Sunday, March 21, 2010

Was It Worth It, and Did We Even Get It?

 by special guest blogger Michael Fiorillo

In recent years UFT members have repeatedly been told how good we have it, how effective the union has been, and how generous the city has been with us. The Mayor, the Chancellor and the UFT /Unity leadership rarely lose an opportunity to remind us how many resources  have been directed to the schools under mayoral control.  In fact, when asked why the union agreed to mayoral control of the schools in 2002, both Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew  say that it was done to bring more funding. In particular, they never miss an opportunity to tell us how we’ve been showered with money. In the September 6th, 2007 edition of the New York Teacher, Randi Weingarten wrote in regard to the recently agreed-to contract, “These raises will bring the  total base salary increase since 2002 to at least 43 percent.”

That’s the phrase we keep hearing over and over from the Mayor , the Chancellor,  the UFT/Unity leadership and their official stenographers in the mainstream media : 43% since 2002!

Leaving aside  the  strong hint of extortion that  hovers  behind this (“Give me dictatorial control or we’ll continue to  starve the schools you work in or give you a new contract”), are these numbers even true?

In fact, the mighty 43%  is a fiction that serves the propaganda interests of both the Bloomberg/Klein regime and the UFT /Unity leadership. Here’s why it’s false:

-       Tweed and the Unity leadership both date the start of our raises with the 2002  contract. While technically true, they conveniently ignore the fact that teachers were working without a contract for the previous two years, and had not received a raise since 1999. Thus, our increases should be computed over an eleven, not eight, year period.  This effectively reduces the percentage.

-       Additionally, part of those increases was paid for with additional time, which      
makes it an exchange of time for money, not a bona fide raise. A pay
raise is more money for the same amount of work (unless, of course, you work at City Hall, Tweed or 52 Broadway). Approximately eight percent
of the so-called 43% was a time-for-money swap: thirty minutes
added to the length of the school day, and the two days before Labor Day (one of
which has been pushed to the end of the school year, the other paid for with a
reduction in the interest paid by the TDA Guaranteed plan).

-       According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics , the Consumer Price Index for
The NY Metropolitan Area between 2000 and 2010  showed a decline in purchasing power of 25%. . Also keep in mind that the CPI understates inflation by leaving out food and energy costs.

So, our increases should be measured over eleven, not eight , years, should account for the extra time we are working, as well as the effects of inflation.  An honest accounting would show  real average increases of 3.6% (rounded up) instead to of the officially touted 5.4%.

Now, while that 3.6% average gain is far better than most people have seen in this era of attacks on wages and living standards, keep in mind what else we’ve given up and been subjected to: loss of seniority transfers and the emergence of  the career-destroying ATR pool, loss of the right to grieve letters  in our personnel files, union acceptance of merit pay,  an explosion in the number  of teachers placed in the rubber rooms,  rampant school closings , charter invasions, UFT/Unity passivity in the overriding of term limits,  Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew’s unilateral support for extending  mayoral dictatorship of the schools (in clear contradiction of the recommendations of their very own governance committee), and a de facto endorsement of Bloomberg’s purchasing a third term.

So to answer the question posed by the title: no, it wasn’t worth it, and we didn’t even get it.
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