Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The New Holy Grail of Union Busters

Politicians, including so-called Democrats such as Cuomo and Obama, have held the coats of union-busting Republicans as they attempt to dismantle unionized labor in this country. There has been some backlash, such as the recall effort of Scott Walker in Wisconsin, but not nearly enough. Unions themselves are complicit--the UFT, for example, continues to grant concessions such as the Race to the Top evaluation fiasco, even as the city has denied us raises they granted to other unions and as they refuse to negotiate a new contract with us.

You might have thought the union-busters were done. They didn't get LIFO, but the new evaluation system make seniority moot in many cases. They didn't get tenure, but they managed to get the UFT to agree to shift the burden of proof in 3020 hearings--the city used to have to prove a teacher was incompetent, but now a teacher with two ineffective ratings will have to prove his or her competence, which is virtually impossible. So the union-busters have been winning hands down, but they aren't done. Their next target is the Triborough Amendment.

The Triborough Amendment is part of the Taylor Law, and you can read up on it here. But the basics of why union-busters want it abolished are simple: it guarantees that when a contract expires, the terms of any current union contract remain in effect until a new contract is signed. In return, unions are heavily punished if they strike. Republicans hate this law because even though an expired contract is essentially a wage freeze, other provisions of the contract, such as step and longevity increases, remain in effect. Republicans argue that this gives unions little reason to negotiate, as workers will continue to receive 'raises' even without a new contract.

That, of course, is nonsense. Bloomberg decided all on his own not to give teachers the same 4% + 4% two year contract that he offered other unions, and we continue without a contract to this day. We are approaching three years without a contract, despite trying to bring the city to the table with a PERB complaint (anyone know why THAT is stalled?). So we are, at least, down 8%, and by the time a new contract is signed, presumably with a new mayor, it is virtually certain that we will not see that money. Why should the city negotiate when they can save a fortune by stonewalling, and the unions are prohibited from striking by the same Taylor Law?

You might think that Cuomo, an alleged Democrat, would oppose any change to the Triborough Amendment, but you'd be wrong. According to the Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who has taken on labor over several issues, has yet to express a position on the Triborough Amendment, but a top aide, Lawrence Schwartz, said last year that the administration would explore options, including proposing the suspension of the amendment.

When Cuomo starts exploring options, union workers need to hold on to their wallets. He's the one who pushed through the new evaluation system, put a wage freeze on state workers, and engineered a new pension tier that will punish future union workers.

If they can abolish Triborough, municipalities can force unions to agree to almost any concessions, as  contracts would become null and void when they expire.

Luckily, it seems that there will be no action on this for the current legislative year. Still, this looming attack makes it even more important that the UFT ends up backing a genuine union supporter in the next mayoral election, such as De Blasio or Liu, rather than some Bloomberg sock puppet like Christine Quinn who will basically give Mayor4Life the fourth term that even he doesn't have enough money to buy.

1 comment:

nycdoenuts said...

Great piece. Just a little fun fact; this Friday (April 13th) will mark 4 /12 years since the city and union agreed to a new contract. That's an aweful long time.
Just to answer your question about why the process is stalled; the rumor last year from the Unity guy assigned to visit my building once a week was that the union wasn't really interested in signing one with Bloomberg (read: We're the ones dragging our feet, which is what I keep seeing in the Twittersphere over and over again).

Not sure how valid it is, but I just thought I'd share it here.
Best wishes