You and the UFT: How Your Union Can Help You
New teachers have many questions, but they don’t always know where to
go for reliable answers. Although many UFT programs are located at
union headquarters, you can generally get the answers to your
day-to-day questions either at your school from your UFT chapter leader
or from someone at your nearest UFT borough office.
The UFT chapter, made up of all UFT members in your school — including
you — is the basic building block of the union. Many decisions that
affect you directly are made at the school level. Your best chance of
having a say in those decisions or understanding them is to get to know
your chapter leader and become involved in the life of your chapter.
One of the most important things you can do is make a wise choice when
electing your UFT school chapter leader. Elections are by secret ballot
every three years, starting from 2000. Your chapter leader is not only
the key union representative at your school, but also your prime
intermediary with the school administration.
Advises you about your rights and represents you in any grievances with
the administration. He or she is the first person you should contact
for help about a problem or when you need information about contractual
rights and other matters.
1. Represents the chapter at consultation meetings with the principal.
By contract, the principal must meet with your chapter’s
representatives at least once a month to discuss issues of importance
to the chapter. As much as possible, the chapter leader tries to
resolve school-based problems during these discussions. As the union
has expanded the rights of the chapter, it has given members a greater
voice in decisions affecting school safety, hiring, school assignments,
budget and schoolwide educational decisions.
2. Keeps members up-to-date about union issues and activities. Chapter
leaders attend monthly meetings with their UFT district representatives
and, together with the chapter’s elected delegates, attend monthly
meetings of the Delegate Assembly, the union’s highest decision-making
body. Chapter leaders may disseminate information through chapter
meetings, postings on a UFT bulletin board, a chapter newsletter or
occasional notices in your school mailbox.
3. Organizes the life of the chapter by working with member volunteers
to promote a sense of collegiality among the staff. Some chapters hold
social get-togethers; others have discussion groups; and many provide
informal support through a buddy system. Virtually all chapters pull
together when the union needs their support at rallies, demonstrations
or letter-writing campaigns.
With all of the other chapter leaders in a school district, elects the
UFT district representative (DR).
Even as a newer teacher, you can get involved in the life of your
chapter. Quite a few newer teachers have become chapter leaders
themselves. Some have joined the chapter’s executive committee (which
assists and advises the chapter leader) or consultation committee
(which meets with the principal). Others have volunteered to handle
social events, write a chapter newsletter (a good way to get to know
people and policy), or maintain the UFT bulletin board.
UFT Borough Offices
You’ll find another source of information and support at your UFT
borough office, where knowledgeable staff are available — particularly between 3 and 6 p.m. — to handle
any problems that your chapter leader can’t resolve. Each borough
office fields a team of PM staffers — members employed by the UFT after
school who are specially-trained experts. This is where you can get
accurate answers about everything from salary and seniority to
grievances, pensions and educational issues. UFT courses and workshops
are often held at the borough offices.
The district representatives (DRs) — one for each of the 32 community
school districts and five high school districts — also work out of each
borough office. They handle any problems or grievances that cannot be
settled at the school level, as well as matters of districtwide
significance, by meeting with community school boards, superintendents
and, when necessary, central board staff. There also is a DR for
District 75 (citywide special education programs for the most
handicapped students) who works out of UFT headquarters.
Each borough office is headed by a full-time borough representative
appointed by the UFT president. In addition to coordinating borough
activities, part of the borough rep’s job is to act as the union’s
chief political representative in the borough, lobbying elected
officials and other decision-makers on behalf of the public schools.
Problems that can’t be resolved at the school or borough level are
referred to staff at UFT headquarters at 260 Park Avenue South. For
more information about decision-making at that level.
The UFT Keeps You Informed
The UFT works hard to keep its members informed on matters that are
important to you.
Our biweekly newspaper, the New York Teacher, is mailed to all members
and is the most comprehensive source of information on union
developments and other issues that affect schools. It includes a
special page called "The Newer Teacher" (TNT) with news just for you.
Newer members will find several features of particular interest: event
listings and advertisements of workshops, conferences and courses that
carry new teacher staff development credit; "It Pays to Know," which
lists grants for which you can apply; "Know Your Rights," which
describes various contractual protections you have; the meetings and
activities of UFT professional committees (see page 34); and
The UFT Hotline provides a recorded announcement with the latest news
and reminders of importance to members. It is revised every weekday.
Phone (212) 777-0190 24 hours a day.
UFT Online (www.uft.org) offers a wealth of union and work-related
information. You’ll find a fully searchable version of the contract, an
easy-to-use physician locator for our health programs and links to
lesson plans and other professional resources. New features are being
added all the time, so check in frequently.
The union produces booklets and other publications on topics of
interest to members. The Regular Sub’s Handbook describes just about
everything that PPTs and CPTs need to know; Nuts and Bolts: Building a
Career provides most of the details about state certification; A Guide
to Appointment and Placement helps those who are seeking appointment.
To order these or other UFT publications: (1) watch for the New York
Teacher ad with order form, (2) order through UFT Online (www.uft.org),
or (3) call (212) 598-9523 for a listing and order form (sorry, no
phone orders accepted).
The union also produces specialized newsletters on pension and other
matters, as well as ones geared to groups such as speech teachers and
teachers who have disabilities.