Thursday, August 29, 2013

Today's Contract News & Reflections

What a busy day! I was out with the kids from early morning until this afternoon and came back to find President Jerry Jordan has said he would propose healthcare contributions and a pay freeze for members to the District at the negotiating table!!!

While he stated that there would be "NO WAGE CUTS" I was livid because, as you all know, whether we call it a pay cut or healthcare contributions, at the end of the day it still means less money in our paycheck and is, therefore, a pay cut. Over the past decade, this has been, in my opinion, the compromise we were given compared to teachers in other districts - worse salary but better benefits with lower costs. After doing some basic math, what the District wants - 13% healthcare contributions - amounts to about a 6% pay cut for me under my plan (Family HMO). It could be more or less depending on your situation. As a reminder, percentage contributions ARE NOT STABLE seeing as healthcare costs continue to rise exponentially due to this country's dysfunctional healthcare system.
  • The Family Plan HMO from 8 years ago cost $856.
  • In 2008 it rose to $1023.
  • Then (DESPITE a WORSE plan with higher deductibles that we were enrolled in after our last contract in order to save the District money) it rose yet again to $1587.
  • Finally, in July of this year it reached a whopping $1711, all in a matter of 8 years. (If you have PPO, they've risen even more).
While we have had - I believe - four or five 3% raises since 2005, barely keeping us in line with inflation and definitely lower than our suburban counterparts, our healthcare costs have more than doubled for what is, effectively, a worse plan. Here are the numbers if you want to check how your rates have doubled since 2005:

Call it what you will, a 13% contribution to healthcare ("without salary reductions") is in fact a 5% salary reduction. Even worse, it is a 5% salary reduction that will balloon into a 10% salary reduction in a few short years if healthcare cost trends continue, and there is no reason to believe they won't. (Math teachers, correct me if I'm wrong here!)

I was ready to go to the PFT meeting on Monday and vote a resounding "NO!" on this proposal. Many other PFT members on message boards across the Internet have expressed that they will do the same. After all, the last contract was only ratified by 2/3 of the members after they found out that "Renaissance Schools" would be introduced into the district, and we see what damage they have done to our job security. ( In fact, the PFT Constitution also allows for recall votes if the membership feels its leadership does not properly "represent the viewpoint of the PFT before legislative and public groups." You can view the PFT Constitution here:

After I calmed down, I realized that the PFT has NEVER negotiated in public - let alone told the press what it is proposing at the negotiating table before it actually negotiates it behind closed doors. Immediately following Jordan's press conference, the School District and Governor's Office prompty issued a response stating the proposed healthcare givebacks and salary freeze are not enough. The District wants more and Corbett would still refuse to release the $45 million - even if we agreed to these proposals during a membership vote. Read their response here:

So, did Jerry Jordan actually cave in to the District's demands or was this a public relations stunt to show that the PFT is willing to meet the City, State, and District halfway - even though Jordan knew they wouldn't take the bait - in order to put us in a positive light? I'm not sure... Draw your own conclusions. All I can say is that Monday is going to be a VERY INTERESTING meeting and, to all my fellow PFTers: make sure you COME OUT AND VOTE!

1 comment:

  1. The last PFT Membership meeting I attended was when the PFT rescued our salaries cuts by the Health and Wefare Fund giving the district $58 million (excess in the fund). It was a heavy sigh of relief for many but yet it was contentious meeting...many said we were caving. Voices were angry. We all have our personal perspective on these issues based on our own personal situation. I am an older teacher...single, no family and though my health plan covers only me...the increased copays are a concern as I get older and physicians seem to order more 'tests' with each visit. For me a 13% salary cut is alarming because it would result in more than $800/month cut in my take-home pay. YIKES. So I get to decide, do I pay my utility bills and food or do I pay my mortgage. Yes, that cut will make affording my modest tiny house very difficult, if not impossible. I may need to sell it in this horrible market and rent a room from a relative, something that I dread doing. I am seriously considering retiring much sooner than I had planned to so I no longer live under constant threats to my income. But there again, Harrisburg is messing with PSERS pensions and Washington wants to destroy Social Security. The thought of leaving my beloved profession to retire early and then working as a supermarket cashier to supplement my retirement income breaks my heart. Just seems so dastardly WRONG ...all because I chose to be a teacher(and a very effective one) at an inner city school. What sense that? I do not challenge your thinking at all, George. If I had a family to provide for, I would probably think and feel likewise. Our targets may be different but we are fighting the same war. Stay Strong! (Love the blog!)