ALBANY, N.Y. August 28, 2007 - When public schools open next week, about 85 percent of the state's 227,000 classroom teachers and tens of thousands of other educators will go back to school with labor agreements in place, a sign that unions and management are settling their differences so they can work together to raise student achievement, New York State United Teachers said today.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the 585,000-member union is expecting a smooth and successful start to the school year. School boards and teachers' unions in more than 60 districts reached new contract agreements in late May and June. In addition, dozens of local unions affiliated with NYSUT are expected to ratify new contracts in the first 30 to 45 days of this school year, he added.
"It is a measure of the commitment that unions and many school boards have to improving student achievement that they are rolling up their sleeves and settling contracts, so they may continue to work side by side in the best interests of children," Iannuzzi said.
"While negotiations can be difficult and, in some cases, contentious, we are generally enjoying a period of labor peace," he added. "School boards and teachers' unions see the benefits of cooperation and discussion in working their way to agreements that ultimately serve children and local schools."
A total of 438 bargaining units - representing about 75,000 K-12 teachers and other educators - are expected to begin the school year working under the terms of expired labor agreements. Unification between NYSUT and National Education Association/New York in September 2006, which merged the two unions and added about 250 bargaining units to NYSUT, makes valid year-to-year comparisons difficult.
Major issues at the table include salary, health insurance and how time in the school day is used to improve student achievement, he said.
Iannuzzi noted that 298 of the 438 open contracts expired on June 30, and many unions representing teachers and school support staff are reporting progress at the bargaining table toward new agreements. A greater cause for concern, he said, are the 97 contracts which expired in June 2006 and the 43 which expired in June 2005 or earlier.
"Unfortunately, we still see some school boards whose main agenda is to drive down salaries and cut benefits for hard-working teachers and support staff," Iannuzzi said. "These school boards do not represent the majority of New Yorkers, who understand that investing in teachers - and public schools - is an essential piece in improving student performance."
In higher education, United University Professions, a NYSUT affiliate which represents some 33,000 academic and professional faculty at the State University, is actively bargaining a new agreement with the Spitzer administration. UUP's contract expired on July 1.
The labor agreement between the 20,000-member Professional Staff Congress and the City University of New York expires in September. Meanwhile, faculty and staff at several community colleges are also engaged in collective bargaining with their employers.
"In all cases, workers are looking for fair agreements that reflect the challenges and demands of their profession and the great job they do every day on behalf of the state's students," Iannuzzi said.
NYSUT represents 585,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers; National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.