What’s Happening With the UFT-DOE Contract Negotiations? Is Mulgrew the Nimble Leader Who Can Avoid the Abyss and Deliver for his Members? Can Bloomberg Emerge as a National Education Mayor Who Can Work With Unions?

 Labor negotiations, especially for public employees, tilts toward management. Strikes are almost always not an option. New York State law imposes strict penalties both on the strikers and the union. The employees are fined an additional days pay for each day on strike, and the union incurs substantial fines and the loss of dues check off. “Work stoppages” are broadly defined as any concerted action, i.e., “blue flu,” not going to open school night, etc.
 
The Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) has been around for forty or so years, the law establishes regulations for the unionization of public employees, labor or management can appeal to the Board and claim “improper practices,” and the Board monitors and guides contract negotiations.
 
The UFT, DOE, and City labor negotiations have been characterized by a deafening silence. The NY Times printed a story saying there was no news to report.
 
Some aver that the contract was done months ago and are awaiting the end of the mayoral election to announce a straightforward contract with salary increases and no surprises. Others urge the Mayor to demand substantial changes eroding benefits and eroding core union values.
 
If the parties are unable to reach a settlement  PERB assigns a mediator. If, after the mediator works with the parties s/he feels the parties are far apart an impasse can be declared and PERB appoints a panel of three arbitrators, the panel conduct a fact-fining review. The parties provide evidence to the panel, through testimony and the submission of evidence. Salary is determined by “pattern bargaining,” the raises that similarly situated employees have received from the employer and “ability to pay,” the economic situation of the municipality. (See 2002 UFT-BOE Fact-Finding here and 2005 UFT-DOE Fact-Finding here. Either party can assert any issue into the process.
 
In July, at the Municipal Transit Authority/Transport Workers Union fact-finding the chief city negotiator testified that the City has put aside 4 + 4 (four percent for each of the next two years), however, in the last few months the budget situation has eroded, if the State cuts its budget now, the City will have to impose midyear budget cuts.
 
Could the City justify raises for teachers at the same time it is cutting school budgets?
 
The union “bargaining goals” are moderate, the weighty issues of ATRs, Rubber Rooms, pay for performance are thorny and may not be at the table.
 
I constantly hear members scrie that the union should be tough, they should endorse Thompson, the non-Bloomberg, attack Klein, mount a campaign to “win-over” the public.
 
The mediation, impasse, fact-fining process takes from 9-12 months, and there is no guarantee about the report. Fact-finders could support “ability to pay” over “pattern bargaining” and not support any increase. The City will certainly argue about terminating ATRs after a period of time. We have no idea how a fact-fining panel will respond. And, the report is not binding.
 
What are the options for the union?
 
Endorse and fight for Thompson, understanding that should he lose you will face four year of open conflict, possibly without a salary increase. Are the risk/rewards worth it?
 
Endorse no one, try to work with Bloomberg where you can and negotiate a contract with a 4% + 4% with little else.
 
A glum outcome is you try to work with Bloomberg, unsuccessfully, and the months go by without a contract and without much movement on either side.
 
In Washington the union (WTU) has confronted Superintendent Michelle Rhee, maybe it had no choice. Many, many months have gone by, layoffs not in seniority order, with no contract agreement and a bitterly divided and weakened union.
 
On a national scene the Obama-Duncan agenda seems eerily similar to the Klein agenda, and the $4 plus billion in Race to the Top funding will require the inclusion of Klein-like policies.
 
If it wasn’t for the Obama stimulus package NYC would have faced many, many thousands of layoffs. The no layoff clause is void if the City declares a fiscal emergency. This is Year One of a two year stimulus infusion with absolutely no guarantee of another stimulus.
 
How would the union respond if an additional stimulus package required the inclusion of policies with which the union is uncomfortable?  And let’s not forget that “No Child Left Behind,” the law that provides Title 1 funding, is up for reauthorization, and, pay  for performance etc., are in play.
 
It’s easy to bitch and complain, it really, really hard to produce results with so many missteps possible. Is Mulgrew the nimble leader who can navigate the yawning abysses scattered over the landscape?
 
Mike is going to earn his paycheck over the next weeks and months.

 

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One response to “What’s Happening With the UFT-DOE Contract Negotiations? Is Mulgrew the Nimble Leader Who Can Avoid the Abyss and Deliver for his Members? Can Bloomberg Emerge as a National Education Mayor Who Can Work With Unions?

  1. Pingback: Remainders: Coffee and a snack on election day | GothamSchools

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