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Showing posts with label Lawrence Becker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lawrence Becker. Show all posts

Monday, September 3, 2012

What to do about Hardship Commutes for ATR Teachers

For the teacher who must be mobile,
Here's some advice from Philip Nobile.

Article 18D of the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows grievances for hardship commutes--i.e., one-way travel from home to school via public transportation exceeding 90 minutes.

Unfortunately, the UFT did not put that provision in the ATR agreement. So when I grieved repeated 90+ minute treks from Brooklyn to Staten Island last year, the heartless DOE said tough luck and the Chancellor’s Representative denied at Step 1 and Step 2 (see here).  Showing surprising solidarity, the UFT agreed to take the case to arbitration, which could be months away. 

Pending our sure victory bye-in-bye, you don’t have to lay down and ride out the hardship, especially a six-weeker. Here are some recommended moves that could help.  

►Email Amy Arundell and your District Representative and ask them to call Lawrence Becker, head of Human Resources, requesting a healthier and more humane commute in your case.  Offer Becker, an extreme travel hardliner, a golden bridge of retreat. If Becker says no, you go to the principal. The UFT must get its hands dirty and not leave all the work for us.

►Either the DR or you calls the principal and explains your situation; the principal can overturn your assignment for any reason; maybe he won’t want a tired and possibly resentful teacher in his building. No skin off his nose if you go elsewhere.

►if you prefer less fuss, schmooze the school's ATR person on your circumstances, and say in a nice way that you won’t arrive until second period. At least you won’t lose sleep, the most hateful hardship for me.

Any other suggestions or anecdotes ?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The ignoble deny Nobile

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. 


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.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Hardship Travel Grievance, by Philip Nobile

Philip Nobile, NYCATR's resident gadfly, has been complaining for months about his treks from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn to the far reaches of Staten Island.  He finally had his day in court; unfortunately, the court was located at 65 Court Street, where only kangaroo courts are permitted to convene. 

Scene: Office of Lawrence Becker, Chief Executive, Human Resources, 65 Court Street, Brooklyn

“Sometimes you like the schools you go to on Staten Island,” said Mr. Becker. “I read the blogs.”

The now visible hand that controls my transient work schedule was playing with me during a February 6 Step 1 grievance hearing. I came to protest the contract-busting, ninety minutes-plus commutes to the borough across the sea.

UFT special rep John Settle argued that such treks violated Article 18B of the Agreement that entitles teachers to seek a “hardship” transfer if their one-way travel exceeds ninety minutes by public transportation. I presented four MTA trip planner printouts proving that my voyages by subway, ferry, and bus to the College of Staten Island High School, McCown Expeditionary School, Port Richmond, and Tottenville were in violation.

Mr. Becker did not blink. He merely asked whether the Agreement included rotating assignments like the ones ATRs get. Mr. Settle said no, but added that they weren’t excluded either. ATRs have lost so much, he said, that they should not be burdened further. Nevertheless, he was speaking only for me because not all ATRs would necessarily share my aversion. The narrow, yet precedent- setting remedy sought: Cease sending me to Staten Island from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. This was the stimulus for Mr. Becker’s wry comment about my hymn to Tottenville High School.

A diamond in the rough 
It would not kill me if I were reassigned to this gorgeous diamond in the rough. Still, the contract is at stake. What if I lived in Queens or Nassau County? If I win, other ATRs can, too. But we grievants seldom triumph at Step 1 and it is unlikely that the Grievance Committee in the Brooklyn borough office would take my hardship case to Step 2. Consequently, Mr. Becker is probably the court of last resort. “I contacted Larry Becker who said the decision will be issued shortly,” Mr. Settle emailed me last Friday.

Best case scenario: The grievance is granted; on behalf of the DOE Mr. Becker apologizes and gives me four long weekends for my pain and suffering.

Worst case: Hello, Staten Island. 

Diamond in the rough picture credit: