Saturday, July 04, 2015

Baby, Baby, Where Did Our Union Go?

OK, it's not those Supremes, but not only do I like them better, but they also look better than the current bunch. Nonetheless, the national Supremes are looking at a case that aims to hobble union. How many of the over 80% of working UFT members who don't vote in elections will pony up a thousand bucks a year if they don't have to?

Not only that, but how many of the 17 or 18% of working members who vote will continue to pay?  Last week I wrote about an email I got that blamed the union's failure to work against Cuomo on too few people wanting to be delegates and listen to the blather that passes for a forum over at 52 Broadway.

This week I got a different message from the email. Chapter leaders should look at their agency fee payers and make sure they sign up as union members. I'm not precisely sure how that would change things, but since he brought it up, I do that each and every year. The people in my building who are fee payers are that way because no matter how many times they sign up, and I've actually watched some of them do it online, they never quite get registered. I know of precisely no one who's a fee-payer on principle.

The message went on to remind chapter leaders that they have a personal incentive to sign these people--an extra five bucks a year in the CL stipend per member who signs. Since I'm at max, I wouldn't get that big five bucks. But if five bucks were the sort of thing that motivated me, imagine what I'd do if I could save a thousand bucks by not paying my union negotiators for the frankly abysmal job they do. I wouldn't have to pay Punchy Mike to tell me the cupboard was bare when there were billions of dollars in de Blasio's sofa cushions. I wouldn't need to actually contribute to the salary of the man who turns off the microphone of truth-teller James Eterno. I wouldn't need to kick in for 750 rubber stamps to travel all over the country to applaud when Mulgrew threatens to punch us in the face. (Right now, they're at the NEA Convention in Orlando, doing whatever the hell it is they are told to do.)

Tempting, ain't it?

The thing is, those of us who oppose the lack of democracy in UFT are fervent believers in union. I'd wager a lot of folks on the gravy train don't have convictions nearly so strong, if at all. I've known chapter leaders who slept through meetings they ran. Who knows what the hell they did at meetings where they were ostensibly representing others?

This is some serious shit, and in Wisconsin, it pretty much left union dead in its tracks. Maybe it's time for something more than a Twitter campaign. Maybe the next time Punchy Mike calls for a Twitter campaign he ought to, you know, join Twitter himself. Doubtless I'm just some wild-eyed radical with loony ideas about leading by example.

But if the union is seriously thinking about, say, surviving, it better come up with something more than paying the chapter leader five bucks. (And no, I'm not suggesting they pay ten bucks.)

We need a membership that is intrinsically motivated, not just a bunch of people who will say any damn thing for a meal and a free trip to Schenectady. 
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