"Occupy" NYSUT Headquarters? Might Find Some of that "1%" - UPDATED
This blog post was updated on Friday, Nov. 4 to reflect substantial corrections made by the Times Union to its original story.
Many a credible analyst believes the country is experiencing the worst economic period since the Great Depression of the 1930's. That may be true, but not if you work in the upper echelons of the New York State United Teachers' offices just outside of Albany, where it's "Happy Days Are Here Again." In fact, those days never left, even if they changed for the worse almost everywhere else.
The Albany Times Union today has a front-page story on NYSUT staff receiving massive salary increases in 2010 which included some one-year pay raises "equal to more than an entire year's worth of earnings for the average teacher." [NOTE: The TU has since substantially corrected this story that renders this quoted assertion by the paper as inaccurate.] Turns out, NYSUT president, Richard Iannuzzi, received a pay hikes in 2008 through 2010, including a one-time 11 percent increase, for a base salary of $240,180 (not including tens of thousands of dollars more in benefits and perks); while the organization's other executives got raises ranging from 2.75 percent to nearly 4 percent. [See further "Follow-up" discussion, below.]
Now, I do not begrudge anyone at NYSUT or most anywhere else their compensation package. They are professionals, they work hard, and can be very good at what they do. Look no further than the teacher evaluation law it negotiated into ambiguity and litigated to virtual meaninglessness. One can argue the union hasn't otherwise accomplished much else with the retrenchment in school aid for the last two years, but not even NYSUT can defy the laws of mathematics and economics indefinitely - the state's cupboard is bare.
Pay Hikes at HQ; Pink Slips in the Classroom
It remains ironic that NYSUT would reward its hierarchy this way since they knew, at the start of 2010 when more pay hikes took effect, that the state's economy remained in the doldrums and public budgets weretightening further. In fact, during the time of the NYSUT salary hikes, the state government, due to cash flow problems, already was withholding school aid payments to school districts and teachers were facing layoffs.
This past year, numerous NYSUT locals voluntarily agreed to forgo contractual pay hikes to minimize teacher layoffs. In other words, many teachers gave back scheduled salary increases so that other teachers could avoid pink slips. According to NYSUT, the organization froze executive salaries for the 2011-12 school year.
How 'bout that "Social Conscience?"
The irony is more so considering how NYSUT has weighed in about the "Occupy Wall Street" protests. In a column this week by Mr. Iannuzzi, he writes: "Beyond the social contract, I believe exists a social conscience and a social compass" that, in effect, demands tax fairness which he says is "about values." Should NYSUT's headquarters, which is not on Wall Street but still five times the size of a WalMart store, get a carve-out of this social contract?
In contrast to "corporate greed" that at least makes its money mostly via the private market, NYSUT's treasury is comprised primarily of mandatory union dues from teachers and other members who are paid by taxpayer dollars. At a minimum, this suggests the union should have more sensitivity about its own organizational wealth disparities, especially when Mr. Iannuzzi decries societal disparities that can "make our blood boil."
Reading the front page of today's Times Union, a few dues-paying NYSUT members may get that same feeling.
for The Chalkboard
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FOLLOW-UP: As mentioned above, the Times Union in its November 4th edition, made substantial correctionsto its original October 28th story that was used by The Chalkboard for its original post on the same day. Primarily, Mr. Iannuzzi did not receive a "45 percent" pay hike, nor did the Secretary-Treasurer get a 54 percent pay hike of $75,000.