Friday, November 24, 2017

Trust in Allah, but Tie Your Camel

That's an Arabian proverb. It may be easy for many to trust in Allah, but here in the United States we're expected to trust in President Donald Trump. This is the guy who, for years, criticized President Barack Obama for playing golf. I just read that Trump has spent his hundredth day on vacation, playing gold at his own property at our expense. That's a pretty sweet deal. Not only do you bill the American public for your vacation, but you also profit from it.

Tying your camel, these days, is not enough. And a union has decided much the same. President Donald Trump has told us that if the corporate tax break goes down, working stiffs like them would see a $4,000 raise. After all, their tax rate would go from 35% to 20%, cutting their liabilities almost in half. Surely companies like AT&T and Verizon would be more than happy to share the joy.

Here's the thing--Since 1980, when Saint Ronald Reagan was President, corporate tax rates have gone steadily downward. You'd think the middle class would be swimming in cash by now. After all, it's supposed to trickle down. The rich people get more money, they spread it around, and voila! All of a sudden union workers have tons of extra cash.

The only drawback, really, is that this never happened. Since the Times of Saint Reagan, middle class wages, adjusted for inflation, have remained stagnant. Things get better and better for the people on the top, but those of us in the middle haven't moved anywhere. In fact, it's kind of remarkable, given history, that anyone would muster the audacity to propose this trickle down nonsense at all. There's a quote attributed to H.L. Mencken, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

I never felt particularly comfortable with that quote, but as you read this, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. And those very companies, AT&T and Verizon, appear to be on the verge of a sweetheart deal in which they can pretty much control an internet from which they're already profiting handsomely.

I love the audacity of this union. Put your money where your mouth is, they say. In good times, we demand to share in the prosperity. This is a stark contrast with NYC. In our last contract, if you discount the double 4% raises given most city workers, UFT accepted 10% over 7 years. As James Eterno announced at the DA, that is the lowest pattern bargain in history. Not only did we end up imposing that on NYPD, FDNY, and everyone else, but this was what we negotiated from the friendliest mayor we'd had in 20 years. This man, Bill de Blasio, who regularly gets painted as the Red Menace, managed to win a pattern bargain Giuliani and Bloomberg could only have wet dreams about.

This other union is in the New York Times, making demands. When I go to the UFT Executive Board and ask for fewer observations for well-rated teachers, I'm told we can't possibly make any demands whatsoever. That, after all, would impose on the sanctity of the sacred Committee of 300, whose delicate and precise machinations are the stuff of legend. Also, because it's so top secret, no one on the committee can tell UFT members what the hell is even going on.

During a year when members will have the option to stop paying dues, UFT leadership tells beleaguered teachers it's no time to be making demands. Evidently, the only time demands can be made is during a top secret process about which the overwhelming majority of UFT members know absolutely nothing. Is it me, or can you too see how that might be a drawback in the quest to inspire members to voluntarily pay dues?

Oddly, the de Blasio administration, like Bloomberg's, has no qualms about making public demands. Last I heard, they were offering NYPD a 4.25% raise over four years, to be funded entirely by givebacks. In essence, they were offering nothing. I don't know what NYPD has to give back, but UFT has already given until it hurts. Primary in my mind is the ATR, which causes all sorts of maladies in working teachers.

UFT leadership wants a blank check for negotiation. We aren't allowed to know what they demand. We're supposed to trust them, and we aren't even allowed to see the camel, let alone tie it. I'm not privy to the high-level discussions that take place in AdCom, and being a high school teacher, we have no elected representation there. I could be part of the Committee of 300, where I'd likely be outvoted 99 to 1, but I'd still be prohibited from telling you what we did there (if anything).

I'm not sure that's how I'd present our future to the members if I were fighting for survival. And make no mistake, that's what all of us are doing. You'd think our captain would at least let us in on which direction we were steering the ship.

But you'd be wrong.
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