We in UFT/ NYSUT/ AFT are always on the cutting edge. When people say Bill Gates is trying to destroy American education, we open our arms, show them how open-minded we are, and invite him to be keynote at AFT convention. Of course I wasn't there, you weren't there, and anyone there who may have opposed Bill Gates had signed a loyalty oath agreeing not to do so in public. Nonetheless, our loyalty-oath signing "representatives" showed how reformy the UFT was.
When mayoral control came to NYC with Mike Bloomberg at the helm, we supported it. When it proved to be an abject disaster, with dozens of awful school closures that sent our brothers and sisters into the ATR, we asked for a few piddling improvements, failed to get them and supported it again. When Bill de Blasio kept a campaign promise to block charters, Cuomo and the legislature passed a law favoring Eva Moskowitz, and we did not even lift a finger to stop it. A very highly placed source in NYSUT told me my UFT President supported it.
When it's time for passionate defense, though, we're right there. Mike Mulgrew brought 800 loyalty-oath-bound "representatives" to Los Angeles last summer and swore anyone who took his Common Core away from him would be punched in the face and pushed in the dirt. Any day now I expect to be crawling around in the mud recuperating with Diane Ravitch, Carol Burris, Leonie Haimson and all the other dangerous figures my President needs to beat the crap out of.
When Zephyr Teachout, who actually supports and respects teachers, reached for the Working Families Party nomination, our union made it known that it would not support the party if it embraced Zephyr. And we blocked the only viable chance of making Andy Cuomo, with his booming warchest, break a sweat. When Zephyr boldly challenged him in the primary, the President of the AFT was busy making calls for arch-conservative Kathy Hochul, lest Tim Wu should win and a true progressive should even help govern NY State.
And God forbid NYSUT or UFT should endorse Howie Hawkins, the last and only candidate standing who is not insane. That would be radical and scary. What would people think? Instead, we'll sit it out and pretend we aren't tacitly endorsing Governor Andrew Cuomo. After all, he is a Democrat, when he isn't making glitzy commercials pretending to support women, or students, or anyone other than the only person he cares about--himself.
You'd think Cuomo would be grateful. You'd be wrong, of course. The error our union leadership makes, over and over, is thinking because we let the reformies stab us in the arm, in front of God and everybody, that they won't follow up by stabbing us in the back. But they always do and we never learn.
Cuomo got in front of the Daily News editorial board and used the boilerplate term favored by fanatical ideologue teacher bashers everywhere--the public school "monopoly." Likely he forgot about the police monopoly, the fire department monopoly, and the government monopoly. Certainly he forgot how many Americans and New Yorkers would benefit if we enacted single payer, gave everyone health care, and had a monopoly rather than people going bankrupt over medical bills. Certainly the fact that charter schools have failed to improve education hasn't factored into his thinking. The fact that the best education systems in the world are public and unionized didn't seem all that important either.
For our restraint, for our diplomacy, for our covert support, he has declared war against us. Once again, Mike Mulgrew, Karen Magee, and Randi Weingarten have screwed up by failing to take be proactive, by choosing fear over inspiration, by moving backward rather than forward.
Cuomo pretty much announced he hates us and everything we stand for. What do we do? Boycott Time magazine, a magazine that has hated us for years, a magazine it's unlikely any of us read anyway?
When are we going to wake up and insist on real union and real leaders? I, for one, am getting a little tired of waiting. How about you?
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.