Thursday, April 19, 2018

The UFT Deal With Cuomo: Good For Teachers

If you're not paying attention to the Cynthia Nixon campaign challenging Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic Party nomination for Governor later this year, you should. The comings and goings of that political melodrama have implications that could greatly affect teachers in New York City and beyond.

What's at stake? Progressives in New York, which include real progressives, as well as extreme New York leftists, are supporting a challenger to Cuomo. She's famous, competent, quite brilliant and, from what I have read, her campaign is scaring the Cuomo camp half to death.

The recent developments are what teachers should be paying attention to.

The legitimate political tent for the progressive agenda in New York is a political party called Working Families Party (WFP). This is a party that has its own line on the ballot but usually supports whichever Democratic candidate has been nominated.  The NYC Mayor has great influence in this party.  Four years ago, with de Blasio support, the WFP party supported Andrew Cuomo for reelection. This year, as the feud between the mayor and the governor have boiled over into an outright inter-party conflict, the mayor -and  the WFP- have supported Cynthia Nixon.

The governor's response was to use his influence to cut the legs out from underneath the Working Families Party by going after their funding. This is the part teachers should be paying attention to.

In order to do this, the governor used his influence with the city and state's larger labor unions. They held a meeting with other labor unions and essentially threatened those unions to stop funding the organizations that help the WFP. 

Not only was the UFT one of the unions to side with the governor, they hosted the meeting. In fact, our president threw a veiled threat out to the other unions who may have wanted to side with progressives:

“My only concern is some reckless behavior that will have an unintended consequence of us ending up with a Republican governor,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “When these elections are over, we will judge any decision we have to make off your behavior if you caused bad things to happen — even though it was not your intent you are responsible for them.”


I'll be voting for Nixon in the primary because that's just where my politics are. I'm no extreme-radical-left-guy but I'm progressive and I like to vote for progressives whenever I can (I also like my coffee with half and half but I don't think that matters much here either).

TONS more important than who I should be voting for is how this "UFT HAS SIDED WITH CUOMO" meme will effect us as teachers. This is all about policy. So how does this affect policy?

The Daily News, calling the Nixon challenge and WFP endorsement a "left crack up", has noted that this agreement now means that the governor and the unions (unions like ours) will now be lockstep in policy.

"Meantime, Cuomo, in consolidating power, has racked up fresh debts with unions that already make big demands on state spending.... 
...Politically, Cuomo and the unions are now arm in arm. For the sake of sound public policy, they must not walk in lockstep. "

 Oh, I disagree!

While there is no telling what deal the governor made with the unions, the fact remains that the governor of New York had to turn to our union for help. It is a fair assumption to say that this will benefit it (and the other unions who side with him) in some way.

Did you want Danielson to go away? Did you want the TDA percentage to be returned to the 8.5% interest level it was before the Great Recession? Did you want another shot at a new 25-55? Perhaps you wanted a cash raise or a the state to provide a stable solution to healthcare. These are now all possibilities because the governor, as the political adage goes, owes us one.

I like progressive politicians, just fine. But I like a relaxed, stable job with less pressures and fewer risks too.  I also like the idea of having a retirement and good healthcare. I like to be a happy guy around my family and progressive politicians being elected won't do that nearly as much as a better work environment will.  This latest UFT move may or may not be turning its back on the left. But having a Governor as a partner may well lead to a better outcome for teachers like me.

We will know whether this actually happens later this summer. That's when the Legislature meets for the last time of the season and it is typically when things that benefit special interest groups, like union members (like teachers), are passed into law. We shall see.

Friday, April 6, 2018

NYC Asking for INSANE Givebacks

With progressives like Bill de Blasio, who needs a conservative?

According to The Chief, the city has proposed massive healthcare cuts in the next round of budget negotiations for uniformed city employees.

The [Local 831] union’s release  stated that the city was seeking new medical deductibles from its members and trying to force them to use municipal hospitals and their affiliated doctors rather than private ones and the physicians who were connected to those facilities by raising non-municipal-hospital in-patient co-payments from $300 to $3,000 and outside primary-care doctor and specialist co-payments from $15 to $40.


In addition, the PBA said, the city had demanded that its contributions to the union’s health and welfare funds be reduced by 57 percent, and that the union’s annuity fund be eliminated.

In other words, the city wants to pay less -far less- and offer less to city employees for healthcare. And they want to push it through this round of contract negotiations. This includes:

  • A 10 times increase in copayments for hospitalized people who keep their own hospital and doctor
  • The introduction of deductibles for all city uniformed employees 
  • An almost 300% increase in copays to visit a doctor
  • A precedent where the city commits itself less to PBA health and welfare fund by 57% 
These are a patterns that are absolutely sure to repeat themselves with other city contract negotiations.

Oh ands all this with a less than 1% increase in pay for uniformed unions, another pattern which will surely repeat itself with non uniformed unions like the  concession-prone UFT.

To give you a sense of how much that would hurt city employees, you would need to understand how much money that means to an average city employee who has a family. By in large, the city pays $20,000 in healthcare for that employee and his/her family.  That 20k, is deferred, tax free compensation. You should add that amount to whatever you're paid each year because that's part of how you are compensated. 

That money has been paying for less and less in recent years and there is no end of that pattern anywhere in sight. The next logical step is for the city to defer at least some of that cost onto the employee. Increased copays are one example of how this is done. But another example comes by way of deductibles: Make that city employee pay for the $500 or $1000 worth of medical bills and the city will have to spend less. 

So let's deductibles are introduced and the amount set is $1000. Well that's $1,000 less than in compensation that the city employee will be making each year. 

Let's say a city hospital  or clinic is too far for an employee who lives in the suburbs and that employee's child has his or her tonsils taken out. Well that's $3,000 less in compensation that the city employee will be making that year because of the massive increase in hospital copays.

You see? A healthcare agreement like this takes as much as four, seven or even ten thousand dollars from  city employee each year.  And it is being proposed in exchange for a small 1% increase in cash.

These negotiations will put a dollar in our left pocket, and take $10 from our right. It is beyond insulting. It will cause real financial hardship for city employees. 

And, like all healthcare savings, it will hurt employees with families, many of which are over forty, more than anyone. 

I recently saw several teachers from West Virginia visit New York for a conference on why their strike was so successful. When asked How were all of these teacher unions able to organize, one teacher responded by saying "What really did it for me was healthcare. I found myself making less -far less- than I was because of these increasing healthcare costs I had to deal with". He went on to describe how he ultimately decided he had no other choice but to go out on strike. 

These givebacks asks the city is asking are absolutely insane.