Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Weingarten to Leave UFT - UPDATED

I won't believe it until I see it, but here is a report from Newsday:

Influential teachers' union leader Randi Weingarten is due to make it official next Wednesday that she will depart as head of the United Federation of Teachers on Aug. 1 to head only the national affiliate American Federation of Teachers, the traditional retirement route for that union's past presidents, according to reliable sources. She already officially serves in the AFT post. Speculation abounds that she will agree with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with whom she has frequently been allied, despite what you may gather from some press reports, to allow a cheaper pension tier, or Tier 5, for future union members in the Department of Education.

There will be lots of comment and speculation on the implications of this move, which she will formally announce at next Wednesday Delegate Assembly according to this report. Is her anointed successor Michael Mulgrew prepared to take over? This will give him a 6 month window as UFT President before the next election season opens in January 2010.

If Weingarten does give in on a Tier 5, since it will only be for new teachers, the UFT leadership must feel they vets will not be concerned. They may be forgetting that in 1995, the membership rejected the first incarnation of the contract due to a clause penalizing new teachers. I guess she is thinking she will take the hit for this and then leave so Mulgrew could obfuscate his responsibility. I can see the election campaign, "I was in the bathroom when she decided to do it."

If this happens at the DA, let's see Randi make the announcement, shed a few tears as the Unity Caucus faithful rise up and cheer, and walk off the stage, handing the mic to Mulgrew, who has never run a DA as far as I can tell. But my guess is the delegates will be forced to listen to another endless report before being able to exhale with a sigh of relief.

ICE and TJC are expected to run a slate against him. ICE may determine its choice of candidate to oppose Mulgrew at this Thursday's meeting.

Would Weingarten leave Mulgrew out there to run with a contract due to expire? There is speculation that a secret deal will be announced on the eve of the UFT election - think Oct/Nov/Dec 2009 – that will put money (what else can they get) in the pockets of some teachers in exchange for screwing the unborn. And maybe a few ATRs and rubber room people too. And maybe a little relaxation on the tenure issue. And support for a lift of the charter school cap. Or "have them work Labor Day," as one reporter joked. Pick one or all of the above.


Michael Fiorillo said...

On Randi agreeing to a Tier V:

- Klein is on public record as favoring the elimination of defined benefit pension plans. A Tier V would be a step in that direction. Eliminating a DB pension would go a long way toward making teaching the transient job that privatizers and oligarchs seek. As for the UFT, the dues roll in no matter the seniority of the workforce, so they've little structural reason to care that much. And as we all know, Randi is a "responsible" labor leader, so we should assume her cooperation will be the default program.

- Pension plans are in crisis everywhere, and are facing a perfect storm of heavy investment portfolio losses, willful/negligent underfunding by their sponsors, and demographic/labor relations trends. My sense - and this is not confirmed by any hard data, but just by not seeing it mentioned as a current basket case - is that TRS is better managed and funded than most public employee funds, for whatever that's worth long term. If you're interested in following this (very depressing) topic, check out the "Pension Pulse" blog. The author is Canadian and writes mostly about these issues from a Canadian perspective, but there's a lot of relevant info all the same.

One of the consequences of the federal deficits resulting from financial bailouts and our permanent-warfare state is going to be a political attack against public employee pension funds. The meme will be, "Nobody else has a DB pension, so why should teachers cops, firemen?"

In it's last contract, the UAW - traditional pace-setter in manufacturing and private sector benefits - established a two-tier wage system that eliminated DB pensions for new hires. As a result of the local and state fiscal crises brought on by the country's looting by FIRE (Finance,Insurance, Real Estate), the same is coming soon to a school system near you.

- Additionally, and you heard it here first, the deficits resulting from banker bailouts are going to used used as a pretext to attack Social Security and Medicare. How Obama responds to this devil's chorus will determine a big part of his legacy. During his campaign, he called for raising the income ceiling on Social Security withholding, which in one stroke would eliminate ANY future funding problems. Unfortunatley, I've yet to hear any repeat of that since his inauguration. Just as with EFCA, which he made a point of supporting when speaking in front of Labor audiences during the campaign, and which he is now allowing to die on the vine, we may be witnessing the bigggest bait-and-switch of recent history.

Ira Goldfine said...

The day that the DOE gives back anything related to tenure will be the day we once again have a union that fights in the member's best interests. Until then we will continue to see the weakening of tenure and one day if they throw enough crumbs - the elimination of tenure.

NYC Educator said...

Just a word--the Post specifically says Ms. Weingarten is hanging around till summer to negotiate one more contract. You can imagine how grateful I must be she's willing to once again exercise the skills that have left us where we are today.

ed notes online said...

Most people think there already is a contract.