I love NYC. I'm not the first one to say so, nor will I be the last.
NYC has been a center of cultural diversity and activism in history. I cannot forgive the fact that our U.F.T. fails to engage its membership in activism.
I look to Chicago, Karen Lewis and the C.T.U. I look to Los Angeles and the recent U.T.L.A. (second in size only to the U.F.T.) election of Alex Caputo-Pearl. I look to Barbara Madeloni, now president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. I look to Jesse Hagopian on the rise in Seattle. Then, I look to Mulgrew. I feel he, unlike these other leaders of teacher unions, fears an energized rank and file. He fears Unity cannot withstand it. But if Unity does not open its doors and mobilize its membership, MORE will gain MORE and MORE votes. NYC will not be kept down.
The current war against Educational Deformers demands militant unionism. Battling corporate agendas that control much of the media, harm children and seek to privatize education largely for profit and large salaries, union memberships have been mobilizing across the country. They have been working hand in hand with parents and other community activists. Yet, in NYC, teachers remain comparatively isolated and paralyzed in a permanent state of low morale. It is unnatural.
This situation will ultimately prove untenable for UFT-Unity. Recognizing the weaknesses of Unity today, I had some questions for Mr. Mulgrew:
1. Is it too much to ask that the Unity Loyalty Oath and its attached purse strings be scrapped, not only by being removed from applications, but also by being rooted out of the unwritten constitution?
2. Is it too much to ask that the U.F.T. Executive Board stop increasing the voting power of retirees (whom most unions do not allow to vote at all) in a bid to drown out the voices of the rank and file? Many retirees, as much as we love them, gain inspiration from them and thank them for the rights we have today, fail to understand the scope of the corporate war against public-education today. They live with fond memories of Unity's more active yesteryears.
3. Is it too much to ask why the U.F.T. Executive Board accepts members of its ally, New Action, on its Executive Board, but turns a blind eye towards MORE's candidates who won over 40% of the high school vote? Is it right that MORE members and/or chapter leaders who refuse to sign loyalty oaths, but still represent large contingents, have no voice in N.Y.S.U.T. and A.F.T. elections?
4. Is it too much to ask that Delegate Assembly meetings allow debate and divergent opinions without intimidating Unity members from a bully pulpit or shutting down the opposition? The more you shut down the opposition, I guarantee you, the more they will rise up.
5. Is it too much to ask that the membership be mobilized to act in unison with students, parents and other community activists to save public education from those who would swallow it alive? We have natural allies. Why do we turn our backs on them when the struggle is so great?
6. Is it too much to ask that contracts not be shoved down the throats of 300-member U.F.T. committees before any document can be read? The M.O.A. was published for the first time on the eve of the D.A. vote with little-to-no time left for debate.
7. Is it too much to ask that potential Unity bloggers who are not named Edwize no longer be advised to close up shop for fear that the blogger might give birth to some independent idea?
8. Is it too much to ask that our Union find common cause with Unions across the City and country and rise up to protect our shared rights?
9. Is it too much to ask that Unity maintain solidarity at all costs and protect all members equally, including ATRs who now face a separate due-process system?
10. Is it too much to ask that Unity stop telling its chapter leaders (who run the contract vote) to turn over "yes" votes in their schools seemingly by any and all means at their disposal, including scare tactics.
If Unity fails to foment union democracy in NYC, waken its sleeping membership and mobilize them, I say Unity has paved the path to its own demise. "Singing Power to the People.... Power to the People, right on."