Posts Tagged 'DC37 Contract'

UFT/DC37 Contract Watch – It Gets Worse 

Surprise, surprise – it’s not looking good for the UFT’s next contract. In an exploitative misuse of pattern bargaining, Adams set up DC37 to vote in sub-inflation wage increases that other municipal unions will be ‘stuck with.’ But, rumor had it that DC37 rank-and-file were overwhelmingly happy about the deal. Many of them were expecting less than the 3% pittance being sold as a win. And some were happy about vague promises of more ‘flexible’ remote work policies even as they would be irrelevant to many DC37 members. (You can’t remotely tune in to cook school lunch). But even among the optimists, there were skeptics. Though the tentative contractual agreement was years late, it also paradoxically felt rushed. What was everyone missing? Most of us guessed healthcare.

This leaked MLC memo suggests we were right. 

Translation: just as DC37 leadership is setting up to push out a sub-inflation pattern for all MLC unions, MLC leadership (predominately UFT and DC37) is gearing up to privatize our retirees’ Medicare. And with constant talk of a mysterious ‘RFP’ to replace GHI/HIP, we can expect further ‘cost savings’ to be dumped onto working municipal employees. In short, we were sadly right to predict that ‘3% could easily become -3%.’ 

The Role of Rank and File

Even before this news, teachers were picking up on our union leadership’s non-willingness to fight for something better. Earlier this week, on the ICE-UFT blog, James Eterno posted an anonymous teacher’s plea to NY’s City Council. This teacher, lacking any confidence in UFT leadership to get us wages anywhere close inflation, begged our City Council to write/pass legislation that would. This isn’t the first time a teacher has gone to politicians for help because our union leadership let us down. Think back to 12-126. Without the consent of membership, UFT leadership tried to organize us to get the City Council to erase our healthcare protections. Indeed, we now know that massive amounts of money were spent by our own union leadership to lobby against our healthcare interests. With union leadership working against us, members were left with no choice but to form their own massive grassroots response. In opposition to Mulgrew, New Action joined thousands of fired up municipal workers and retirees to petition against changing the code. We won that battle. City Council listened to rank-and-file members/retirees over the union leadership who was trying to sell us out. It was proof that rank-and-file could organize even when leadership was actively working against us. But, we all knew it wasn’t over. This leaked memo, with its suspicious timing right before a bad pattern is about to be set, shows the time is now.

These are the odd circumstances we’ve found ourselves in circa 2023. We are left with the need to use real union tactics like organizing members for no-votes and working together to lobby our employer for better pay/healthcare. But it isn’t our official union leadership who is doing this organizing. They, rather, are doing backroom deals and putting forth propaganda to get us to accept crappy wages and healthcare reductions. And yes, I’m sure in their minds, they think they’re doing the right thing. In the context of the Taylor Law, this might be the ‘best’ they can do while using traditional (i.e. legal) negotiating methods. Yes, it’s not a good deal, but it’s the ‘least bad’ deal they can get us.

If we simply go with Mulgrew and Garrido, all we’ll get is the ‘best possible reduction in wages/benefits.’ If we want more than managed decline, we have no choice but to organize ourselves. Short term, that means organizing around healthcare/the pattern. Long term, that means making massive changes to the Taylor Law, so that our unions can function like unions again. Bottom line is: we can’t just sulk and ‘wait for the inevitable.’ We need to be ready to fight. 


DC37 Sets Pattern Below Mostly Non-Unionized U.S. Average

It’s the last day of school before a much needed vacation, so just a few words on the terrible pattern set by the DC-37 contract. I’ll write something more in depth later.

A 3% wage increase is absolutely horrendous. It’s far below inflation, which is running into the double digits. It’s literally a pay cut. 3% is also below the national average. Most of the country isn’t represented by unions. So unionized New York City municipal unions are getting crappier raise increases than people who are working at-will. That’s terrible. And things will only get worse if we also end up paying for premiums, as Mulgrew has already prepped us to accept. 3% could easily become -3%.

Adams took advantage of DC37. DC37 is a large and diverse union, but most of its members make offensively low salaries. The union’s website stresses the reliance of its membership on public assistance programs to make ends meet. A 3% wage increase with a $3,000 signing bonus would go a long way for people who are already making non-living wages during a time of record inflation. Knowing full well that DC37 members would be the most in need of an immediate raise, Adams weaponized the increased cost of living (which he himself had a hand in driving up) to get the City’s lowest paid workers to agree to a wage increase that would never be accepted by other unions. And now everyone is stuck with that rate.

This is an absolute abuse of pattern bargaining. Pattern bargaining is supposed be a means of efficiently organizing fair wage increases for like-unions. Larger or more powerful unions negotiate first, ensuring that smaller and less powerful unions get the same deal. Everyone wins because less negotiating energy gets spent on figuring out financials, leaving more room to discuss workplace improvements and other non-economic factors. Here, in an absurd reversal, the City exploited the union with the most disadvantaged members so that it could force an unfair deal onto everyone else.

The blame doesn’t just go to the City. For MLC labor leaders, who make hefty compensation packages and don’t have to live with the consequences of sub-inflation wages, this is win-win. DC37 leadership gets to quickly get out wage increases to its membership, who is after all willing to take the deal. Then, labor leaders of unions whose membership would not take the deal get to sit back and blame DC37 for the crappy wages. They can now say ‘sorry, all we can negotiate now is non-economic factors.’ Hiding behind the pattern system and the Taylor Law, union leaders and bureaucrats can rest at ease, spending the rest of their time convincing membership why their hands are tied. This is a perfect example of what I meant when I said that “[UFT Leadership] will take on the task, not of organizing us to fight, but of disorganizing overworked members into acquiescence.”

But, Mulgrew isn’t off the hook. I’ll ask question number one: if we are conceding to the pattern–and recent communications seem to suggest that we are–are we also conceding to the work day that no longer makes sense under said pattern? About 20 years ago, we agreed to work extra time (now called PD Mondays and OPW/PO Tuesdays) in exchange for raises in excess of other unions. But now, we are likely to have to take a pay cut. In my view, if we aren’t getting the raises we deserve, that means it’s time to sunset extra time. To be frank, we now need that time to find extra jobs to afford living in this city.

Unions can and must achieve more than non-unionized America. The nurses just proved this. Their leadership didn’t hide behind patterns or find reasons not to organize. They struck and now will get 19% over 3 years. DC37 and the rest of us will be getting 16.21 over 5.5. See the difference? DC37 deserves far more than a 3% increase, as do the workers represented by other municipal unions. We can and must push for better, Taylor Law or not.

That’s all for now. I look forward to analyzing the situation more and publishing something longer in the coming weeks. Hopefully DC37 members vote ‘no,’ but we’ll see. It’s tough when your union recommends you do.

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June 2023