Union’s Internal Cost-Cutting Is Thorny

The finances of New York State United Teachers are a mess, but NYSUT’s officers are not entirely blind to the problem. When a union tries to cut its costs, it not only runs into labor unrest with its own employees, it might also provide political fodder for internal opponents.

Case in point: NYSUT sought to save a few bucks by hiring Certify, a company that supplies mobile apps and reporting tools for the processing of expense reports. This task is usually done in-house.

The staff contract bans outsourcing of work previously done by bargaining unit members without the staff union’s permission. NYSUT had to make the new process optional for employees, and evidently every single one of them has refused to use Certify.

NYSUT managers and executives, however, are not members of the staff union, and are required to use Certify. This irritated not only the staff union, but also Stronger Together, the opposition caucus within NYSUT that is running candidates for the union’s executive positions. It posted its complaint, which I excerpt here:

We are perplexed and disheartened by the decision made by our current officers to subcontract the work of our union brothers and sisters. According to Secretary-Treasurer candidate Nate Hathaway, “This flies in the face of our core values as unionists. We must not fall into the trap of pursuing expediency at the expense of what is right. Union workers are paid more because they defend the value of the individual worker and the concept that a worker should have protections in the workplace and be compensated with a reasonable, living wage. What do we stand for as an organization if we espouse these principles in grand platitudes, yet pursue a policy of employing the services of those not afforded the very rights we claim to fight for? This is very disheartening news.”

​To address the budget issues that exist within NYSUT, our officers need to reduce costs through a transparent process that honors the work and commitments made to our unionized staff.

A noble sentiment, but honoring the work and commitments made to NYSUT’s unionized staff has resulted in net assets of negative $413 million. The teachers of New York are on the hook for that.