Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Should Retirees Vote?

There's a very thoughtful piece at Gotham Schools discussing the power of retired UFT teachers. It notes that most unions do not allow their retirees to vote. Now I hope to be a retiree one of these days, and I personally vote every chance I get.

But I wonder whether or not this is a good idea. For one thing, as crazy as I am now, by the time I retire I might be crazier still. Of course, given American politics, being crazy is no obstacle to anyone's vote anyway.

I remember vividly the 2005 contract, the thing that got me to be active in union matters. I had just started the blog, and I was excited that the UFT was starting one. I thought we'd finally have a big voice standing against the nonsense perpetrated by Mayor Bloomberg and his minions. I thought we'd finally have a platform to address the nonsense appearing on the editorial pages.

What I got, though, was strong and steadfast support for the ATR brigade, passionate interest in curtailing seniority rights, and assurances that a 50% reduction in prep time would surely benefit working teachers. I got preposterous articles from self-serving sycophants who were later rewarded with cool union gigs to supplement their retirement.

One of the things I remember most keenly, though, is that several impending retirees, one a very good friend of mine, insisted on voting for this contract. One of them was a UFT delegate who never went to the DA, but made it a special point to go vote for this. "It's more money for me," he explained. "It sucks for the rest of you, but I have to vote for it."

Personally, I would not have voted for it under any circumstance. I think it behooves us to leave the world a better place for our children, and those who follow us include those who will take over our jobs in the future. I'm sure many of us vote our conscience, and I'm certain I'm not the only teacher who feels this way.

But when I read about Mulgrew visiting Florida during election time, a luxury his opponent, a working teacher, could not even contemplate, I wonder. It's great the union has an HQ there, and it's great that retirees can continue to be part of our union. But do they know that we're facing a junk science evaluation system? Do they know that 3020a, with the city no longer having to prove incompetence on the part of individual teachers, will be a virtual death for the careers of many good teachers? I certainly didn't notice that in the Unity handout that showed up in our mailboxes yesterday.

And I don't much expect the opposition will have access to retiree mailboxes, let alone the opportunity to send their candidates to press the flesh out there. Should people with no personal stake in what goes on in schools be deciding who leads us? Should they be voting on the contract? Do those far from home even have access to points of view that vary from leadership?

What's your take?
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