Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Many Teachers Have No Stake Fighting For Retroactive Pay

Michael Mulgrew was on the Brian Lehrer Show yesterday and the topic of retroactive pay came up. According to this piece, Mulgrew admitted that backpay was a 'big issue' for New York City teachers.

The Schoolbook piece went on to feature the thoughts of "Nate" -a teacher who called in to say that retroactive pay was not as big of a deal for him as the reduction in paperwork and the ability to loosen the grip of the work rules. Nate's thoughts were a significant part of the rest of the post.

A commenter (I love comment sections) named "Allan" made a point which I found very interesting:

I'm curious as to whethewr those teachers who would forego retro would be eligible for it. After all, you have to have been working since 2009 to be entitled to full back pay.

The point Allan makes is well worth thinking over. Conventional wisdom states that over half of new New York City teachers quit within the first five years. It also states that senior teachers are retiring just as soon as they are able. If that's true, then it stands to reason a great many of our colleagues, being newer that we, don't have a direct financial interest in any fight for retroactive pay as we do.

To a new teacher, any amount of backpay may seem "paltry" (a commenter's use of the word. Not mine) in exchange for less demanding work rules. This is because for them, a check with retro pay would be exactly that -paltry. It's easy to give up next to nothing in exchange for something that matters to you.

I don't blame younger teachers for thinking this way. If you were a less senior teacher, which would be more attractive to you: a reduction in the insane amount of paperwork you have to do? Or an extra check for $1,500? If I were a young teacher, I'd pick the reduction in paperwork.

Of course, I'm not. I'm a more senior teacher. I have a house and a family and I'm living the dream and the lack of those raises has taken it's toll on my wardrobe, personal life and my debt to earnings ratio. Whatsmore, I stand to gain over $30,000 in back pay if the city stays within 1) the bargaining pattern for '09-'11 and 2) their own recent pattern of coughing up the money it owes for retroactive pay (and that's just for the '09-'11 contract alone). For someone like me, hearing 'eh screw the retro pay. Let's focus on work rules' is like nails drawing across a chalkboard (I can literally see the dollars fly out of my bank account).

And that's just it. There is a real deep divide among teachers over this issue. Older teachers have a large financial stake in fighting for retropay. Younger teachers do not. They simply don't have as much money to gain from retro.  That's probably why many are willing to give it up as a bargaining chip during negotiations (ah, the Gawker Generation: They sure do know how to play negotiator with our money. Don't they? ;) ).

Thing is, there are a lot more younger teachers in our union than used to be.

Written by,
Ed (who, despite managing his finances well, racked up $20,000 in debt during the recession when he normally wouldn't have ... and sure would like to pay off the credit cards).

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