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Op-Ed: Thoughts on the 2023 UFT Contract

As we mull over the tentative contract agreement, let us consider some historic trends to let us know where we currently stand salary and benefits-wise.

I am just finishing my 17th year at the DOE, which means that when I first joined the UFT my salary was $41,172 a year. When we plug that into the CPI inflation calculator, we can see that a $61,700 would be the bare minimum to keep up with inflation, and the current first year teacher salary falls just short of that coming in at $61,000. In other words, before this current contract we are slightly behind just in terms of keeping up with the cost of living generally, and New York City is known known for getting less expensive over time.

So, a first year teacher entering the profession now is making slightly less than I did back in September 2006 when inflation is factored in. That first year teacher also has a more expensive Tier VI pension which they will need to pay into until the day they retire if they make it that long. They also have a workday loaded with five teaching periods and one C6 assignment, an arduous and stressful tenure process involving jumping through hoops to meet every Danielson criteria, and a $30 copay to see any medical specialist. Even if the salary increases in the 2023 contract do keep up with inflation over the next five years, any new or recently joined teacher has it worse than I do, and things needed significant improvement in the not quite as bad old days of 2006!

So far UFT leadership is pushing a narrative similar to the one we heard in 2014, that this contract is a raise without givebacks and a victory for members. Last time Mulgrew and Company pushed that narrative we ended up with worse health care coverage and ‘common planning time’ that we don’t really have control of, so I am awaiting details before fully forming an opinion. At best, this is a contract that barely keeps up with inflation assuming the Fed’s 2% target is met soon. At worst, the devil will be in the details and we’ll give up rights, benefits, or autonomy even more than we already have. Even in the best case scenario we’ll be better off than with no contract as we were in the Bloomberg years, but let’s not allow those in power in our union to call this a victory when at best it’s avoiding even further setbacks.

About the Author: Eric Severson is a veteran Special Educator in a large Brooklyn high school. He has ran for office in the 2016, 2019, and 2022 UFT elections with UFT Solidarity Caucus and United for Change.

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