by John Elfrank-Dana, Chapter Leader, Murry Bergtraum High School
Ever been in an appliance store and were not certain about that big purchase? You wanna go home and think about it. But the salesman says, “The sale ends today!” Then you go, “Oh, what the hell!” and whip out that credit card. You weren’t sure, but it’s done. Now we’re being asked to decide something else in haste.
A new contract!!
Whew, that’s a relief. No more worries for two years! After taking a beating the last time your sighs of relief are well understood. But, does this contract have its own uncertainty built in? Look deep down the list of provisions to #17. It says that the bargaining of our health care benefits will be under the purview of the Municipal Labor Committee. The UFT leadership says it’s no big deal; that it’s practically always been that way. So, if that’s the case, why’s it in the Memorandum of Agreement? Something must have changed. Why haven’t we gotten an explanation to this question from the union? In a search for answers there are two pieces of information you need to look at; one from the New York Times and the other from the DOE itself.
In a November 8th article in the Metro section the Times stated that Randi Weingarten promised the mayor she’d help find a way for the city to save on health care costs. The DOE announced that the new teacher contract would be paid for by internal savings from the UFT. Wait a minute! What do they mean by “internal savings”? Could it mean that we will be paying health care premiums where we didn’t have to before and more in premiums for those already paying? I wonder how many months of health care premiums $750.00 would pay for. Or, that will be $750 MINUS the taxes, so about $590.00 worth of health care premiums. Say, a month or two? Given the catastrophic costs of health care, it’s plausible all of our so-called raise (about 3.5 percent a year, minus an average of 4 percent inflation leaves you at NEGATIVE .5). Ok, let’s call it a partial COLA, that doesn’t keep up with the one set by Social Security, which just went up 4.1 percent for 2006.
We said “NO” to a contract offer about ten years ago. Sandy Feldman had to go back and renegotiate. And that was against Giuliani! Remember him? Guess what? WE GOT A BETTER DEAL! The same arguments were made then: the mayor is tough and the economy even tougher. Well, maybe Bloomberg is tough too, but now the city is flush.
Could it be that Randi wants a quick deal because she’s up for reelection a few months after you get your $590 of chump change on January 2, 2007?
Add to this the following points:
1. There isn’t a single provision in this agreement that helps us at the school. No movement to reduce over- crowding, placing ATRs in classrooms to reduce class size, nothing to win the support of parents and to better serve our students.
2. The buyout of ATRs (likely victims of age discrimination in hiring under the new plan) could be opening the way for a future mandatory buyout. Who knows how much they will offer? Another unanswered question.
But there’s one thing you can be certain of from the contract- You’ll still be coming to work in August instead of September.
Precedent is being set and we don’t even have all the answers.
What’s the rush? The sale ends today!