Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ten Things About UFT Paid Parental Leave

I support this agreement, and I'll explain why. I'll also address comments and questions I've been seeing and hearing.

1. We should get something for nothing.

I'm not opposed to that argument, actually. I'd love to get something for nothing.My Macbook Air, the one I'm using now, is falling apart and I've got it put together with Scotch tape, literally. I'm gonna have to replace it and it's gonna cost me a thousand bucks, even though I'm a great guy. We have given back 73 days to achieve a permanent benefit for our members. We have left this place a little better than it was before we had this agreement.

2. This means our raise is only 1.29% a year, or something like that.

I'm not sure I recall that figure correctly, but let's say it's true. There are several assumptions that go into that, and they aren't all bad. First, we've discounted the two years at 4% we'd have gotten if Bloomberg weren't such an asshole. If we hadn't, the annual raise would be closer to 2%. For the next seven years or so, we got 10% in raises, the lowest pattern I've ever heard of. People will tell you, "Hey, that sucks," and they'll be telling you the truth. Nonetheless, that's the deal UFT ratified. I don't think it's reasonable to conflate the last contract, which is old news, into this agreement.

We gave up a new contract, one we haven't got anyway, for precisely 73 days. I don't know about you, but it felt to me like we waited 73 years for the last one, and it sucked anyway. Hopefully we've learned from that, but whether we have or we haven't, I'm certainly ready to wait 73 days so that new parents can have six weeks of paid leave.

3. Someone else got a better deal.

Maybe they did. Good for them. Someone else is not us. Maybe someone got a two percent raise plus leave. But maybe they'd have gotten a six percent raise without it. Do you know if that's true? Me neither. Others got a worse deal. We have people working crap jobs with no benefits all over the country, and as we "Make America Great Again," there will surely be more. In any case, this is not a contest. What we have now is better than what we had yesterday.

4. It's a choice to have children.

Please. It's a choice to breathe. It's a choice to not firebomb the principal's car. On the other hand, it's a choice to support young UFT members. That's my choice, and that's what we've agreed to do.

5. I already had my kids. Why should I help with yours?

We are a community. We support one another. Let me tell you something--I've been teaching for 34 years and I've never had an actual disciplinary meeting. Why should I help with yours? Why should I pay for the services of a chapter leader, or a district rep., or anyone? I'll tell you why. It's because we are a community. It's because we stand together, and it's because your problems are my problems. That's why I will go with you to your disciplinary meeting with the principal, that's why I will go with you to Step Two, and every step afterward. That's why I will use every resource I can muster to get you out of trouble. I'm proud to help you if I can.

6. Why don't we have family leave, instead of just parental leave?

Hey, that's a good question. I'd like to have family leave too. Why don't we work for it? I will
support you. Also, why don't we have wings? I don't know. But I'm still not gonna criticize the fact that we have legs. I'm pretty happy to have legs. They're very convenient when I walk my little dog Toby. (Also, why aren't I writing blogs saying the UFT sucks because adoptions are limited to humans? Aren't canines people too?)

7. The UFT sucks, so there must be some big secret in the fine print.

Show me what it is and we'll talk. Meanwhile, I happen to know something about how this came about. It had something to do with my brother Mike Schirtzer telling Emily James to come to UFT Executive Board and talk about the petition she wrote that had gone viral. This was one time that Mulgrew responded directly to comments and promised to work on it. He did, and now UFT parents will have six weeks of paid leave when they have or adopt children.

8. There's a hidden cost.

Okay, show me what it is. As far as I can tell, we wait 73 days one year, and we've obtained a permanent benefit next year and each year thereafter. It sounds like a good deal to me, and unless you have evidence otherwise, I don't understand why we're even discussing this.

9. I have to use my CAR days before I get this benefit.

The UFT Q and A was poorly written, and left a lot of people with that impression. But actually it said you may use your CAR days before you take the benefit. It didn't say you must. A lot of people read it that way, though, because again, it's poorly written. And speaking of poor writing:

10. UFT Unity has done it again.

That's one of the worst headlines I've ever seen, and it was attached to a hastily produced flyer handed out at the DA yesterday. I will leave the immediate interpretation to your imagination. However, we high school reps played a big part in this. We have been bringing all sorts of people to the Executive Board, and Emily James was one of them. This is an instance of cooperation between us and Unity, and it's unfortunate they are unable to acknowledge it. Real unity is more than a caucus name.

My members are jubilant, and it is my considered opinion that critics of this deal are scraping the bottom of the barrel for arguments. We are better off with this agreement than we were without it, and that goes in the win column. I'm very proud to have played some small part in making this happen.
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