Friday, August 04, 2017
Union Proud But Not Proud Of Our Union.
I consider myself a proud union member and greatly appreciate what an effective union represents to their members. At one time, under the effective Albert Shanker, teachers were able to negotiate adequate raises, a salary scale that reflected seniority, generous health benefits, and work rules that limited the amount of students in a classroom. This was a time when the City leaders were beholden to the powerful 81,000 strong teachers' union and came with hat in hand to curry union support and even a loan during the City's brush with bankruptcy in 1973. That was then and this is now.
Our present ineffective union leadership has provided little in the way for their members to be proud of They have negotiated inferior or subpar contracts, going back to Sandra Feldman and continuing through Randi Weingarten and now Michael Mulgrew. Just about every negotiated contract was short on money and contained various "givebacks". Be it time, additional duties, hiring rules, reduced due process rights dealing with discipline, and expanding the definitions on verbal and physical abuse (A-420, A-421). Just as important was the slow erosion of health benefits, both the eligibility at retirement and cost. In addition, UFT members saw 1.25% of their TDA interest disappear., thanks to our union leadership. While all other DOE employees receive 8.25% interest on their TDA balance, UFT members receive only 7%. Finally, our union leadership is strangely quiet while the media attacks the ATRs and allows the DOE's Fair Student Funding policy to discriminate against the hiring of veteran teachers.
Our union leadership had promised to go to PERB or file a lawsuit on the DOE's practice of placing a flag on any member that had a substantiated OSI or SCI investigation, even when the accusations were found not to be true by the independent State Arbitrator! I call this the Scarlet Letter. Did the union leadership follow through? The answer is no! Moreover, they allowed the ATR to become "a second class citizen" and refuses to include an ATR on their negotiating committee on ATR issues. Finally, the union leadership refuses to put member interests first. Rather, they use our COPE and dues money as they please without member input. See examples Here and Here.
I am a proud union member and will support unions that represent their members. However, in the last two decades, our weak union leadership seems to represent their own political and ideological interests rather than what's best for the members.