Saturday, May 03, 2014

In Which I Give NYC an Interest-Free Loan of $40,000

That's what I'm doing, isn't it? After all, the cops, the firefighters, and the sanitation workers got an 8% raise four years ago. I won't get mine until 2020, according to this agreement.

And don't think I'm generous, because you won't get yours either. Now if you haven't yet reached maximum, you haven't lent the city 40K. Rather, you've given it more like a loan for the price of a new compact car. And yet, if you went to Citibank to borrow for that compact car, I very much doubt they'd give you the same terms.

That's because people who know about money understand its value. They understand that an amount of money in 2010 is not the same amount of money in 2020, even though the dollar number hasn't changed. I've been a teacher for most of my adult life, so I'm far from a financial expert. But even I know that it's disingenuous to claim our deal has parity with that of other city unions. Don't get me wrong--I begrudge them nothing.

But we are clearly not getting what they got. 8% over two years is the only pattern in my living memory that appears attractive, and we are not getting it, no matter what the UFT email claims. I would not have been upset with putting off retro pay. I fully expected it, and would not have complained about it.

But I expected my members to go to work in September with an 8% raise, the raise that's eluded us for almost six years. UFT leadership has managed to put that off for yet another four years, degrading it into four 2% raises. And it is, in fact, a 2% raise that awaits us in September, along with a bonus payment and very little retro.

That's a pretty large slap in the face after waiting all these years. And then comes the old, old song from leadership, "It was the best we could do."

I believe that's true. UFT leadership shuts out rank and file, conferring only with those who've signed loyalty oaths and are not permitted the luxury of free thought, let alone expression of opinions. By sitting in their cone of silence they've managed to persuade over 80% of working UFT members that voting in union elections is a waste of time. Most teachers are disenfranchised, demoralized and cynical. They're represented largely by chapter leaders who have taken an oath to never disagree with leadership.

It's no wonder they make such miserable bargains and spend all their time telling us and one another what wonderful jobs they do. It's no wonder they expect us to be so ignorant we don't know the difference between money now and money ten years later. But it won't be our ignorance that sells this contract.

It will be our cynicism and lack of willingness to engage. These are both miserable qualities for teachers. But that's what you get when your leadership opts to reside in an echo chamber. 
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