It's true that I love having summers off. It's one of the great perks of working in education. But you can't say that I get paid a lot for someone who gets summers off and also say that it's ok for me to work 60 hours a week when it's not the summer (which averages out over the course of a 50-week year to more than 40 hours per week).
And yes, some doctors get less time off than that, but my family members who are (retired) doctors got 6 paid vacation weeks and 4 paid conference weeks. So that's 10 weeks. Plus sick days, plus paid family leave. And that particular family member made roughly 5 times what I make. I'm just sayin.
Todd says that at his job FMLA is encouraged for any sick days more than a week. In CPS, you have to use 10 paid sick days before you can file for FMLA. And then, under the old contract, you would have to use and take pay for all of your sick days during your FMLA. So, during my recent illness, at one point I thought I would be out for six weeks. I would have had to use all 20 of my paid sick days, whether I wanted to or not. And there are two days this year that I want to use for personal business--for my dissertation defense and for my PhD graduation. I would have had to put my job at risk by taking these days as "zero days"--that is, unpaid absences, which can be cause for discipline or dismissal.
Yes, our medical benefit is awesome. Again, unions have been trading benefits for wages for decades. We make WAY LESS than people with comparable levels of education. Many CPS teachers have TWO masters degrees.
Todd asked: "Is the union sticking to seniority as the primary determinant of salary / benefits?" Yes, seniority and level of educational attainment. But seniority is worth much more than educational attainment. I'm going to get a raise of about $1750 annually when I get my PhD. (I was previously in "Lane V," which is a master's degree plus 45 credit hours. From Lane V to Lane VI (PhD or EdD) will be $1750. From Lane I (BA only) to Lane VI is a little less than $10K. Pretty good, and probably worth how much the degree cost me, but conventional wisdom is that changing "lanes," that is, getting more education, isn't worth it if you have to pay for it. There is a new teacher at my school who is an economist, and I'm going to get him to calculate my loss in earning power for not working from age 24-30.)
Let's say my salary was 70% of what I would make if I worked 50 weeks of the year. That would mean my salary, with 3 years teaching experience and a PhD, would be $92,372. Do you think that's fair, even with sweet benefits? I mean, I wouldn't complain if I made $92K. Hey, I can't complain about what I make right now. But it is certainly not commensurate with what other people with my level of education make.
P.S. I'm inappropriately frank about what I make. That's because it's part of the public record anyway! I'm a public sector worker. :)