The Contract We Do Not Deserve

May 5, 2014 — 28 Comments

by Mike Schirtzer, Teacher/Delegate, Leon Goldstein HS

Deferred Raises in the 2014 UFT Contract


The UFT and City of New York finally came to an agreement. In fact, the UFT Facebook celebrated by proclaiming “the wait is over” and it’s “the contract for education”. Unfortunately, this is not the contract we deserve, and it is no reason for a victory lap. Simply put, the retroactive pay is delayed until 2020, the raises are deferred until 2018, and New York City educators are left with 5 years of pay freezes and “raises” that don’t even keep up with the cost of living in New York. We have not received a raise in 5 years and now are being told to celebrate because we finally have one! This is not a fair contract and clearly not the raise and back pay we deserve. Our costs from milk to gas to utilities to our children’s colleges, have skyrocketed and all we can celebrate is a 2% pay increase starting in September.  This is a demeaning insult to our profession.

Most other unions received 4% raises in 2009 and 2010, deservedly so.  When the mayor and the UFT president stood on the podium telling us how we were all getting full retroactive pay, the first thought that went through our heads was “Good, when I come back in September, I’ll have the 8% factored into my salary and the large retroactive check on the way.” Then they announced that there would be a 1% raise owed to us for 2013 and 1% raise for 2014. Those numbers didn’t seem fair. We all know inflation is more than 1% a year. The very next thought in our heads was “4% + 4 % +2% = 10%.” Right away we assumed that, in September we would have 10 percent added to our salaries, plus that retro check ready to be cashed. At least then we would have some reason to cheer. Now that the facts are out, and we see the UFT chart (above), we realized that none of this is true. If you need a chart to explain retroactive pay, raises, and all sorts of strange bonuses,  therein lies the problem.  A salary increase and retro should never have to be explained by graphs, formulas, and charts


The math is simple, our “raises” amount to less than 2% a year. Our retroactive will be paid in  five payments, up until 2020.  What good does that do for us now in 2014?  We want to live in New York City and thrive here. In order to do so we must be able to keep up with the Joneses. All we want is what our police, firefighter, and other union friends already have. We want a raise and retro that we are due. We have put up with a storm of failed education policies, from common core to a new evaluation system that does more harm than good, years and years of incompetent or even abusive principals, closing schools, and negative press. The last thing we should tell the UFT members is that this is the best we can do.


The city can afford these raises, it’s not our job to help the city out, because no one has told the millionaires  that they should help out by giving back their bonuses or pay more in taxes. Why is it that the teachers should suffer while everyone gets raises. Apparently they have created a new class of teachers “ambassador, model, master” who will make more than the rest. Now teachers are going to be tripping over each other just to get this extra money, because the actual contract is so bad. So what they are  telling us is what we’re doing right now is not good enough, we need to do more just to get this extra money. How will they decide who is a master teacher  and who is not, by more testing, the flawed ratings, who the principal likes the most? The city can somehow afford merit pay, but not our full raises and retro. They can also afford to waste millions of dollars on terrible curriculum, test prep books, danielson training, common core meetings, and consultants, none of which have a positive impact on our children.


We were strapped with a terrible evaluation system, yet this deal does nothing to address it. Cookie cutter rubrics, test based evaluations were failures when first started and will still be failures after this proposed contract. Most teachers still can’t figure how they’re being evaluated, and most administrators can’t even figure out how to even evaluate us properly. Teachers were miserable this year.  They have a scripted common core curriculum, non-stop testing not aligned to the curriculum, administrators using teachers as guinea pigs for an evaluation system that is flawed.  They became “experts” on the Danielson rubric by attending webinars, and morale in our schools has never been lower. This contract was an opportunity to say to us “we care about what you do and we value it,” instead it says, “you are worth less than everybody else.”


There are teachers who ended up as ATRs due to no fault of their own. They have been sent from school to school every week, made to do menial tasks, frustrated because they can’t do what they love, and treated like second class citizens with little to no help from our union leadership. Now we’re going to look at them and say in addition to your terrible treatment we’re also setting up  different rules for you than other teachers.  Let’s be clear, the charter school billionaires are insistent on closing down our public schools, or stealing space inside schools, so they can operate their for-profit charters. Look at the the three million dollar campaign they launched against DeBlasio. Look at how they bought off Cuomo. This is not going away. That means each and every one of us could be an ATR tomorrow. Under the new contract ATRs will have a different set of rules than those still in their schools. An injury to one is an injury to all. We can’t stand idly by while our friends are being sold out. An ATR can be anyone of us.


We love being educators. We do it for the children, but we also have to pay our bills. Asking for a raise that keeps up with the cost of living is nothing to be embarrassed about. Getting the retroactive pay that everyone else has shouldn’t take a chart and formula to explain. We want a decent life for our family. We want to be able to live where we work and we want to feel respected for a change. When we were children, teachers were held on a pedestal. We never berate our teachers. Our parents would have yelled at us for even thinking about that. Let’s demand a contract that builds up morale, that lets teachers know they are still valued, that makes our public schools the best that they can be.


The city and UFT must go back to the drawing board. It’s easy: throw away the graphs and formulas and come to us with a deal that says “here are your raises, here is your retro, here is everything you deserve.” Otherwise we vote NO!


28 responses to The Contract We Do Not Deserve


    You know what’s the real insult to the profession? Allowing monster principal Lead Acad grads to run rampant over teacher rights. The UFT has helped leave teachers weaponless and here was a chance to do something about it and instead this contract enshrines principal power and other Bloomberg deforms.


    I am crossing fingers and hoping the Memorandum of Agreement has wording on increased protections.


      UNITY doesn’t care about its members….. they are leeches that simply suck our money every payday!!! You want protection… Mulgrew and his Unity team out of town!!!


    Please make people aware of the following since this mess is too confusing for most people to understand.

    We are not receiving the same pay as the fire, police, sanitation, etc. Ignoring the past 5 years that they have already been banking all of their extra pay(or paying bills, investing, etc). They will be making 8% more than us next year, 6% more in 2016, 4% more in 2017, and 2% more in 2018 until we finally reach the same level as all other unions. This is money we will never see. We are talking about close to $20,000 of lost wages for people making top salary. The city is actually making us pay for our own raises and retro by giving us the raise from 09-2014 and then dropping our pay back down to 09 levels and adding 2% each year. If we use pattern bargaining how can the other unions be allowed to have their raises when we don’t?


    In your blog you mention that the Proposed contract does not address the teacher evaluation. Were you sleeping when we were told that the teacher evaluation would focus on 8 components rather then the 22, artifacts were no longer being collected and that admin must give you feedback in 15 days with a write up in 45 days and they can’t abusively observe you without giving you the feedback. Have you not read Diane Ravitchs blog where she commended the UFT and City for a contract that brought back professionalism steering away from the over testing preperations concentrating in Parent engagement? You concentrate a lot on the financial portion of this blog attacking the UFT for not thinking about our membership , ignoring the fact that we are receiving everything owed but you don’t discuss the fact that those lump sums you talk so much about would be detrimental for the city you say you love so much leaving our brothers and sisters in other Unions without a deserved raise. Is it Solodarity only when it fits your benefits? How about we concentrate on the factual positives of this contract before attacking it.


      because the “factual Positives” as you say, don’t make up for all the negatives of this contract. As ;you say, teacher evals and administration responsibility should be changed, but we should also get what is owed to us and in a timely fashion. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and wonder what happened.


      Dave, last year we were offered 8 components by Mike Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo. Mike Mulgrew turned down 8 in favor of 22 and the artifacts. Now, we get back what we were offered by Bloomberg and Cuomo and Mulgrew has the audacity to treat that like a victory. And test scores will still comprise a huge amount of our effectiveness rating. In return we have to wait 11 total years to get money we were owed in 2009. Take your head out of the Unity sand and vote No.


      Dave, I completely agree with you. It would be detrimental for the city to pay the lump sums that would leave our brothers and sisters in other unions without a deserved raise. It makes perfect sense for the UFT to not get any raise before their fellow unions can get a second raise. Solidarity all the way!


        why weren’t our brothers and sisters in the other unions supporting us when we were 5 years without a contract?


        Wouldn’t Bloomberg and all his cronies love for the labor unions (who formed solidarity as a way to protect them selves from anti union groups) to become divided over this. This contract offers all of us the retro all of us increases and protections in our jobs.
        Vote Yes for the Contract!


        Solidarity…….what is that? Is that when UNITY hacks get paid unbelievable salaries to do nothing for the members!!! yea…I got it… is legalized theft. Down with Unity……um disunity!

    Evelyn liell May 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    You are absolutely right. This contract is an insult to our intelligence. 11 years!!! How dare they think that we are so desperate we would accept anything. 2020? We won’t even the same contract. It expires in 2018. How could anyone be happy with the pittance they are offering us? Cops, fireman, and sanitation would never ever accept this slap in the face.


    The fact is that this is a good contract. The “just say no” caucus is afraid that they will become irrelevant once it is ratified. Once people start to receive pay raises, the MORE caucus will be an artifact. And starting next year artifacts don’t get collected.


    If Michael Mulgrew doesn’t represent the weakest of our members the ATRs he won’t represent me when I need him! This contract is bogus. Even a 4th grade doing Pearson Math can see we are being robbed of the money owed to us. Vote NO to the contract. I will make damn sure I will Vote Mike Mulgrew out of office in 2016! He doesn’t represent me!

    iTeachNYCkids May 5, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    All of those improvements to our working conditions (examples: Ability to grieve paperwork, another ability to grieve not being given a curriculum, another extra time to engage parents and extra time to complete paperwork without adding any time to our work day/year) but all of that and more is ignored. The focus you have is on the way the money works and pretending like the retro payments are incomplete. The money has you desiring a NO vote. You guys need to rethink your seemingly abandoned slogan “Our working conditions are our students learning conditions”. A new suggestion is “Show me the Money $$$”.


    10% Now! No deferred raises.

    Go Back to the Bargaining Table

    After 6 years without an increase in the salary schedule

    The tentative agreement leaves NYC teachers with:

    The highest class size in NY State

    The lowest median salary in the NYC metropolitan area

    The lowest rate of retention in NY state

    Free public space for hedge fund charters
    while public schools students are crammed into decrepit trailers

    All this in the richest city in the nation!

    Its the “tale of two cities” in contract form

    Vote No and send UFT representatives back to the bargaining table.

    Smiley faces at City Hall and Tweed don’t pay the rent!

      iTeachNYCkids May 6, 2014 at 12:41 am

      Now compare us to other cities in the nation. Where teachers in excess are fired based on timelines, teachers pay out of pocket for a percentage of their health care, they’re not gaining new rights they don’t have class size limits in their contracts…. Vote YES don’t be mislead.


        Ah yes….fear is a great form of motivation!!! Is that UNITY’s game plan for its members!!
        Go back to the tables and let us try again…ONCE is NOT enough!!

    iTeachNYCkids May 6, 2014 at 12:13 am

    Below is how the retro pay and salary increases work:

    Our retro continues to accrue until all 4 of the 2% retro salary increases in 2018. With each of the retro 2% increases the percentage of retro goes down 2%. Further the 1% 1% 1% 1.5% 2.5% and 3% increases are calculated as if the 4% and 4% raises were in our salary and not being paid through retro payments. In 2018 our salaries will be there and the in 2020 we will have recovered every penny we were owed. We have to vote YES NOW! We have to be focused on getting the next contract on time. Re-elect Bill


    It seems to me like voting yes to this proposal is crazy. 50% of your retro pay won’t be given to you until AFTER the contract is over! Do you really trust the bureaucrats of this city to keep their promises? We might not even have the same mayor. Sorry but I’m not willing to gamble with my hard-earned money. And I have NO shame in saying “show me the money”. Of course I care about my students which is why I have continued to educate them with love and passion despite the many ridiculous policy changes (botched common core implementation, new teacher evaluation system, overload of tests, etc) and constant berating from the former mayor and media….all while receiving NO raise and having NO contract. My cost of living and inflation sure have gone up though and these raises they’re giving us don’t even begin to even it out. Giving the teachers what they deserve up front is not going to “financially destroy” the city as some would like you to believe.


    iTeachNYCkids, where are you getting your information? Nothing shown so far has said anything about what happens to the 8% we should be making after 2015. They were including that then the $40k Mulgrew said top salary people would get is actually closer to $57k.

    jennifer Portalatin May 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I teach nyc kids is a troll….. ignore


    Underpaid, hardworking manager here at NYCTA – it’s still better than us: no raises in 7 years while our unions all got raises….and nothing in sight for the future


    i’ve been teaching since 2009, fortunate enough to get a job even though there was a freeze on hiring in my subject area. I didn’t even realize that I had been working outside of a contract that whole time, until it became an issue that was brought up in the mayoral election. i’m pleased to know that the retro pay will eventually be compensated, and i understand why it will be dispersed over time, but it really irks me that the raises that they say we are currently entitled to are also being kicked down the road and spread out over years. I just don’t see the logic in that. After five years of teaching I know that I have chosen the right profession, and love the job, but finances are such a drag that I’m not sure how much longer I can afford living in NYC. Between rents skyrocketing, student loan payments piling up, and wages that have not kept up with inflation, my concern is less about retro pay and more about having enough money in my account today that I don’t start doubting my choice to teach in New York. If the city says we deserve a raise, then give us the raise! backpay i can wait for, an adjustment to my salary to reflect what I should be earning in 2014 is something I need now.

    Lamar Hughes May 7, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I pose one question for everyone who is against this proposal:

    1) Keeping in mind these are contract *negotiations*, we have to be willing to give up something if we want to receive a higher and quicker retro payment.

    What are you willing to give up?

    Vote yes. This proposal is the first of many steps in making us whole.


    I’m opening up a food truck

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Left Labor Reporter | After five years, NYC and teachers union reach a tentative agreement. - May 6, 2014

    […] Members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators, a caucus of UFT members opposed to Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus, called the tentative agreement, “the contract we do not deserve” and urged members to reject it. […]

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