On top of everything else going on in the world these days, the city thought it could renege on a long-held promise. What happened next is a reminder of why unions matter.
In the end, UFT members won more than long-promised deferred wages for work our members did as far back as 2009. In a nod to New York City’s economic straits, the arbitrator ruled that members should receive the first half of the money owed to them by Oct. 31 and the rest in the second paycheck in July 2021. We also won a no-layoff guarantee for this school year and a pledge by the city not to challenge the contractual 3% raise scheduled for May 2021.
When he was elected to his first term back in 2013, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised the UFT he would deliver the pay raises that Mayor Mike Bloomberg had withheld. The October payout was to be the last installment in a series of lump-sum payments over five years to UFT members employed between 2009 and 2015 and those who retired after June 2014.
Citing the city’s dire financial crisis as the pandemic squeezes city revenues, the mayor declared that the city could not afford to make the final payment. We immediately pushed back, using the arbitration clause we made sure to include in the 2014 contract to address exactly this kind of situation. The arbitrator halted the mayor’s maneuver after we successfully made the case that members were owed this money.
The arbitrator’s award was not a perfect resolution — UFT members were expecting to be made whole before July. We still face a rough road ahead, as the pandemic continues its stranglehold on the economy.
History has shown us it pays to be vigilant. In these troubled times, we will continue to keep watch over members’ rights and benefits.