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TEACHERS UNION BEING UNFAIRLY CRITICIZED

The Buffalo Teachers Federation, which incidentally does not represent nurses, is paying attorney's fees for parents who can't afford them to continue desperately needed nursing services for their children (our students).

Yet The News attacks the very people who are working to secure the desperately needed nurses' services that were eliminated by the county and asks us to help pay for these nurses. Only the teachers are singled out from all the other district unions that are similarly in discussion with the district on health care.

The News supports additional funding from the state for underfunded mandates but singles out teachers to fund a similar underfunded mandate for our children's health. Some might call it a double standard. There are probably other descriptions. I'll let the public decide.

In addition, it is not just Buffalo teachers and I who are challenging the wage freeze. All city and board unions (over 10) are challenging the freeze. Yet again, The News singles out the Buffalo Teachers Federation and me in its Your Turn question related to the freeze.

The News also neglects to point out the staggering costs of the freeze. If wages are frozen for three years, an employee doesn't go to the salary he/she should be making at the end of the freeze. He/she goes to the next step on his/her schedule. For example, if an employee is frozen at $19,500 for three years and should have received a $500 raise each year, instead of making $21,500 after a three-year freeze, he/she will make $20,000.

Since the employee was to receive a $500 raise each year, after a three-year freeze, he will lose a total of $3,000 during the first three years, an additional $15,000 in 10 years, and an additional $30,000 in 20 years.

An employee making $40,000, who was supposed to receive a 2 percent cost of living raise each year, loses $4,800 during the three-year freeze, plus $24,000 ($28,800 total) after 10 years and an additional $48,000 ($52,000 total) after 20 years.

Yes, if the wage freeze lasts only three years, an employee making $19,000 loses as much as $34,000 and an employee making $40,000 loses as much as $52,800.

Since retirement is based upon an individual's final salary, loss of retirement earnings for the rest of a person's life could be thousands of dollars.

In short, the public needs to know the overwhelming financial impact of a wage freeze. Employees don't just lose the salary increase they should have received during the freeze, they lose that increase each and every year they continue to work after the freeze is lifted and, for most, on into their years in retirement.

And, by the way, we will continue to be guided by our own compasses, not that of The News.

Phil Rumore is president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.