NYSUT Salary Raises Hard to Swallow for Occupy Wall Street

Across the board, analysts and economists agree that the country is experiencing the worst economic period since the 1930′s. But Peter Murphy at the Chalkboard believes that for some things aren’t quite that bad.

As reported in the Albany Times Union, some staff at New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) received 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.”

NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi reportedly received a nearly $45,000 pay hike in 2010, an increase of 23 percent to a base salary of $240,180, while the organization’s Secretary-Treasurer got a hefty boost of more than $75,000 which increased their salary to $216,261.

Murphy writes that he does 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.”

But Murphy points out that critics may argue that the union hasn’t accomplished much else with the retrenchment in school aid for the last two years.

With the state cupboard  bare, it’s hard to understand how these raises could happen. It seems that the NYSUT has rewarded its hierarchy massively while the state’s economy remained in the doldrums and public budgets were tightening further.

“In fact, at the very time of the NYSUT salary blowouts, the state government, due to cash flow problems, already was withholding school aid payments to school districts and teachers were facing layoffs.”

Over this past year, many NYSUT locals voluntarily agreed to give back scheduled salary increases to minimize teacher layoffs. The contrast with the NYSUT leadership, unless they did the same this past year, could not be more glaring.

In a column this week by Mr. Iannuzzi, discussing the Occupy Wall Street protests, he writes that “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. And that, for Murphy, is hard to swallow.

“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?”

Murphy believe that while “corporate greed” 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.”