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Saturday, May 3, 2014

How Much Thanks Will We Need to Say for the New Contract?

The new contract is far from perfect.  For those who unequivocally favor it, perhaps, they seized what seemed like initial good news without delving beneath the surface.  Perhaps they never met an ATR or do not realize how principals may be discouraged from retaining older ones due to costs.  Perhaps, they work for the Mayor or the Union.  Or, more likely, perhaps, they believe, unlike the Policeman's Benevolent Association, that given years of Bloomberg's disastrous policies, the realities of city budgets and the general climate of educational deformity, something is better than nothing.  They may be of a like mind with the teacher quoted in the New York Post yesterday:  "At this point, we just have to take what was offered." 

The Memorandum of Agreement had not been released to U.F.T. contract committee members (as of the last evening), but as more facts continue to spill out, I believe, more concerns will be raised.  Not too many people will view this contract as an unmitigated success.  

People will fall into two camps.  The battle will rage between those who are glad to get anything in this day and age and those who think we could do better.  Personally, I hope the P.B.A. gets more.  It may be hard though given that our Union has helped back them into a corner with our contract.  We have set our sites lower; they aim higher. 

I am not particularly fluent in the history of U.F.T. contract negotiations, but I witnessed the rank and file reject the 1995 contract. It would have given a 13% raise over five years, but none of it in the first two. New teachers had to wait four years to get a 5% bonus. A new contract was overwhelmingly approved in 1996.  It was very similar with the exception that the new teachers no longer had a 5% "penalty." The City has been strapped for funds in the past. Current times are unusual, however, given the number of contracts on the table as well as other legacies stemming from Bloomberg's reign.  

When the contract comes to a vote, it may be a battle between pessimists and optimists.  As we watch the P.B.A. negotiations, if our Union has not already done too much harm by setting a "pattern," we may learn in which camp lie the realists.  The P.B.A., of course, is not the U.F.T. and the memberships are very different.  For one, the state equips police with guns to protect people; teachers are equipped with state-sponsored #2 testing pencils--which, more often than not, may ultimately have the reverse effect.  

For reasons I don't fully understand, I keep hearing the strains of Judy Collins singing Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" as I contemplate our Union's negotiations and this current contract. Maybe it's because there's something very bittersweet in any thanks owed:

Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
Like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.

Like a baby, stillborn,
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
And by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
He said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
She cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"

Oh like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir I have tried in my way to be free.

Bird On The Wire lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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