Friday, August 02, 2013

In Which I Am Courted by the UFT

For the past few days I've been getting phone calls and emails from union reps. Apparently it is essential that I get my butt over to UFT HQ and make phone calls for Bill Thompson. They'll give me Chinese food and a Bill Thompson t-shirt.

This is probably because when Tony Avella and Grace Meng ran, I not only showed up, but also dragged a bunch of people with me. I was very excited about supporting both of them, and I was happy when both of them won. With Thompson, it was a matter of looking at all the possibilities and deeming him the only one who was remotely viable, particularly with Wiener looming, and his victory likely to enable yet another Republican mayor.

But now, with Carlos Danger hanging in Wiener's shadows (and no, that was not a pun), Bill de Blasio is resurgent. I'd always preferred de Blasio to Thompson, particularly since he didn't tell the Daily News he opposed teachers getting the pattern raise virtually all other city employees got in the last round of bargaining. Thompson did say that, unfortunately.

To further muddy the waters, this week de Blasio, having been abandoned by the UFT, his erstwhile supporter, is making noises about how he, not having our endorsement, can better negotiate with us. You might say he is a fair-weather friend, as was Thompson. Or you might say the UFT was premature in offering its endorsement. But Thompson has also flip-flopped on stop and frisk, so you might see a lot of support he'd otherwise have received going to de Blasio.

I declined to work for Thompson. The UFT rep told me if I didn't show, I'd have no right to complain about the consequences. Apparently, he felt that statement would persuade me whatever happened in the next mayoral election would be entirely in my hands. It did not. He then started to tell me how intelligent I am, and how I therefore must understand this.

He continued to tell me that this selection was the most democratic process ever. It's true Thompson was popular in every borough but Queens, which had the good sense to support John Liu, my first choice. But it's also true UFT leadership, in the form of the Executive Board, made a recommendation to the DA. It's further true that virtually everyone in the DA signed a loyalty oath to agree with whatever they're told to agree with.

If that's democracy, then most teachers support mayoral control, value-added methods, being itinerant ATRs, school closures, and getting fired based on test scores likely to be as flawed as previous test scores.

He asked me if I thought the UFT would endorse a candidate who opposed getting teachers the raise all other city employees got. Given the UFT's previous positions, I was at a loss to answer. This is the same guy who got in front of my staff and promised that the union was very smart, and that the evaluation system would come with the contract and raise for which they'd been waiting years.

In a real democracy, people say whatever they like, and vote freely without facing the (gasp!) possibility of being shut out from future AFT and NYSUT conventions at fancy hotels. It may be good if Thompson is elected, depending on which Thompson takes the oath. I would probably go and make calls for him if de Blasio were not resurgent. But right now I'm not all that enthused. And if the UFT wants reasons, they need only look at the 82% of teachers who don't bother to vote in union elections.

I vote every chance I get. But I do understand cynicism, and I don't like veiled threats, shallow flattery, empty promises, or being bullied or browbeaten to do things for which I have limited enthusiasm. This is particularly true about people who've sorely disappointed me in the past.
blog comments powered by Disqus