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DC37 Sets Pattern Below Mostly Non-Unionized U.S. Average
Repost from the New Action Caucus (NAC) blog at https://newaction.org/
It’s the last day of school before a much needed vacation, so just a few words on the terrible pattern set by the DC-37 contract. I’ll write something more in depth later.
A 3% wage increase is absolutely horrendous. It’s far below inflation, which is running into the double digits. It’s literally a pay cut. 3% is also below the national average. Most of the country isn’t represented by unions. So unionized New York City municipal unions are getting crappier raise increases than people who are working at-will. That’s terrible. And things will only get worse if we also end up paying for premiums, as Mulgrew has already prepped us to accept. 3% could easily become -3%.
Adams took advantage of DC37. DC37 is a large and diverse union, but most of its members make offensively low salaries. The union’s website stresses the reliance of its membership on public assistance programs to make ends meet. A 3% wage increase with a $3,000 signing bonus would go a long way for people who are already making non-living wages during a time of record inflation. Knowing full well that DC37 members would be the most in need of an immediate raise, Adams weaponized the increased cost of living (which he himself had a hand in driving up) to get the City’s lowest paid workers to agree to a wage increase that would never be accepted by other unions. And now everyone is stuck with that rate.
This is an absolute abuse of pattern bargaining. Pattern bargaining is supposed be a means of efficiently organizing fair wage increases for like-unions. Larger or more powerful unions negotiate first, ensuring that smaller and less powerful unions get the same deal. Everyone wins because less negotiating energy gets spent on figuring out financials, leaving more room to discuss workplace improvements and other non-economic factors. Here, in an absurd reversal, the City exploited the union with the most disadvantaged members so that it could force an unfair deal onto everyone else.
The blame doesn’t just go to the City. For MLC labor leaders, who make hefty compensation packages and don’t have to live with the consequences of sub-inflation wages, this is win-win. DC37 leadership gets to quickly get out wage increases to its membership, who is after all willing to take the deal. Then, labor leaders of unions whose membership would not take the deal get to sit back and blame DC37 for the crappy wages. They can now say ‘sorry, all we can negotiate is non-economic factors.’ Hiding behind the pattern system and the Taylor Law, union leaders and bureaucrats can rest at ease, spending the rest of their time convincing membership why their hands are tied. This is a perfect example of what I meant when I said that “[UFT Leadership] will take on the task, not of organizing us to fight, but of disorganizing overworked members into acquiescence.”
But, Mulgrew isn’t off the hook. I’ll ask question number one: if we are conceding to the pattern–and recent communications seem to suggest that we are–are we also conceding to the work day that no longer makes sense under said pattern? About 20 years ago, we agreed to work extra time (now called PD Mondays and OPW/PO Tuesdays) in exchange for raises in excess of other unions. But now, we are likely to have to take a pay cut. In my view, if we aren’t getting the raises we deserve, that means it’s time to sunset extra time. To be frank, we now need that time to find extra jobs to afford living in this city.
Unions can and must achieve more than non-unionized America. The nurses just proved this. Their leadership didn’t hide behind patterns or find reasons not to organize. They struck and now will get 19% over 3 years. DC37 and the rest of us will be getting 16.21 over 5.5. See the difference? DC37 deserves far more than a 3% increase, as do the workers represented by other municipal unions. We can and must push for better, Taylor Law or not.
That’s all for now. I look forward to analyzing the situation more and publishing something longer in the coming weeks. Hopefully DC37 members vote ‘no,’ but we’ll see. It’s tough when your own union leadership recommends to vote yes.
Nick Bacon is a member of the UFT’s Executive Board (representing High School teachers) and co-chair of the New Action Caucus of the UFT (NAC).