand any proposal:

  • Copies of the current contract and changes

  • Sign-in sheets, whiteboards or flip charts, Post-its, etc.

 Basic Agenda

  1. Opening, introductions, ground rules

  2. Why are we here?

    • What are our top priorities for a contract? What are our dealbreakers?

  3. Review and discuss contract changes

    • What will these changes look like for our schools and our families?

    • Do these fall in line with our own top priorities?

  4. Ask: If you had to vote now, what would you do?

    • If you don’t know yet, what information do you need?

    • Brainstorm & collect questions for PFT Leadership (either at info meetings or Liacouras center)

  5. Check-in tasks before everyone leaves:

    • Do you get your contract vote ticket in the mail? If not, call the PFT Office ASAP: 215-587-6738

    • Do you have transportation to the Liacouras Center? Arrange a caravan!

    • Do you need childcare in order to attend? Talk to families about pooling childcare for the evening.

     

Click here to download a PDF of this guide to use at your "Contract Reading Party."

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How to Prepare for a Contract Vote: Schedule Your “Contract Reading Party” for Tuesday June 13

This week, PFT Members learned that there is a possibility that our union and the District will reach a tentative contract agreement soon- which Philly’s educators, students, and families have all been waiting for!

Here is some essential information to think about and check in with your colleagues about, to make sure every PFT member has the opportunity to get informed, be there, and participate in this important union event:

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What is a contract ratification vote? When bargaining for a contract, unions come to a tentative agreement with their employer and then bring that agreement to the union membership for a contract ratification vote. Union members generally have a period of time to look over the changes ahead of time, then vote via mail or in person on whether these changes are sufficient to approve the new contract.

What will the vote look like for PFT Members? All members of our 11,000-person union will be invited to a Special Membership Meeting at the Liacouras Center to hear about the contract, any proposed changes, and then vote yes or no to approve. This vote always occurs via private ballot, which will be counted by an outside agency the American Arbitration Association (AAA). There may be a symbolic voice vote, but the contract is not ratified until every member present at the meeting has their vote counted by the AAA. PFT Members are welcome to stay and watch the vote count.

Will we have time to read the proposal in advance? The PFT has not committed to a set contract reading period, but the union has promised that members will have time to hear about the new contract and ask questions before the ratification meeting.

What can we do now to get ready?

1. Contract Vote Postcard: Every member of the PFT should have received a red and white postcard in the mail this week. This will be your ticket into a potential contract ratification vote. If you did not receive one, call the PFT office to verify your address at 215-587-6738.

2. Members-Only Section: The PFT has also created a new Members-Only section on the website, so that when information about the tentative contract becomes available all members can read as much information as possible. Make sure your login works by following the directions to sign in at this site (if you have issues signing in, you should have received an email from Jerry Jordan with a form to get it fixed).

3. A Meeting May Come Up Quickly: Be aware that the call for a contract ratification meeting may come up quickly in the next few days (or weeks), and it’s important that every PFT member has the opportunity to be there and participate! Start thinking now about details such as last-minute childcare, and a travel plan for you and your staff to get the Liacouras center after school. Here is the parking guide for the Liacouras Center, and you can easily take the SEPTA Broad Street Line to Cecil B Moore station.

4. Schedule a “Contract Reading Party” on Tuesday June 13: When a tentative contract is available, we want every member to have the opportunity to read, discuss, and think about their needs and the needs of our union sisters and brothers. Right now, based on information available, it is possible that there will be a vote as soon as next Wednesday June 14.

Schedule and organize a “Contract Reading Party” at your school this Tuesday (either before or after school) -- then come join a city-wide discussion about the contract at the WE Monthly Organizing Meeting on Tuesday at Old First Reformed United Church of Christ (151 N 4th St & Race 19106) from 1-3:00pm. (If you can’t make it to Old First, a group will also be meeting on Tuesday at 1:00pm at Nick’s Roast Beef at 2210 Cottman Ave, Phila 19149.)

Want tips on how to organize a “Contract Reading Party?” Have other questions? Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org.

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When Philly Bullies Its Outspoken Teachers

Ask any Philadelphia politician or School District administrator what they think about teachers, and they are likely to shower us with praise and compliments. We are the backbone of this city, and should be honored and supported in everything that we do to serve our students.

S1FreeSpeech.pngExcept when that means getting political.

This past spring, Caucus of Working Educators member and Central High School History Teacher George Bezanis spearheaded two efforts to raise awareness of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ ongoing contract battle: a highway billboard and an aerial banner.  

S4FrederickDouglas.pngAt the beginning of May, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics responded to these actions by informing him that he was potentially in violation of city lobbying rules and could be charged up to $2,000 for the alleged infraction.

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Join the Caucus and TAG for the 4th Annual Summer Reading Series

Collage_2017.jpgSince 2014, educators, students, parents, community members, and organizers have come together over the summer to participate in a summer reading series focused on racial and social justice themes.  More than 400 people have participated in more than 35 reading groups that have taken place across Philadelphia.  Our reading series builds our membership; develops our leadership ability; and fuels our organizing to build our power as a union, our work as teachers, and our relationships with each other. 

This year, based on survey results, WE and TAG are excited to announce 15 book groups.  You can join groups organized by the Philadelphia Black History Collaborative; educators focused on ending white supremacy; members of the immigration justice ItAG and committee; and leaders in the Restorative Practices Project.  Other groups will focus on building organizing skills; reading empowering works of fiction; growing our historical and current understanding of systems and structures that form our education system.  For the first time, we have a reading group meeting in the Northeast, and groups reading books paired together around a common theme.

This summer, we continue the tradition of bringing together people from all walks of life and all parts of the city -- parents, teachers, nurses, counselors, activists, community members, students, and anyone else!  All are welcome!  Please sign up here!

Screen_Shot_2017-06-02_at_10.39.05_AM.pngAnd come to the Summer Kick-Off Happy Hour on June 9, from 4:00-7:30PM at Maximum Level Lounge (5118 Sansom Street) to find out more about the reading groups, celebrate the end of the year, enter a raffle to win a copy of one of our books, and join the movement for racial, social, and education justice in Philadelphia.                   

Want to learn more about past book clubs? Read this article on the Summer Reading Series in Perspectives on Urban Education by WE supporting member Kathleen Riley.

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Jerry Jordan: Give Us Time to Read our Contract!

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On May 11th, the Caucus of Working Educators delivered a letter to Jerry Jordan asking for a minimum one-week reading period for any new contract offer. 

The leadership did not respond to this request by the suggested deadline, so we've now gone public with our request for a reading period!

Sign here if you are a PFT member and want a reading period!

The day after our petition went public, The PFT made a post on their Facebook page with a partial explanation as to what kind of access members would have to a new contract offer. 

We appreciate this response, especially the explanation about the voting process. However, we still ask for an actual reading period for our contract. Being able to ask questions and get an explanation is not enough, especially without any guaranteed time frame for this process. This describes what our last contract vote was like in 2009, which left many members feeling frustrated and misinformed.

To reiterate what we said in our earlier post:

The Caucus of Working Educators enthusiastically supports the PFT leadership in their ongoing contract negotiations, and are very much looking forward to a resolution to what has been a long and bitter struggle. To those ends, we want a contract ratification process that allows the general membership to feel confident in their vote.

This is not an abstract concern -- last year, the administrators in CASA pushed back against their own union leadership when the negotiating team presented a contract offer with limited information and a speedy schedule for a vote. The members voted "no" in part because they felt needlessly pressured by the CASA leadership to make a quick decision. 

Rushing this process risks its success. To those ends, we have requested that the PFT leadership make a public commitment to a minimum one-week reading period as soon as possible.

Sign the petition today!

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