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Vote no on pension de-equalization; stand up for new hires

June 23, 2009 am30 9:09 am

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to let you know that the UFT today concluded negotiations on an agreement that restores the traditional post-Labor Day school start for our members, leaves intact the pension and health benefits of all current UFT members in active service or retired, and preserves our hard-won age 55 retirement benefit in the face of enormous political pressure to roll that back. We have agreed to support legislation to modify pension measures for newly-hired UFT members, which will provide the city with much-needed cost savings during this severe economic downturn…

So begins a letter from Randi Weingarten to tens of thousands of UFT members.

The proposal is outlined in a letter. I’ll find it and link it, or retype it later. But here’s the points:

  1. we don’t have to show up the two days before Labor Day anymore
  2. The fixed TDA bumps down to 7%
  3. New hires will contribute 4.85% to pension for 27 years, instead of 10 years. Vesting occurs after 10 instead of 5 years.
  4. New hires will need 15 years, instead of 10 years, to be eligible for health coverage after retirement
  5. The teachers owe the DoE 1.08%, of which points 2 and 4 cover 0.5%, with the remaining 0.58% to come out of the next contract.

Randi wrote “will provide the city with much-needed cost savings during this severe economic downturn

But new hires would have contributed for the next ten years anyhow. There’s no “savings” (ie loss for teachers) until 2019.

So why has the DoE become so generous?

They haven’t. They are willing to swallow the two days to achieve their long-term goal: pension reduction and pension de-equalization.

The union is delivering current members something we want – those two days. We hate, despise those days. We hate reporting in August. We lose the Labor Day weekend. In my chapter, most people were willing to take a hit on the wage settlement in the next contract in return for getting those two days back. And I assume that there is similar sentiment in schools around the City.

And we will not bear the cost… Not directly. But we are paying out of our future colleagues’ pensions. A union agreement would stand for solidarity, for sharing what pain there is, for sharing the gains amongst us. This is not a union agreement – it is a political agreement, it is a business agreement. Someone has cynically calculated just how much it will cost to get us to deal away part of our “unborn” colleagues pensions. They are counting on us having no sense of solidarity, no union spirit. We should say no.

Tomorrow, at the Delegate Assembly, we will vote on this proposal. Vote no.

Some of you, as unionists, as defenders of workers rights and gains, know that NO is the right vote, but may feel constrained.

If you are constrained against voting no, step out of the room. Or don’t come.

And if you must be there and vote the wrong way, decline to speak in favor.

And for the rest of us: come; speak; vote no.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2009 pm30 8:20 pm 8:20 pm

    Here is an alternative to the above proposals: Instead of “give backs,” give “loan backs.” In other words, find ways to save the city money, but let the measures be temporary until the fiscal crises subsides– and clearly state that the cost cutting measures will be reversed when the fiscal crises ends.

    The budget shortfall for the school system is only about 5 percent. I suggest we loan the needed money to the city out of our future salary, (which we will eventually get back with interest). We did this before, in the 1990’s.

    The UFT is suggesting we give away benefits (or increase costs of benefits) with no agreement to reverse the measures. It boggles my mind how anyone can agree to this.

    If a delegate hears this, please offer this suggestion to the delegate assembly, and stop letting the City eat away at our members. (That is if you are even allowed to offer alternatives).

    (I find it amazing that this was signed and a vote will come before delegate can discuss this with their members.)

  2. anthony permalink
    June 23, 2009 pm30 8:21 pm 8:21 pm

    The city pays approximately 16,000 dollars per year for the pension benefit for each employee. Asking new hires to pay 5% of their paycheck is not a lot given that that benefit is still largely paid for by the city. And new hires start out making a lot more than I did when I started. Not to mention most of them still live with their parents. If new hires do not pay into the system, there won’t be a pension benefit for them given the state of the pension as it stands today. If new hires want to modify this, then they should get down to work and start supporting their union. They can start by showing up to a union meeting now a then. When they get as involved as we have been over the years, then they too can change their tier benefits as we have tirelessly worked to change ours.

    • June 23, 2009 pm30 10:00 pm 10:00 pm

      New members are too busy surviving and getting their masters degree. Don’t you remember those days?

      Do you really want to put the new members into a 20 year struggle to get back rights that it takes 1 day to give away.

      If the city needs money, lets lend it to the city, and charge interest, without giving away the rights of our newer members.

      One can always find reasons to justify their actions. Can you find reasons to avoid doing something that you wouldn’t want done to you?

      • anthony permalink
        June 25, 2009 pm30 10:12 pm 10:12 pm

        too busy going to school. stop f-cking whining. what a freaking unbelievable whiny bunch of babies. i taught in the ghetto with kids getting shot in the streets after school. and went to school. and suppoted my union.

    • KMTMB permalink
      June 24, 2009 am30 1:39 am 1:39 am

      Just completing 5 years teaching but my living status is unchanged. I don’t live with my parents, dad’s dead 20+ years, mom’s 81. I am solely responsible for my 3 children WHO LIVE WITH ME. NOT ALL NEW TEACHERS ARE “KIDS”. Please stop stereotyping, generalizing and assuming.

      One of my first priorities when I started NYCTF was to find out my status as a UFT member and to join. I can recount horror stories of the treatment of my fellows’ cohorts by lousy administrations AND some veteran “unionist” teachers. This blog author (Many thanks again,jd) worked hard to give us UFT info and bring us into the fold but there were vets in each and every school who were nasty, unsupportive and ignorant as to how NYCTF functioned and how we earned our credentials. Many “newbies” were alienated and simply don’t trust anyone in the UFT.

      It is just as important for the vets to go out and include new teachers. There is so much on our plates for the first three years that some simple,basic even “seductive” outreach by each chapter on a continuing basis to keep the UFT strong from within, IMHO, will encourage “the Kids” to become active members.

      Why would “newbies” want to even contemplate being part of the UFT when they are verbally tarred and feathered by virtue of their beginning status? Why did I persevere? Because my experience in joining any new organization is that “empty barrels make the most noise” and I kept looking for the real people, the actual strength in the organization. I was lucky and found those people because I was in a large school. It’s tough in small and new schools. It’s tough when colleagues bluster and carry on that its the NYCTF, TFA and the “kids” from the “know nothing” college ed programs that are the problem.
      Last I checked EVERY ONE OF YOU VETERANS WAS A KNOW NOTHING-DO NOTHING NEWBIE,RIGHT? Or were all of you just god’s gift to teaching and unionism?

      Every year from the first, I made it a point to educate my new colleagues about the UFT. I encouraged them, I took flack for them from admins and teachers, simply becaause I believe in unionism. There were times I feared for my job but the principle was more important.

      So how do I keep this up in a school when the only chapter meeting is in Sept and June. There is no union office and talking to the chapter leader means putting a note in his mailbox with your phone number and he’ll get back to you. Talking to him in school means politely trying to break into the “old boys” club in the cafeteria, hallway, etc.
      How do I encourage when we have 3 different shifts and we can’t make it to rallies because as the least senior we get the least desirable schedules? STOP and think; reach out to newbies no matter their age; do it over and over again . You’ll know you have succeeded when the last year’s newbies actually turn around to 1st year teachers and bring them into the UFT fold.

      In short, explain what the facts are behind this new deal. Explain how the DA works so they understand who is voting,how and why. Stop blaming colleagues for being new.
      It is the only way, after all, to get to be a veteran.

      • anthony permalink
        June 25, 2009 pm30 10:05 pm 10:05 pm

        take it easy newbie. i’ll say it again. you folks better get behind your union. you might be older, but most of the newbies are younger. their smart. their professional. their highly qualified. much more than i can say about the boomers before me. however, they don’t understand the labor movement, its history or purpose, and in the end that is going to come back to bite them in the ass.

        no. i ain’t gods gift. but i did teach in some of the toughest neighborhoos and in the toughest of times. and if i want to tell a few young newbies to grow up and get behind their union than i earned that right. and you ought show a little more respect too. you aint been through half of what i’ve been through with this system. and truthh be told, still fifty/fifty on whether or not your even gonna make it past the next couple of years.

        so btfu pal and settle your sh=t down. show some f-cking repect.

        • June 26, 2009 am30 8:18 am 8:18 am

          Getting new teachers to support the union is hard work. It is important work. And it is made harder by comments like those.

          The DoE is smart enough to go after us one group at a time. One day the ATRs, the next the fellows. Senior teachers. Counselors.

          Part of their goal is to get us to point fingers, not to stand together. To get new teachers to complain about senior teachers, and to get you to write exactly what you’ve been writing.

          When I meet new teachers, we talk about respect for people who’ve done the job, about standing together. Everytime a new teacher gets this, it is a victory for all of us, over the DoE.

          And when you stop knocking new teachers, that will also be a victory for all of us, too.

        • KMTMB permalink
          June 27, 2009 pm30 1:47 pm 1:47 pm

          Thank you for proving my point.


  3. JenF permalink
    June 23, 2009 pm30 11:15 pm 11:15 pm

    Giving us back two days? Not really. Teachers are now supposed to come back to work the same day their students return. Most teachers that I know will be back in their buildings the week before preparing for the school year. Only now those days before the kids return are unpaid.

    Remind me again – what are the teachers getting out of this?

  4. June 23, 2009 pm30 11:27 pm 11:27 pm

    Fellow Member,

    You are concentrating on a couple of days when the dangerous issue is the City’s inroads on diminishing pensions. Don’t let them make those inroads while they throw you a two day bone.

    • anthony permalink
      June 25, 2009 pm30 10:07 pm 10:07 pm

      better listen to this dude cause he telling you the real dope.

  5. Michael Shulman permalink
    June 25, 2009 pm30 5:10 pm 5:10 pm

    A key argument made at yesterday’s Delegate Assembly by those in support of this “modification” was that we have ten years to work for an improvement( to the 4.85 for 27 years). In fact, it took over 30 years to get us to pension equalizaton. I think it was very cynical tying in a bad agreement with the dreaded two days in Auguust. Active members have been pitted against those yet to be hired. By the way, let’s remember how bitter our active members who were on Tier 3 and 4 were.How do we explain this vote to our new colleagues.–we wanted the two days back.

    • anthony permalink
      June 25, 2009 pm30 10:09 pm 10:09 pm

      pension modifications were going to happen. period. wasn’t a whole lot anyone could do about it.

      wake up newbies. get behind your union. get off your cell phones and get involved.

  6. 14 more years permalink
    June 28, 2009 pm30 2:09 pm 2:09 pm

    I’m not being sarcastic- really I’m not- but in my world, we don’t have pension equalization now. How can anybody possibly compare Tier 1 to Tier 4? Am I missing something?

    I think the point that is trying to be made is this: many (but not all) new hires appear to be anti-Union. They helped to vote in the hideous 2005 contract. They only saw dollar signs, not the many givebacks that are union fought so hard for. We lost seniority transfers among other things. They do anything and everything administration asks of them. While I don’t agree that we should pay for those 2 days, they were a big deal to many MANY teachers. I am thrilled to have them back, and no, I will not go in early to set up my room (because you can be damn sure that they will be keeping track of “attendance” and I won’t contribute to it- because you KNOW they will throw it up in our faces). I hate to say it, but it is hard to muster up much sympathy for the newbies, many of whom have no intention of being career teachers anyway.

    • June 28, 2009 pm30 8:33 pm 8:33 pm

      If you can convince one new teacher to stay in the system, that is a major accomplishment. If you can recruit one new teacher from anti-union to neutral, or from neutral to pro-union, that is an accomplishment. There’s a problem. I don’t think anyone benefits from the complaints, but everyone benefits if we can do something about it, even if it is one member at a time.

    • KMTMB permalink
      June 29, 2009 am30 12:32 am 12:32 am

      I’m curious about 2 points.
      What was the percentage breakdown of the “newbies” in all types of schools vs. veteran elementary school teachers, and veteran high school teachers and their votes for the last contract?

      Who brokered the “pension deal”? Who actually voted to accept the deal? Now I may not have all the experience many of the commenters have on this blog but I do know RW and the DA are not “newbies”. I also know I wasn’t asked to vote and my DAs didn’t ask for input from the members they represent. I would have voted no and I did let my DA know but…
      Those of you who continue to blame “newbies” for all and sundry,please, please rethink. Our strength comes from OUR solidarity as teachers, no matter the length of service.

      I hope you all have an enjoyable summer.

      • June 29, 2009 am30 1:05 am 1:05 am

        There is no breakdown of votes by division, age, or experience. There are separate breakdowns by title. For the 2005 contract (not the last one, the one before, the one we all complain about), the yes vote was lower for teachers than for other titles, but still about 60%.

        The pension agreement was negotiated by Randi Weingarten (pretty sure about that), approved by the Exec Board (I was one of three no votes), and then ratified by the Delegate Assembly. A speaker there (TJC) thought it should have gone to the membership for ultimate ratification; Randi said there wasn’t time. I think the speaker was right, but that it would not have made a difference.


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