Monday, August 18, 2014

Take the Money and Run

I'm friendly with a pretty savvy ATR. I won't tell you his name, I won't tell you precisely who he's connected with, but I will tell you he knows people. In June, he met with a financial adviser and decided to take the ATR buyout. This way, he told me, he'd get not only the 19K or whatever it was, but he'd also get the retro pay that isn't retro pay. (It's explained a little here--not calling it retro in the actual language is how UFT and DOE rationalized excluding those who resigned, were fired, or moved into admin.)

I was pretty surprised when he told me last week he'd changed his mind, and had decided not to take the buyout. I asked him why and he told me he was no longer taking the deal. He told me that he'd come to the conclusion Bill de Blasio's second term, at this point, was not precisely a sure thing. He'd decided that if de Blasio did not make it to term two, the person who defeated him could be particularly vile, up to and including Eva Moskowitz.

Although the city may be sitting on a surplus, despite Michael Mulgrew telling teachers the "cupboard was bare" when presenting us a clearly substandard contract, there is a longstanding tradition of the city pleading poverty before the surplus appears.

In fact, while Bloomberg, for years, was denying us the 8% raise most other city unions got in 2008-2010 (most of which we'll get, interest-free, in five years), he used his fake budget crisis to rationalize and threaten layoffs. That's why ATR teachers were sent week to week school to school. I couldn't vote for this deal despite assurances from multiple UFT Unity acquaintances that the city was not competent enough to pull it off. Of course, they were wrong again.

My friend envisions a scenario in which the city pleads crisis and welches on the retro pay that isn't retro pay. Should all the other unions follow the pattern we established, the worst in my living memory, that means by 2018 new ones will be needed. And yet, due to our deal, huge payments will be due those of us who haven't resigned or died. This could be cited as a hardship by a hostile mayor, and an unwillingness to pay could either end up in court or in a negotiation with our ever-flexible UFT Unity Leadership Dynasty.

It's not out of the question. Wasn't it Mulgrew, rather than management, who told us retro was "not a God-given right?" Wasn't Mulgrew the guy telling us the "cupboard was bare?" Since we're getting anti-raise talk from leadership already, who's to say they won't ask us for sacrifice in the future, by which time they may have decided we've forgotten, or are meek enough to once again settle for the best they could do?

Remember, this is the very same leadership that includes "punch in the face" Mike Mulgrew, who just mustered the audacity to declare Common Core opponents, who include the likes of Diane Ravitch, to conspiracy theorists who imagined CCSS was concocted by spaceships from Mars.

Is this scenario likely? I certainly hope not. But my friend isn't a lunatic either. I can assure you he keeps a very sharp eye on what's good for him, and he's decided waiting until 2020 is an unacceptable risk.

Our leader now says that retro isn't a "God-given right," which basically means we can't count on the pattern bargaining that's formed the basis for contracts for decades. And this is what he says with a relatively labor-friendly mayor. For six years, screwed by Bloomberg, I didn't see the punchiness. We managed to not only accept a junk science rating system without one, but also to allow it to be dictated by Reformy John King rather than negotiated. And despite largely missing the bus on the rather favorable pattern our other union brothers and sisters negotiated, we managed to also negotiate a huge giveback, to wit, second-tier due process for our ATR members.

Is my friend being influenced by spaceships from Mars, or does history, including breaches of contract for teacher pension and working conditions elsewhere, suggest he may be right?
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