Amid intense negotiations with the New York United Federation of Teachers (UFT), Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for an unusually long nine-year contract between the union and the city. The settlement would potentially spread $3.4 billion in retroactive raises for teachers over the next several years while pushing the following round of union negotiations to 2017, after the next mayoral election.
As the New York Times reports, the UFT is demanding back pay for their time without a contract amounting to $3.4 billion. The de Blasio proposal would date the nine-year contract back to 2009, when the unions rejected renewing their former contract. The contract would then spread the $3.4 billion in retroactive pay over the next four and a half years, saving de Blasio from a massive deficit in the city’s budget this year.
The UFT has been clamoring for retroactive pay dating back to November 1, 2009. As National Review’s Jillian Melchior wrote in February, the UFT pressed for an early expiration of the contract with the hopes that, by 2009, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg would be heading out of office, replaced by someone who would negotiate a better deal for the UFT.
When Bloomberg won a third term, the teachers’ union was left without a contract. But despite not winning more money in 2009 from a government facing a deep recession, teachers nonetheless still saw a cumulative increase of $2.1 billion in compensation between 2009 and 2013 due to pension contributions, bonuses, and pay raises for teachers who had not yet risen to the top of the pay scale.
The UFT represents 116,000 people, or almost 40 percent of New York City’s government employees. If the de Blasio administration agrees to a retroactive pay increase for such a large swath of government employees, other municipal unions may demand the retroactive raises they have also been calling for.
There are 151 unions seeking new contracts with the city, according to the Times. If all those unions received their requested back pay, it would cost New York City more than $8 billion, not counting future raises.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.