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Robbery in Broad Daylight

October 9, 2020 pm31 4:57 pm

Bill de blasio walked up to NYC teachers – on a weekday this time.

Think about that. Through this whole pandemic he has saved his announcements for Friday. After the work day is over. Or over the weekend. He is a coward. Schools closed? Sunday. Vacation lost. Friday. Zoom banned. Friday. Passover and Good Friday stolen? Friday. He skulks in the shadows.

But not this time. He walked right up to us and stole money, in front of the whole world. It is a brazen, daylight robbery. Or at least an attempt. It is Trump-worthy.

Over a decade ago, under that slimeball, Mayor Bloomberg, teachers worked under an expired contract. He wouldn’t negotiate fairly. And we were not going to sign yet another concessionary deal. Teachers were still smarting (and still are) from the massive concessions that Weingarten and her lieutenants made on our behalf in 2005. So when the contract expired in 2009 we kept working….

When Bloomberg left we negotiated with de blasio. In 2014 we completed an ok agreement – the raises started right away, but de blasio complained that he did not have the money in hand to pay the back raises from 2009 – 11. The UFT leadership should have negotiated for full retroactivity. Instead they negotiated a series of precarious “lump sum” payments, with caveats attached. The City paid 1/8 in 2015, 1/8 in 2017, 1/4 in 2018, 1/4 in 2019, and the last quarter was due next week. Hmm, a bit more than that, since interest has been accruing. The last quarter was set to be the biggest quarter.

So now, a week away from the last part of this deal, de blasio says no, he’s not paying us what we worked for, what we are owed, what we unfairly let the city hold onto for a decade.

Why is the coward brave?

  • He figures that no one will open the city’s books, and realize that the money is actually there.
  • He figures that teachers will look bad demanding money on top of our regular pay. He figures it will look to outsiders like we are demanding a bonus.
  • He figures that the world will not realize that this is pay that we earned, long ago, and that teachers were essentially forced to loan back to the City.
  • He knows that only about half the current UFTers are due the money.

I wish I believed he had miscalculated.

A facebook friend wrote:

I earned a salary in 2009 and I was only partially paid.
NYC asked if they could pay me later for what I had earned, they asked me to wait until 2020, and I said Ok.

Now, I will not get that salary that I earned 11 years ago, ever? Soon? And I’m told only days before? As if I didn’t have bills lined up for it?

Addendum: teachers do not get bonuses when the city is soaring in revenues… asking us to “help” the city when it is below revenue expectations is then inappropriate.

Mulgrew wrote:

Those payments are overdue wages that go back to 2009 and 2010, when then-Mayor Bloomberg refused to grant educators the same wage increases other municipal workers received.

We are entitled to this money, and the city is obligated to make us whole.

Because of a clause we insisted on including in the 2014 contract for just such a possibility, we are taking the city to immediate arbitration. With arbitration, we don’t have to file a grievance or go to court, which could take months or years.

Our hearing before an independent arbitrator is already scheduled for tomorrow. At that hearing, we will demand that the city uphold the agreement it made with us.

Over these last five months, members and delegates and chapter leaders and executive board members have asked Mulgrew about “retro” – and he assured them each time that the money was there and that the payments were not in play. Either he knew and deceived the members, or he didn’t know – but how could he not know?

The right answer: “The money is there, we expect them to make the payment, but we have to be careful with City Hall – we work with them but we never fully trust them” – we did not hear that answer. Why not? Was Mulgrew too busy working with de blasio and Carranza on blended lunch and instructional learning, and did not want to upset them by delivering such a blunt message to the members?

Some points:

  • Many of us do not live paycheck to paycheck – but some of us do. And some of us have already spent the money that was due in a few days. Who will help them?
  • The union encourages members to up their TDA % for a one time bump from the lump sum payment. Now those people who listened will not only not get their lump sum, but they will get a huge chunk of their pay taken out – it is too late to fix this. Who will help them?
  • The City has been wasting money 30 different ways over these last few months. Overpaid managers. Silly contracts. Hiring non-essential staff.
  • Police are an issue. The City paid massive NYPD overtime to police peaceful protests. There has been no defunding of the police – there has been a huge increase in police funding.
  • The City knew about financial problems in May. Or June? They got worse with no stimulus package. But whatever the date, they could have approached the UFT. A few months in advance. A month in advance. To talk. Not with an ultimatum. Not one week in advance.
  • By declining to engage with the UFT leadership, when it was possible, by publicly urinating on Michael Mulgrew, de blasio shows that he is neither impressed by the UFT’s potential strength, nor appreciative of Mulgrew’s concessions.
  • Mulgrew’s strategy of sacrificing UFTers’ rights in pursuit of a foolish reopening plan earned him (and us) no respect from the City. Concessions are bad. Concessions with no consideration? Who does that?
  • In 2014, to win a larger ratification vote, Mulgrew made the payments look larger by backloading them, and by stringing them out for years. This was dumb.
  • From now on, money up front. Don’t let Mulgrew or the next Mulgrew sell you a bill of goods.

Is there anything we can do beyond arbitration?

This really is horrible, especially for those UFTers who were due the money and are in bad financial shape.

But lump sums aside, the big fight that should be happening right now, is not happening right now. We still need to move our system to fully remote. And we are unlikely to succeed until the UFT leadership gets on board.


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