September/October 2021 Issue
August 21, 2021

Contract gains showcase union strength

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT United

In a major gain for new parents, the North Shore Schools Federated Employees has successfully negotiated 20 paid days of leave without need to use accrued time for members who have given birth or adopted a child.

“It’s a basic justice issue. This is way overdue,” said Greg Perles, president of the 370-member local and a longtime member of the negotiating team. He has been receiving phone calls, texts and emails from members who range from moms in mid-pregnancy to grandparents — all thanking him profusely.

Perles said the contract gain helps dissipate what he calls “the baby penalty,” which he said is structurally misogynistic. Women who have babies, he said, historically had to drain down their accrued leave, go off payroll once they used up their leave, and lose service time toward their retirements and also toward their tenure if they’re on probation. They also lose seniority if they have to go off payroll.

A history teacher, Perles said the lack of adequate leave for new parents has long been an issue in the workplace. And adoptive parents have struggled to get leave, particularly LGBTQ couples, he said.

“It’s punishment for having a child,” he said. “I was motivated to pursue this for equity for women; but it’s also equity for adoptive couples.”

Younger teachers may not have that much time off accrued, or they may have used it for the birth of another child.

“We’ve had significant turnover in recent years,” he said. In addition to planned retirements, “COVID-19 has chased a lot of teachers away.” The staff now has many young teachers.

The contract was ratified in late June, and covers last year and the coming school year. The benefit for new parents is “a new, permanent addition to our contract,” he said.

Perles hopes the contract will inspire other locals to pursue this benefit for new parents, and welcomes NYSUT members to contact him at

“The more people that know, the more they will ask for it and it will start building momentum.”

B.E.S.T. practices

After nine years, the Buffalo Educational Support Team has succeeded in ratifying a contract that its local president calls a “great achievement.”

Jo Ann Sweat, president of the 900-member local unit of teacher aides, teaching assistants and health care aides, said the union workers will see raises of 10.5 percent the first year, and then have three years of 2.25 percent.

The agreement also includes signing bonuses, longevity bonuses, additional training and professional development.

Solidarity and a plan of action helped the NYSUT local achieve the long-awaited contract. Sweat said members went to board meetings — once showing up 300 strong — and attended rallies and sent postcards to board members.

Teacher aides in the first year of service will go from $13.81 per hour to $15.26. Teaching assistants in their first year will get an increase from $14.49 to $20. Health care aides will move from $15.11 to $16.70.

“By no means is it everything we were seeking,” Sweat said.

“Overall we did a great job for our membership.”