Thursday, December 12, 2019

MY PER SESSION RETRO CAME IN THE MAIL THIS WEEK

My per session retroactive money for work I did from 2009-2011 just came in the mail earlier this week. Contractually, this money was supposed to be paid to us on October 1.

Contract Article 3P1:
Lump Sum Payments Stemming From the 2009-2011 Round of Bargaining
1. Schedule for actives for those continuously employed as of the day of payout:

i. 10/1/15 – 12.5%
ii. 10/1/17 – 12.5%
iii. 10/1/18 – 25%
iv. 10/1/19 – 25%
v. 10/1/20 – 25%

My 2019 per session lump sum payment was over two months late. I didn't do that many coverages or have much per session so it is not a significant amount of money for me personally. For anyone who did a great deal of per session and was depending on this money to be paid on the date it was contractually obligated to be paid, the UFT was once again ineffective in getting the Department of Education/City of New York to do what they said they would do.

Why does the DOE/NYC get away with not living up to what they agreed to. The answer is simple: There is no accountability for DOE under Mayoral control and there is no accountability at the UFT where elections are decided before they begin. No group in opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus could possibly get to all of the retirees spread out throughout the country and beyond.

Anti-union comments here will say teachers should make a statement by leaving the union and not paying dues. I say that is a dead end that will do nothing but make the union weaker. There is no historical example where a weaker, substantially smaller union has improved working conditions for the rank and file.

For a complete explanation of why dropping out of the union is an anti-worker action, please read our May 15, 2019 piece entitled: NOT PAYING UNION DUES WILL NOT IMPROVE WORKING CONDITIONS.

UPDATE: Just deposited the per session retro check so now I can make another contribution to Bernie Sanders' campaign.  It looks like Labour will lose badly tonight in the UK so Bernie is the great left hope to contain right wing populism as an alternative to neoliberalism.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

ROCHESTER STUDENTS PROTEST TEACHER LAYOFFS

The public school protest movement has come to upstate New York where the Rochester school district sent out layoff notices to teachers on Friday and the kids responded.

From NYUP.com:
Students took to social media and made videos organizing the protests. Democrat and Chronicle reported that some students organized to protest upon arrival to school while others walked out of school mid-morning. Several teachers were seen accompanying the chanting teens during their protests through downtown Rochester.


Video from News 8 and WXXI:





Here is some background from Spectrum:
More than 150 Rochester City School District teachers learned Friday that they may be out of a job in just 25 days.

It all stems from job cuts to try to fill the district’s $30 million deficit. After students left school for the day on Friday, principals hand delivered the news to their teachers.

Rochester Teachers Association (RTA) President Adam Urbanski said the letters informed teachers that they would be terminated as of January 1, if the Board of Education approves the cuts.

Urbanksi confirmed that most of the schools in the district were affected, and at least 115 of the layoffs are elementary school teachers. He says primary schools are most affected because it will be easy to combine small class sizes there.

"As a teacher, it's devastating. This profession isn't something you go into thinking I'm going to make money or, you know, you go into it to make a difference," said Deana Jackson, an early pre-kindergarten teacher with the district.

That opportunity to make a difference in students could be coming to an end for some teachers in Rochester.

"It's really heartbreaking to hear stories of the bonds that children formed with these teachers and how distressed the students are to learn that when they come back from the Christmas break, their teacher will not be there," Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association added.

Rise Community School, formerly School #14, had the most layoffs. Fourteen individuals were given the pink slip.

"So if you have huge class sizes in elementary schools that then sets the children back because they don't get individualized attention that they need,” said Urbanski.

I can only imagine the disruption for kids and teachers of doing this in the middle of the school year.

Monday, December 09, 2019

UNREST AROUND THE WORLD

Each and every day there is more news of students and workers saying enough is enough.

Some examples:
France-
President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and senior cabinet ministers met late Sunday to discuss the contentious reform, which the country's powerful labour unions claim will force many to work longer for a smaller retirement payout.

As both the government and unions vowed to stand firm, businesses started counting the costs of the strike which began last Thursday when some 800,000 people took to the streets across France in a mass rejection of plans to introduce a single, points-based pension scheme, unifying 42 existing plans.

The stoppages stranded commuters, closed schools, and hit tourism and Christmas retail.

Many people opted to take days off or to work from home, but thousands had no choice but to squeeze into perilously overcrowded suburban trains and metros whose numbers were slashed to a minimum.

The biggest labour unrest in years came as France's economy is already dented by more than a year of weekly anti-government demonstrations by so-called "yellow vest" activists protesting unemployment and waning spending power.

I am betting on the workers in France. Watch the government back down eventually.

Finland-
HELSINKI, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Some 100,000 Finnish employees in industrial sectors began a three-day strike on Monday to back up their salary demands.

The action comprises both worker and management unions. The strike was called by the Finnish Industrial Union, the Trade Union Pro and the "white collar" Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff YTN. In addition, workers in the building and electrical sectors have announced solidarity strikes, bringing the total number of employees embarking on industrial action to nearly 100,000.

The strike includes employees in fuel production, pharmaceutical companies, mines and several technology companies.

The state mediator Vuokko Piekkala told Finnish national radio Yle over the weekend that the views on salary increases between the employee and employer unions are widely apart.

Last week the Finnish Industrial Union rejected mediation proposal by the state mediator. Riku Aalto, President of the Industrial Union said the proposal was "less than the two or three percent increases" obtained by employees in "the key competitor countries of Finland". Details of mediation proposals are not public in Finland.

Finnish unions have largely set the increase levels of key competitor countries, mainly Germany, as a benchmark for their demands. In Germany the average nominal increases agreed this year have been over three percent and the metal sector there has exceeded that, according to German economic research institutes.

Go Finnish workers.

Hong Kong-
Hong Kongers marched again on Sunday, chanting “five demands, not one less” as the city’s anti-government protests approached their six-month milestone.

Demonstrators have been locked in a stalemate with the local government since early June amid protests initially sparked by a bill that would have enabled extradition to mainland China. On June 9, a million people marched through the financial center to demonstrate their opposition. Approximately 2 million people marched in protest a week later.

While Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has since retracted the bill, fulfilling one of the five demands, critics regarded the move as too little, too late. Social unrest in the city has since taken on broader anti-government sentiment as protesters push for greater democracy in Hong Kong.

Government opposition was fueled by anger with police conduct as well as how Lam’s administration dealt with the protests, Ma Ngok, associate professor in the department of government and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told CNBC.

“The government hasn’t actually responded, so a lot of people think they just cannot give up on the protest” Ma said.

I am a supporter of the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Chile-
Students keep driving protests demanding change in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Nearly two months ago, Catalina Santana jumped a turnstile in the Santiago metro and helped launch a movement that changed the course of Chilean history.

Student protests over a fare hike morphed into a nationwide call for socioeconomic equality and better social services that brought millions to the streets and forced President Sebastián Piñera to increase benefits for the poor and disadvantaged and start a process of constitutional reform.

But Santana, 18, isn’t done. Although the headlines have faded, she and thousands of other young people are still taking to the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities almost daily to demand the government follow through on its promises of chance.

Two similar student-driven movements over the last decade and a half led to significant but limited reforms in education policy, including lower costs for university students. The young protesters are hoping that this time around they will be able to force the government to make deep-rooted structural changes that address the fundamental causes of inequality, economic injustice and poor social services in Chile.

“If my grandmother retires, she shouldn’t die of hunger,” Santana said during a recent protests in central Santiago. “If I go to a hospital, I shouldn’t die waiting for treatment. The professor teaching my classes shouldn’t be paid so little money. It can’t be this way.”

Starting with high-school students in 2006, then university students five years later, Chile has been hit by regular, large-scale protests led by young people that have won concessions from the government.

Those are some amazing high school students in Chile.

And yes there are even actions in the United States
All Fairfax Connector buses are expected to run their regular routes Monday now that the bus strike in Virginia’s largest county is ending.

Transdev, the private company that operates buses for Fairfax County, said the strike is ending without a finalized contract.

“Transdev and the union have come to a mutual agreement to end the current strike. The parties are continuing to bargain in good faith and hope to come to a contract soon,” Transdev said in a statement.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764 bargaining team said the remaining issues are wages, vacation, sick time and retirement issues but “a deal is within reach.”

One reason the strike is ending now is that parties expect to meet Monday with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman-Elect Jeff McKay, the union said.

As part of agreeing to go back to work, workers will not be disciplined for participating in the strike.

The agreement to return to work is a single page promising that union workers return to their jobs Monday. Negotiations will continue all week and into the following week. In addition, the union will provide 72 hours notice if a second strike occurs.

The separate strike against Transdev’s Metrobus operations out of the privatized Cinder Bed Road garage continues. That strike has been going on for about seven weeks.

More on the second strike:
A Metrobus strike disrupting thousands in Northern Virginia will likely drag on, and could begin to impact bus routes that have been providing limited alternatives for travelers.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 sees the ongoing strike against a Metro contractor at the Cinder Bed Road garage in Lorton as part of a broader fight against private contracting, and other pay and staffing cuts in the transit industry.

“The only way to say it, and I don’t know a better way to say it, is that they are treating American workers like slaves,” Local 689 President Raymond Jackson said.


Working people and students fighting back all over the globe. Meanwhile in NYC classrooms, it's business as usual for teachers who sometimes tell us here about being abused but anonymous comments are their chief method of protest it seems. Better to organize your friends, grieve something, file a safety complaint, or just do anything instead of complaining here.

It's not easy to exert your rights but in the end much more can be accomplished than by anonymously protesting here.

Friday, December 06, 2019

TWU LOCAL 100 RAISES ONCE AGAIN EDGE UFT'S

I respect Transport Workers Union Local 100 as they are a real union that is ready to do whatever it takes, including a work slowdown, to achieve a fair contract.  Terms were released of TWU Local 100's tentative contract that was agreed to on Wednesday and once again they beat the UFT raises for the current round of bargaining for government employees.

Here are the annual raises according to ABC 7 news:
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Details are emerging of the tentative deal after leaders of the MTA and Transport Workers Union Local 100 reached an agreement to avoid a strike.

The unionized workforce will get a four year contract that is retroactive to May of this year, with annual wage increases of 2%, 2.25%, 2.5%, and 2.75%.

I gather everyone who comes by here wants the comparisons between the UFT and TWU contracts.

UFT increases:
2% on February 14, 2019,
 0% on February 14, 2020
2.5% on May 14, 2020,
 3% on May 14 2021,
 0% on May 14, 2022. (Contract ends September 13, 2022)
7.5% Total for 3.58 years*

TWU increases:
2% May 2019
2.25% May 2020
2.5% May 2021
2.75% May 2022 
9.5% Total for 4 years

TWU's 9.5% > UFT's 7.5%. That's clear. However, it is a little more complicated to do a direct comparison because the UFT Contract is for 43 months (3.58 years), not 48 months (4 years) like TWU. We did the annual breakdown:

7.5% divided by 3.58 years comes to UFT annual raises of 2.09%.

9.5% divided by 4 years comes to TWU annual raises of 2.375%.

That's .285% annually more for the TWU raises. UFT loses again. It might not seem like much but over the lifetime of a career, it does adds up.

I think the numbers make it clear the TWU is a more effective union and if we add the last contract in, then this becomes a long term trend where they obtain bigger raises. Their percentage increases are larger than ours in spite of the fact that the MTA in 2019 had to use cash reserves to balance its yearly budget while our employer NYC has multi-billion dollar surpluses year after year.

It is rather obvious the main reason that TWU is getting more money for salary increases is that they are prepared as workers in a union to do whatever it takes collectively to get a better contract. NYC teachers and our union for the most part are not prepared to do anything collectively. Well, action here is to complain anonymously mainly. We need a stronger union, not a weaker one with mass defections.

All of that said, I do not believe the TWU numbers are overly impressive. Today's very strong jobs report shows that 266,000 jobs were created nationally in November and there is now a 3.5% unemployment rate. As for wage gains, this is from the Department of Labor via Yahoo Finance: "Average hourly earnings year over year: +3.1% vs. +3.0% expected and +3.2% in October."

Unions should be citing these numbers for sure when we negotiate. The Federal Reserve is pumping more money into the the markets and interest rates have been lowered to keep the economy moving. I am no economist but I do not expect a recession unless there is some kind of crisis where everything comes tumbling down again. Unless that happens, unions should be screaming for more of a share of the prosperity because we know when the house of cards/bubble or whatever you want to call it falls at some point in the future, we (not the bigshots) will be asked to absorb all of the pain.




*We did not account in the main story for the extra 3.5 months the UFT's last contract was extended to pay for retroactive raises for employees who retired between 2010 and June 2014 and Paid Parental Leave.  There were 0% raises for that 3.5 month time period. If we were to add that in, the UFT annual raises would fall to 1.94% for the 3 years,10.5 months this current contract and the extension of the last one cover. We are also not including in comparisons with the TWU in the main story the fact that we are still waiting until October 2020 for 25% of the money in back pay for work we did from 2009-2011.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

LOTS OF LABOR NEWS: CUNY CONTRACT RATIFIED; TWU LOCAL 100 HAS TENTATIVE CONTRACT; FRENCH UNIONS WAGE GENERAL STRIKE

The Professional Staff Congress is the union for CUNY faculty and professionals. PSC recently reached a contract agreement with the CUNY Board of Trustees that was ratified with an 86% yes vote by PSC members. This is the same percentage as the UFT ratification in 2018. What is in the PSC contract?

From the Chief Leader:
The 63-month contract, which runs from Dec. 1, 2017 to Feb. 28, 2023, provides a 10-percent salary increase for 30,000 employees, including a 2-percent raise retroactive to Oct. 1, 2018, with the final of five 2-percent increases set for Nov. 1, 2022.

For years, the PSC pushed for adjunct pay to be doubled to $7,000 per course. And while this agreement does not achieve that goal, the minimum pay for three-credit classes will increase by 71 percent to $5,500, and for four-credit courses to $6,875, in 2022.

A 71% increase for the adjuncts? That is rather amazing.

From PSC President Barbara Bowen:
What makes this contract different from past contracts is that it comes with a commitment of tens of millions of dollars annually in State and City funding, over and above the annual salary increases and equity increases. The additional funding is committed to pay for the new adjunct office hours. The PSC won the support of the CUNY Board, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio for a major new investment in CUNY’s workforce and its students.

Any increase in K-12 funding usually gets lost in a DOE bureaucratic black hole.

As I was preparing for this piece, I was skimming through some parts of the PSC Contract. I noticed that CUNY teachers cannot be subjected to drive-by, surprise observations.

 Specifically, in Article 18.2 (b) 1, it says:

"The employee shall be given no less than 24 hours of prior notice of observation."

Something for us to strive for with K-12 teachers.

There is a comment on the Chief piece on the PSC Contract comparing the PSC to the Transit Workers Union Local 100.

walter.dufresne Dec 2, 2019 9:55 pm
This terrific new contract reverses some of the give-aways from the late 1980s and early 1990s. In those years the weakened PSC negotiated contracts that *added* new, *lower paying* steps. Those steps gave new hires the chance to work at CUNY for lower pay than their predecessors. When the City offered TWU the same deal in 2005, Roger Toussaint led a strike rather than 'sell out the unborn'.

Back in the 1990s, the PSC was controlled by guess who? Unity Caucus. Unity was defeated at CUNY by Bowen who led the New Caucus. Yes, I know the UFT is bigger than the PSC and it is impossible to get to UFT retirees spread out around the country to campaign but an organized, united opposition could beat Unity in the schools. It happened at CUNY. I am also aware that Bowen is now in AFT President Randi Weingarten's orbit.

Speaking of TWU Local 100, they have agreed to a new tentative contract. We don't yet have the details yet but we do have a statement from TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano:
"I am happy to report that we have reached a negotiated settlement with the MTA that I believe the Local 100 membership will ratify in overwhelming fashion. We achieved the framework for settlement over the weekend, and after several days of intense bargaining, arrived at the tentative agreement today, Wednesday, Dec. 4.

"I am calling a meeting of the Local 100 Executive Board for tomorrow to present the MOU for discussion and approval. I wish to thank TWU members for the incredible support you provided to me and the Local 100 leadership throughout this campaign. We were truly united. We will be reporting details of the agreement as soon as the Executive Board has had an opportunity to vote on it."

TWU Local 100 did not strike this time but there was a work to rule slowdown.

From the NY Post:
A workers’ “rulebook” slowdown disrupted service for thousands of riders on more than a dozen Brooklyn bus lines Friday morning as contract talks between the MTA and its biggest union wear on.

The slowdown comes just days after The Post revealed that angry transit workers are organizing slowdowns to up pressure on MTA management — including possibly next week on Black Friday, the year’s busiest holiday shopping day.

Government employees in New York State have to be creative in what they can do to show job dissatisfaction because of the anti-worker Taylor Law that prohibits public sector strikes in New York. The consequences of striking are losing two days pay for every day out on strike. The International Labor Organization (an agency of the United Nations) has ruled that the Taylor Law strike ban violates international law but our bureaucratic union leaders in NYS won't fight for the strike ban's repeal.

There's no Taylor Law in France where today there is a general strike.

From the BBC:
Workers are angry about planned pension reforms that would see them retiring later or facing reduced payouts.

School and transport workers have been joined by police, lawyers and hospital and airport staff for a general walkout that could include millions of people.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to introduce a universal points-based pension system.

That would replace France's current system, which has 42 different pension schemes for its private and public sectors, with variations in retirement age and benefits.

"What we've got to do is shut the economy down," said union official Christian Grolier of the Force Ouvrière (Workers' Force). "People are spoiling for a fight."

I've said it before and I will say it again: Workers have the power if we would just unite and use it. Notice how the teachers and transport workers are together in France along with many others.

I proposed a teacher transit workers joint labor action alliance in 2005 at the UFT Executive Board. UFT leader Randi Weingarten responded that she had spoken to TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint but shortly thereafter she was agreeing to the 2005 "Givebacks R Us" UFT Contract. I still have that united labor dream today where in France it is reality. I understand the yellow vest  people are involved in the French general strike.

The perception here is that in the United States the people are afraid of the government. We see that fear often in the comments on this blog where teachers are totally scared to challenge their almighty principal. In France, it is the government that is afraid of the people.  That's how it should be. I think that's called being accountable to the people.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW FROM CHICAGO ON HOW SENIOR TEACHERS LOST FROM THE STRIKE

Last week we gave the positive view of the Chicago strike from Jackson Potter, a union activist. Today we present a far different analysis showing how senior teachers sacrificed greatly because of the strike. This is from Marguerite Roza and it is worth considering.

The Chicago Teachers Union leaders were adamant that they weren’t on strike over salaries, but rather were fighting for educational justice in the form of more staffing. Now that the dust has settled, the numbers support that claim. Teachers didn’t gain anything in terms of salary that wasn’t already offered before the strike started. Instead, they lost six days of pay for the missed school days. (They struck for 11 days, but will make up five of them.)

For the average teacher, the unpaid strike time amounts to $2,100 in lost wages. There goes most of this year’s raise. 

But it’s the senior teachers nearing retirement that got hit with a double whammy. First, their salaries are higher (some as high as $111,000) so the lost wages can total as much as $3,200 per teacher. Then, for teachers retiring in the next four years, those lost salary dollars will result in lower pension payments. Because pension amounts are based on the last four years of salary, teacher pensions are highly sensitive to even modest changes in salary during any one of those final years. For the six lost days of work, retiring teachers should expect a dip of a little over $600 per year, but that loss affects every single year of retirement. Using standard assumptions of lifespan and discounting, it is clear that the effect on pension amounts to a loss for a retiring teacher of more than $9,500 in today’s dollars.

That means, for a teacher at the top of the pay scale retiring in the next four years, the strike meant walking away from salary and pension payments totaling nearly $13,000. Ouch. 

The union did get an extra $5 million at the last minute for senior teachers to mitigate a little of the damage.

Ms. Roza makes a very good case that senior teachers near retirement didn't gain from the Chicago strike. However, Ms. Roza does not mention that without a legitimate threat of a strike, I think we can safely say there is no way management would have offered Chicago teachers 16% raises over five years. Absent any possibility of militancy, they more likely would have been offered the same meager raises that New York City teachers are presented with and accept without even the hint of a fight, except of course from us dissidents.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

PRIVATE SCHOOL TEACHERS EARN LESS THAN PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS BECAUSE PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS HAVE UNIONS

I was reading an article in the National Review, yes that National Review, arguing that public school teachers are not underpaid. They compare salaries in Los Angeles between private and public schools:
But one thing private schools don’t throw money at is teacher salaries. The school that [Full House actress Lori] Loughlin’s daughters attended pays its teachers around $53,500 per year, 33 percent less than the $80,000 median annual salary of Los Angeles public-school teachers.

Here is the National Review explanation as to why public school teachers earn more than our private school counterparts:
For public-school teachers, large districts employing hundreds or thousands of teachers negotiate with a single teachers’ union, which itself may have secured a favorable position via political contributions and activism. This isn’t what you’d call a free and vibrant labor market.

We have a union and we use our activism and our political pull to better our conditions. Isn't that what a union is supposed to do? If lobbyists convince Congress to appropriate billions of dollars for unnecessary weapons or for tax incentives for huge corporations, you won't see much complaining in the National Review but if unions do it for public schools, we are messing with a free and vibrant labor market. Sorry guys but we have freedom of association rights.

The National Review writers aren't finished:
Private schools, by contrast, operate in a much freer market. Parents paying an average of $28,000 out of pocket have every incentive to find schools with the best teachers. Private schools, which compete against one another to recruit both teachers and students, have every incentive to hire the best teachers possible without breaking the bank. Teachers, for their part, have every incentive to demand as high a salary as they can get. This is the kind of competitive market that we rely on for almost every good or service we purchase. And in that market, total compensation for teachers at even elite private schools is far lower than it is at public schools. Those facts should at least inform the teacher-pay debate.

Public school teachers are better off because of our once strong unions, and now in many locals around the country, revitalized unions. Conservatives get it. You see why conservatives want to bust the unions and are doing what they can to get defections from the UFT.

It is sad that some of the people who benefit from what our unions have done don't get it. Instead, they comment here about not paying union dues instead of trying to improve our union which obviously needs fixing to represent all of its members equitably.

Rather than writing comments about how you hate the behavior of your students, the teachers who comment here can leave the NYC public schools and go teach in a private, parochial or charter school where the school can cherry pick the students and throw out those that don't fit in. I don't think many will leave, however, because you don't want to take the pay or benefits cut that working without a union, or with a really weak one, would entail.

As for those who are truly at their wits end but want to fight back, use the contract. Read Article 9. Read the Chancellor's Regulations on safety and discipline. You have nothing to lose if the alternative is quitting. We will gladly help if we can.