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In What’s Being Described As A ‘Union Victory,’ A NYS State Supreme Court Justice Rules Against Buffalo School Board Attempt To Remove Negotiated Cosmetic Surgery Benefit From Teachers Federation’s Contract

Published Thursday, June 30, 2016
by BTF News Release & Staff

(BUFFALO) – In what’s being described as a Union victory for the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF), New York State Supreme Court Justice Tracey Bannister issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) Wednesday (June 29th) that “enjoins and restrains” the Buffalo School District from “terminating the cosmetic surgery provision of the parties’ Collective Bargaining Agreement, pending disposition of the grievance and arbitration.”

This puts the School Board’s decision to unilaterally remove a section of the BTF-District Collective Bargaining Agreement on hold until a final decision on a BTF grievance is made by an arbitrator or the Board rescinds its action, BTF Representatives said.

Working without a contract for more than 11 years now, the BTF Executive Committee and Council of Delegates, which includes Union Representatives from each and every one of Buffalo’s Public Schools, announced in late January that it had unanimously rejected the Buffalo Board of Education's latest contract proposal. 

The BTF criticized the Buffalo School Board after it provided a public update on contract negotiations, saying the Board Has “shown ‘how little they value’ Teachers” by asking them to work more hours, agree to a 20% increase in workload and pay more for health care. 

"Teachers were ‘furious, angry and insulted’ when they saw the District's contract offer," BTF President Phil Rumore said.  "It was like a ‘slap in the face.’” 

In regards to State Supreme Court Justice Bannister’s ruling, the BTF had successfully showed that in at least 10 cases there would be irreparable harm to Teachers or their families had the cosmetic surgery provision been removed unilaterally, including:

  • The one-year-old daughter of a Teacher who was severely burned.  While some of the medical treatments may be covered by parts of the standard medical policy, the cosmetic aspects of treatment to prevent permanent scarring and treatment should be performed immediately, the Union argued.  Most are not covered by other sections of the policy, they said.
  • Teachers who have a family history of skin cancer and who have had Basal Cell Carcinomas removed are receiving laser or chemical treatments to prevent pre-cancerous growths from forming on the face.
  • Severe, chronic and painful acne treated to prevent and reduce severe scarring.
  • Treatment for Venous Insufficiency, which not only causes great pain, but has the potential of causing blood clots is covered under the cosmetic provision.

“Anyone with a ‘modicum of intelligence’ knows that you ‘can’t just remove something from a contract to which you’ve agreed.’  Obviously, those that proposed this ‘illegal act’ (the current School Board Majority) ‘don’t even meet the modicum level of intelligence,’” BTF President Rumore said. “While many think the cosmetic surgery provision is ‘just for facelifts,’ it is also for the ‘prevention’ of ‘severe’ scarring, pre-and-post skin cancer treatments, the ‘prevention’ of blood clots and more.  The current Board Majority has not only ‘shown its contempt’ for Teachers, they are also attempting to make the new Board (which takes office today - July 1st) ‘look bad’ when the new Board Majority ‘overturns this clear violation’ of law.  In the process, they’re attempting to do ‘irreparable harm’ to Teachers.  This action has ‘angered all Teachers,’ making negotiations ‘much more difficult.’  The current majority seems to have ‘forgotten’ the BTF ‘gave up something’ to have this in the contract.  It was ‘not given as a gift.’”

Rumore, meanwhile, thanked New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Attorneys Jim Bilik, Laura Delaney, Chris Scoville and Claire Sellers for what he described as “their invaluable work on behalf of Buffalo Teachers.”

A subsequent e-mail to Buffalo Teachers from Rumore read: We were successful in obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the District preventing the Board majority from harming our Teachers and continuing their attacks on us.  A special thank you goes out to the Teachers who contacted us with examples of what might be considered irreparable harm and a very special thank you to those 11 Teachers who agreed to let their names be used in our court papers.  Without them, our motion for a Temporary Restraining Order would not have been successful and many Teachers would have been harmed.  The court has set August 2nd for an update to see if the Board has rescinded their illegal act.  If not, we believe the court will continue the TRO until such time as we have closure with the grievance and/or arbitration. We will keep you up-to-date as events transpire.  Thank you again to those courageous Teachers who were instrumental in our victory and to the great NYSUT attorneys who worked with us. Editor’s Note: For More on This Labor News Story, Read Your On-Line Labor Newspaper’s January 30th Labor News Report, Headlined: Buffalo Teachers Federation Rejects Latest Contract Offer, Calls Buffalo School Board’s Proposal “An Insult” & “Slap In The Face”



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