Published: June 6, 2014
Publication: NY Post
By Carl Campanile
Teachers shut out of retroactive pay raises under the new union contract are looking to claw their way into the windfall with a class-action lawsuit that could cost taxpayers as much as $35 million, The Post has learned.
About 4,000 teachers who worked between 2009 through 2011 — the years covered by the back-pay deal — and left before their eligible retirement are excluded under the nine-year contract approved by the United Federation of Teachers and Mayor de Blasio.
Some 4,200 teachers who called it quits in 2012 and 2013 also might claim the retro pay, which would be 8.16 percent of their final salaries.
Two former teachers who are married, Antonio and Theresa Pepe, are among the educators exploring lawsuits against the city and the union.
“That’s the raise we should have gotten all along. Now we’re not getting it for whatever reason,” said Theresa Pepe.
“We’re not asking for money that we didn’t work for. The point is we deserve that money.”
The Staten Island couple had a combined gross annual salary of about $180,000.
Antonio worked two of the retro-covered years and Theresa, one.
If eligible, they’d be owned about $11,000.
A veteran city labor lawyer who has represented unions and aggrieved city workers said the jilted teachers may have a strong case.
“It’s a class-action suit in the making,” said attorney Arthur Schwartz, who has fielded complaints from some of the ex-teachers.
“I am a fan of [union president] Mike Mulgrew and the UFT. But unless the union counsel knows of some case law that I haven’t found, there are 4,000 former teachers who have a good case, and their claim is for somewhere in the vicinity of $30-35 million,” Schwartz said.
“If I were the UFT I would go back to the city and get this addressed quickly,”
Schwarz cited an upstate case that he said raises doubts about excluding retro pay for ex-teachers.
In May 2001, the Hoosicks Falls school district and local teachers union approved a new contract that included retro pay for the years 1999 and 2000.
The agreement said the back pay only covered current employees, and excluded those who worked those years but then left the payroll.
But 11 former teachers sued the union and the school district for back pay and won.
The UFT and mayor’s office declined to comment.