More than 1,800 UFT members were poised to strike recently. Picket sites were selected around the city for nurses employed by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, if a new contract was not reached by the Feb. 1 strike deadline. Strike captains were named.
The strike was narrowly averted when the UFT won an agreement to preserve the pensions and health care that the employer had sought to cut. The nurses also won a pay raise.
The victory is a reminder of how necessary unions are.
It isn’t just people who work at public schools, at other government agencies or in private industry who need collective bargaining.
“Employees of large nonprofit organizations need unions, too,” UFT Vice President Anne Goldman said.
VNS is a large and well-established nonprofit that provides in-home nursing care, therapy and hospice care to the frail and elderly.
You might think that such organizations, with nonprofit status and a mission of care-giving, could naturally be counted on to treat employees fairly.
But last fall, VNS abruptly laid off 500 staff, including 300 nurses, after the organization came under state scrutiny for improper Medicaid billings linked to the use of social adult day-care centers. The organization had to repay the government $33.6 million in the settlement.
In the wake of that settlement, VNS told its nurses that it needed to eliminate their pension benefits and require them to pay for their own health care. The nurses, backed by their union, held firm.
Now that a contract has been won, the UFT hopes to turn a page in its relationship with VNS to one of mutual respect.
VNS nurses gained that respect at the bargaining table by standing in solidarity with their union.
A new report by the leading organization for international education data finds that public school teachers in the United States earn only about two-thirds of what similarly-educated U.S. workers earn, while teachers in most of the rest of the developed world earn 80 to 89 percent of their peer professionals.
In addition, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, a member organization of 34 countries across Europe, South America, and the Far East, found that U.S. teacher salaries increased only about 3 percent between 2000 and 2011, compared with a 17 to 20 percent increase for teachers in other developed countries.
Public elementary school teachers in the U.S. worked an average of 1,097 hours in 2011, almost 40 percent more than the 790 hours for the average teacher in the OECD countries. U.S. high school teachers worked 1,051 hours, some 60 percent more than the 664 hours for upper secondary level teachers in other OECD countries.
Other education indicators in the OECD report, Education At A Glance 2013, found troubling news at both the beginning and late stages of U.S. education.
Just half of 3-year-olds and 78 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in some kind of early childhood education in the United States, compared with OECD averages of 68 percent of 3-year-olds and 85 percent of 4-year-olds. At the upper end of education, what the report reveals is that college attainment amongst all U.S. adults ages 25 to 64 puts us fifth in the world, but zeroing in on just 24 to 34 year olds — young adults — pushes the U.S. rank to 12th.
Finally, the proportion of young adults who were “NEET” (“not employed or in education or training”) increased between 2008 and 2011, to 15.9 percent of youth ages 15 to 29, a shade higher than the OECD average, which includes economically devastated countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
In other words, the U.S. education system, while mighty, is slipping or standing still, while Korea, Japan, the Russian Federation and Ireland surge ahead in the percentages of its populations that are college educated; Spain, Mexico, France and Belgium enroll far more young children in pre-primary education; and Australia, Israel, Poland and even Portugal have raised teacher pay significantly while U.S. teachers have seen almost nothing for a decade.
City employees including sanitation workers, college professors and teachers say how they contribute to the city and why they will be at the Fair Contracts for All Rally at City Hall Park at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12. “New Yorkers all over need to hear that our unions are united and are fighting together for fair contracts,” says teacher Subrina Cek.
Show your support for Con Edison workers in their fight for a fair contract by attending a rally and march on Tuesday, July 17. UFT and its allies will be meeting at Con Edison headquarters at 4 p.m. for a rally that is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. The rally will be followed by a march to Union Square.
Members of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America have been without a contract since June 30. Con Edison locked out the 8,500 workers on July 1 and cut off their health care benefits on July 3 at 5 p.m.
Tens of thousands of families depend on UFT family child care providers, who care and educate their children. The work they do is making a profound difference in the lives of those children every day, as evidenced by the three providers profiled in this video. But in the city’s budget negotiations, more than 14,000 child care slots have been put on the chopping block by the mayor.
The Metro New York Labor Communications Council is having its annual convention on June 15, and the lineup is excellent. The morning panel on Occupy Wall Street: Keeping the Message Going will include Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News and Democracy Now!, UAW Local 2110 organizer and OWS activist Mary Clinton, Joe Dinkins of the Working Families Party, and Melissa Ryan of the National Organizing Institute. Nick Unger, veteran labor organizer and author, will moderate.
Lunch and labor communications awards presentation to follow.
There was a time that labor unions and the communities they are part of only went their separate ways. That is no longer possible. Both have realized that in this economic climate alone they are easy pickings for the corporate entities that care only for profits and not one whit for the betterment of the society they seem to own.
The union-busting law of Ohio Governor Kasich and his Tea Party Republicans, which took away public sector workers’ rights to have a union and bargain collectively, is going down to crushing defeat. The margin has been 63% for repeal, 37% for keeping the law for the last hour.
UFT Legislative Representative Michael Davoli was in Ohio this weekend helping to get the word out to voters that a NO vote on ballot Issue 2 this Election Day is a vote to protect the collective bargaining rights of working Ohioans. He wrote about his experience.
Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, 6:11 p.m. Oh, what a day to be in Ohio. Today was an absolutely beautiful day to be knocking on doors for an incredibly important cause. The temperature reached into the low sixties, the sun was shining all day, the colors of the fall leaves were peaking and the people were friendly. After landing in Cincinnati late Friday afternoon we headed over to the Ohio AFL-CIO campaign headquarters for a campaign briefing with the AFT campaign staff. There we met up with some of our brothers and sisters from NYSUT locals across New York State who have been out in Ohio for a few days. After getting a late dinner at a classic Cincinnati rib joint it was time to hit the sack in preparation for a few big days of campaigning.
UFT Parent and Community Liaison Nick Cruz signs a "We Are Ohio" pledge at campaign headquarters.
Saturday morning started bright and earlier for the nine of us from New York. After grabbing a quick breakfast we headed over to the IBEW office where over one hundred labor volunteers from across the country were preparing to knock on doors. This was it. This was ground zero for the labor movement in Ohio and the nation. This was where union members — from teachers to police to firefighters and municipal employees — were going to make their stand against the forces of corporate America who were trying to break the backs of working people. We were here to help fight back. More »
More ominously, protesters in many cities now face the prospect of sustained police crackdowns, from the hassles of permitting and noise ordinances to the violence that erupted last week in Oakland. There, police used tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets to attack protesters near city hall. One of those bullets fractured the skull of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition. Since then, Olsen has become the chief symbol of Occupy’s new reality: Going up against Wall Street, it turns out, is serious business. And the more serious the Occupy movement gets, the more official and near-lethal hostility it’s likely to encounter.
As they sort out what to do next, the Occupiers might take a page from the history of American labor, the only social movement that has ever made a real dent in the nation’s extremes of wealth and poverty. For more than half a century, between the 1870s and the 1930s, labor organizers and strikers regularly faced levels of violence all but unimaginable to modern-day activists. They nonetheless managed to create a movement that changed the nation’s economic institutions and reshaped ideas about wealth, inequality, and Wall Street power. Along the way, they also helped to launch the modern civil liberties ethos, insisting that the fight to tame capitalism went hand in hand with the right to free speech.
Over the last few weeks, a small team of New York City building inspectors descended upon UFT headquarters, responding to a mysterious 311 call. Our building has been placed under police surveillance, and at times police have been posted as guards at our doors.
The One Percent appears to be a tad bit irritated by the UFT’s support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. We were one of the unions who took the lead in organizing the October 5th rally and march which brought out thousands of New York’s working people to express their solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. UFT President Mulgrew has been at Zuccotti Park a number of times, speaking to the assembly, and was joined by AFT President Weingarten on one occasion. Our headquarters are a few blocks away from Zuccotti, and we have provided space for meetings of different groups supporting OWS. We have also given over a major section of our street level space to storage for OWS, for donations of materials and supplies sent to them and for the stowing of personal belongings on the morning when Bloomberg threatened to “cleanse” Zuccotti. This was the space that the building inspectors suddenly needed to inspect.
Oh, and last weekend, we sent forty sandwiches left from our conference for charter school educators over to Zuccotti. I had not thought much of that donation until Fox Business Network senior correspondent Charles Gasparino called the UFT on Monday. It seems that Gasparino had visited Zuccotti over the weekend and decided that it was a haven for communists. And he had witnessed the masses at Zuccotti eating our sandwiches. Why, he demanded to know, was the UFT providing sustenance to violent revolutionaries? Confronted with the results of Gasparino’s crackerjack investigative reporting, I decided that it is time to confess. Yes, I authorized that sandwich smuggling operation. More »
The Daily Show‘s bread and butter is its effortless exposure of the rank hypocrisy of Fox News — at this point, for Daily Show writers, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Here (at the 3:20 mark) Sean Hannity is shown praising the “quintessentially American”-ness of Tea Party protests in 2009, then declaring yesterday that the Occupy Wall Streeters “really don’t like freedom.”
Another highlight is a clip of one eloquent protester being interviewed by a Fox News reporter (around 1:50):
After 30 years of having our living standards decrease while the wealthiest 1% have had it better than ever, I think it’s time for maybe, I don’t know, some participation in our democracy.
[UPDATE: That activist is Jesse LaGreca and the NY Observer has video of the rest of his interaction with the Fox News producer.]
Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president who, in thrall to corporate America and Wall Street, respectively, have consistently failed to engage in anything resembling a conversation as cogent as the many I witnessed as I strolled by Occupy Wall Street’s many teach-ins this morning [...]
Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns. More »
The UFT is participating in a community-labor march tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 5 as we demand that the wealthiest New Yorkers pay their fair share of taxes. Albany must renew the state millionaire’s tax that is due to expire on Dec. 31.
At 4:30 p.m., members will gather near the UFT banner in Foley Square. Marchers will step off at 5 p.m. from Foley Square and head to Zuccotti Park, where they will be welcomed by the Occupy Wall Street protesters who have created an encampment to denounce corporate greed and the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in this country. Their rallying cry: “We are the 99 percent.”