Wednesday, June 10, 2009

But Me No Buts

"We have teachers in our name, but children and their families in mind." That's what the cute new UFT commercial declares. The question, of course, is whose children and whose families "we" have in mind. I mean, I certainly have my students and their families in mind, as I happen to work for them.

The structure of that sentence, though, is discouraging. I once had a Shakespeare teacher who suggested, "Whenever anyone says but, you can completely disregard whatever came before it." So naturally, when your girlfriend or boyfriend says, "I really love you but..." you know it's time to seek a new one. When your boss says, "You're doing a great job but..." maybe it's good news for someone in India.

So after "We have teachers in our name," there should be no but. We are a labor union. We should have teachers in our minds. In fact, that is our purpose. To buy into the propaganda that it's somehow evil to act in our self-interest is to lose the war without firing a shot.

It's time for the UFT to start standing up for teachers, as opposed to autocratic billionaire mayors. It's time to say working people need better conditions, rather than "reforms" that impose upon us precisely the same conditions that have caused so many working people to become non-working people.

The cartoon is cute. The message that we don't care one way or the other about teachers is insidious, counter-productive, and a massive abuse of the dues for which we work so hard.

What on earth is part-time UFT President Randi Weingarten hoping to achieve?
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