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. 

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