Monday, August 28, 2006

Union In-fighting in Buffalo, NY

The NEA and AFT-affiliates in New York State are going to merge into one statewide union, but the local union in Buffalo doesn't want to go along. Let's listen in to the August 28th Communique from the EIA (see blogroll at left):

Buffalo Affiliation with NYSUT in Serious Doubt. This Friday, September 1, there will be only one statewide teachers' union in New York, and NEA New York will cease to exist. At that point its largest local, the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) will be in legal and administrative limbo, because it has yet to declare its intentions regarding affiliation with the merged New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).

Negotiations between BTF President Phil Rumore and top officials at NYSUT continued all summer and were largely cordial. In the past few weeks, however, the mood has gotten more and more combative, to the point where Buffalo's affiliation with NYSUT now has to be considered less than a 50-50 proposition.

The issues and personalities defy quick summary, but it is clear that BTF wants more services from the huge, merged NYSUT than it was getting from financial basket case NEA New York. BTF also wants a measure of autonomy when it comes to PAC recommendations and funding.

BTF plans what seems to be a rank-and-file vote for next month on affiliation, but this alone has caused tensions with NYSUT. NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi informed Rumore that the state union would "communicate with your membership" prior to the vote about the advantages of affiliation. Rumore doesn't want NYSUT campaigning for affiliation in Buffalo.

Communications between the two sides have become more and more strained, with NYSUT warning about the "isolation of BTF and its members from the rest of the education union community," and BTF characterizing such statements as "not-so-veiled threats."

Rumore was able to make some veiled threats of his own. In delineating all the services BTF would be able to provide its members if it wasn't sending dues money to NYSUT, AFT and NEA, Rumore noted that his union "would no doubt be able to place $500,000 - $700,000 per year in our reserves for future contingencies." Such "future contingencies," EIA believes, surely include any attempted raiding by NYSUT.

Obviously those folks in Buffalo are pretty smart, as I've been recommending just such an action in my own local union for years. Follow along:

  • 2000 teachers, ~$970 dues/year: $1,940,000
  • Of that almost $2 million, the local union gets to keep only about 20%, or $388,000. The rest is sent to the state and national unions, the CTA and NEA

So, our teachers pay about $97/month each, of which the local union keeps only $19.40 (20%). Why not ditch the state and national unions and become independent? I say, reduce dues to $45/month--teachers automatically save $42/month! That should cover higher gasoline prices.

As an independent, the union would now keep all $45/month, $450/year from each teacher. With 2000 teachers, the union would rake in $900,000/ year, an increase of $512,000. Use that extra half-million to retain the best labor law attorney firm in the county to negotiate raises, handle legal representation for teachers, etc. It's a win-win for the teachers and the local; the only losers are the state and national unions that don't do squat for locals anyway.

I think Buffalo is onto something here. I wish my local union were as creative.

Update, 9/5/06: I'm disappointed.

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