I didn't start out criticizing our Union. I started out with a sincere concern for the current state of affairs in education and the loss of respect among "reformers" for my profession. This will always be my bottom line. I thought my Union would always be with me, but I soon learned this was not the case. I learned that my Union silences its own members who might differ in opinion. I learned that something as simple as questioning the Core might be dangerous to one's career in Unity and it might even get you punched in the face and pushed in the dirt. I learned Unity strikes deals and accepts grants that ultimately seem to put it at odds with so much that I hold dear. And, I learned that a UFT Unity loyalty oath makes a mockery of the fact that teachers teach people to think.
The question naturally arises: What kind of person gladly obeys a UFT Unity loyalty oath and unquestioningly votes as told?
1. People who don't have time to think?
2. People who don't trust their judgment?
3. People who like to follow orders?
4. People who just don't want to know?
5. People with no time or desire to query constituents?
6. People who believe Unity is infallible?
7. People who believe this is the best we can do?
8. People who primarily want to collect union paychecks and double pensions?
9. People who want to hang with a prestigious in-crowd and attend conferences in spiffy settings via the union dues of the people they don't really represent?
10. People who are afraid of being punched in the face and pushed in the dirt?
If there are any people who fit the bill for one to five above, I'm guessing they hope the fact is never publicized.
If there are those who believe that Unity is infallible, then they follow a dogma of blind obedience. It must be awhile since they've looked around. If Unity's ideas could stand on their own legs, there would be no need for a loyalty oath to assure triumph.
If there are people who believe that this is the best that we can do, then I suggest they step aside to make room for people who believe we can do better.
As to people who follow the Unity line for the pay, perks and double pensions, I'm betting they're not proud of the fact. They're little more than company yes men.
If you watched any of the open debate at the AFT Convention last July, you probably noticed the "big hitters," Mulgrew, Casey and Barr, jumping to the front of the mic line. I heard their places were held by Unity members, earning either brownie points or exercising their right to be lackeys. Why didn't the placeholders dare speak? Had they nothing to say? Did they fear to say the wrong thing? Did they feel in their gut it'd be a mistake?
Were the pro-Common-Core words spoken by Unity leadership at the AFT Convention golden? Far from it. We heard physical threats of violence (which I can't take seriously), praise for the possibility of classrooms across America marching in lockstep and charges that "anti-Corites" must be Tea-Party conspirators. If this is the best that leadership can muster, please bring on an average Joe or Josey.
Jonathan Halabi of New Action painted a similar picture for me of the September UFT Executive Board meeting. In his notes, one can very clearly sense his frustration with Unity Board members who "sit and listen. Some never speak. Most rarely speak." Are Unity members men, women or mice? Is there not something which seems at least mildly pathetic in all this?
The same picture was once painted for me of the Delegate Meetings. When a Unity member speaks, other members may eye him with concern over his potential loss of patronage. Texts may even shoot back and forth to that effect. If you put your foot in your mouth, you may get the boot.
How could any living, breathing Unity member who is not brain dead accept this sorry state of affairs with equanimity? Scariest of all, the elite Unity leadership uses its patronage-machine-driven band of zombie rubber stampers to control NYSUT and the AFT. The fate of Unionism in the America is controlled by a band of mindless puppets.
I have a novel idea. What if democracy in the U.S. applied to our UFT? What if the puppets and their allies press for a real voice, the freedom to vote their views or those of their constituency? What if the puppets rise up en masse in rebellion and demand the dignity of exercising their rational power of thought? Educators teach people to think, not blindly obey. History teaches us the same. Do I dream big? Free the puppets! Form a Cut-the-Strings Caucus. Let the world know. Liberate minds! Liberate our union! Let teachers think for themselves!
Views expressed herein are solely those of the author or authors, and do not reflect views of my employers, the United Federation of Teachers, the MORE Caucus or any other union caucus.
Stories herein containing unnamed or invented characters are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.