Friday, November 21, 2014


I travel a lot, so I spend an awful lot of time in my car. I think bluetooth is a gift from heaven. I bought a new car that has it, and I can't believe how much easier my life is. I gave my old car to my daughter, who spent $200 putting a bluetooth receiver in it. I feel like a total fool for not having consulted her years ago.

The great thing about bluetooth is you can get all your phone conversations done while you're driving. No more interrupting all the Important Stuff you do at home. One of my favorite people to talk to when I'm in my car is Mike Schirtzer from MORE. He's got boundless energy and enthusiasm for almost everything, and as far as I can tell he never stops working. He's also a compelling speaker even when not on the phone with me.

The other day I called Mike from the Throgs Neck Bridge, and he spoke about how people in the union made 50 bucks an hour working for UFT. I told him he was wrong, and that it was only 30, at least in my case. I was once on an 18D committee in Queens. For some reason, someone at UFT decided it would be good not only to train me for the committee, but also to have me work on it. I did 8 hours.

It was really interesting. I'd expected to have to fight for teachers who were already in the building, but not a single teacher from the building applied. I also expected to have to fight for experienced teachers over newbies, but the principal announced at the first meeting she only wanted to hire experienced teachers. I was confused. What were we supposed to fight about?

There really wasn't a whole lot, in the end. This school had a special philosophy, and the qualifications asked for a familiarity with it. I read hundreds of applications, mostly generic, that failed to mention it at all. Some said things like, "I am very intelligent." First of all, if you want people to believe you're intelligent it's better to either a. show you are intelligent, or b. have someone else say it for you. More importantly, if you're looking for a job and the requirements are right there for all the world to see, why wouldn't you take a minute and Google the philosophy so you could write how wonderful it is, how interested you are in it, or even that you think it's awful? That's better than telling me how smart you are and failing to even acknowledge it.

I told Mike I loved doing that work, and he told me he'd love to work for the union too. I told him that most UFT jobs were meted out for loyalty. He said he was loyal. When they ask him to go to a march, he goes to the march. When they ask him to wear pink, he wears pink (there's an image I don't much want to contemplate). When he's not sure who to vote for, he consults the UFT endorsements. But wherever they ask him to be, there he is. I frequently go as well. I even made calls to keep the Democrats in control of the Senate this year, for all the good it did.

But Mike is loyal UFT. And so am I. No one believes in union more than we do. Sadly, that's not the sort of loyalty valued by our union. A friend of mine ran against and defeated her sitting chapter leader, who was apparently not bothering much with the whole doing her job thing. The defeated CL was very upset to lose. But when she found out she could still keep her UFT job and go to all the conventions, she was delighted. No more of that time-consuming representing the members. No more sitting through meetings she couldn't care less about. No more phone calls, emails, and getting stopped in the hall about all the things she was failing to do.

And the new chapter leader was never asked to be part of the proud, the few, the loyalty-oath bound Unity Caucus, which supports mayoral control, APPR, charter schools, and any damn thing they are told to.

Mike's a delegate in his school, where they have a well-established chapter leader. I know he'd make a great CL if he ever chose to be one. I know he could be of great service to the union.

But the union would rather have the failed CL from my other friend's school, the one the school voted out for incompetence. That's who UFT chooses to represent you, me and everyone. Why? Because that person will vote as told and never, ever question the wisdom of union leadership.

That's what passes for leadership in the UF of T. And that's who represents you in NYSUT and AFT too. Who the hell else would not only support the spectacle of Bill Gates as keynote, but also ridicule those who see fit to protest? Who the hell else would applaud Biden after four years of abusing our dignity? And who else would applaud President Michael Mulgrew as he called opponents of Common Core lunatics and threatened to punch their faces and push them in the dirt? People with that particular brand of loyalty.

Mike and I would love to work for the union, and not just for the money, which is not all that great anyway. But if it takes the sort of loyalty that means applauding for things that hurt working teachers and the kids and communities we serve, count us both out.
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