Apparently the old saying is wrong: You can get blood from a stone, after all. In a world where "the American Dream" has become a year in which your salary stays the same, the so-called City of Brotherly Love is on the brink of setting a new standard in squeezing middle-class workers to death. It's not like we haven't seen this story before: Working men and women asked to take a sizable pay cut...and work longer hours...and pay more for shrinking benefits. Usually such reports alternate with the news that the CEO of that same outfit is leaving with a golden parachute worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions.
But just when you think it can't get any worse, here come the contract demands that the Philadelphia School District would like to cram down the throat of the city's unionized school teachers. The news -- first reported by Kristen Graham of the Inquirer -- is a jaw-dropper:
- Large pay cuts imposed in teachers up to 13 percent for those making (a whopping) $55,000 a year or more. then frozen until 2017.
- A sizable jump in out of pocket costs for health coverage.
- In return for this honor, teachers would have to increase their work day from just over 7 hours now to eight hours, and "would also have to lead professional development, attend meetings, perform bus, yard and lunch duty and be available for parent meetings outside work hours with no extra pay."
- There's a lot more, but one of my favorites is that the district would no longer have to provide, among other things, "water fountains, parking facilities, [or] desks for teachers..." (although presumably some teachers would retain these? Who knows?)
- It should be noted that many of these cuts are not so much harmful to the teachers as to the kids -- lifting limits on class sizes and not requiring librarians or guidance counselors in every school, for example.
This is outrageous for so many reasons that it's hard to know where to begin. It is worth noting a couple of caveats. Obviously, this is an opening negotiation gambit and not the final offer; it's hard to imagine that even if the district sought to impose terms on the union (which would surely cause a strike -- more on that in a minute) that they could possibly be this draconian. I've heard that some of this may be a spring offensive to get hundreds of teachers to take early retirement -- and I'm sure it will work. Those things said, one also senses that the school district -- egged on by its high-priced Boston consultants -- "means business" this time.