Philip Nobile recently reported in these pages about his Step 1 grievance hearing, in which he attempted to prevent the DOE from sending him from his home in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn to the far reaches of Staten Island for one-week no-expenses-paid ATR assignments. Like most Step 1 grievances, Nobile's was denied. Here is his account of the proceedings.
Bloomberg’s DOE is a take-no-prisoners operation with a wish list including testing around the clock, no tenure, swift terminations, an eight-page contract, public humiliation in the New York Post, closing and opening thirty-three restart and transformation schools pitting teacher against teacher in a struggle to keep their jobs, and the greatest wish of all, cleansing the city of half the teaching population.
|The Good Samaritan by Aimé Morot(1880) shows the|
Good Samaritan taking the injured man to the inn (wikipedia).
Nevertheless, the DOE had a chance to play Good Samaritan at my recent grievance regarding travel hardship, specifically sending me, an ATR, deep into Staten Island in conflict with Article 18B of the contract forbidding one-way commutes over 90 minutes by public transportation. Although ATRs are not mentioned in the contract and hardship travel was not grandfathered into the LIFO agreement that spawned our revolving weekly assignments, the DOE had no choice.
On simple humanitarian grounds, the grievance would be granted. No teacher should be compelled to commute longer than the DOE and the UFT mutually considered too onerous. To condemn innocent ATRs to a subclass of teachers, forced some weeks to travel six or more hours, is surely beyond the hardest hearing officer’s heart.
Then there is Lawrence Becker, CEO of the Division of Human Resources. A cold, fine-print rather than a big-picture guy, Mr. Becker reasoned in his February 10 decision that uninhibited travel was not a burden but a helping hand:
Presumably if there was some qualifying language related to Article 18B for the weekly assignment of any ATRs, it would have been included in the ATR agreement. Alleging that the ATR agreement constitutes a hardship because the DOE is following it runs counter to the ATR agreement itself, whose intent is to try to place ATRs in positions and lower the numbers of ATRs in the system. In fact, this has been done to a degree never before reached with the number of ATRs dropping from as much as 2600 in July to below 1000 at the present time.
This grievance is hereby denied.
But not so fast. There is always Step 2, if the UFT goes along. The Brooklyn Grievance Committee would have to approve at its Monday meeting. Switching the gears of irony, I nudged them in an email that morning:
To the Grievance Committee:
The DOE's kneejerk denial of our Step 1 grievance on hardship travel for ATRs is no surprise. That's what happens in a dysfunctional school system where management and labor make war on each other.But it will be a surprise if your committee rejects a Step 2 appeal. The UFT has virtually abandoned us ATRs, not only brushing off our demand for full representation via chapters, but also refusing to have a second meeting in the boroughs to address our rising concerns (e.g., evaluations by field supervisors).I cannot even get Howie [Schoor, Brooklyn Borough Rep], who promised a follow-up meeting at the October gathering, to respond to my emails on the topic. He won't say yes, he won't say no, breaking another promise to respond quickly to ATR queries.This is your chance to show minimum solidarity for the least of the union brethren. Don't betray us again.
Thanks for your consideration.Philip
Not long after sunset, my District Representative, Tom Bennett, emailed the Committee’s decision: “The grievance committee has agreed to take your travel hardship grievance to step two. We’ll let you know what we get a hearing date.”
Without giving away the UFT’s Step 2 strategy, it looks very promising. Becker’s reliance on the language of the ATR agreement will boomerang in next Monday’s hearing. Stay tuned.