The Dance of the Mikes: Can New UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor Mike Bloomberg Thrash Out a “Win-Win” Contract?

 We used to call teaching summer school “blood money,” but this summer, with day after day of cool weather it has been almost pleasant. A couple of teachers were sitting around a table in a teachers room filling out their “negotiations surveys,” others bitched that it was a waste of time, all the decisions were already made. Others bemoaned the lack of an electronic survey. Closing date for submission of the survey was August 13th.
 
The 300 or so self-selected members of the negotiating team will pore through the surveys, or, at least a summary of the survey findings, and with the guidance of union higher ups, come up with a set of “demands,” that can be amended, first by the executive board, and, finally by the delegate assembly (members of the delegate assembly are the 1450 chapters leaders plus one delegate per sixty members or major fraction, elected at schools)
 
The “demands” have two functions, one is to satisfy the members. However, if the demands are too aggressive and unachievable any contract will be perceived as a bad contract. It is a delicate balance. The 1995 contract was a five year contract, with “0” increases in the first two years, in spite of her efforts union president Sandy Feldman could not sell the contract, it was defeated in the required membership vote. Five months later almost the same contract was approved.
 
Decades ago the union demands ran into the many hundreds, at a delegate assembly to endorse the demands someone asked what it cost if we got everything. Al Shanker mused for a while, and answered, “A gold ball the size of the Earth.”
 
How will the September 15th mayoral primary and November 3rd general election impact the negotiations?
 
A very ticklish issue! The overwhelming percent of teachers despise Klein, and dislike Bloomberg. In local elections the union has clout, union members don’t know the candidates and usually vote the union endorsements. It’s another story at the top of the ticket. Will a contract, a week or so before the November election convince members to vote for Bloomberg?
 
In spite of the DC 37 endorsement of Thompson it is unlikely that the UFT will endorse Thompson … and Mulgrew risks getting spanked by his members if he even hinted at a pro-Bloomberg stance. Mulgrew has to run in the winter/spring union elections for a full term.
 
Has “pattern bargaining” fixed the percent increase in the next contract?
  
Probably yes. Prior arbitrations have accepted pattern bargaining as the model, although “ability to pay” also has weight in the process. Other City public employee unions have received 4% increases, the just completed Metropolitan Transit Authority/Transport Workers Union arbitration recommended an 11.3% raise over three years with some improvement in the health plan … effectively a 4% per year increase, and, the NY Post reports that NYC Labor Commissioner Hanley testified that the city assumed  4% + 4% increases for the UFT.
 
Will the contract contain “time for money swaps,” or any “givebacks”?
  
The only way to “break the pattern” is “time for money” swaps or “benefit swaps.” Both sides, the union and the city, have to appear to be within the pattern. Unions “piggyback” on each others settlements.  The city justified the 44% increases over the last two contracts by computing a dollar value for the 150 minute a week extended time and the two additional days at the beginning of the school year.
 
Perception is reality: the union and the city have to “sell” the contract to their constituents, for the union, its members,who have to approve the contract in a secret ballot process;  for the city, the voters and the editorial boards of the major dailies.
 
How can the union and the city “break the pattern”?
  
The new pension tier for prospective employees (“newbies”) will save the city many millions, the union can “claim” these dollars as a justification for breaking the pattern. The city may quietly go along and agree with the union, or, claim the dollars are necessary to fund a pattern increase of 4% in these dire times. All depends upon the “dance” up to election day. A series of pro-union, pro-school announcements by the mayor, the two Mikes (Mulgrew and Bloomberg) arms draped over each others shoulders days before the election, or, a frosty silence …?  Politics makes for strange bedfellows (and strange bedfellows makes for interesting politics … as we have seen!!)
 
Will the contract restrain the powers of the chancellor?
  
Both sides have much to gain and lose … the 2000+ ATR pool is not sustainable in these fiscal times, and the hiring freeze is not contracting the pool fast enough as principals withdraw vacancies and try to wait out the freeze. There are hundreds of teachers in the ATR pool who have not applied for any permanent jobs, or have applied for scores of jobs and have not been hired. The current contract contains a no-layoff clause for pedagogical titles which under the Triborough Doctrine, remains in effect even if the contract expires.  See here  for a detailed discussion of the rules of negotiations.
 
If the city negotiates an end to the “no layoff” clause it will be the newest teachers, not the teachers in the ATR pool who will be laid off … can both sides shrink or eliminate the ATR pool, can the Department retain the power of principals to hire who they please, and can the Union retain the “no layoff” clause? Complex issues that will require skilled negotiators.
 
The Teacher Reassignment Centers, aka rubber rooms, are a thorn in the Union side, and, an embarrassment to the Department … many hundreds of teachers spend months, ocassionally years awaiting the resolution of their cases. A number of “agreements” between the Union and the Department to shorten the process have not achieved their purpose. City Councilman Charles Barron complains that “too many” of the rubber room teachers are black and Hispanic and have been removed without charges, a potential huge embarrassment, especially in this election season.
 
Can the union and the chancellor create a “win-win,” changes in the contract that satisfy union members and also appear to leave the powers of the chancellor in place?
 
What happens upon the expiration of the contract – October 31?
 
Nothing … under Public Employment Relations Board regs the old contract remains in full force and effect.
 
What happens if no contract is negotiated before the mayoral election – November 3rd?
 
The union loses a bargaining chip … it could result in a lengthy, acrimonious process. If the parties cannot reach a settlement PERB rules apply: mediation, impasse, fact-finding, a process that can take many, many months, with substantial risks for both sides. And, the fact-finding process is not binding.
 
The mayor loses a piece of his reputation as a skilled manager and risks the crumbling of his “mayoral control” education edifice and four years of a very public fight with the teacher union, and an increasingly suspicious public.
 
I expect that on a lovely fall day in late October the Mikes, Mulgrew and Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Dennis Walcott and some other pols will be standing on the steps of City Hall praising an “enlightened” settlement that benefits kids, teachers and the city. Then again, didn’t the pundits predict the Mets would be in the World Series?
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4 responses to “The Dance of the Mikes: Can New UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Mayor Mike Bloomberg Thrash Out a “Win-Win” Contract?

  1. Show me the money. No contract til after the election, and then, in late November, the solemn press conference. No raises, thousands of layoffs. But don’t worry, magical Mike is mayor, he’ll see us through tough times and overt lies.

    Four more years?

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  2. Pingback: Remainders: A primer on the UFT’s upcoming contract talks | GothamSchools

  3. The ’95 rejected contract included a provision to withhold a portion of new teachers salaries for five years (to encourage them to stay). This and some other onerous provisions were dropped from the subsequent contract. Also, Randi, who had negotiated the rejected contract, certainly learned from the experience. Her subsequent contracts were much better except for the loss of seniority rights in hiring that has created the ATR mess along with tremendous agita among members at the increase of U ratings and the desire of principals to have untenured newbies.

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  4. a dissatisfied customer

    If the union were to endorse Bloomberg before the election, it would sicken more than the majority of it’s members. For the last 8 years we have lived with his dictatorial rule. This moron knows nothing about education and should not be allowed to dictate to those who do. Education is the future of our children. It is not a business. The creation of the “Leadership Academy” is the biggest insult in modern times. It’s goal is to accept the most amount of people with the least amount of experience and then train them to be “Stepford Principals” and rule by intimidation, like a dictator with the “My school, I run it. No one tells me what to do. If you don’t like it leave” attitude. This is of no benefit to the children of this city. We need principals who understand education and who know how to lead by example. We don’t need principals who have little or no experience in the classroom trying to tell us how to do our jobs, and spending money that is meant for the students, on office furniture so that the school offices look like a pristine law firm.
    Mayor Mike has destroyed this system. Is he going to keep doing it? Probably, because he’s probably already “bought and paid for” his next four years. HOwever, we still need to get out there and vote against him, even if it’s a done deal. Then, perhaps by some miracle, he will be defeated. He speaks of his successes with the schools. He publicizes what great strides have been made under his rule. What he doesn’t tell the people of this city is the real reason test scores are up…..they’ve watered down the test!! It’s as simple as that. Ask any teacher you see if the tests have gotten easier over the last several years and the answer has to be an undeniable YES. How can you really measure progress if you keep setting the goals lower and lower?

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