Mulgrew made the case for the contract for over an hour and then doubled the question period to half an hour to speak some more. He finally allowed for debate on the contract after 6:00 pm when there is an automatic adjournment at 6:15 p.m. His basic argument is that the city has no money for raises because former Mayor Bloomberg depleted the labor reserve. The one sided discussion was worse than even the usual DA mangling of democracy. It was a complete sham.
After Mulgrew finally finished talking, one Unity person (majority caucus of the UFT which does not allow dissent) spoke in favor of sending the contract to the membership for ratification and then Mulgrew pointed to a second Unity member and that is when I sprung forward and called for a point of order. As everyone who regularly reads this blog knows, debate is supposed to alternate between speakers for and against every topic according to Robert's Rules. Since there was a speaker for the contract, there should be one against. The Unity speaker was willing to yield the floor so Mulgrew gave it to me.
I had a thorough speech ready (see below) where I was about to go point for point to refute much of what Mulgrew said. I started right out on the economics.
"Up until two months ago at the DA, Mulgrew was telling us that the city has money but they always say they are broke. I keep reading in the papers that the city surplus is growing."
(Mulgrew in February:
“We look at the city’s fiscal numbers all the time; it is clear to us that there is money out there. We need our teachers to be paid at least at the level of the school districts around us, which we are not.”)
I continued: "The city is not in bad shape financially so why are we settling for so little. If we take out the 4% + 4% for the first two years that just equals the last pattern (and we won't see it until between 2015 and 2020), the pattern we set for the rest of municipal labor is 10% total over 7 years." That is the worst pattern in municipal labor history (at least as long as I have been around)." At this point, Mulgrew stopped me and said I was wrong. I responded that according to Robert's Rules when I have the floor, he has no right to interrupt me. I also told him that I have an interpretation of what's in the agreement and so does he and that doesn't make me wrong.
Someone then called a point of order and said that during the question period we agreed that people would only get 30 seconds to ask a question so I was only entitled to the floor for 30 seconds and my time was up. Mulgrew said I could make one more point and I responded by telling him that the 30 second rule was for the question period. I also stated that I sat and listened to him politely for an hour motivating the contract and now it was my turn. He claimed that was my one point and time was up. I then proceeded to say that I wished I was being recorded (earlier he said UFT policy is no recording) because the entire membership should be permitted to see how he treats people who are dissidents. There was fairly loud applause as I walked away.
Maybe I should have stayed and further held my ground but I felt I blew away his no money argument and other people could handle some of the other issues as well or better than I could.
Unfortunately, they never had the chance. The opposition's next speaker took his 30 seconds to point out how Mulgrew was wrong on his 30 second rule as it pertained to the question period. We had one other Delegate who had the chance to speak.
Mulgrew then stopped the debate at exactly 6:15 p.m. and called for the vote. The overwhelming Unity majority obeyed their caucus obligation and supported the contract.
Time allotted for contract discussion:
- Pro contract side talked for well over an hour.
- The opposition was given about 3 minutes of which half of the time was spent trying to keep the floor and tell the president he was out of order. Would you call that a fair debate?
I have written out the points I wanted to make and will instead make them here. Below that is a statement on health care. We don't have to make up anything about the contract. It is bad enough to fall on its own.
Opposition to Contract 2014This Contract is based on deferred payments. President Michael Mulgrew told us that we have had wages deferred before. He mentioned a wage deferral from 1991(in an email). Let’s go look at that deferral and compare it to the current proposal.
Back in 1990 we had a union friendly mayor who gave us a one year pattern bargaining busting raise of 5.5% however the economy was about to go into recession and the city soon thereafter found itself in a cash crisis. The city threatened to lay off thousands of teachers including me. To bail the city out, the UFT agreed to loan part of our raise to the city. In order for the city to get us to accept loaning them our money, they had to sweeten the deal.
In return for loaning the city much of our raise, we gained:
* An ironclad no layoff agreement
* The February midwinter recess (we used to work that week)
* The ability to retire directly after a sabbatical
* A very generous retirement incentive that gave people up to three years pension credit allowing those with thirty years in the system to leave as early as 52 years old
* 9% interest on the loan when we got the money back in 1996.
Thanks to the majority of the members of this union who agreed that solidarity with our most vulnerable members like me was important, my job and the jobs of thousands of other teachers were saved.
Let’s fast forward to today where again we have a union friendly mayor but now we have been beaten down by corporate school reform for a long time. The city again wants us to defer money. This time it is the 4% + 4% raises other unions got that we are owed since 2009. In addition we are setting the worst pattern in municipal union history that other city unions will have to swallow of 10% over 7 years. I look at the city budget and I don’t see a crisis. I see surpluses but let’s accept the premise that the money is tight.
If unions accept less money, then what are the sweeteners in this deal for us?
* Changing the use of the 37.5 minutes. By my count, the extended time provision has been reconfigured 6 times since it went into the contract in 2002. What makes anyone think this change of two days of professional development and parent outreach will be better than the tutoring or other uses of extended time? It is not a gain.
* Merit pay or career ladder. The ambassador teacher, model and master teachers just creates different classes of teachers. It flies in the face of union solidarity. We are one union. Funny how there is money for merit pay and the hard to staff school differential but not for our raises. As for the argument that it isn't really merit pay, paying select teachers more than their peers is merit pay. Don't they need to be highly effective or effective which means it will be based in large part on student test scores? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it usually is a duck.
* We get a curriculum. Not exactly a gain. We also now have to write unit plans.
* Up to 200 schools will be run like charter schools with short contracts. I thought the UFT started a charter school to show how schools can succeed if they follow the contract. Now we want to run schools like charter schools without contracts.
* Slightly altering Danielson but still basing our ratings in part on student test scores. No gain there as now the whole lousy evaluation system is part of the contract.
* No interest on the deferred money unlike in 1991 when we got 9%.
* An insulting severance package for ATRs.
* Weaker tenure for ATRs. Two documented occurrences of "problematic behavior" and we are in a 3020a hearing. This provision divides the union into two types of membership; regular and ATR. It’s antithetical to union solidarity. We are one union; we should have one tenure system for all of us. If this new system for ATRs is so good like the President says, why not give it to everyone? How can one argue this isn't worse than a major giveback?
If we are deferring our money, where are the gains? Where are the sweeteners? All I see is the acceptance of the basic tenets of Bloombergism but tweaking them a bit. Those are not gains.
In 1990, The DA rejected a loan to the city and sent the Negotiating Committee back to the table to get a better offer. They did. In 1995 against a tough mayor, the membership rejected a contract and got a better offer a few months later that had a retirement incentive, a 25 year longevity reduced to 22 and a 5% reduction in new teacher pay was eliminated. Where are our sweeteners now?
Yes these are tough times for unions and educators but this union has a choice: we can accept this contract which basically leaves the Bloomberg anti-teacher system in place or we can follow the lead of the teachers in Portland, Oregon and St Paul, Minnesota who have fought back and gotten better deals for their schools including lower class sizes. The UFT did better in 1991 after this DA rejected an original loan proposal and we did better in 1995 when the membership voted down a contract. We can do better now.
The contract is bad enough on its own. We don't need to say anything that isn't true. This is what UFT Welfare Fund Director Arthur Pepper said on healthcare.
Arthur Pepper reported that the UFT found the necessary savings the city wanted so there will be no effect on members. We will have the same access to doctors, hospitals and the drug plan won't change. There will be no premium for members.
Sadly Leroy Barr's mom passed away so our thoughts and prayers go out to Leroy and his family.