Friday, August 17, 2018

INDEPENDENT BUDGET OFFICE ESTIMATES CITY SAVES $9.5 MILLION FROM UFT PAID FAMILY LEAVE DEAL

The Independent Budget Office has crunched the numbers on the UFT's Paid Parental Leave and DC37's more expansive Paid Family Leave. Thank you budget expert Harris Lirtzman for sending this report to me.

The IBO conclusion: DC 37's Paid Family Leave should be cost neutral for the city while the city should net a $9.5 million surplus from the UFT deal. That surplus will be paid for by UFT members.

This is taken right from the IBO summary:

IBO estimates that under the deal with the United Federation of Teachers cost and savings will not be equal. We project that in the first year deferral of raises will save the city more than $45 million while the de Blasio Administration estimates the delay will save about $36 million.

We agree with the estimates by the Mayor’s office that pension and other fringe benefit savings tied to the agreement will save the city about $15 million annually.

While the de Blasio Administration projects the cost of parental leave for teachers’ union members will be about $51 million a year, we estimate the annual cost will be about $46 million.

As a result of our differing savings and cost projections, IBO estimates the city will garner over $9 million more in savings than necessary to pay for the teachers’ parental leave and the union’s welfare fund will accrue a surplus of more than $5 million.

The cost to the city for parental leave is fixed under the terms with the teachers’ union, and effectively zero for the deal with District Council 37.


How does the IBO reach their conclusion?

This is from their detailed analysis:

IBO estimates that the UFT’s parental leave benefit will require $45.6 million to be paid out each year by the UFT Welfare Fund, a figure that includes the cost of managing the program. With the city providing $50.8 million to the UFT, we project that the welfare fund will have $5.2 million left over after the first year, surplus funds that can only be used for parental leave. The UFT’s members paid for this benefit by delaying a pay increase for two and a half months and by structuring the PPL benefit in a way that reduces the city’s pension obligation. The de Blasio Administration estimates that delaying the pay increase will save the city $36.0 million and values the pension savings at $14.8 million—combined savings equal to the $50.8 million the city provided the UFT. 

Based on the pattern of wage increases set by the new DC 37 contract, however, IBO projects that delaying the pay increase will save the city $45.5 million, which—together with the pension and other fringe benefit savings—means that the city will save a total of $60.3 million. (Note: do not confuse the $45.5 million IBO estimates the city saves from delaying the pay increase with the $45.6 million we estimate will be paid out in benefits.) After subtracting the city’s $50.8 million payment to the welfare fund, the city would retain a surplus of $9.5 million.

To put it simply, IBO is estimating the savings based on the raise that DC37 was about to agree to with the city in June that UFT members will now have to wait another 2.5 months to receive because of the extension of our current contract.

Am I to understand that UFT President Michael Mulgrew had no idea what the DC37 settlement would be when he was negotiating Paid Parental Leave?

Let's go to the IBO conclusion:

The de Blasio Administration and UFT have stated publicly that paid parental leave would cost $50.8 million in benefits and administrative expenses, funded through UFT members’ concessions on wages and fringe benefits. Based on our estimates, IBO projects that this new policy will not be cost-neutral. We project that the city will accumulate $9.5 million of savings annually while the UFT will accrue a surplus of $5.2 million a year in its welfare fund. 

Meanwhile the union membership, through a deferral of their contract, will have given up $45.5 million in wage and fringe benefits. 

UFT members deferred a raise to get Paid Parental Leave but part of that derferral won't be needed to pay parents. Therefore, each member will be donating an estimated average of about what I would say is around 95 bucks to the city coffers as part of the deal. Thank you Michael Mulgrew.

Bottom line from IBO analysis: city wins, UFT membership loses. So what else is new?

This loss, while not huge, was easily avoidable by just using an updated set of numbers.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

CUOMO GETS HUGE CONTRIBUTION FROM SUCCESS ACADEMY BOARD MEMBER

From the NYPost:

Hedge fund investor John Petry — who sits on the board of the city’s largest charter school network, Success Academy — contributed $45,100 to Cuomo’s re-election campaign last month, records show.

That’s the largest contribution the campaign received during the 32-day pre-primary period — and represents more than 10 percent of the $394,000 the governor collected.

Why won't the UFT oppose Andrew Cuomo?

 Cuomo is not our friend.

Cynthia Nixon has said some really dumb things and she is way too close to Bill de Blasio but when it comes to public schools and labor issues, she is a thousand times better than Cuomo.

Nixon favors repealing the horrific teacher evaluation system; she opposes the inferior Tier VI pension for NYS public employees and she favors giving public employees in NYS the right to legally strike that is protected by international law.

Cuomo is no fool. He signed legislation making it easier for unions to have access to potential members to convince them to pay dues and he signed a bill into law giving NYSUT officers double pensions.

He may have no use for working people beyond election day and his attack on public education should not be forgiven or forgotten but he knows how to buy off union leaders and pivot to the left when necessary.

I am not totally sold but I will vote for Cynthia Nixon in the primary next month.

Cuomo taking $45,100 from someone on the Success Academy Board is just more evidence that Cuomo has not changed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

CHIEF LEADER COVERS ATR DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT

Civil service newspaper The Chief Leader has an in depth article on a discrimination complaint filed by multiple Absent Teacher Reserves.

From the Chief:

ATR Instructors Claim Age, Pay Led to Bias

By CRYSTAL LEWIS

More than two dozen educators in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool have filed complaints with the state Division of Human Rights arguing that they were discriminated
against because of their age — and the seniority and higher salaries that come with it.

The complaint argued that the Department of Education’s Fair Student Funding budget system, which was implemented in 2007, was discriminatory because it determined how much money schools get (including for hiring new Teachers) based on how many students they have, and granted Principals control over hiring.



High pay a Drawback

Teachers in the reserve earned a $94,000 salary on average, with those at top salary earning twice as much as new educators.

Teachers in the ATR pool typically had 18 years of experience, greater than the average Teacher’s 10 years on the job, according to the DOE.

Last month, 27 Teachers filed age-discrimination claims to address the problems plaguing the 1,202 educators in the reserve.


"It appears that there is an agenda to rid the employee pool of veteran, high- salaried educators,” according to the complaint by attorney Bryan Glass. “The means to do so are through unjustified excessing in violation of the ‘last in, first out’ method where veteran Teachers are pushed out before younger and less-senior Teachers.”

Similar complaints were filed by 13 educators over the age of 50 who worked in the DOE’s troubled Office of Adult and Continuing Education. The veteran Teachers claimed they were targeted with poor ratings and discipline because of their age.

ATR Teachers have previously decried the stigma of being in the reserve that has contributed to the difficulty of being hired permanently. The complaint noted that
ATRs also lose financial opportunities, such as after-school work and teaching summer school.


The article continues by quoting some of the teachers involved including Francesco Portelos, one of the founders and leaders of an opposition group called Solidarity.

We believe this case has merit. Let us see where it goes. The only real question is why didn't the UFT file this complaint instead of members having to pay a private attorney?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

CHIEF LEADER HAS ARTICLE ON LEGALIZING PUBLIC EMPLOYEE STRIKES

The ICEUFT blog may look like a one trick pony the last few days as there has surprisingly been fairly extensive press coverage of Democratic primary candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon's campaign proposal to legalize strikes in New York State for government employees.

She has found a wedge issue where Governor Andrew Cuomo cannot out flank her on the left. The problem is union leaders to my knowlege are not embracing Nixon's proposal up to now as they should be. Do we need any further proof that these are company unions in bed with management?

The latest article is from the go-to civil service newspaper The Chief Leader.

Some main parts:

Jane Latour, a union activist and labor historian, said in an email exchange that Ms. Nixon’s message could resonate with some union members, especially “younger voters, fed up with incrementalism and looking for a fresh, direct-action politics.”

And Richard Wolff, an economics professor at the New School University, observed that European public unions can go on strike because authorities that punished them would quickly face a more-widespread strike.

“The right to strike is the closest thing to an equal playing field for employees and employers to bargain and negotiate,” Mr. Wolff said. “Without that right, employers have much more power to force their wills on employees. Public employees should never have been deprived of that right by the power and pressure of employers, public and private together. Bravo to all politicians with the courage to return the right to strike to public employees.”


I cannot overemphasize how important having the ability to withold our labor is for working people. We should demand that union leaders endorse this proposal as well as only supporting with UFT COPE money (voluntary political contributions) politicians who are on board with legal public sector strikes.

Maybe we should threaten a statewide action in support of Nixon's proposal.

More from the Chief:

In a phone interview, Doug Muzzio,  a Political Science Professor at Baruch College, said that after trying for months to find a wedge issue to set herself apart from the Governor, Ms. Nixon had finally got one with her call to lift the prohibition against public workers striking.

“The Governor has successfully adopted her other progressive policies and positions, which has muddied the distinctions between the two. But this [lifting the Taylor Law] is concrete,” he said. “Cuomo has been adept at adopting her other policies, but this is not going to be one of them.”

Mr. Muzzio continued, “This is likely to appeal to younger progressives who are in an economy where wages are stagnant, and then for them there’s also the issue of student debt. The other open question is whether it is wise or not.”



Nixon's proposal works for older workers too but can we force union leaders to get behind it? That is debatable. It is up to us to put pressure on union leaders to get us back the right to strike.

Monday, August 13, 2018

LABOR PROFESSOR JOSHUA FREEMAN SUPPORTS PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RIGHT TO STRIKE

I am somewhat surprised the Daily News printed an op-ed piece in support of Cynthia Nixon's position that public employees should be legally able to strike.  The author Joshua Freeman is a renowned labor history professor.

Here is the main part:

Since 1947, it has been illegal for public workers in New York State to go on strike, first under the Condon-Wadlin act, which called for strikers to be fired, and after 1967 under the Taylor Law, which penalizes them two days pay for each day off the job.

Now Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination for governor, has called for eliminating the strike ban as a way to strengthen unions in the face of fierce legal and political assaults.

No one likes strikes, especially ones that disrupt the lives of the public, but Nixon has a point. There is no reason why public employees should not have the same rights as privately-employed workers. In 1919, Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge crushed a Boston police strike in the name of defending the sovereignty of the state.

But such arguments have long been outmoded, as private-sector style labor relations have been imported into the public realm without undermining the power of government. Several states, including Pennsylvania, allow public sector strikes without the sky falling down.


New York unionists have long complained that the Taylor Law strips them of their most powerful weapon, the right to withdraw their labor. Complicating the situation is a provision of the law that says when public employee contracts expire, their terms will remain in effect until a new contract is signed. This protects workers when public officials and union leaders fail to come to an agreement, but eliminates the pressure to do just that.

Employers often simply wait unions out, not fearing a walkout. Mayor Michael Bloomberg allowed over 150 city labor contracts to expire by the time he left office. For workers, such rope-a-dope means decreased spending power as inflation eats away at their salaries. Meanwhile, without the right to strike, public employee unions turn to politics, mobilizing their resources on behalf of candidates with whom they may end up bargaining.


Strengthened public employee unions might drive up government labor costs, but they also will benefit workers far beyond their own ranks by setting higher benchmarks for wages and benefits and sustaining hundreds of thousands of middle-class families who live within New York State, paying taxes and spending money.

Freeman goes on by citing a possible compromise if there is no new contract and he also makes the case that unions should not be reckless with the strike weapon.

It is an excellent read. This blog fully endorses the Nixon proposal as the way to level the playing field between workers and management.



Sunday, August 12, 2018

DE BLASIO AND CUOMO AGREE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES SHOULD NOT HAVE RIGHT TO STRIKE

The United Nations agrees that workers are entitled to free association rights. A UN commission ruled that the NYS Taylor Law's prohibition on strikes by public employees is a violation of international law. Twelve states in the US allow legal public employee strikes. Supposedly progressive N.Y. is not one of them. Our so called liberal leaders Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio agree teachers and other public employees should not have the right to strike.

Cynthia Nixon came up with a pro-worker campaign proposal in her quest to unseat Cuomo as governor. Nixon wants to change the Taylor Law to allow public employees in NYS to exercise what under international law is a protected right: the right to strike.

From the Daily News,
first Mayor de Blasio:

"I have a lot of respect for Cynthia but I disagree with her on this,” de Blasio said. “I acknowledge and appreciate that she said there should be an exemption for first responders, but I don't agree with changing the Taylor Law.”

The mayor said “the Taylor Law serves an important public purpose and at the same time there are lots of ways for workers rights to be acknowledged and their voices to be heard. I think we have the right law now."


Is the mayor serious? Voices heard? DOE workers filed many hundreds of sexual harassment complaints and almost none of them were substantiated. I am not surprised he would like the current law. After all, city employees under his leadership are receiving salary increases that do not even keep pace with inflation and giving back on healthcare. He is no friend of working people.

Governor Cuomo is a long time enemy of workers.

Cuomo in that same Daily News piece:

The premise of the Taylor Law is you would have chaos if certain services were not provided,” said Cuomo, citing police, firefighters, and prison guards.


He didn't mention how countries like Bitain and France as well as 12 US states manage to survive with public sector employees being allowed to legally strike. Cuomo also has not negotiated with state workers raises that keep pace with inflation in two terms as governor.


Nixon and her campaign blasted Cuomo, her opponent for governor, not de Blasio in a response.

“While Cuomo has done an election year about-face and started aggressively courting the support of union leaders, today’s comments make clear that the governor remains anti-worker at heart,” Nixon said. “We should be standing alongside our brave teachers, not cracking down on them for fighting for fair pay and dignity and better education for their students.”

Most of the public employee unions have endorsed Cuomo this year.

She noted that the president of the Transit Workers Union served time in prison and the union fined $2.5 million after transit workers illegally walked off the job in 2005.

Nixon campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told the Daily News de Blasio’s comments don’t change Nixon’s stance on the issue.

“We still feel public sector workers should be able to strike,” Hitt said.

Nixon has made transit issues a top priority of her campaigns. Hitt dismissed the idea that giving transit workers the right to strike could further derail the subway system.

“The problems with the subways is not because transit workers are striking,” she said. “The problems with the subways is because of decades of mismanagement, most recently under Gov. Cuomo.”


I don't see the gutless public employee union leaders making a big deal, or saying much of anything, on the strike issue. That is not surprising unfortunately as they seem more interested in their seats at the Democratic Party table than with improving rank and file working conditions.

Friday, August 10, 2018

SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT FILED BY COUNSELOR FROM HUMANITIES AND THE ARTS HIGH SCHOOL

Many will be shocked by a lawsuit filed by a guidance counselor claiming an assistant principal sexually harassed her and when she reported it to the principal, he retaliated by attempting to fire her. The principal then directed her to work in a storage closet.

From the Daily News story on the lawsuit:

An ex-Queens high school guidance counselor was sexually harassed at work — and then banished to a filthy closet and brought up on fireable charges after she reported the abuse, a shocking lawsuit charges.

Former Humanities and the Arts High School counselor Sandhya Thomas, 53, of New Hyde Park, claims in the suit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court Monday that she was groped by her supervisor, Humanities and the Arts assistant principal Ghandi Moussa, who also allegedly masturbated in front of her in a series of sexually inappropriate interactions between 2013 and 2017.



“Upon Moussa’s arrival at the Humanities,” in 2013, the suit states, “he would regularly make Thomas stand close to him, using that as an opportunity to touch her or brush up against Thomas’s arms, breasts, buttocks, and other body parts.”

The harassment worsened in 2017, according to legal papers, when “Thomas observed Moussa begin to rub his genitals over his pants while starring at Thomas’ breasts, masturbating in front of her, while moaning.”

Thomas, who’s worked in city schools since 1998, reported the harassment in 2016, the suit says. Humanities and the Arts principal Kayode Ayetiwa retaliated and banished her to work in a room filled with broken chairs that had no heat, the lawsuit alleges.

When Thomas complained, Ayetiwa sent her to work in a nastier place — a dusty, moldy storage closet in the Cambria Heights school, the suit says.

Thomas claims Ayetiwa and Moussa also brought her up on bogus charges and tried to get her fired. A hearing officer suspended Thomas for poor job performance, for six months without pay starting in May.


Sadly, we are not at all shocked by this story. ICEUFT has been covering the Humanities and the Arts High School's awful administrators for several years.

For full disclosure, this is the school my wife worked at for over a decade. I can confirm that Ms. Thomas is a decent person who should be credible. She is sane. This is not some crazy disgruntled employee.

Principal Ayetiwa, thanks to the Department of Education's "My principals right or wrong" culture  set up by Joel Klein that  continues to the present day, has been empowered to make life miserable for anyone who questions anything he does. Ayetiwa is very anti-UFT.

He visciously went after the Chapter Leader, the Delegate (my wife Camille) and next  the tracher who had the guts to step up and get elected to relace the first CL. The UFT hierarchy knew all along what this principal was about. Their response was not exactly strong. Complaints went as far up the UFT ladder as an in person meeting with Staff Director Leroy Barr. The Union would not fight in public even when union activists were forced out of the building one after the other.

Do you think anyone who remained in the building was going to speak up after seeing good people removed and not much done about it? Better to hide.

How many more of these stories have to be exposed before the UFT demands, and will accept nothing less than, an end to the anti-UFT member culture spread across too many schools?

We need a real union.