Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's Time to Unite

That's the song I'm hearing now from Unity members. We are, in fact, facing a dire threat. The Friedrichs suit can result in the decimation, if not the destruction, of public sector unions nationwide. I strenuously oppose this, as do most people of my acquaintance. If possible, I will certainly work with union leadership to prevent this.

But with the premature Hillary nomination, a lot of us have a lot to say about the less-than-democratic nature of union elections. Bernie Sanders speaks to us. He stands up for working people, and does not take money from corporations who suppress and silence us. He hits almost every bell, for me at least. I've donated to his campaign, and will do what I can for him. And I will not be silent on AFT, an organization to which I pay dues but have no vote.

The line I'm getting, as usual, is sit down and shut up. And that, frankly, is par for the course. You're opposing us, and the real enemy is Giuliani. You're opposing us, and the real enemy is Bloomberg. You're opposing us, and the real enemy is Cuomo. You're opposing us, and the real enemy is the Supreme Court.

There is, evidently, never a good time to oppose leadership. And there are mechanisms in place to ensure very few voices creep into heavily rigged processes and elections. On the ground, of course, there are hundreds of chapter leaders, most of whom have signed loyalty oaths to UFT Unity. Though their jobs ostensibly entail representing membership, they vote as they are told by leadership. For this, they are given duespayer-funded trips to NYSUT and AFT conventions. This ensures that 100% of UFT votes in NYSUT and AFT are controlled by leadership.

If you don't support Common Core, for example, not only do you get no representation in NYSUT or AFT, but also the UFT President wants to punch your face and push it in the dirt.

This is insidious. It goes further, as officer positions are at large, so that not only elementary school teachers, but also retirees help high school teachers select a VP. And like the Hillary nomination in which we had no choice and no voice, this is reflective of an absolute disregard for democracy. It's a fundamental problem, and it's no coincidence that over 80% of working teachers fail to find voting in union elections worth their time.

In fact, it is time to unite. It is time to unite against the Supreme Court decimating public sector union. I will help. I always support leadership when they're right. I oppose them when they fail to oppose Cuomo, say, at election time. It's disingenuous for them to say otherwise, and waiting until he was actually attacking us to speak up was a miscalculation by any standard. One of many, actually.

Who remembers the parade of candidates UFT endorsed, leading up to Bloomberg's first term in office? Who remembers their failure to oppose him, particularly when Thompson came within five points of preventing his third term, the one voters had twice affirmed no one should have? Who remembers their endorsement of Thompson four years too late, and after he told the Daily News editorial board NYC couldn't afford to give teachers the raise most other city unions got?

I am persona non grata in UFT, but that didn't stop them from calling me at least three times to make calls for Thompson. Given his history, and given de Blasio was surging at the time, it was pretty easy to refuse repeatedly.

Leadership is absolutely correct to fight for union, and I certainly hope they come up with a plan better than, say, a Twitter campaign in which they do not participate. 

But it's preposterous for them to tell us to shut up and sit down, that this is not the time to express ourselves. Randi Weingarten is not the union. Michael Mulgrew is not the union. We are the union, and if we don't like it when they shut us out, we need to let them know loudly, insistently, now and forever.

If you don't believe me, just look around at where all this sitting down and shutting up has gotten us.
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