Thursday, May 25, 2023

We Demand a Sub-Inflationary Raise and Inferior Health Care

The UFT was out demonstrating yesterday, for a "fair contract." I want a fair contract, but it's hard for me to see exactly how we get there from here. The city pattern is 3% a year. However, inflation was pegged by Social Security at 5.9% for 2022 and 8.7% for 2023. So personally, I'm not taking time out from my busy schedule to demand what is effectively a pay cut.

Now sure, Michael Mulgrew is out there talking about paperwork, and I like paperwork as much as the next person. But if Michael Mulgrew doesn't know that money is the first concern of every working person in most contract negotiations, he's even more out of touch than I thought. Now sure, you can say that DC37 set the pattern. And you can further say that pattern bargaining is tantamount to the Ten Commandments in city bargaining.

You may well be right. It is highly unlikely that we will beat the pattern. I'm not counting on it at all. But our union is weakened by demonstrations that are essentially just for show. There are times to stand up, and when those times come along, we're either asleep or being stabbed in the back by the Municipal Labor Committee, including our esteemed leadership. More likely, we're asleep and being stabbed in the back by leadership.

It's nice to get out and do something spirited. I'm sure every Unity Caucus member, most of whom have or aspire to union gigs, were out there. I'm sure they dragged everyone they could. I also know a lot of opposition members who went. Good for them, I suppose. Personally, I could not muster the spirit to spend my time doing something so patently ridiculous. Paperwork sucks, but it's not what members complain to me about. 

Now I don't know precisely what paperwork complaints we're talking about here. Everything the big negotiating committee discusses is Top Secret, so I'm not privy. The fact is we've made some good progress on redundant paperwork complaints. Debbie Poulos initiated a complaint process for chapter leaders that's faster and more efficient than multi-stage grievances that take forever. As chapter leader, I filed a grievance that sat around for several years. When UFT finally got around to discussing step two with me, I was no longer chapter leader and the point was moot. Maybe fixing our grievance procedure is something we should be looking at. This notwithstanding, there are vital concerns that go well beyond paperwork.

UFT Unity leadership, along with their BFFs at the MLC, just tossed the retirees to the dogs, replacing standard Medicare with a corporate Advantage plan. Soon, they'll replace the popular Emblem GHI plan with something 10% cheaper, saving money for Eric Adams. In case you haven't noticed, Adams is supposed to be our adversary in contract negotiatons.

It's fine that UFT is out there. But the fact is, the overwhelming majority are not. The overwhelming majority of us are essentially asleep. That's been a feature of our union for decades. You can tell when people speak about it. People say terrible things about the UFT, not realizing they're describing themselves. Sadly, pathetically even, a lot of us feel no responsibility for anything whatsoever regarding our union. For many of us, the union is somehow the people sitting in offices. 

That's one reason I'm wary of people talking strike. Here's one of those people:

It's great to imagine that we won't accept the crap pattern increase, but it's sheer fantasy. Mulgrew may not be proactive. He may not bother trying to organize the MLC to demand a reasonable pattern. But has a lot of time to sit around reading blogs. I know this because after I wrote something particularly critical, he had his lawyers (technically our lawyers) threaten me with civil and criminal penalties for parodying him on this blog. 

Frankly, I don't believe the UFT, constituted as now, could carry out a strike. I think we have a whole lot of outreach to do before membership could be activated to that point. Most of us don't know what union is. That's why I, as chapter leader, saw multiple members indicate they wouldn't strike, even for safety. I was shocked when one member casually mentioned it, expecting me to smile and accept it. But this member is representative of a whole lot of us. Leadership is as aware of this as I am. They do nothing about it because they're good with it. They could never survive an activist membership. But we would all benefit. 

So here is what Mulgrew and the Unity Caucus will do. They will cave completely to the pattern, and then blame the 500-member negotiating committee. In the video he pretends they make all the decisions. However, I was on the committee during the 2018 negotiation, and I had no idea we were approving draconian cuts to health care. Our leadership deceived us.

This is the prime reason I will vote no on the contract. I believe it's coming soon, and I believe the Unity Caucus will claim these rallies had something to do with it. I believe the rallies are entirely for show. If we had real demands, we'd take real actions.  It's nice that Mulgrew pays lip service to strike, but the fact is we haven't heard him say much about it until he was put on the spot.

I don't know about you, but I'm not energized by lies. I'm energized by fighting for real progress.  Our leadership, Mulgrew included, is moving us backward. We should be a vibrant force, the "powerful teachers union" the tabloids are always complaining about. Instead, we're a sleeping giant

Step one in awakening this sleeping giant is tossing the Unity Caucus out of power. We'll begin that process with the retirees. I hope to be one by election time.

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