Friday, March 27, 2015

DA Takeaway

I don’t suppose it was any kind of surprise that the MORE-sponsored anti-testing resolution died on the floor of the DA last Wednesday. I really admire their tenacity for placing this before the DA after the “I refuse” resolution was killed on technical grounds. I’m not sure whether or not it’s a good use of their time.

For one thing, once Leroy Barr, or pretty much anyone in leadership gets up and speaks against it, everyone in UFT Unity Caucus knows how their votes are supposed to go. After all, once you take an oath to support Unity Caucus in public, that’s pretty much what you have to do. This is a time-honored tradition, and it dates back to the days when Al Shanker bounced Unity members for opposing the Vietnam War. Everyone in Unity Caucus understands bloc voting, and within the DA, everyone outside of Unity Caucus understands there’s absolutely nothing that happens without leadership’s OK. I'd argue most teachers have not a clue or care what goes on, and that this is a fundamental flaw of our union.

Still, it’s good to see someone as intelligent and thoughtful as Lauren Cohen speaking truth to the Flock. At least this time they didn’t boo her en masse, as they did when she dared mention the loyalty oath. It was inspiring to hear common sense, pro-teacher rhetoric in between all the talk about how we could become administrators without becoming administrators, and about how we couldn’t possibly endorse something strongly endorsing a growing New York movement.

I’m becoming increasingly skeptical of Mulgrew’s folksy talk about how he was a carpenter, and about how he can’t use good language to talk about certain people. Where was all this good old blue collar hostility when Andrew Cuomo was running for governor? Didn’t the mighty UFT cede its authority to Revive NYSUT, which displayed its wrath against Cuomo by doing nothing whatsoever?

There were several other low points for me, though I honestly could not have anticipated them. After all, failing to substantively oppose nonsensical testing that will hurt public school children, parents and teachers is fundamentally problematic. In my opinion, it shows the very same lack of foresight leadership displayed when they failed to oppose Cuomo term two, and Bloomberg terms two and three.

Beyond that, as UFT Chapter Leader Mary Ahern pointed out in the comments. UFT failed to bring up its own watered-down testing resolution. It won’t get another chance to do even that until April, by which time who knows what nonsense the legislature will have enabled?

Finally, I was more or less startled by an exchange following leadership’s rather innocuous attempt to celebrate the union’s birthday. A delegate got up and started talking about racism, communism, and UFT history. I didn’t completely follow what he was talking about. Then Leroy Barr got up and started shouting about how he was delighted to oppose the delegate, and how dare the delegate denigrate the founders who fought for the right for him to speak there?

It was kind of amazing, and completely uncalled for. Here we are, under attack from Cuomo, under attack in the press, many of us working under less than optimal conditions, and if we dare speak our minds at the delegate assembly, we are attacked by our own leadership. Actually, it’s the job of leadership to represent us. I often get the impression they think it ought to be the other way around.

I was very pleased when Yelena Siwinski got up and said it was inappropriate and disrespectful to insult someone for introducing an amendment. It certainly is. But when you’ve got 800 acolytes who will vote a ham sandwich for President if you ask them to, that’s what you get.
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