New York teachers gain parental leave

After literally years of negotiation and demands, New York City’s teachers are going to have six weeks of paid parental leave. The policy was announced on June 20 by Mayor de Blasio.

This benefit, while common in many other trades and part of many collective bargaining agreements, has always been fought by the city as being “too expensive.” That will end this September when the new policy takes effect.

Starting mid-contract

The proposal has been in negotiations for many years. The 2014 contract with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) did not include paid parental leave. Many members have been upset with this ever since that contract was ratified.

Even though it does not expire until 2023, negotiations have been continuing between the UFT and the Department of Education for this and other benefits since. It is part of the more positive relationship with newly elected Mayor de Blasio that was sought by the good-faith acceptance of the contract at the time. That relationship is finally bearing significant fruit.

What it means

Teachers have had to either bank or borrow sick leave in the past to assemble whatever parental leave they could. Starting in September, six weeks of paid leave is available to both parents at the time of birth or adoption.

The UFT has over 120,000 members, and includes counselors and social workers as well as teachers. All are eligible for paid parental leave.

Negotiations are critical

The city did not accept this lightly, despite the strong relationship between the Mayor and labor. It will cost $51 million every year for the estimated 4,000 members who will take advantage of the policy.

To cover that cost, the contract is extended for two and half months and delay raises for everyone. Like everything in collective bargaining, there is always a price to be paid. The UFT believes it has a good one in this case.

Work and family balance

This, like every agreement, is about a balance between quality work at a reasonable rate in balance with family life. That is at the core of every single collective bargaining agreement.

Standing up for that balance is always difficult, especially with trades under siege all across the nation. It’s important for workers to stand strong and have tough negotiators  on their side at all stages of the process. That includes mid-contract negotiations, like the ones which finally gave the teachers of New York the paid parental leave they deserve.

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