Unions Should Set Good Goals
While unions are often vilified for all sorts of things, there is a real and productive place for them in economic life. Workers have a right to organize and advocate for their interests, and can be a powerful and countervailing force to management in the public and private sectors. More than just issues of pay, there’s a real value for workers being able to exert power over their lives and demand better conditions.
All that being said, retroactive pay raises are an indefensible demand. It is hard to come up with a justifiable reason why the public should be forced to pay for work already performed. It in fact seems more like blackmail and an inappropriate use of leverage to extract rents. This sort of behavior is ultimately destructive to city-labor relations and seems more likely to harm the future prospects for New York teachers than to help them. Unions are creatures of political economy, because they depend on a friendly regulatory climate. That friendly regulatory climate left over from the mid-20th century is quickly disappearing. I suspect the marginal man-hour spent organizing unionization drives is much better spent than threatening the city for retroactive raises.