Saturday, October 13, 2018

Vote Yes

Something crazy happened on the way to the teacher contract negotiations: My union stopped acting like a monolith top-down structure and showed sincere signs of being member-driven. It answered member concerns by listening to their suggestions, advocating for them in negotiations and winning many in a contract. 

The big takeaway from the 2018 contract is not what is in it but how it came to be. This may be the year that the UFT became an actual union again.

No contract is perfect. Not at all. However, virtually every single item I see in the new proposed teachers contract originated from some teacher or union activist who cares about students. I have never seen that happen in nearly two decades of being here. 

And a brief word about the money: I would like more as well. Yet while many point out that 2% is not enough to keep up with inflation, those very same people ignore the step/differential increase that are already built into our pay system. Those increases already ensure that any teacher experiences anywhere between 2% and 10% raise over any three  year period (the life of this contract) at any point in their career. 

The naysayers are dishonest to not mention this and you shouldn't listen to them. 

Over the next three years, the life of this contract, I stand to make $21,000 more than I do right now. That's a $21,000 raise to me. And while I would have liked to seen more than a 2% base increase, $21,000 is $21,000. I know I am not the only teacher who will experiencing an increase of that amount during this contract. Those who are pretending to be "cerebral" or "well informed" about the contract and about pay structure are either well informed and ignore these obvious facts or are so ill informed that they shouldn't speak. (They also ignore that our benefits are not reductions from our pay like the rest of the United States of America. Our healthcare is in addition to this money. You can't say that about any other type of worker expect a NYC employee. So we should all add as much as $20,000 to our checks for healthcare. Many of us should add $10,000 more for the tier IV retirement we will be receiving. Those folks who claim to be "wise" about this won't do that.) They don't think they have to play by the same rules of honesty as the rest of us. They think they're special. 

But they're not.

My opinion: There will come a time, when the political winds in this city shift and the union tries to work with an anti teacher mayor, that the UFT will sell out its members in order to maintain its political seat at the table. 2018 is not that time. 

There will be a time when a teachers contract sells out its members for the sake of the union's power. 2018 is not that contract. 

Virtually every single item I see in the new proposed teachers contract originated from someone teacher union activist who cares about students.  When you consider the protections, when you consider the process of listening to members and when you consider the pay, voting yes to this one is a no brainer. I have learned a little about city teacher contracts before. This is the best deal since 1965. 

Vote yes

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Looking For Retro At The Dairy Queen

I was a young man on November 1, 2009. That was the last time I remember looking handsome in a mirror,  the last time I can remember being able to stay out all night and still make it into work to  the next day, the last time I can remember ladies giving me a passing glance when I walked by.

It was also the last time the New York City Department of Education did not owe me money. 

In the months and years thereafter, there ensued a war against teachers in New York City so vicious that union leaders and politicians alike were felled and a movement -created specifically to push back against the Ed-reform movement- was born (or should I say wrought? hmm).

History will someday record that the fissures within the Democratic party have their roots in the decisions made around education during those first few months of that Obama administration -which happened to coincide with the third term of mayor Bloomberg.

So, of course, a new contract and a raise for teachers (like me) was nowhere to be had. And every day thereafter, as I become less and less youthful and gradually more worn until old, the City of New York started to owe me money.

When we finally did get a raise, in a contract I completely opposed, the money that I was owed, called Retroactive Payments, was rolled into a ridiculously confusing formula that ensured I would be getting paid a small amount every year (or so) until 2020.

Said one teacher, "we won't be made whole until some of us are dead and gone". And it was this -not being made whole for another 6 years- that represents price we teachers paid for suffering through the many affronts we experienced at the hands of politicians during a war against public education that took direct aim at us.

So each year, in October, we're given a little bit of the money that has been owed to us since we were young men and women. Almost like a pitty tip given to the Goodfellas character Spider after being callously shot in the foot for no reason.

And each year in October, the inevitable question among us arises: How much is the retro going to be?

And you know I'm going to tell how you to figure it out -of course I am!

But you also know that I wasn't about to go telling you without first making you read and remember the reason why we are owed this money in the first place. We are owed this money because countless politicians and leading members of our own unions felt that subjecting thousands of innocent teachers to be either fired, or terrorized in the workplace or humiliated in the press was somehow OK in the name of "progress". This isn't a  Susan Gregg Gilmore novel and it surely isn't free money.

OK, now that that's over, would you like to know how much you're owed? Sure.

All of the calculations in the payroll portal have be pre configured. This was true for 2015 and it was true for 2017. You can log in and check for yourself. Our total amount owed has already been calculated.  So if you were active in 2009 and if you're differentials are all the same, and if you're still active today, all of those numbers are calculated.

This year, we're owed twice as much, 25% as last year (12/5%). Therefor,  a good rule of thumb to follow is that this year's payment will be roughly twice as large as last year's.

Log onto Payroll Portal, find your way to the retro payment center and log on there, find last year's retro-only payment and double it. Then add your gross pay for the October check.

See? Simple. Just don't forget how we got here.