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A Farewell to Collective Bargaining?
UFT leadership claims to be in an existential fight for collective bargaining. But when they have the chance to bargain collectively, do they? Repost from https://newaction.org
Over the last several years, UFT leadership has claimed repeatedly to be in an existential fight for our very right to collectively bargain. Infamously, they’ve made the absurd claim—over and over again—that pushing retirees onto Medicare Advantage isn’t about saving money at the expense of our most vulnerable members. Rather, they’ve suggested, Medicare Advantage is about our ‘collective bargaining’ rights. To Mulgrew and company, any judicial decision or piece of legislation that keeps the City/MLC from throwing retirees off their healthcare somehow diminishes the union’s negotiating power. What UFT leadership doesn’t say in their communications to members is that, for them ‘collective bargaining’ on healthcare primarily consists of promising away billions of dollars of funding and managing our losses by robbing Peter (in this case, retirees) to pay Paul (in-service members, who by the way, will probably soon be Peter). For UFT leadership, that beats actually organizing—which is precisely what they would need to do in order to preserve existing healthcare coverage for both in-service and retired members. That, of course, is unacceptable, especially since in some models doing the right thing on healthcare might mean losing valuable Unity patronage jobs.
But, since collectively bargaining
away our healthcare is so important to UFT leadership, there’s a certain irony to Wednesday’s AAA certification of the OT/PT revote. While in most circles a ‘yes vote’ would be a positive thing, in this case it’s not so simple. As readers of the New Action blog know, the contract that just passed is a carbon copy of a deal that was voted down by a 2/3 margin earlier this summer. When our UFT President communicated to membership that he wouldn’t be able to do the job of collectively ‘re-bargaining’ in a timely manner, Unity orchestrated a divisive and undemocratic re-vote campaign to avoid going back to the negotiating table.
But why would UFT leadership—who would rather throw retirees to the wolves than give up a chance to collectively bargain—forego their right to negotiate with management? Why would they instead ask membership to simply take the first deal the City threw at them?
The truth is that the UFT hasn’t seriously engaged in ‘collective bargaining’ for decades. Instead, they’ve engaged in ‘concessionary bargaining,’ accepting the bulk of what our employer demands, including a decline in real wages, reduced healthcare spending (for the City, not us), and changes in working conditions that have predominately favored management rather than labor. When workers, like the OT/PTs, have had the audacity to ask for more—for true collective bargaining—the UFT has responded by disorganizing them into acquiescence.
So, as MLC/UFT leadership pretends that we are on the verge of losing ‘collective bargaining’ rights because of a bill that would preserve retiree healthcare coverage, let’s call their bluff. They bid farewell to collective bargaining in the interests of membership long, long ago. What UFT leadership is fighting for is the right to concede.