Union needs to deal on cosmetic surgery
Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Should Buffalo's teachers' union renegotiate its deal to remove the plastic surgery provison?
It's not exactly a little secret that Buffalo's economy has been hurting for quite some time. What was once the Queen City is now undoubtedly the Pauper City, being the second most impoverished metropolis in the nation.
Since the Second World War, Buffalo has felt the hurt of population decline and outsourcing along with many other rust belt cities. The issue has the city in an ugly situation, but the teachers in its school district are sitting very pretty, and the school district is stuck in the middle.
In the 1970s, a term got into teachers' contracts that had the district pay for cosmetic surgery with the intent of ensuring reconstructive surgery after grievous accidents. The rider flew under the radar for quite some time, until it was nearly cut in 1996.
Because of lobbying in the name of a district employee's daughter who was thrown through a windshield, the rider was kept. Still, it didn't cost the district very much. Going under the knife was still a risky procedure, and had a lot of down time.
Technology advances very rapidly, however, and the world of cosmetic surgery has changed drastically. Now getting a little work done doesn't necessarily entail being sliced and diced. Procedures are getting less and less invasive and the main deterrent from getting them done is cost.
Except for Buffalo teachers, who get any cosmetic procedure paid for. Their contract technically expired in 2004, but a rule called the Triborough Amendment stipulates that union contracts stay in effect even after expired.
Now, the district is stuck. The cost for this perk has gone Incredible Hulk and grown massively. In 2009 alone, 500 employees had taken advantage of the perk, to the tune of $9 million. Because of Triborough, there is literally no incentive to come to the table and deal. They have everything they want and more.
At one point, the district offered to prevent 100 layoffs if the union would allow the perk to be suspended for a year, but the union would only negotiate the entire contract and not pieces of it.
So, 100 jobs down the drain, and the economy is further marred.
Two things need to happen here. The teacher's union must agree to give up the perk immediately. By school district estimates, another $5.4 million is going to be paid out this year. With some of the worst rated public education in New York, the schools could most certainly use that money to pay for more teachers or newer books and equipment.
Instead it went to Botox and other plastic surgery.
On the state level, the Triborough Amendment needs serious reform. Although the intention is good, it does prevent businesses and the state from waiting until a contract expires and then doing whatever they want while there is no labor contract. It creates this exact situation, where contracts are stuck in limbo from the past when times were better and the cities or businesses could afford to spend more.
A good solution would be to keep Triborough, but add a stipulation that negotiations must begin or else both sides would face penalties. That way no side has an incentive to not make a deal.
Buffalo is set to rise again, but everyone needs to be a part of it no matter what they look like.