Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Week of Action, and the Other 51 Weeks

I keep getting a lot of email from UFT about how March 9th is a "week of action." We're going to wear a special color, or hold hands at our school, and take a photo. I don't mind cooperating. It's not a whole lot to ask. I'm not completely sure, though, that it will accomplish much.

More to the point, if next week is a week of action, what exactly are the other 51 weeks? In the case of the UFT and NYSUT, many of those weeks were indeed spent not fighting Andrew Cuomo. For example, though Revive NYSUT ran on a platform suggesting they opposed Cuomo, during election season they did absolutely nothing about it. UFT leadership joined them in this effort. Not only that, but it looks like they went the extra step, threatening the Working Families Party with dissolution if they endorsed Zephyr Teachout over Andrew Cuomo.

It must be an awful balancing act for leadership. After all, AFT President Randi Weingarten went so far as to make robocalls for Cuomo's running mate, Kathy Hochul, after the NY Times endorsed Teachout's running mate, Tim Wu. Weingarten's affiliation with AFT, rather than NYSUT or UFT, gave some cover to the people who are today claiming to be born-again Cuomo opponents, and the direct endorsement of Hochul rather than Cuomo gives a little breathing space.

But if you actually think about this stuff you have to ask yourself why she did that. And the conclusion is unlikely to be one that leadership virulently opposed Cuomo in the election. Much as I'd like to differentiate, it's very hard for me to give credence that there is much separation between UFT, NYSUT, and AFT. For example, UFT overthrew increasingly vocal NYSUT leadership last year by directing its 800 delegates to vote for Revive, and Weingarten clearly supported that move. I heard all sorts of stories about deals she made to procure votes. I think leadership is in sync, always, unless someone needs to be thrown overboard.

And then there is the membership. Take a photo, maybe see it in NY Teacher and pat yourself on the back. There's nothing wrong with that, but I keep wondering whether the best time to oppose Cuomo would have been when he was running for office. Typically tone-deaf leadership miscalculated again and refused to join those of us who gave money to and/ or worked for Zephyr Teachout. Apparently they did not anticipate Cuomo actually supporting the charter/ anti-union crowd that was giving him millions of dollars. They thought this particular megalomaniac would be grateful we scuttled his opponent and gave the appearance of not opposing him, of sitting on the fence.

Yes, the week of action is a good time to take a stand. But it's also a good time to examine why we have all those weeks of inaction. If you read Diane Ravitch's blog instead of NY Teacher, you won't be able to deny that things are happening every single day, every single moment, and don't stop for our convenience.

The strategy of sleepwalking through election season, in particular, has proven less than fruitful, and bears reexamination. Sadly, in the elite and exclusive UFT Unity echo chamber, loyalty is the prime directive, and new ideas are never welcome.
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