Friday, January 26, 2007

Upstairs Downstairs

It's campaign season again for the United Federation of Teachers. UFT President Randi Weingarten is spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions of our dues dollars, on a professionally produced TV commercial that appears on Law and Order, the Today show, and who knows what else. It makes passing mention of class size, which Ms. Weingarten failed to bring up in contract negotiations, urges the public to listen to teachers, then posts Ms. Weingarten's name prominently for all the world to see.

This is not the sort of message that keeps us from being vilified in the press, nor is it designed to do so (Dues money is not wasted on such things). Like previous UFT commercials (that also appeared during UFT campaigns) with messages like "It's not fair" (really), these commercials are aimed at The Help. That's you and me.

When The Help gets uppity, it sometimes runs candidates against Ms. Weingarten. I'm not talking about New Action (who now know their place) but ICE-TJC, which actually opposes her and is not beholden with patronage jobs. Sometimes The Help just doesn't do what it's told (and it's hard to get good Help nowadays).

Here's one example, from a comment Teacher J made last night:

NYCE, please help me get my head around our mafia-style teacher's union.

Another teacher at my school who's a member of TJC, the opposition to Unity/NA in the coming elections, was putting leaflets in the teacher mailboxes of another school in our building. Later, he gets hauled into a room to be scolded by the principal of our school, the principal of the other school, and the chapter chair of the other school, who all essentially told him that they had taken the leaflets out of the mailbox and thrown them away, and that they were going to try to get a letter put in his file. He pointed out that DoE policy explicitly protects campaign activities if done outside work hours (he put the leaflets in the mailboxes during his lunch period). They replied in so many words that what he was doing was reprehensible and the principal has to authorize what teachers receive in their mailboxes.

What do you and your readers think this teacher can do to allow his democratic rights to be respected by the school and the union?

Yesterday, only 340 people read this blog. What were the chances this would happen to one of them? What are the chances, if this happened to one of them, that it's happening all over the city? And how many teachers don't even know opposition messages are being tossed into the trash?

Total monopoly is required to maintain the Unity patronage mill, and it's not going to let The Help get in its way. The 50-year-old Unity caucus, as always requiring signed loyalty oaths and total fealty (expelling members for opposing the Vietnam war, according to David Selden in The Teacher Rebellion), has certain standards to uphold.

Don't expect Randi Weingarten to get off her pedestal and debate The Help. That's unheard of. Not having access to dues money, and being strictly working class, the only thing The Help can afford is putting flyers into mailboxes. But Unity doesn't like that, and the administration doesn't like when The Help gets uppity. Without Ms. Weingarten and Unity, who will keep The Help in line?

What would happen if The Help found out what was really in that 05 contract? What would happen if The Help began to understand what cost of living was? What would happen if The Help found out New Action was a front for Unity?

I speak with my fellow Help every day. I am amazed at the number of intelligent and articulate teachers who have no idea about these things. Certainly neither Ms. Weingarten nor her patronage employees understand that the union is us, and that union employees (theoretically) work for us.

Against all odds, we need to get the word out.

When we do, we the people will run the union, and UFT HQ will contain The Help.
blog comments powered by Disqus