United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew tore into the city Monday for not providing paid parental leave to city teachers, calling the situation a case of “gender bias.”
Mulgrew, whose union is 77 percent women, was among the leaders testifying about the need for a paid parental leave policy Monday at a joint hearing of the City Council’s committees on education and civil service and labor.
In some of his harshest criticism of the de Blasio administration, Mulgrew criticized city leaders for saying leave should be negotiated in contract talks and come with concessions.
“I believe this is clearly gender bias on behalf of the City of New York and I do believe now it’s being used completely as a bargaining chip against our union, the union with the high female [membership],” Mulgrew said. “So I’m quite aggravated and pissed off at the city on this whole thing.”
Under the Department of Education’s current policy, teachers who want paid leave after having a baby must use accrued sick days. The policy applies only to birth mothers, not educators who become parents through surrogacy or adoption.
The UFT’s fight, spurred in part by a petition that went viral last fall, comes after the city extended six weeks of fully paid time off to its non-union workforce in 2016, covering about 20,000 managerial employees.
The city has pointed out that those workers made concessions, including giving up raises and vacation days, in exchange for their leave. The administration has also estimated that extending this program to all UFT members could cost $1 billion over four years.
Bob Linn, the city’s labor commissioner, testified Monday that paid leave was an issue that would be addressed during negotiations with the UFT, whose contract expires in November. “We will be reaching agreements on this issue,” he said.
Here’s what three UFT members who spoke Monday told the council:
Carolyn Dugan, a special education teacher in Manhattan at PS/IS 180
“I went into labor at my school because I was trying to save all my sick days for my maternity leave.
I wanted to maximize the little time I had with my newborn, so instead of taking a few days to rest before the baby was born, I worked up to very last moment and I ended up going into labor at
Eric Rubin-Perez, a school counselor at the John F. Kennedy Jr. School in Queens
“I had managed to save over 65 days in my bank that I had always planned on using for child care leave. I attended a UFT workshop on paternity leave in the fall of 2013. To my shock, I learned that as a father I was only allowed to use three personal days. It didn’t matter how many days I had saved in my bank, I was not able to use any of them. All those times I made the treacherous commute in the snow to my school in Elmhurst, Queens, from my home in Suffolk County, or when I came back to work after oral surgery didn’t matter, because I could not use any of my days. My husband who worked on Long Island got six weeks of paid paternity leave so it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get anything.”
Jessica Jean-Marie, teacher in New York City public schools
“Last week, I returned from maternity leave after 11 weeks from having my second child. I tried working until I went into labor so that I could have a full 12 weeks — six weeks using sick days and six weeks off payroll on unpaid child care leave — at home with my son. I couldn’t do it. The physical pain and the mental stress became too much. I worked up until the week of my due date, hoping my son would come sooner than later so I can maximize my leave. He arrived three days past due.”