Sunday, August 19, 2018

95 Dollars or Paid Parental Leave?

 Which is more important to you? Does that sound hypothetical? Does it sound ridiculous? It's all in the ear of the beholder, I suppose.

I've posted several times in defense of the paid parental leave program for UFT, first here, and then here. The last criticism I've seen determines that we each pay 95 bucks more than necessary for this benefit, based on an estimated savings for the city. Evidently the calculations for this agreement were based on our last contract or raise, rather than DC37's new one, which did not exist at the time. How short-sighted of leadership to fail to consult a crystal ball before making this deal.

I want to know who it is who would not sacrifice 95 bucks for this benefit. There is, in fact, a good reason we shouldn't pay the 95 bucks, or anything whatsoever, though I didn't catch it in the critical column I saw.

That reason is that all Americans should be eligible for paid family leave. The reason we haven't got it is our politicians suck, from Trump's orange head on down. The remedy is to fire all the politicians who don't support We, the People. That's a tall order. But I will support it, and I will be happy to donate to politicians that do. Thus far this year, I've donated to Zephyr Teachout and Cynthia Nixon. I'm absolutely confident they'd both support paid parental leave for Americans. I'm open to others, though.

Another issue I've read about is that DC37 got family leave and that it's revenue-neutral. In other words, DC37 members are not paying the 95 bucks. I would also like to have family leave, and I would also like to keep my 95 bucks, all things being equal. Alas, all things are not equal. The Daily News reported on the DC37 accord:

As part of the deal, DC 37 members will also get partially paid family leave starting next year. The union is opting in to the state’s family leave program, and members will be allowed to take 10 weeks off to care for a family member while getting paid up to 55% of their salary.
The city teachers union last week announced a deal giving members six weeks of parental leave at full pay. Because DC 37’s workforce is older, they preferred the option that would allow them to take time off to care for other family members and not just a new baby, Garrido said. A payroll deduction of about 0.13% will pay for the benefit.

So it's not, in fact, revenue-neutral. 0.13% of $50,000 is 65 dollars. A whole lot of DC37 employees are paid hourly, and make well less than 50K. (Personally, I'd rather make more and pay more, but that's just me.) While they likely pay less than 95 bucks, based on salary they may pay a higher percentage.

There is no doubt that family leave is better than parental leave. There is also no doubt that ten weeks are better than six. On the other hand, there is no doubt that full pay is better than 55% pay. "Up to 55%" can certainly be less than 55%. Whichever way you view this, UFT aimed for and achieved parental leave. Make no mistake, had we taken the deal DC37 did, you'd see broad laments about the 0.13% payroll deduction and the partial benefit.

There are good and bad things about both programs. There is no Commandment etched in stone that says we cannot renegotiate in the future for improvements. Of course we should do that, and of course we can do that. I'm pretty sure we won't be able to do it only a month or two after having negotiating what we negotiated. That's unfortunate, but ultimately precludes nothing.

Perhaps we should focus on larger issues. The largest, as far as I can determine, is that our national government is run by business interests rather than human interests. This is nowhere more obvious than in the Orange President, but Democrats are also at fault. Certainly Obama failed to fulfill his promise to find those comfortable shoes and stand with labor. I can attest that there is no comfortable shoe shortage, as I regularly locate and purchase them. (They aren't even expensive.)

In case it isn't painfully obvious, it was an egregious error to run another corporate Democrat, particularly one with decades of baggage who lacked the charisma of Barack Obama. If that happens again, we're in for More of the Same, and probably worse from an emboldened would-be dictator.

Closer to home, UFT members are better off than we were before this agreement. And though I will never use this benefit, I count myself as better off. I'm happy to give a little to help my brothers and sisters who are starting out. I'm happy to make it just a little bit easier for people to stay in this vital profession.

This notwithstanding, I'd be just as happy to work toward other benefits, and family leave is certainly among them. We don't necessarily get everything we want right away. That's too bad, but neither is it reason to attack and belittle significant achievements. Make no mistake, paid parental leave is a very significant achievement. I'm very proud to have played even a small part in having made it happen.

Update: clarification in paragraphs two and three
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