UFT President Michael Mulgrew scoffed at Mayor Adams’ “narrative that the city is almost broke” and said getting a new wage contract would be the union’s “main focus” this year.
“The only way to combat that kind of narrative is to drive activism,” he told the delegates at the Jan. 18 Delegate Assembly. The union’s citywide teach-in on Jan. 30, he said, was a key step in engaging members in the push to get this administration to agree to a fair contract to replace the pact that expired in September.
“The mayor keeps warning that the city is about to fall off this cliff,” Mulgrew said, but he noted that the administration’s preliminary budget proposal contains $8.3 billion in reserves.
The UFT president questioned how the city expects to fill 25,000 vacant municipal jobs — including paraprofessional positions — if it doesn’t first provide reasonable pay increases.
He portrayed the differences between the mayor’s spending plan and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s initial proposal as a “Tale of Two Budgets.”
He praised Hochul’s proposal to increase funding for public schools in New York City and across the state. Her plan includes significant funding for mental health clinics in schools – part of the governor’s $1 billion multiyear plan to overhaul the state’s mental health care system; full Foundation Aid to benefit high-need school districts including New York City; $250 million for high-impact tutoring to address pandemic-triggered student learning loss; and an infusion of funds for career and technical education. (The governor’s full budget plan, released two weeks after the Jan. 18 Delegate Assembly, includes a charter school expansion plan strongly opposed by the UFT.)
On the city budget, Mulgrew said, “We have a lot of work to do” before it is adopted in late June.
Adams has proposed limited public school funding, a $567 million cut in the city’s 3K program that his predecessor Bill de Blasio established and a $13.6 million reduction in public library funding.
Mulgrew said the Municipal Labor Committee, which negotiates health benefits for municipal unions, and the city were moving forward in a negotiated-acquisition request for proposals process to find a health insurance provider for in-service city workers that offers a 10% savings in the cost of coverage from what the most-popular plan, GHI, charges. The unions’ goal, he said, is to preserve premium-free health insurance while negotiating better benefits.
With respect to ongoing negotiations with Aetna on a new premium-free Medicare Advantage program for Medicare-eligible retirees, Mulgrew said, “We’re going to dig in and be smart and strategic, and we’re going to fight until we get what we need.”
He said the UFT would sue if the city tries to impose premiums on in-service workers and retirees younger than 65 if no deal with Aetna is reached.