Friday, November 04, 2016

Who to Blame for the Miserable Pattern Bargain?

In the Daily News there's been a series of union leaders speaking out on whether or not Bill de Blasio deserves re-election. My friends at ICE-UFT blog chimed in and said the mayor doesn't deserve unconditional support. I'd argue that no politician alive deserves unconditional support. I was a great fan of Bernie Sanders, but even he was relatively blind to education issues.

Now the last pattern was 10% over 7 years. James Eterno, who writes most of the ICE blog, told UFT President Michael Mulgrew that was the lowest pattern ever. Mulgrew, even in the best traditions of civilized discourse, called him a liar and turned off his microphone. Yet I cannot recall a worse pattern in our history, and I've been around over 30 years.

I'd argue that it's de Blasio's job to lowball us, and that it's Mulgrew's job to counter with something more reasonable. But here's the thing--the UFT had utterly missed out on the last round of bargaining, and had missed the two-year 8% deal Bloomberg had granted to NYPD, FDNY, and most other city unions. So rather than the miserable 10% over 7 years, Mulgrew could present a fair-to-middling 18% over 9 years. It sounded just mediocre if you ignored the pattern he was imposing on everyone else.

It was not Bill de Blasio, but rather Michael Mulgrew who sold this thing to us. There were various sales pitches. One was that retro pay is not a God-given right. That, of course, is the sort of argument we should have heard from management rather than our own leadership. Mulgrew's job, I'd say, would be to argue precisely the opposite. Another was that if we didn't take this deal, we'd have to get behind 151 other unions and wait. That was a particularly weak argument, given that we're waiting until 2020 to get paid anyway.

In fact, that argument is even weaker when you consider how low the pattern was that Mulgrew negotiated. I remember being angry with DC37 for accepting the double zero contract that UFT had rejected. In fact, it turned out that they'd cooked the books to get that thing to pass, and some of their leaders actually went to jail over it. This notwithstanding, that pattern was better than this one. So we may as well have gotten in back of the line, because it's hard to imagine anyone doing worse.

Mulgrew also told us the cupboard was bare, which it turned out not to be. That, also, ought to have been an argument from the city rather than from union leadership. In fact there seems to be a pattern of the cupboard being bare around negotiation time and then the mayor finds a billion dollars lying around the Gracie Mansion couch cushions. We merit not even a simple "oopzie" when that happens.

Of course this is an adversarial process. It certainly appears that we, the UFT, and we, organized labor lost this round. I'm surprised the NY Post, instead of criticizing de Blasio for being a socialist hippie weirdo, doesn't erect a statue declaring him to be the savior of public funds against us, the evil unions.

If you want to criticize de Blasio for something, try the tone of Tweed, unchanged utterly from that of Bloomberg. Try criticizing the fact that there are a whole lot of holdovers from Bloomberg's miserable, anti-teacher, anti-union administration. Criticize the choice of an old Bloomberg employee for chancellor.

But if you want to blame someone for the contract, it's not Bill de Blasio. In fact, it's not Michael Mulgrew either. That rests squarely on our shoulders. We voted for it, three to one. We chose to believe the threats. We chose to ignore the fact that the only time we rejected a contract, we managed to improve it, allowing teachers to reach maximum pay three years earlier, even though leadership said anyone who thought they could do better must be "smoking something."

The fact is we made our bed, so we can't blame Bill de Blasio for failing to drop a mint on our pillow.
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