Friday, February 19, 2016

UFT Then and Now

I'm on a mailing list from a UFT rep who goes around to schools organizing for the union. He sends an email every week or so. Sometimes there are interesting bits. The one I just received certainly caught my attention. Here's a little piece of it.

Thank You, Senior Members!

         I hope you all enjoyed your midwinter break.  Now that you are back in your school, be sure to thank your senior colleagues, those who were working in Spring 1991, twenty-five years ago, for paying for it.

         That’s right.

         Back then under Mayor David Dinkins the city, in financial crisis, asked each and every UFT member for a loan of $500*.  In exchange we got

         -a liberalized sabbatical and leave policy

         -a buyout for Tier I members


         -the midwinter break.

         It wasn’t free.  It didn’t come from Kris Kringle, Befana the Witch, or the Tooth Fairy.  Your colleagues and your union paid for it.

         Be sure to thank them. *Happy ending.  Everybody got paid back in three years at 6% interest.

Now consider that. I was working when Dinkins was mayor, and I certainly lent the city that money, so it's nice to be appreciated. But I don't expect young teachers to thank me anytime soon. For one thing, I don't see any buyout for them, and there hasn't been one for many years. For another,  they likely as not have never even met a Tier One teacher, and there's no buyout for them, let alone anyone else right now. A whole lot of them are on the far inferior Tier Six. In fact, for them, even the 25/55 we got via the grab bag of goodies we gave the city in 2005 is now gone. I like the midwinter break, but I'm pretty sure it entailed a shuffling of days.

The most egregious omission here, though, has nothing to do with any of the above. It's the failure to note that the most recent contract, the one new and not-so-new teachers are actually working under, entails a significantly larger, longer-term loan to the city. I can't say exactly how much newer teachers are deferring, but I know I myself have deferred in excess of forty thousand dollars, not for three years, but rather eleven. I'm not gonna see the money I earned in 2009 until 2020. I'm not getting 6% interest on that, but rather the 0% cannily negotiated by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and his crack team.

If I were a new teacher, knowing this, and knowing I lent a whole lot more than $500 to the city, I'd find this comparison fairly upsetting. And if I were, say, on leave for some reason (maternity is a big one), I'd be pretty pissed off that I got zero retro and had to wait two more years for the big magical chest to open again. And as for rewards for this contract, aside from the lowest pattern bargain in my living memory, the only one that pops into my mind is the second-tier due process rights we got for ATR teachers. Hardly something worth boasting about, if you ask me.

I suspect this was reaching out to try and get new members to appreciate union, given the Friedrichs case. I'm pretty surprised it failed to take into account the death of Antonin Scalia, which pretty much stops Friedrichs in her tracks (for now at least). Friedrichs' principled Koch brothers-financed quest toward more work for less pay has certainly been slowed.

Of course, on Scalia's death and its consequences, we've heard only crickets from UFT leadership. Doubtless it will be painted as a victory, just as every time UFT leadership blows its nose is a victory. But exactly what sort of victory it is needs to be considered by those who run 52 Broadway. They are very smart, as Michael Mulgrew reminds us on a monthly basis, and need to consider how to paint this for membership. After all, we aren't that smart, sophisticated, or knowledgeable. Many of us have yet to realize, for example, that the only reliable source of information, since Mulgrew axed Edwize,  is NY Teacher. A whole lot of us still rely on dubious sources like Diane Ravitch or opt-out activists, despite what the very smart people in leadership have decreed.

Anyone who compares then and now is not going to take a favorable view of the comparison. Personally, I'm not sure it was a good idea to reach out with this.  This is a pretty elementary comparison to make, and leaves me thoroughly unimpressed with the progress of UFT leadership.
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