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.  
School Chapters
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.

Your chapter leader:

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 entertainment options.
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.

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