By James Eterno
Jamaica High School Chapter Leader
Report from UFT’s 5/7/14 Delegate Assemebly
I am going to dispense with my usual lengthy summary of what President Mulgrew said because you’ve already seen most of it in the UFT propaganda literature or you will hear it when union representatives come to your schools.
“Up until two months ago at the DA, Mulgrew was telling us that the city has money but they always say they are broke. I keep reading in the papers that the city surplus is growing.”
(Mulgrew in February)
“We look at the city’s fiscal numbers all the time; it is clear to us that there is money out there. We need our teachers to be paid at least at the level of the school districts around us, which we are not.”)
I continued: “The city is not in bad shape financially so why are we settling for so little. If we take out the 4% + 4% for the first two years that just equals the last pattern (and we won’t see until between 2015 and 2020), the pattern we set for the rest of municipal labor is 10% total over 7 years.” That is the worst pattern in municipal labor history (at least as long as I have been around).” At this point, Mulgrew stopped me and said I was wrong. I responded that according to Robert’s Rules when I have the floor, he has no right to interrupt me. Mulgrew and UFT leadership from Unity caucus wasted this time violating process, instead of letting those against the contract speak.
This Contract is based on deferred payments. President Michael Mulgrew told us that we have had wages deferred before. He mentioned a wage deferral from 1991(in an email). Let’s go look at that deferral and compare it to the current proposal.
Back in 1990 we had a union friendly mayor who gave us a one year pattern bargaining busting raise of 5.5% however the economy was about to go into recession and the city soon thereafter found itself in a cash crisis. The city threatened to lay off thousands of teachers including me. To bail the city out, the UFT agreed to loan part of our raise to the city. In order for the city to get us to accept loaning them our money, they had to sweeten the deal.
In return for loaning the city much of our raise, we gained:
* An ironclad no layoff agreement
* The February midwinter recess (we used to work that week)
* The ability to retire directly after a sabbatical
* A very generous retirement incentive that gave people up to three years pension credit allowing those with thirty years in the system to leave as early as 52 years old
* 9% interest on the loan when we got the money back in 1996.
Thanks to the majority of the members of this union who agreed that solidarity with our most vulnerable members like me was important, my job and the jobs of thousands of other teachers were saved.
Let’s fast forward to today where again we have a union friendly mayor but now we have been beaten down by corporate school reform for a long time. The city again wants us to defer money. This time it is the 4% + 4% raises other unions got that we are owed since 2009. In addition we are setting the worst pattern in municipal union history that other city unions will have to swallow of 10% over 7 years. I look at the city budget and I don’t see a crisis. I see surpluses but let’s accept the premise that the money is tight.
If unions accept less money, then what are the sweeteners in this deal for us?
* Changing the use of the 37.5 minutes. By my count, the extended time provision has been reconfigured 6 times since it went into the contract in 2002. What makes anyone think this change of two days of professional development and parent outreach will be better than the tutoring or other uses of extended time? It is not a gain.
* Merit pay or career ladder. The ambassador teacher, model and master teachers just creates different classes of teachers. It flies in the face of union solidarity. We are one union. Funny how there is money for merit pay and the hard to staff school differential but not for our raises. As for the argument that it isn’t really merit pay, paying select teachers more than their peers is merit pay. Don’t they need to be highly effective or effective which means it will be based in large part on student test scores? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it usually is a duck.
* We get a curriculum. Not exactly a gain. We also now have to write unit plans.
* Up to 200 schools will be run like charter schools with short contracts. I thought the UFT started a charter school to show how schools can succeed if they follow the contract. Now we want to run schools like charter schools without contracts.
* Slightly altering Danielson but still basing our ratings in part on student test scores. No gain there as now the whole lousy evaluation system is part of the contract.
* No interest on the deferred money unlike in 1991 when we got 9%.
* An insulting severance package for ATRs.
* Weaker tenure for ATRs. Two documented occurrences of “problematic behavior” and we are in a 3020a hearing. This provision divides the union into two types of membership; regular and ATR. It’s antithetical to union solidarity. We are one union; we should have one tenure system for all of us. If this new system for ATRs is so good like the President says, why not give it to everyone? How can one argue this isn’t worse than a major giveback?
If we are deferring our money, where are the gains? Where are the sweeteners? All I see is the acceptance of the basic tenets of Bloombergism but tweaking them a bit. Those are not gains.
In 1990, The DA rejected a loan to the city and sent the Negotiating Committee back to the table to get a better offer. They did. In 1995 against a tough mayor, the membership rejected a contract and got a better offer a few months later that had a retirement incentive, a 25 year longevity reduced to 22 and a 5% reduction in new teacher pay was eliminated. Where are our sweeteners now?
Yes these are tough times for unions and educators but this union has a choice: we can accept this contract which basically leaves the Bloomberg anti-teacher system in place or we can follow the lead of the teachers in Portland, Oregon and St Paul, Minnesota who have fought back and gotten better deals for their schools including lower class sizes. The UFT did better in 1991 after this DA rejected an original loan proposal and we did better in 1995 when the membership voted down a contract. We can do better now.
The contract is bad enough on its own. We don’t need to say anything that isn’t true. This is what UFT Welfare Fund Director Arthur Pepper said on healthcare.
Arthur Pepper reported that the UFT found the necessary savings the city wanted so there will be no effect on members. We will have the same access to doctors, hospitals and the drug plan won’t change. There will be no premium for members.
Sadly Leroy Barr’s mom passed away so our thoughts and prayers go out to Leroy and his family.
Join us Saturday May 10th 12-3pm 224 West 29th st NYC 14th floor to discuss the contract, learn more details,and plan our vote no campaign because we can do better!