Tuesday, November 01, 2022

UFT Leadership's Contract Plan

The odd message we got from the UFT President the other day has me thinking about contract negotiations. After urging the membership to cave in the face of a threat by the mayor, to throw the the retirees under the bus right now so rank and file won't get thrown under later, how do we take a principled stand on the contract?

I mean sure, there is a committee of 500 members working to craft demands, but I'm not persuaded that will make much of a difference. In the end, it will be UFT and DOE leadership making the deal, and given that committee members are sworn to secrecy, how will we gauge how much, or how little difference they actually made?

Everyone, myself included, would like to make more money, especially in a year of rampant inflation. Yet we're tied to pattern bargaining and you can bet Mayor Swagger is slithering about looking for the first lowball offer he can muster. Salary is, in fact, the prime consideration for most members, and pattern bargaining places it almost certainly beyond the purview of the committee,

Also, what does it matter if 500 members want something, or indeed if the entire rank and file want the same thing? Eric Adams now knows he can make threats and they'll likely as not be amplified by emails signed by the UFT President, along with mass tweets made at his urging. Imagine this:

Mayor Adams says if we don't agree to a 10% cut in salary, he will cut our salaries by 25%. Of course this is unacceptable to us. That's why I want you to write the city council and tell them to pass a bill to cut all municipal salaries by 5%. See the pre-written tweets below and share them.

Could that be an ask? Probably not, but there's now precedent for it. And how much will Adams offer, knowing that we actually went to battle for second-rate health care, trying to force our retirees to pay 5K a year per couple to keep benefits they've worked for and enjoyed for decades? If I were him, I'd feel like I was dealing with, essentially, nobody. I'd swagger here, I'd swagger there, and I wouldn't offer one thin dime in raises, let alone improving working conditions. Adams is sitting on unspent billions and pleading poverty. Our quest to cave to his demands has done nothing to help that.

Now sure, you say, but there are those 500 people on the committee. UFT is the largest local. How can we be ignored? Let me ask you this: Is there a single retiree in this city, not on a union payroll, who wants to give up Medicare for a half-baked Advantage plan that's never been tested anywhere? Probably not. In fact, given that this plan was bungled at every turn, I wouldn't be surprised if even people on union payroll were also wondering about it, albeit more quietly.

Can you even believe we're battling to change a law so NYC can charge premiums? If Mulgrew and Adams succeed in making retired couples pay 5K a year for the health care they were promised for free their entire careers, who's to say it will stop there? If Adams doesn't get to charge in-service members $1500 a year for GHI now, who can say he won't charge them 2500 next year? After all, in service members might be able to afford it better than retired members. Can't you imagine Adams making that argument? Can you imagine us supporting it?

This, of course, is all administered by the MLC. We're the largest union in the city, and the largest voice in the MLC. Meanwhile, the DOE sees us actively campaigning for worse conditions. 

It's very hard for me to imagine this administration feeling gratitude and offering us a fair contract. After all, we endorsed Adams in the general and he has yet to show gratitude for that. He's worried about vegan menus, because he's vegan, sometimes. He's worried about training in dyslexia, because he has dyslexia. He doesn't give a golly gosh darn about class sizes, because he's not attending a class. 

Mostly, the only person Eric Adams cares about is Eric Adams. Sure, he'll give the chancellor's girlfriend a gig if the chancellor will give his girlfriend one. But the fact that he'll create a scandal just to impress his girlfriend is just another testament to his monumental self-absorption. He now sees us as pushovers, and perceives that walking all over us may increase his swagger ratio.

Given that, the only way we can get Adams to offer UFT a fair contract is to make sure his pay depends on it. 

That's not happening any time soon. We're all in the same boat, we've painstakingly carved out a hole in it, and we're sinking fast. 

Leadership had better wake up some time before we hit bottom.

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