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What the Heck Is in the Contract?
Arthur Goldstein is a veteran NYC educator & longtime union activist. After UFT leadership failed to share an appendix in 2018, he calls for full disclosure of our next contract, or he will vote "no".
Posted with the permission of the author, Arthur Goldstein. Originally posted on Arthur’s blog: http://nyceducator.com/2023/02/what-heck-is-in-contract.html
It's hard to say. You may see one thing, as I did in 2018, and it may turn out to be another. Or leadership could say it's one thing, as they did in 2018, and it could be something altogether different.
Imagine Micheal Mulgrew had gotten up in front of the Delegate Assembly and said he had a deal to raise copays, dump retirees into an inferior health plan, and institute premiums for rank and file. Who would have supported that?
That's not what he said, though. We were told the contract had no givebacks. And as for the healthcare agreement, I was at the DA when he announced it, taking notes. Here's what they say:
Health care negotiated with all unions. Done six months ago. MLC thought something bad could happen with health care because of DC. We wanted to lock in a deal. No additional copays, but made a change for all unions. We tried to get plan in better place. Was proactive approach. Has been out for six months. Was smart thing to lock down our health care with no significant cost ships to union membership. Others pay 3200 out of pocket.
That's not at all what it turned out to be. Mulgrew also says this:
Health care has nothing to do with this agreement. We are only saying this should go to membership. They will have plenty of time to read. We rushed MOA out for that reason.
But health care was in the contract, in Appendix B, which we were not shown. I certainly had no idea what would ensue after the health deal. I thought we had no additional copays, no premiums, and I did not for a moment imagine we'd move to downgrade the health care of retirees. I thought we had a contract at or near cost of living, with no givebacks. Who knew we'd mortgaged our health care to get it? Not me.
Fast forward a few years and the high school Executive Board members introduced a resolution that we be informed of everything in the actual contract. They also introduced one saying that we should oppose any premiums for Emblem/ GHI. Friends tell me these were opposed by Unity because they are "political."
Political--relating to the ideas or strategies of a particular party or group in politics.
Well, that sounds about right. Is that a bad thing? What if the idea or strategy includes making things better for working people, particularly those in your union? Full disclosure--I'm not affiliated with any caucus. I support the idea of making things better, though. I think we should work toward making things better not only for our members, but also for everyone else. That's why I support the New York Health Act. If that were in place, we wouldn't be having any of these nasty conversations, and the Exec. Board proposals would be moot.
Alas, it's not in place, and we, the UFT, oppose its progress. That's disgraceful and fundamentally anti-union.
But what about the next contract? What if Mulgrew comes from Tweed and presents us with something? What if it sounds worthwhile? What if DC37 makes some stinker of a deal, and we're expected to accept it? (Maybe it would be karma. I mean, it's not like we didn't do the same to them and everyone else back in 2014.)
How can we know that what's presented to us is true? We now know we were deceived back in 2018. How can we be certain it won't happen again? In fact, if leadership refuses to agree to make everything clear to us, this falls into the "fool me twice" category. Leadership specifically voted down an Executive Board proposal to make all things transparent to us.
Call me political, but based on that, there's really no way to be sure. I can't think of any circumstance under which I'd vote yes to a contract without explicit knowledge of what it contains. And given that that they fooled me once, leadership will have a very tough time persuading me any deal they make is legitimate, clear, and contains no unpleasant surprises.
If leadership is uncomfortable with the truth, deeming it "political," or whatever, it behooves them to step aside and let someone else negotiate and present a contract.
Arthur Goldstein is an ESL teacher at Francis Lewis High School and a former UFT executive committee member. And plays a dang good fiddle.
Find him on Twitter @TeacherArthurG.
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