Monday, April 29, 2013

How Do We Engage the Apathetic 75%?

It's humiliating that 52% of the union vote came from retirees. That we cannot muster more than one of four working teachers to take an interest in who runs our union is on us too. Retirees are certainly important, and I hope to become one someday.

Retirees should be represented, and are, with their own chapter. Should the union have a Florida office? If we've got a huge percentage of retirees in Florida, why not? But here's a fact--retirees have different interests than working teachers. Should retirees be voting on who's the VP for high schools? VP for Elementary? Middle School? Absolutely not.

Yet they do. Only high school teachers should vote for high school VP, and so on. It's insane that we are required to let teachers from other levels help us. It's just as insane that retirees get a say. Why on earth shouldn't they get their own VP, and select him or her by themselves?

Working teachers should select their own reps, and frankly, anything otherwise is an affront against democracy.  Functional chapters? What's a functional? Secretaries should select a secretary rep. Guidance counselors should select a guidance rep. Social workers, nurses, and anyone should pick their own reps. Why are so many on the UFT Executive Board "at large?" What the hell does that even mean?

Let's have real representation. Let's have everyone represented by people who actually represent their interests. Let's have an executive board that represents the UFT, not the caucuses.

Let's let schools decide who goes to conventions, and not caucuses. And let's see proportional representation. A school with 12 teachers may merit less representation than one with 250.

Retirees ought to select a portion of the Executive Board, a representative for themselves, and help select the UFT President. But their vote for President ought not to outweigh the votes of working teachers, who are facing incredible challenges right now. The system we have now is neither democratic nor rational.

I'm sorry if it's inconvenient for Unity-New Action to entertain other voices. It's high time they learned to do so anyway. Trotting out a fake opposition to mislead the members is disgraceful. Pandering to retirees when the opposition cannot even make a case to them is unconscionable. And the resultant apathy, cynicism, and that three out of four working educators can't be bothered to write an X in a box is just awful.

We can do better, or we can maintain the patronage mill until it shatters under its own weight.

I vote for the former.

Correction: A commenter points out that 83% of working teachers did not vote.
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