The sole union chapter to vote against the new United Federation of Teachers public school contract is now split from its bargaining unit — leaving occupational and physical therapists on their own headed into a revote announced Friday by UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
Therapist chapter leaders had urged Mulgrew to go back to the table with the administration of Mayor Eric Adams to press for higher wages, after members rejected the proposed union bargaining agreement two to one.
Following the split, nurses, audiologists and their supervisors — a majority of whom had voted in favor of the contract — will be covered by the new contract, which provides raises of up to 20% by 2026.
“The OT/PT chapter will now stand alone and, as a result, the situation has changed significantly. We now feel strongly about having a revote only for your chapter,” Mulgrew wrote, using shorthand for occupational therapists and physical therapists in an email to their union chapter leadership Friday.
“Please note that the result of your chapter’s revote — no matter the outcome — will be final,” he wrote.
Pressure and Protest
The revote announcement follows weeks of pressure from Mulgrew for the chapter to give up on aspirations for a better deal with the city. The therapists chapter leadership had earlier protested Mulgrew’s revote proposal in a 5-1 resolution against it, with one abstention.
Mulgrew’s revote announcement prompted therapist chapter leader Melissa Williams to resign. She detailed her reasons in a letter sent to UFT leadership Monday night, calling a revote “undemocratic on its face.”
On Tuesday afternoon, two other therapist chapter executive board members, Loretta Conroy and Beth Salzman, told THE CITY they intend to resign from their leadership positions.
Williams added, referring to a law that bars public employees from going on strike, that “instead of inoculating us against fear of a prolonged fight and congratulating us about exercising the only leverage we have under the Taylor Law, a NO vote, the wheels of an unprecedented revote were already set in motion.”
Salzman and Conroy, who said they plan to submit their resignations imminently, were skeptical of Mulgrew’s pledge to honor the results of the chapter’s do-over election, no matter what they are.
“If he’s going to honor the revote, no matter what they are, why wouldn’t he honor the original vote?” Salzman said. “He’s basically telling everybody who originally voted ‘Well, sorry, we don’t trust that you made the right decision the first time and you’re gonna have to do it again.’”
Conroy said she is “resigning in complete disgust.”
‘Too Little Debate’
UFT spokesperson Alison Gendar told THE CITY in a text message on Tuesday that “an overwhelming number of OT/PT members requested a revote after they said they received all the pertinent information they needed about the contract negotiations.”
The therapists will vote via mail beginning August 8, and must return their ballots by Aug. 29.
Joshua Freeman, a municipal labor expert and professor emeritus at Queens College, noted that it’s not uncommon for unions to brush off dissent rather than debate tough issues, though he declined to comment directly on the therapists’ situation.
“I think there is a certain tendency for leaders of big unions not to want to have any opposition voices with platforms, and so they work to undermine them, whether that means breaking up a local or, you know, different ways of approaching that. And I think that’s a shame, because I think there’s too little debate within the labor movement.”
The 2,900 therapists and nurses represent a small portion of the 120,000-member union, whose members include teachers, social workers and other city Department of Education employees. Three-quarters of the overall UFT membership approved the new contract, the union announced earlier this month.