Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Who Pays for Mulgrew's Retiree Screw-up?

 As it stands, working UFT members pick up the tab to pay retirees what Mulgrew promised. I know personally several retirees who are counting on that money and promise. They have to be paid, and it's better Mulgrew break a promise to us than them at this time.

That said, where should the money really come from? There's no question in my mind it should come from the employer, the city of New York. However, the negotiating skills of leadership, or lack thereof, have made that impossible. There are reasons we pay folks like Michael Mulgrew several times our salaries. I don't mind that either. What I do mind is when they don't do their jobs.

In fact, it is a primary job of leadership to negotiate contracts. Our leadership went six years without doing so, and did so during a period when the city pattern was 4 and 4, incredibly favorable during a tough economic time. When they finally negotiated something, they managed to make us wait an entire decade more than most city employees, and to top it off, didn't even get us interest.

Mulgrew's defenders blame Bloomberg, who was every bit the son of a bitch they make him out to be. To take them at their word, there was nothing Mulgrew could do. I believe that. One reason is that, with a labor-friendly mayor, Mulgrew managed to negotiate a new pattern of 10% over 7 years, a real stinker, and dump it on most of our brother and sister unionists.

Let's not forget that, even with the abysmal compensation leadership got us, there were significant givebacks. ATR teachers, already disheartened by the endless wandering negotiated by UFT Unity, are now subject to second-tier due process. If two principals determine they are problematic, and the example Mulgrew gives is shouting in the hall, they are subject to a one-day 3020a process. Second-tier due process is counter to any concept of union I've ever heard of, but it's fine with Michael Mulgrew, who continues to propose "fast but fair" dismissal hearings. Everyone knows one day is fast, but there's no evidence whatsoever that it's fair.

As if that weren't enough, ATR teachers are terminated immediately for failure to attend two mandatory interviews, and I'm getting reports of at least one case in which that has already happened. 

How much will the concessions cost working UFT members? A friend who's better with numbers than I am suggests the following:

If they're withholding 3% if our income for a 3 pay periods it's simple enough. Take your net pay per check and multiple by .09. Or just take ten percent of your take home pay. A teacher on max probably takes home over 3 grand per check. So that's $300. Probably $500 before taxes. 100,000 teachers times 500 equals $50M so the balance is probably interest for those 6 weeks, pension related, interest on the withheld lump sum for 1/2 year, etc.

So that's 500 bucks. Personally, I would rather pay it than see promises broken to retirees. Better 500 from me than who knows how much from someone who retired counting on Mulgrew's promise. And 500 over years doesn't have the same value as 500 tomorrow. However, this only accentuates the fact that the tens of thousands many of us are owed right now will not be as valuable when and if we are finally paid.

More importantly, this means leadership screwed up yet again by placing a significantly inaccurate number value on what recent retirees would get. Who would've thunk that many retirees would opt to take the money up front rather than wait another six years to get it in dribs and drabs? Who would've contemplated the fact that Mayor de Blasio may not be in office in 2019 and that we might face the prospect of trying to extract huge payments from a hostile mayor who might declare an emergency?

I'd say a whole lot of people. Of course, I'm not UFT President, and like the overwhelming majority of UFT members, my viewpoint is not represented at all. So yes, let's pay the retirees. But how about some symbol of shared sacrifice from leadership? How about fewer perks? What if, for example, the next time there's a trip to LA, rather than dragging along 800 loyalty-oath signing, first-class hotel staying, plane-ticket buying rubber stamps, that Mulgrew go himself, and cast the 800 votes? There's a couple mil back in the union coffers that could be redistributed to the members.

If we do that for the duration of the contract, we can all probably get close to our 500 bucks back. It's a win-win. Of course, if UFT admin has further or alternate suggestions to compensate us for their screw up, I'm all ears.

Related: This may not be the last revision to the contract we thought we'd voted on.
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