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UFT’s new contract reminds teachers of union’s past failures

New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a tentative deal last week with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) for a new contract which will span retroactively from September 2022 to November 2027.  

The contract, which has yet to be ratified, includes an annual 3% pay raise for teachers and a recurring retention payment for the duration of the contract. It also includes a $3,000 bonus.  

Yet the contract came with a major change to retirees’ healthcare benefits. As AFFT previously reported, UFT and New York City decision-makers pushed to move 250,000 retirees from their current healthcare plan to a Medicare plan. Retirees were livid over the decision, which would save New York City money but would likely result in worse healthcare coverage for retirees. 

The news of the contract agreement recalls other failures by UFT in previous negotiations.  

In 2014, UFT secured a complex contract with New York City that included retroactive back pay for teachers that would be paid out over several years. However, the contract excluded teachers who retired or left the profession before 2015. Over 4,000 teachers never received back pay, which for some could have been as much as an 8% pay bump.  

The affected teachers were outraged. 

In response, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten said, at the time, “Would UFT have liked it for all—of course; but not unprecedented practice [to not pay the teachers who retired].” UFT is an affiliate of AFT. 

Then, in 2020, after several years of payments, New York City informed UFT that it did not have enough money in its budget to finish the retroactive payments due to a pandemic-induced budget shortfall. UFT blamed New York City for delaying the payment for all teachers, and an arbitrator ruled the city must make the payments. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “This is far from a perfect solution for thousands of our members who are still owed deferred wages that can go back as far as years.” He explained, “The decision … makes it clear that the city must find a way to meet its financial obligations to its educators.” 

UFT’s past failures suggest teachers looking forward to new contract terms should be wary.

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.