I’m back from two days in Albany. While I never find the twice yearly lobbying trip uplifting, this year’s was particularly depressing.
As teacher unionists, we were all pumped with anger over the passage of a Tier VI to the public employee retirement systems, and each of the legislators who voted for the new tier in the meetings I attended was asked to justify his vote. The answers we received could only increase one’s contempt for those who represent us. Democrats and Republicans – the line was the same. “The public is demanding these kinds of changes because they are suffering. We all know when times are better we’ll begin to fix this tier just like we fixed Tiers III and IV so that nobody gets hurt in the end.” What was even more nauseating is that some of these rationalizations were made by elected representatives who themselves are in Tier I – leaders who do not have to have any fears about their own retirement security. Pared down to its essence, our leaders’ message is, “We know that the creation of Tier IV makes no sense. We know that it will cause real concern for the retirement security of future public employees. We know it will reduce their take-home wages and their ability to provide for their families, but we had to do it anyway. It is a popular thing to do.” What courageous leadership! When you consider that they did this as part of a deal to set the voting district boundaries to protect incumbents, their cowardice is even more revolting.
If there is any good news it is that Governor Cuomo’s plan to distribute some state aid through competitive grants seems to be headed for defeat. It’s an outrageously stupid idea that’s patterned of the Race to the Top program that also attempts to insert divisive competition into the delivery of a public service that depends on cooperation and collaboration. Let’s hope this defeat comes to pass and that it begins a long process of defeats for the most anti-labor governor we have had in my memory.