Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, February 28, 2011

Framing The Layoff Issue Correctly

Like I noted earlier today, the news accounts of the Mayor4Life's threatened layoffs have so far been almost entirely FROM THE MAYOR'S PERSPECTIVE.

There have been few questions about whether these layoffs are necessary given the mayor's bragging that he has a budget surplus, two billion in extra tax revenue and the governor says they don't have to happen.

Instead the issue has been framed from the perspective that layoffs HAVE to happen, that they are a force of nature that CANNOT be stopped (kinda like a tsunami or really bad diarrhea) but they CAN be mitigated by changes to seniority rules which would allow the mayor to lay off "bad" teachers instead of "good" young ones. But the EVIL teachers union has refused to budge on these archaic (and perhaps communistic) seniority rules and so some schools (particularly ones in Harlem) are going to lose as many as 70% of their teachers and the children will be taught by the custodians and bedbugs.

Or something like that.

There is just NO WAY for the union to win a political fight about layoffs and seniority when that's the way the issue is framed.

So it's imperative that Mulgrew and company stop dining on quail and get out the message that these layoffs DO NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN, that the mayor is CHOOSING to lay people off because he WANTS to, not because he HAS to.

It is also important that the UFT point out all the things Bloomberg and the DOE WASTE money on - like CityTime, tax breaks for rich condo owners, no bid contracts that go millions over budget, etc.

Finally it is important for Mulgrew and company to DEFEND seniority anyway, to note that seniority protects older teachers and veterans who WILL ALWAYS be the ones laid off if seniority protections are weakened or destroyed. In addition, if seniority protections are ended, layoffs will happen EVERY year instead of once every two generations because the mayor and the DOE will be able to FIRE ANYBODY THEY WANT FOR ANY REASON THEY WANT WHENEVER THEY WANT.

These are the important frames for this issue to me, and so far, I haven't seen Mulgrew address the issues very well in the corporate media.

Or if he is framing the issues that way, the corporate media certainly isn't going with that particular frame.

This NY 1 article, for example, STILL frames the issue from the mayor's perspective. The article even uses parents upset about LIFO, saying they don't understand why the union won't budge on seniority instead of FORCING the city to lay off all these great teachers.


I wish I could say to these folks, "Listen, I understand your feelings, but this is an issue that the mayor HIMSELF is forcing. Your kids DON'T have to lose their teachers AT ALL. There is plenty of money in the budget to KEEP ALL of these teachers, but the mayor refuses to do so.

Instead he is FORCING this issue because he is playing politics with the seniority rules.

Why is it so DIFFICULT to get this essential TRUTH about the layoff issue out?

If the union is unable to get this message out SOON, they will lose on this issue and we will see layoffs EVERY year, no matter how the budget looks or the economy is doing because the mayor and the DOE are ALWAYS going to look to save money by laying off veteran teachers.

Just the way they love to lay off older people in private enterprise and private corporations.

They used to call it downsizing.

Then it got renamed outsourcing.

Whatever you want to call it, it basically means that if you hit a certain age or make a certain level of income, when a company decides to let people go, your ass is first on the list.

If the mayor and his ed deform shills are allowed to win this seniority issue, the school system will quickly become a 5 YEAR AND UNDER racket.

I know that's exactly what Bloomberg, Obama, Christie, Rhee, Klein, Black, Cuomo, et al. want.

But the public doesn't know that's what they want.

The public needs to be informed about this.

Perhaps they think it's a good idea to have a constantly rotating teacher corps of 22-27-year old Barbie and Ken Educators4Excellence dolls in the classroom.

But I doubt it.

They, like most humans, know that the schools need both younger and older teachers, that experience in both the classroom and life informs a teacher's work as much as the energy and verve that the ed deformers say the younger teachers bring.

That has been my experience, at any rate.

I suspect it has been the experience of many of you out there in the DOE too.

Now let's get this TRUTH across to the city.

And UFTer's, for god sakes, can you frame an issue correctly for once?

The layoffs and budget cuts are NOT about snow.

They are about a mayor and a power elite that would rather cut income taxes on millionaires and let millionaire condo owners pay pennies to the dollar on their real estate taxes while slashing school budgets to the bone and laying teachers off than do what's right for the school system.

If you're having trouble framing things that way, you could get Cynthia Nixon to do it for you.

She managed to do this Cuomo budget issue pretty well:


  1. The union also needs to effectively point out to newer teachers that seniority protects them too, not just once they've achieved it, but because it guarantees their recall rights in the event of layoffs. Just as there's no arbitrariness in a layoff process governed by seniority, there's no arbitrariness in the recall process, which given the attrition rate among teachers, would likely lead to people being recalled relatively quickly.

  2. The Dropkick Murphys song has been in my head all afternoon. Very catchy.

  3. What we need in these very perilous times are LEADERS, not politicians. This whole notion of unions and public employees being the problem - it's The Big Lie in action. Roger Toussaint was a leader. Mulgrew needs to step up and realize that these are not ordinary times. Obama the same thing. It's not about winning two elections, writing your memoirs, and planning your presidential library. It's about having the courage of your convictions and doing the RIGHT thing. As Martin Sheen said in the American President, "[you've got] to fight the fights that need fighting". Let's hope our "leaders" don't continue to miss the call of History.