By guest blogger Arwen E.
I urge cooperation between my sisters and brothers of UNITY and MORE.
I plead for the sake of humanity that tomorrow at the D.A. meeting in Manhattan one Union brother or sister stand up and ask for a justification of the LOYALTY OATH. More adamantly, I plead that this brave soul not be silenced. And, I ask that reason, not tempers control the debate.
I have read through our UFT 50 Years anniversary book and I have found deep inspiration. Yet, nowhere in its pages do I find any justification for a LOYALTY OATH. To the contrary, I find only disdain for loyalty oaths. One might argue if everyone votes as one, the voice is stronger. I argue the opposite. And, I will tell you why.
The LOYALTY OATH stifles both sides of the political aisle. It silences all chapter leaders who cannot for reasons of conscience sign the oath. Despite their election, in some cases repeated election, by their constituencies, they are blocked from exercising their duly-elected voice at NYSUT and AFT conventions. They are blocked from lucrative positions in union offices. The doors of advancement have shut before their eyes. It is shameful.
The LOYALTY OATH stifles UNITY members as well. They are not allowed to freely express their ideas in public, lest they conflict with that of the leadership. If they freely express their views at the DA and they run counter to leadership, they risk raising the eyebrows or ire of leadership. They may risk losing potentially very valuable jobs in union offices. They may risk seeing the doors to advancement shut before them as well. They may risk losing the privilege to attend assemblies and conventions across the country. Some run scared. They supposedly have freedom of speech, but they all know their words may cost them. You know this, too.
I have heard a few defend the OATH. They state that they agree with all leadership positions and their membership is aligned with them; so, they have no compunction about following orders. This is no justification for a LOYALTY OATH. I'm sure leadership appreciates these jolly troopers, but it hardly justifies a threat of cutting off the purse strings from anyone who feels differently.
Yes, there are other LOYALTY OATHS in play. The President swears to uphold the Constitution. I take no offense here. The Constitution protects my basic freedoms and a democratic form of government. Doctors swear to a Hippocratic Oath. I take no offense here. They swear to work for the good of their patients. Most representatives vote as trustees, in accordance with the conscience, or as delegates, in accordance with the democratic wishes of their constituency. For those who vote a party line without question, without regard to their conscience or constituency, because they fear losing monetary rewards or privileges, I say this bargain eats at the soul and insults the firmest principles of democracy as well as human intelligence. I say it may ultimately cost them their re-election.
One voice is not stronger when it comes at such a price. One voice is not stronger when it silences all other voices through implicit threats. One voice is not stronger when it potentially costs one his or her conscience. One voice is not stronger when it potentially divides a chapter leader from his or her constituency. One voice is not stronger when it potentially squashes independent thought and innovation. One voice is not stronger when leaders potentially move forward, but the rank and file do not follow. I do not wish to be a member of a union with one voice that rules thusly.
I am a minor character in the great play of events, but I will not be silenced. I speak solely for myself, but I speak for the right of every individual to have his or her say.