A couple of weeks back we posted a piece that was in part about the UFT becoming a one party state. It received many hits. In the posting, we copied an excerpt from Class Struggles: the UFT Story by Jack Schierenbeck concerning the 1962 UFT strike.
I was curious about how far we've come since those days before the UFT had its initial contract. In terms of class size, we haven't made any gains since the 1960's as Arthur Goldstein's Daily News Op-Ed shows. But back in those days, we actually were able to get class size limits in the contract. Having a union actually improved teacher working conditions. Before the UFT, no contract at all.
What about in terms of salary?
Don Morey was a brave picketer during the 1962 strike. He was not embarrassed to be asking for more money for himself. He held a sign saying, "More Money for Morey." According to the Class Struggles account, he was a 7 year teacher who was earning $6,810 back then. If we use an inflation calculator, that comes to $54,420.30 in 2017 dollars.
What is the base salary for a teacher in 2017 on Step 7A who has worked at least five of those years in the NYC system?
$58,870. Considering that we work a longer day these days, it appears that we have only improved by a few hundred dollars compared to 1962.
However, if we take the Masters salary, still counting a half hour longer day (that endless PD on Monday and Tuesdays for most schools counts as part of our day), we are making $65,282 so teachers are considerably better off financially because of the UFT. Remember, the UFT fought for the promotional differential for all teachers. At the Masters +30 credits level, the salary comparison becomes even more in favor of the benefits of a union as it jumps to $71,692.
Those sixties militants who went on strike four times in that decade also won a Tier I pension which is far superior to what the current Tier IV-TierVI teachers have, class size limits (we haven't improved on them since), and more. Teachers became respected because they stood up for themselves.
If we look at the deterioration of the pension for Tier VI hires, weakened due process, an awful evaluation system and more, it is abundantly clear that our Union leadership has been accepting givebacks to throw away much of what people like Don Morey fought for. That makes me sad, angry and concerned about the future. If, or maybe I should say when, the UFT is weakened so teachers no longer have to pay union dues, too many people who read this blog are going to cut off their noses to spite their faces by quitting the union. Their reasonable rationale will be that the UFT does not work in their interests.
That might be a compelling argument but in some ways it's on us to fix it, not Michael Mulgrew. Yes his Unity Caucus has rigged the game with their patronage system that compels people to be loyal to the caucus to get union perks and Unity controls the flow of information so most teachers only hear the Unity spin. However, what if that Unity system was brought down by the people who have the power to do it: the membership? What is the teachers en masse woke up? I still say it is possible.
We can either wait for Friedrichs the Sequel to come around so some of us can choose not to pay union dues or we can work to stop the deterioration of our working conditions by uniting to become a militant union again.
The gains teachers made in their lives were won when teachers fought the hardest collectively for their rights. I would like to start the process to do just that again.