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Union: More pay needed to keep veteran teachers

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, seen

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, seen here endorsing Bill de Blasio for mayor in September 2013, said that city teachers are taking jobs in the suburbs for more pay. Credit: Charles Eckert

The United Federation of Teachers -- taking its case for better pay and working conditions public in advance of bargaining with the de Blasio administration -- said Wednesday that the city is losing experienced teachers at an alarming rate.

More than 32,000 teachers have left their jobs in the city over the past 11 years, UFT president Michael Mulgrew said. About 4,600 took up teaching positions in other parts of the state, including Long Island, where pay is higher and class sizes are smaller, he said.

"I am sick and tired of New York City acting like the farm system for the suburban areas around us," Mulgrew said at UFT headquarters in lower Manhattan. "We train teachers, then they go to the suburbs."

At stake for Mulgrew is a new labor contract that would cover his union's 200,000 members. The UFT is among the 150-plus unions that are working under expired contracts. The bargaining units, which together represent about 300,000 municipal workers, are clamoring for a collective $7 billion in retroactive pay.

Mulgrew wouldn't detail what raises or benefits he is requesting of the city, and did not say what his union was willing to give up in turn.

He said only, "It's important for us to get a wage increase and to make sure that all of the work we've done over the years gets compensated for."

The UFT said resignations by midcareer teachers, those with between six and 15 years of experience, have nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013.

Among the 4,600 teachers who resigned from city positions between 2002 and 2012, 1,444 now work in Nassau County and 730 work in Suffolk County, the union said.

Representatives for Mayor Bill de Blasio did not return requests for comment. His budget director, Dean Fuleihan, has said the administration wants health care concessions from the unions in exchange for salary hikes.

Department of Education spokeswoman Devora Kaye did not address the labor negotiations, but said teacher retention is important to the agency.

"We believe teachers must be listened to, valued, and respected," she said in a statement. "We plan to do our best to support our teachers because we believe in the importance of retaining our best educators."

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