Friday, February 1, 2013

Who’s Hurting NY’s Kids? Cuomo's Attack on Collective Bargaining

“Do not punish our schoolchildren for the obstructionism of the U.F.T.,”

These were the words of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, referring to Governor Cuomo’s decision to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of funding to New York schools because the city and its teachers union, United Federation of Teachers (UFT), failed to come to an agreement on teacher evaluations by the arbitrary January 17 deadline imposed by the governor.

Bloomberg is insinuating, of course, that the teachers (or their union) have caused schools to be penalized and, consequently, for children to be harmed, but it was the governor who imposed the arbitrary deadline and who holds the purse strings. It is Cuomo who is holding the students hostage until their teachers and their bosses come to an agreement. And it is their bosses in the Department of Education and Mayor Bloomberg himself who have made unreasonable demands on teachers and risked failing to meet the governor’s deadline by doing so.

There is an uglier story here, one that is being replayed across the country. New York state has been trying (and succeeding) in imposing changes to teacher evaluations so that they are based on student test scores and the UFT, like many unions (including UTLA in Los Angeles and CTU in Chicago) has been willing to accept it, even though student test scores are an unreliable measure of teaching ability (see here and here) that can result in good teachers receiving bad evaluations and bad ones slipping through the cracks. The sticking point between UFT and Mayor Bloomberg was Bloomberg’s refusal to let the deal expire at the end of 2015, even though most other state school districts had only 1-year deals (see Labor Notes).

Bottom line:
  • UFT is sabotaging kids by accepting any level of student test scores in their evaluations
  • Bloomberg is sabotaging them by making absurd demands on the teachers that are well beyond the already absurd demands being place on them by other New York districts
  • Cuomo is not only holding the schools hostage until the teachers buckle, but he is also shredding the teachers’ contract and undermining their right and their ability to collectively bargain with their employer, which happens to be the city of New York, not the state of New York 


  1. You're absolutely right, of course. The funny thing is, our UFT leaders are now trying to tell us that what Cuomo is doing is a form of "binding arbitration" so we, the UFT members who are up in arms about this, should just shut-up.

    I have not ever known management, which is what the governor is, to act as a binding, independent arbitrator. Have you?

  2. I think what the UFT leadership means is that it is legally binding because it is now state law and that they are unwilling to risk any jail time or fines or legal fees on civil disobedience or direct action, which is the only way the teachers can win this battle.