Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How's That Raise Looking Now?

Randi Weingarten likes to brag that she has won substantial raises for New York City public school teachers over the last few years that have raised teacher salaries by 40% between 2002 and 2008.

To my mind, it's NOT a raise when you have to work extra time and extra days while giving up work protections like grievance and seniority transfer rights to get more money.

To my mind, that's increased compensation for an increased workload with a decrease in work protections.

In any case, it is true that Weingarten has gotten pretty big increases salaries for UFT members in the last few years compared to pre-2002. But even as my salary has increased (along with my workload), I've noticed that my standard of living hasn't.

Reading today's NY Daily News, I think I've figured out why - my increased compensation from Mayor Moneybags for teaching in the New York City public school system has barely kept pace with price increases since 2002.

An MTA Metrocard is 41% higher now than in 2002.

The average homeowners' heating bill is 90% higher now than in 2002.

A gallon of milk cost less than $3 in 2002. Now it costs $4 - a 33% increase.

The cost of bread, soybean products and corn have also risen dramatically in the last five years.

Health care costs? My allergy medicine has increased 200% a month, visits to the allergist have gone up 50%.

Housing costs? Well, you know how high the price of real estate has gone in the last five years. While home prices have fallen 5.3% nation-wide in the last half year or so, they are still on the rise here in New York City. With a low dollar helping foreigners buy real estate in New York at steep discounts, that trend doesn't seem like it will end in the near-term.

The cost of rent? Also on the rise and with apartment availability near all-time lows, not expected to decrease any time soon. My own rent has gone from $1850 to $2400 a month between 2004 and 2007.

How about college costs? CUNY tuition has risen from $3200 a year to $4000 a year.

According to the Daily News, the consumer price index (CPI) for the New York City area has risen 18.5% between 2002 and 2007, and that's not including health care costs. With oil near $95 a barrel and gas well over $3 a gallon, price inflation will only be accelerating in coming months. Bloomberg News reports that the U.S. government bond market is showing increasing anxiety that the plummeting value of the dollar will result in runaway inflation:

The combination of the currency's 31 percent decline during George W. Bush's presidency, oil prices near a record high and interest rates at a four-year low have convinced investors that consumer prices are poised to accelerate. While all Treasuries have gained during the worst U.S. housing market since 1991, none have done better than Treasury Inflation Protected Securities.
When investors start putting their money into inflation-protected bonds, you can be sure they don't believe the Federal Reserve chairman when he says inflation pressures are in check.

With the increase in food, energy, housing, education and health care costs that I have "enjoyed" over the past few years, neither do I.

Which brings me back to Weingarten and those "raises" she has won for me over the last few years.

When I think about the generous 2% "raise" Randi Weingarten won for me this year and the 5% "raise" she won for me next year (along with the change in language in the contract that allows Randi and the mayor to negotiate health care "cost containment initiatives") and I think about all the extra work I have to do as a result of previous contracts, I get pretty irritated.

Add that irritation to the fact that all the extra work I have to do and all the extra money I get for that extra work really amounts to nothing after inflation and I get mad as hell.

Basically, I am working longer and harder to make less money. Plus Randi and Company have set the pattern that anytime New York City teachers want a COLA, they have to concede something like days, time, or work protections.

How about the rest of you? Are you mad as hell too?
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