The United Federation of Teachers has not been bargaining over teacher evaluations in good faith, the city Department of Education charged in a labor complaint today.
The complaint comes a week after UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced he would halt negotiations until the department presented an implementation plan that satisfied the union. It also comes nearly a year to the day after the city called off a different round of teacher evaluation talks.
Filed with the Public Employees Review Board, the complaint accuses union officials of refusing to reach an evaluations deal unless the department promised to limit school closures, reduce paperwork for teachers, and award “economic credit” toward a future contract.
Under state law, those issues do not have to be discussed in order to devise a new evaluation system, which the city and union are under pressure to agree upon by Jan. 17. That’s the deadline that Gov. Andrew Cuomo set early a year ago for districts to adopt new evaluations or forgo increases in state school aid.
City and union officials had been locked in talks until last week, when Mulgrew announced that any further talks would have to focus on how the city planned to roll out the new system once it is settled. The city’s complaint says that demand, too, shows that the union has not really intended to try to reach a deal.
“We remain prepared to negotiate all outstanding issues required to get to an agreement on teacher evaluation but unfortunately, Mr. Mulgrew’s failure to bargain in good faith and insistence on including issues unrelated to teacher evaluation is unacceptable and illegal,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement. “The city will not let him hold these negotiations hostage.”
Mulgrew said the complaint’s characterization of the union as recalcitrant was inaccurate and risible.
“I’m kind of laughing at it, to tell you the truth,” he said in an interview. “‘We will be happy to meet with you [to discuss implementation]. We await your communication.’ That’s the last communication we’ve had with them on this. … I’m sitting in my office, and the DOE has not called.”
The city is asking PERB — which last year ruled that the city’s plan to “turn around” 24 struggling schools violated its contract with the union — to force the union back to the bargaining table.
It is unlikely that any intervention by the board could come in time for the city to meet Cuomo’s deadline. That means the city’s complaint is “just a publicity stunt” designed to make the union look bad when the city loses about $250 million in state funds, Mulgrew said.
But if the department agreed to discuss implementation on its own, Mulgrew said, Cuomo’s deadline might still be met. He said, “My team is ready, willing, and able to go.”
The Department of Education’s PERB complaint is below: