The PTU Contract, part 2

In today’s edition, I publish two more voices from the PTU rank and file: one a “yes” voter with reservations, the other a vehement “no” voter.  Let me restate: the purpose of this series is to formulate a well-rounded assessment of howProvidenceteachers understand their new contract.  As the budget crisis will likely worsen in the coming years, this will be the tool that teachers have to defend themselves with; its virtues and its vices should be known and analyzed far in advance, so as to best prepare for the coming struggles.  Furthermore, it’s important to build understanding and cohesion among PTU members and their supporters.  If you would like to add to the discussion–anonymously–please email me your assessment at



My Dislikes

-Scare Tactics used by Steve Smith. He basically said we didn’t  have any other options. If we did not pass this contract the alternative would be worse.

-The additional two steps serve as a pay decrease. Anyone not on step 10 will be making less than they were originally scheduled to come September. I know of 2 related service providers who have accepted positions else where and a few others who are actively seeking employment in other districts because they can’t afford the pay decrease.

-Teachers who were legally entitled to these positions were used as bargaining chips, a means to an end.  This contract should not have been contingent upon teacher jobs. Especially since there aren’t enough real teaching positions available. At the end of the day, some teachers should have been terminated (by seniority) instead of forcing the masses (already hired teachers) to accept concessions.

-PTU officers playing the “job security” card to sway voters. It’s only for 3 years (not a significant amount of time in my opinion) and then what? No clear answer or plan was given when this question was asked. They are banking on attrition to solve this problem. What if there is a large number of English teachers in need of positions at the end of this contract but 85% of teachers retiring are in other content areas? We will be right back where we started.Providenceneeds to foresee problems, think things through, and plan accordingly.

-Why not give us the entire 6% increase at the beginning of the last year of the contract. As it stands we will receive 3% at the start of the school year and 3% on the last day of the same school year. I fear we will not see that last 3%.

-Lack of details concerning this new evaluation process. I fear it will be used to antagonize teachers.

-Where were the teachers? Last I checked less than 1100 teachers voted. Someone just told me they spoke with aProvidenceteacher who didn’t know we had a tentative agreement or voted on it. Just Crazy!

My Likes

-Obviously, I am happy to see my colleagues get their jobs back

-Supposedly, seniority remains in the contract. Seniority applies to content area, building, and order of lay-off. (building seniority may become problematic when programs get consolidated or schools close)

-Insurance cost did not increase for those hired after 2004 (we already pay so much). Steve said he is working with the police and fighter dept. to form one large plan in hopes of lowering costs for all by equally sharing the burden.

-Since I am on step 10 my pay will not be decreased.

I ultimately voted in favor of the contract because I felt I could live with the concessions. Financially speaking, I was not affected, and that, along with seniority, were my main concerns. A couple of my friends were terminated. How could I vote no, when in comparison, I had so little to lose? However, I understand and support those who voted no. If I were faced with a pay decrease on top of increased health cost I would have done the same.  I’m still upset about being put in such an impossible situation.



I voted  to reject  the  contract proposal because I considered it an obscenely excessive set of concessions to an untrustworthy  employer based on a false dichotomy between symbolic–not actual– unity (all teachers getting their illegal firings rescinded) and some typically unknown disaster scenario (e.g. Central Falls, which Smith has used before as a bogeyman).

It was a false dichotomy from the beginning:  Taveras VIOLATED THE LAW by firing us.  The suit should have been pursued to its inevitable conclusion (unless they had a bought judge), namely that the firing be officially nullified, Taveras pay restitution and apologize (if not serve time).  Instead, Smith made rehiring the only major demand of the contract negotiation, and acceded to beaucoup Draconian demands of the East Side/corporate puppeteers.

The nationwide corporate attacks on labor and collective bargaining are especially vicious in targeting the integrity and dignity of the elementary and secondary level teaching profession.  InRhode Islandan even higher level of savagery has been on display since the new –‘Democrat’!– Mayor brutally violated the law in February by firing allProvidenceteachers on the pretext of a fiscal crisis that had no basis in fact and wouldn’t have given him such authority anyway.  Shortly thereafter, the School Board, obeying the orders of said Mayor, voted to close five schools on the most specious and suspicious of reasoning after making a flagrant show of eliciting and then coldly disregarding a formidable amount of unfavorable public opinion articulated by parents, students, teachers, and other concerned citizens at various meetings.

The contract recently ratified by the demoralized and intimidated Teachers’ Union Membership is a case study in the neoconservative hypercapitalist Shock Doctrine as described by political analyst Naomi Klein. The disgusting specter of seeing dozens of their colleagues stripped of their occupations and livelihood for no just cause, and the possibility of having no recourse for protection against such (and many other types of) management abuse, terrorized the less-than-1000 teachers –half the membership hastily summoned to an awkward and unnecessary midsummer meeting– into conceding several major bargaining points in the negotiation of the new contract, including unfavorable adjustments to wage and health insurance payments, controversial hiring and firing practices, and stressful working conditions.  The trumped-up ‘success’ of the union and mayor’s administration having reached an agreement is being used as a distraction from the fact that the new contract in its essence practically destroys the ‘union’ as an entity with any legal and political relevance, and this was a key element in the corporate-capitalist (fascist) strategy to further degrade the quality and validity of public education.

The approaching school year promises Providence teachers an onslaught of managerial and public aggression aimed at further denigrating professional security and social stature, even further decreasing the attractiveness (indeed possibility) of stable and rewarding careers, and preventing successful adherence to the already outrageously high –structurally unachievable– standards established by draconian neocon legislation packages like the Bush-era No Child Left Behind and Obama/Duncan’s ‘new and improved’ Race To The Top.

The Union leadership’s role in shepherding this contract to its current fruition deserves critical scrutiny on strategic as well as ethical grounds. Overemphasis on a simplified concept of unity, in this instance consisting in the rehiring of all illegally-fired teachers, has allowed the mayor to get away with a heinous crime committed in plain sight while simultaneously absconding with hordes of financial and managerial giveaways, kickbacks, and dirty unfair advantages hidden between the lines of the ‘agreement’.  It is a disgusting robbery from a weakened and demoralized victim, and the apathy among union membership is largely due to the leadership’s failure to mobilize it appropriately in its own interests.  Let’s look into the diabolical mind of this beast and predict a salting of the wounds in the form of an impending hike in union dues.


About riredteacher

I'm a foreign language teacher and socialist in Rhode Island.
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