I've had my ear pretty close to the ground when it comes to contract negotiations. PERB should have finished their work long ago--why they haven't is a mystery. There have been all kinds of rumors, the latest of which is that if Mulgrew agrees to the Cuomo evaluation plan, there won't be any layoffs and we'll get a raise. I seriously doubt that one. In fact, I doubt we will see any kind of contract any time soon without giving up something we treasure, like seniority rights or tenure.
And I say the hell with that. No deal.
Mulgrew should draw a line in the sand right now, and tell the membership that we should be willing to wait for a new contract until we have a new mayor. No agreement on evaluations, no nothing.
The city budget for next year has a 1.25% raise for municipal employees built into it. Screw that. In order to get even that pittance, you can bet that Mayor4life will want to extract his pound of flesh. I don't want to give up even one more right, not one more clause in the current contract, to get that meager sum. I'd rather wait.
That doesn't mean we should do nothing. The UFT has sat idly by on the sidelines while Bloomberg has vilified us. We didn't endorse a candidate in the last election, fearing some kind of retribution from the Mayor King. How has that worked out for us?
What we need to do--right now--is find a candidate we can endorse in the next election. We need someone who will be willing to run on an anti-Bloomberg campaign--someone who will promise to save teachers, keep firehouses open, and tax the current mayor's rich pals to pay for it all. We need someone who will restore sanity to the way the city is run by vowing an end to no-bid contracts and money-sinks like CityTime. Someone who will stand up to the ed deform crowd and charter school hedge fund criminals and put life back in the public school system.
Who is that person? I can think of two possibilities. Bill De Blasio, the current public advocate, stands out. He is currently working to avert teacher layoffs, and his campaign to raise teacher status through video testimonials by parents is just the kind of thing we need. Another possibility is John Liu, the NYC Comptroller. He seems bound and determined to root out the corruption that Bloomberg's contracts have made a way of life in this city. He has also stood out as a supporter of unions.
Mulgrew should sit down with both of these men, and see who has the most to offer the teachers and citizens of this city. He needs to find out which one will work hardest to reverse the draconian policies of the current dictator/mayor. Mulgrew should then back that candidate to the hilt, starting immediately.
This candidate should be, and run as, the anti-Bloomberg, Support the schools. Bring back the middle class. Make the rich pay their share plus the share they've avoided in the 12 year reign of Bloomberg. Be fiscally responsible. Bring parents back into education discussion. Put the people first, before new stadiums, bike lanes, and anti-smoking regulations. Recognize that there are five boroughs--not just the Manhattan Bloomie loves.
The public mood is right for all of this to happen. Citizens are tired of plutocrats like mayor4life running their lives. The question is: Will the UFT be at the forefront of the next mayoral campaign, or will we sit back, hoping the political wind blows in our direction?
If we want the anti-Bloomberg, we need to act. No deal on a contract if any strings are attached. No cooperation on evaluations. Support a pro-teacher, pro-union candidate for mayor. It's within our grasp if we want it.
Your move, Mr. Mulgrew.