UFT Solidarity made the trek to Albany last week to voice their support for the NY Healthy Workplace Bill. A short school bus worth of teachers, parents, vendors, and journalists from NYC DOE, together with advocates from Massachusetts, got up close and personal with their elected officials to let them know that workplace bullying is wrong! Through the telling of some very gruesome stories, our affected members made it clear that workers are in dire need of better defenses against on-the-job abuses.
Carrying pocket folders bulging with member testimonials, we shuffled from one office to the next, putting on our game face and speed dating with over twenty-five Senators and Assemblypersons and their effusive support staff. UFT Solidarity member David Suker bowled over stodgy Republican Chair of Education Senator Marcellino as he described the corruption and mismanagement at Maspeth High School, right where the Senator grew up! Labor Committee Assemblywoman Titus’ Legislative Director dropped his pen as Presidential candidate Francesco Portelos unrolled Solidarity’s list of 131 abusive administrators. Then we delivered Finance Committee Member Ruben Diaz the sobering news about the price tag on some of our million dollars arbitrations.
The fact is there is virtually nothing in place to defend teachers from harassment, legally speaking. While other public employees are protected against physical harassment by NY State Workplace Violence laws, teachers are exempt from these protections. Likewise, teachers retaliated against for exposing corruption in the DOE have been virtually exempt from whistleblower protection, with only one teacher out of two-hundred-and seventy-applicants earning that status between 2003 and 2015. This lack of protection for teachers deters them from acting out their duties as federally mandated reporters and leaves them feeling defeated and vulnerable.
The NY Healthy Workplace Bill gives an employee the right to sue their employer or another employee in civil court if there is a demonstrated pattern of harassment. Bad bosses get their comeuppance for repeated verbal or physical abuse, or for disciplining a teacher unfairly. UFT Solidarity is proud to be part of this ten year campaign to win legal protections against workplace bullying in New York State. At the February delegate assembly, Solidarity presented a resolution for the UFT to endorse the NY Healthy Workplace Bill. Presently, we are in dialogue with officers of the UFT, their lawyers, and their lobbyists to work out a resolution to present at the March delegate assembly.