Why do UFT members make less than teachers in LA and Oakland?

During the course of UFT-Unity’s ‘yes vote’ campaign, we saw highly paid UFT staffers making well over $200,000 a year repeatedly tell us that we were wrong to factor inflation into pay increases. Some officers and staffers called our pleas to match wage increases with inflation ‘political’ and claimed, erroneously, that DC37’s sub-inflation monstrosity of a pattern was ‘competitive.’ A few Unity members even called 3ish percent per year a ‘win’ because–hey, at least it’s better than the 1ish percent increases politicians floated absurdly before the pattern was established. When we started to see teachers unions in places like LA and Oakland establish much better pay increase rates than our own, some Unity members pointed out that we still have higher salaries than them here in New York.

But do we?

It turns out that, no, we don’t. Just as Unity doesn’t want us to think about inflation, it appears they also don’t want us to factor in cost of living. Especially for those of us dealing with market-rate rents in Manhattan and Brooklyn, or mortgages in many (most?) municipalities across Long Island, New Jersey, or Westchester, we actually make substantially less than our peers in California when adjusted for cost of living. There are a few different cost-of-living indexes we can use to compare cities, each with their own pros and cons. I ended up going with one that compares Oakland, Los Angeles, and New York as entire city-units rather than dividing them up into sub-units. Here are some interesting findings:

  • In Oakland, first-year teachers starting with a minimum differential make $62,695.65 a year and top out at $109,878.92 (maximum differential). However, adjusted for a New York City cost of living, this would be the equivalent of $97,273 and $170,478, respectively. That, notably, is not the salary range for NYC teachers, who, will range from making $62,092 – $132,517 a year starting in September, 2023, excluding bonuses and mid-year adjustments. Both teachers would receive premium-free medical care.
  • In Los Angeles, which just approved a three year contract with 21% raises over 3 years, the wages will be $69,000 to $122,000 by the end of that deal. That’s the equivalent of $111,753 to $197,592 in NYC, but our wages even after five years in the latest UFT contract fall tens of thousands of dollars less than this. Yes, medical care is still premium free for LA teachers.

Now, I acknowledge that other methodologies may support different numbers. I also acknowledge that, sure, if you compared the cost of living in Oakland and LA to just a few neighborhoods in Queens, the Bronx, Suffolk County, or Yonkers, you might find that cost-of-living evened out. But, that’s geographically unrealistic, not to mention irrational given that the same arguments could likely be made for specific areas of LA and Oakland.

The bottom line is this: we as a union need to factor in inflation into our pay increases. And we need to be honest that $1 in NYC does not go as far as it does even in other expensive cities. Our pay is, when adjusted for where we live, much lower than it is in cities where teachers unions actually fight for decent pay and working conditions. It’s due time for us to start fighting to get the pay we deserve.

-Nick Bacon, New Action Co-chair and UFT Executive Board Member

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *