Re “Teachers’ Push for Back Pay May Pinch City” (front page, Feb. 5):The question for New York City is not whether it can afford to pay competitive salaries to the teachers of the city’s more than one million schoolchildren, but whether it can afford not to.How can we have a world-class school system as long as the city has the largest class sizes, the neediest students and the lowest paid professionals in the region?It was Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s years-long refusal to reach a fair agreement with teachers — despite yearly multibillion-dollar city budget surpluses — that created a huge fiscal problem for Mayor Bill de Blasio. Working together, we can come up with a solution that is fair for teachers, taxpayers and, most important, the children in the city’s public schools.MICHAEL MULGREW
United Federation of Teachers
New York, Feb. 5, 2014
I might add that it was the UFT's failure to get a contract before Bloomberg's third term - when they actually had some leverage to do so - that partly led to the problems we have now too.
Once Bloomberg was re-elected for a third term, all bets were off on how he treated teachers, municipal unions, contract negotiations, etc. because he had no reason to come to the table and bargain in good faith anymore
But before that third term, when he put his "legacy" on the line by overturning term limits and running one more time (and his internal polling showed him not running away with the election), the UFT had some leverage to either endorse his opponent and work to oust Bloomberg or cave and do a deal with devil (Bloomberg) before the election.
They chose neither path - they didn't help Bill Thompson in the election (and Thompson lost by just 5% points - a loss that might have been turned into a victory if unions had helped his cause) and they didn't get a deal done before the election.
So what we got as a result was an emboldened Bloomberg looking to stick it to teachers, unions and in particular the UFT.
I know dealing with Bloomberg was a hard thing in the last few years and there are a lot of reasons why the UFT chose the strategy they chose to pursue in dealing with him.
Certainly the UFT's backing of Thompson in 2009 would not have guaranteed a Thompson victory and there were some obstacles to doing a deal with Bloomberg pre-election.
Nonetheless, it was the UFT's contract strategy in Bloomberg's last five years that is partly to blame for where we are now - years without a contract, having given away many concessions via APPR without getting anything in return.