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UFT Leadership Wants to Preserve Choice (for Those Who Can Afford It)
Arthur Goldstein, veteran NYC educator and longtime UFT union activist, appeals to union leadership to reverse course on their position in the city healthcare crisis
Posted with the permission of the author, Arthur Goldstein. Originally posted on Arthur’s blog: http://nyceducator.com/2023/01/uft-leadership-wants-to-preserve-choice.html
Freeport, where I live, had an awful flood on December 23rd. We lost our water heater, our boiler, and two cars. I spent my break trying to fix these problems while showering at my sister-in-law's house and trying to buy two cars in the worst buyer's market I've ever seen.
But I made it a point to protect my family and our little dogs. I never threatened my family, saying we have to sacrifice this dog to save the other. Because family doesn't do that.
On the other hand, UFT President Michael Mulgrew says if we don't throw retirees into the water, in-service members will pay. I don't know who Michael Mulgrew listens to, but someone needs to tell him union doesn't do that. Like family, we protect and support one another.
I see on Norm's Blog that the new leadership chant is that they wish to preserve choice. This is probably the best argument they can muster at the moment. They are determined to unilaterally surrender to Mayor Eric Adams as he threatens to eliminate Senior Care and force every city retiree into an inferior Advantage plan. The mayor has threatened this, even though he cannot achieve it unilaterally.
These pleas were coming from UFT/UNity Caucus retirees, all of whom have been on the UFT payroll and may still be.
This is a crucial flaw of the Unity Caucus. While I was aligned with them, I tried to address it. But it was a waste of breath. That's the way it is, that's the way it's always been, and that's the way they're determined to keep it. Everyone in Unity is either an officer, an employee or someone trying to climb the ladder. Every single member has an ulterior motive to tow the party line.
Let's look at that. Several extremely well-compensated former UFT officers got up on their hind legs and demanded their "choice," clearly suggesting that the proposed Advantage plan, the one that's supposed to be so wonderful it walks on water, would not be adequate to meet their health needs. And yet, it's supposed to be good enough for the rest of us. That is elitism. That is the privileged talking down to us lowly serfs.
And make no mistake, that is blatantly anti-union. We are one, in theory, at least. This notwithstanding, former officers were paid several times the salary of mere teachers. Not only that, but they also receive UFT pensions. That's in addition to the DOE pensions they also receive.
Now let's talk about their "choice." The choice they want is the choice to pay almost $2500 each, or $5000 per couple annually, to retain the health care we've been promised since we began. If I retire soon, I will also have that choice. I will have the choice to make a substantial cut to the pension I've been promised for my, so far, 38 years of service. There is no doubt my pension will be far lower than the privileged few who testified for UFT leadership.
I might be able to swing a 5K cut in pension, but it's disgraceful that my union leaders are out there advocating for any such thing. Do they seriously believe that represents my interests or those of my colleagues?
I doubt it. They may be many things, but they are not that stupid.
Now let's talk about others, who will not get this "choice," even if it is somehow offered. Imagine you're a teacher with far less service than I have. Better yet, imagine you're a paraprofessional, making 20 or 30K a year. Imagine you're a DC37 school aide making close to minimum wage. You will not have a "choice" that does not entail altering your diet to feature cat food.
We need union leadership to stand up for us. We do not need union leadership that gets on its knees before Mayor Swagger and then demands we do likewise. They screwed up in 2018, without consulting us. They don't deserve a "choice." They didn't give us one.
Now it's time for them to get off their knees and find a solution that works for all of us, not just the highly-compensated and privileged union officers. Groveling, while it may work for our leadership, will never work for the United Federation of Teachers. Any change in health care must be negotiated with MLC. MLC, including UFT leaders, needs to show some backbone or step aside for someone who will.
That, my friends, is what real leadership is and does.
Arthur Goldstein is an ESL teacher at Francis Lewis High School and a former UFT executive committee member.
Find him on Twitter @TeacherArthurG.
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