I work at Christopher Columbus Campus, in the Bronx. The campus consists of Christopher Columbus High School, a large overcrowded multi-session high school co-existing in a campus setting with four small schools. As the UFT Teacher Center site staff there, I work with a large number of educators for whom the contract, or lack of one, has become a stressful and at times divisive issue.

Why ratify the contract? If you want the abbreviated version it is simple. The alternatives are highly unappetizing. If we attempt to go back to the bargaining table with Bloomberg all indications are that he will fall back to the fact finders’ report. If we reject this, our only option is to strike. From the chatter around this building, I just don’t think we have the will as an organization to go through the suffering it would entail to come out on top of such a monumental battle. This leaves only one realistic possibility at this time – to ratify the contract.

There are a number of benefits that the contract has over the fact finders’ recommendations. One very obvious improvement is the elimination of the proposed 10 free coverages. Another has to be the increase in back pay by 65% over the recommendations.

Examining the contract in more depth though, we should be able to recognize that there are other positives we should lock in with the offer currently on the table. Very significantly, we at last have an agreement that the city and union will work together to get the 25/55 retirement agreement from the State. This will provide a major benefit to all of us who are on Tiers II,III and IV, a substantial shortening of our length of service.

This contract also maintains our health benefits as they stand. Since the cost of healthcare has risen by 73% for employers over the past five years this is a very significant positive for us. Most of our friends in other professions have faced massive increases in the cost of their healthcare, expected to shoulder increasingly high contributions and co-payments as the cost of health insurance skyrockets.

There are voices urging us to vote down this contract. They seem to think that we can do better. This does not strike me as a rational conclusion. Since the mayor has not only agreed to accept the independent fact finders’ recommendations, but has actually worked with our union to give something that most would consider better, the general public will not expect him to turn around and be even more generous. They are more likely to expect him to take a tough line. It seems as straightforward as the following multiple-choice question to me:

Vote to
a) Accept the contract
b) Accept the fact finders’ recommendations
c) Strike