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Lump Sums Delayed, on Average, 4 1/2 months

October 10, 2020 pm31 4:59 pm

Thursday, two days ago, Bill de blasio announced NYC would not pay UFT members the lump sum payments owed them on time. Michael Mulgrew announced that the UFT would fight – by going straight to arbitration.

The arbitrator, on Friday, ordered the city to pay half the amount in two weeks (October 31 instead of October 15), and the other half July 1, 2021.

The payment was the last and largest chunk left over from when Bloomberg refused to negotiate fairly with us. When de blasio came in we got a new contract, but some of the money owed us was pushed forward. And instead of being retroactive, it was made into “lump sums” – more about that, later.

This affects members who worked 2009-11. We should be aware that for the many members hired after that, they experienced the events of the last few days as a fight between City leadership and Union leadership, just as they have experienced much of the news from the last seven months. Does anyone know how many in service members have no financial stake in this? I am guessing 40-50%, but I could be wildly off.

In my school only 5 or 6 members are not due a payment – but we are probably not typical. At the other end of the spectrum, members who are paycheck to paycheck, or who had spent the lump sum in advance, or who had upped their TDA without backup, they still will hurt – but now they are looking at making some of that up at the end of the month.

  • UFTers are still getting the money owed them. Members were relieved. For most members who were owed money the delay is annoying, but they had worried about not getting paid at all.
  • The Mayor sought to unilaterally delay payment. And he succeeded.
  • The Mayor sought an indefinite delay. He failed.
  • The arbitrator limited the delay, but did not order the City to comply with the contract they had signed. The Mayor got away with violating the contract, without penalty.

One week before that last payout, de blasio announces “…the Department of Education is unable to make a lump sum payment to active and retired UFT employees as had been scheduled for this month…”

  • The Mayor did not bother consulting the UFT leadership in advance (I believe). Our union leadership’s overall strategy has been to earn “a seat at the table” – and clearly here, it failed.

A union’s potential strength comes from its ability to unite our members in action. Our leadership, though, thinks that our strength comes from being good at politics and hiring good lawyers. If they were right (they are not) these events would never have unfolded. The best they could do under those circumstances was go the arbitration route – and the limited loss (delayed payment) was the best they could possibly have produced.

Why Lump Sums, not Retroactive Payments?

I want to add a word about retroactive payments. Those would have been payments for all the money each UFT member had earned between the contract’s start date and when the contract was signed (five years?), had they actually been retroactive.

In Mulgrew’s Thursday night video he says “lump sum payment, retro payment, it’s known by different names…” But he knows the right name. It is a lump sum payment.

What’s the difference? If you got fired, you would not get the pay. If you quit, you would not get the pay. If you left service with 30 years in at age 53 (that happens), but did not file for retirement until age 55, you would not get the pay. At least initially, if you moved from a teacher line to a principal line, you would not get the pay. And if you died in service, AFAIK, your family was not entitled to the pay. A final insult for the families of our Covid-19 victims from the Spring. All of these people would have received retroactive pay, had Mulgrew negotiated for retro. He did not.

Why did the UFT leadership bargain for lump sums rather than retroactive payments? Because they could predict firings and discontinuances and resignations. Because actuaries could calculate how many teachers would die before 2020. And every payment so “saved” meant more money for the rest of us. Mulgrew and his lieutenants were trying to put the highest number possible on our increases – even thought the monetary value had already been agreed upon with the City. They were focused on selling the contract, on getting the biggest possible yes vote. They should have focused on the needs of our members, and on fairness.

This is why they backloaded increases. And why they chose lump sums, which eliminated those were fired, who quit, or who died, (and thus would not vote on the contract or in union elections) instead of retroactive payments.

Back in 2014, Mulgrew was clear: “Retro is not a God-given right.”  When asked if the families of teachers who die before accumulating the full retro will receive the lump-sum payments, Mulgrew stated “This has always been worked out.  Nobody’s looking to hurt a family in distress.  We’ll work it out.”  This does not appear to have been true.

For more, see this, and this, and this.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ellen Jones UTF member permalink
    October 15, 2020 am31 9:59 am 9:59 am

    I think is just unfair if an employee died during Covid and he or she was due to collect money that was earned. We should take a stand for the rights of our co-workers.

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