I wanted to wait a few hours before writing my take on this because as soon as I saw the headline on the Times story last night around 10:45 PM ("Teachers Union Agrees To Concessions To Avoid Layoffs"), I just about wanted to head down to 52 Broadway and break windows.
I had visions of the UFT handing Bloomberg hundreds of millions of dollars from the health care fund, agreeing to salary step freezes and other payroll concessions or opening up the Pandora's Box of health care costs and agreeing to some kind of containment clause.
Those were the kinds of things the mayor wanted in this fight once it became clear that Sheldon Silver and the Assembly were not going to change LIFO for him and allow him to mass lay off the ATR's.
But as I dug into the story a little, I started to see that the "concessions" the mayor claims he got from the deal aren't exactly the kind of sweeping, money-saving concessions he claimed he needed in order to not lay teachers off.
According to Gotham Schools, the two concessions that the UFT granted Bloomberg are canceling sabbaticals for 2012-2013 (supposedly will save $17 million) and allowing ATR's to be used as day-to-day substitutes in their districts (supposedly will save $43 million.)
The total savings from the UFT concessions is $60 million.
The mayor was saying he needed somewhere between $240 million and $377 million in savings in order to avoid layoffs.
Instead he got (at least according to Gotham Schools), $60 million.
Now the city council supposedly agreed to pony up more money for schools too, though I have not seen a number figure on that, so perhaps the "savings" Bloomberg got out of last night's deal is closer to $100 million, but nonetheless it is nowhere near what he claimed he needed in order to avert layoffs.
On the mayor's side, he admits that he lowballed the number of teachers that will be lost to attrition, that schools WILL still take huge cuts to their budgets (while central office at Tweed and the technology consultants will NOT) and will STILL see higher class sizes and fewer teachers next year.
So there is no doubt that the UFT DID concede on issues here that they should have NEVER conceded on.
To review, there is a budget surplus.
Bloomberg was lying about the need to lay teachers off.
He was making a political gambit to get LIFO changed so he could lay off ATR's this year and then lay off senior teachers every year thereafter, dramatically remaking the teaching corps. of NYC into at-will employees.
But he lost that gambit when the Assembly didn't jump when he said "Cash!"
So he was left with a difficult choice - either back down and lose face (and once again be revealed as a lying sack of shit when it comes to layoffs) or continue with the farce and say he needed to do layoffs anyway, despite the surplus.
The UFT had the moral and the political high ground on this.
Public opinion polls show that people despise the mayor, despise his policies, and REALLY despise his education policies.
People KNOW that Bloomberg has been wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on crooked technology projects.
Consultants hired by Bloomberg are being arrested left and right for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the city.
And Bloomberg has budgeted $900 million in additional technology spending for the DOE next year even as he claimed he needed to save $377 million by laying teachers off.
So as I say, the UFT had almost all the cards in this game.
In my opinion, they should have conceded nothing.
They should have gone on the air in mass with CityTime scandal commercials, showing the parade of criminal consultants arrested for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in city funds, played tapes of Bloomberg on his radio show claiming victory on CityTime and saying what a swell project it is and the stolen money just, you know, slipped through the cracks, and then noted that the mayor plans to hand out another $900 million in consultant funds and technology upgrades next year even as he refuses to conduct oversight over these projects, refuses to take responsibility for all the stolen cash so far and insists that he MUST lay teachers off to save the city money.
Seriously, on the face of it, it was absurd for Bloomberg to claim he needed to lay off teachers to save $377 million in the same week that the U.S. attorney announced $600 million had been stolen by crooked consultants in Bloomberg's CityTime project.
So the UFT should not have conceded a thing when they had these kinds of cards.
In addition, the ATR concession is worrisome to me - it is just another sign that ATR's will eventually be sold out by Mulgrew and Company.
It is just a matter of time.
Next year when Bloomberg claims poverty again and starts handing out cash in Albany to get LIFO changed, you can bet that one of the concessions he will want in order to avoid layoffs will be on the ATR's.
And the UFT looks like they are ready to sell them out.
But all things considered, the concessions the UFT made could have been worse.
They could have conceded a couple of hundred million from the health care fund, money Bloomberg would have used to pay outside consultants for his crooked technology contracts.
They could have conceded health care or pension containment costs.
They could have conceded furlough days (or furlough weeks) or agreed to a salary step/longevity freeze.
They didn't do any of that (though on the health care fund front, Mulgrew certainly tried!)
I dunno if it's just that I have gotten cynical about the UFT in my middle age, but when I thought about last night's deal a little, my take was "Sure, the UFT snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but it's not as bad a defeat as I thought it was going to be."
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the union.
But given the serious defeats suffered by labor unions in Jersey and other states and given the concessions agreed to by CSEA in contract negotiations with New York's Tea Party Governor Cuomo, I guess it's not as bad as it could have been.
I know that's the official line from the Unity and New Actions parties at the UFT.
In a way they're right.
But it also doesn't bode well for the future that the official line of the UFT is "Sure, we had to give stuff up even though Bloomberg had a surplus and didn't need to do layoffs, but hey, it could have been worse!"
I suspect next year when we do this shit all over again (and make no mistake, unless Bloomberg is arrested, resigns in disgrace or dies suddenly of an ego attack, we will do this all over again next year), it will be worse.
And if you're an ATR next year, they will try and make your life a living hell, worse than they have already made it, in order to get you to quit.
That's the goal - get senior teachers and ATR's off the payroll.
The concessions the UFT agreed to last night will help the mayor do just that on the ATR front.
And there will still be fewer teachers next year, class sizes will still be higher than they were this year and Bloomberg still gets to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on crooked consultants.
Not the worst deal the UFT leadership could have made, but certainly not the good one they're claiming it to be either.