The last Delegate Assembly basically had just three items. The first was the new pension deal where we get two days added to our summer vacation in exchange for billions in givebacks. The second was endorsing politicians as well as a contingency endorsement and then there was UFT President Randi Weingarten’s farewell speech and election as President Emeritus.
The first hour of the final Delegate Assembly of the school year was spent hearing about the deal between the UFT and the city. In the agreement which we have previously written about in this space, the two weekdays before Labor Day will be returned to our summer vacation in exchange for lowering the interest rate on the fixed TDA from 8.25% to 7% and other givebacks that will cost us $2 billion according to the Mayor’s office.
Randi motivated the deal by saying that the two days before Labor Day were something that many members asked for and she continued by noting that state revenues are dropping fast and our pension funds lost between 30-40% in assets. She added that the current situation would end up like the seventies with things done to us but instead we kept control of our destiny by agreeing to a deal that preserved the age 55 retirement for most members and also having the city agree with us to lobby jointly for more funding for the schools. She didn’t mention the TDA interest rate being reduced from 8.25% to 7% until it came up in discussion and she also didn’t see fit to refer to the fact that we are paying for the other half of our two recovered days of vacation by using funds set aside our next Contract.
The discussion that followed her report, as usual, was dominated by seven Unity people praising the deal and only two speakers were allowed to voice dissent.
The first speaker against talked about how it was fundamentally wrong to set up a new pension tier for yet to be hired teachers. The other opposition voice, Peter Lamphere from Bronx HS of Science, said that this pension deal should be voted on by the entire membership, not merely the DA, as it is a fundamental change in our Contract . Randi replied that there wasn’t time but we would have a say on it as part of the next Contract ratification. The pension deal overwhelmingly was approved by the DA but if people knew the true cost to all of us, not just yet to be hired teachers, I wonder if they would be so enthusiastic.
Political endorsements followed and the best speaker here was Marilyn Beckford from Hillcrest High School who pointed out that by endorsing city council members who voted to extend term limits for themselves and the mayor, we were giving a tacit endorsement of the mayor.
Randi cut short this segment to invite the press in to announce her resignation as UFT president effective July 31, 2009. She then gave a farewell speech about her accomplishments that included much higher salaries for teachers and getting more resources to the schools. She also listed the Chancellor’s District, adding tens of thousands of new UFT members, the 300 person negotiating committee and more. (You can read about how a delegate elect took Randi to task at Ed Notes.) Then, Leo Casey pulled out a resolution to make her President Emeritus of the UFT. The Unity faithful stood and cheered and Randi left the chair to Secretary Michael Mendel. The resolution carried unanimously.
Mendel continued the endorsement segment and most of the DA voted for the endorsements. Finally, there was a contingency resolution to let the Executive Board endorse candidates over the summer when the DA would not be in session.
I noticed that the office of Mayor was on this list of positions that the Executive Board could approve without getting back to the Delegates. Michael quickly asked if anyone wanted to speak and I raised my card but apparently he didn’t see it and he closed discussion. I then raised a point of order as I have every right to speak and he recognized me. I noted that to leave a Mayoral endorsement to the Executive Board was insulting to the Delegates. He and future President Michael Mulgrew both assured me that they would not endorse a mayoral candidate without first bringing in the Delegate Assembly but they did not change the resolution to reflect what they said. The contingency endorsement resolution passed but I think I made the point.
Have a great summer everyone.
If mayoral control sunsets tonight, this blog will not be shedding any tears.