Monday, September 07, 2015

Labor Day--What Is and What Should Never Be

Happy Labor Day to all. These are tough times for union, and we are under direct attack in SCOTUS. People fought and died for our right to unionize, and may do so again as forces try to erase the twentieth century and move us back to good old feudalism, or whatever you call it when workers have no rights and few options. 

This is an election year in UFT. Before a single vote is cast we're fighting to have something worth fighting over. The Friedrichs case is crucial, and I'm constantly wondering who's paying attention. To deprive union of the right to collect dues from all the people it represents is to almost reduce it to passing the hat. Sadly, in this hat, those who give will be compelled to support those who save the money to buy that new Xbox. 

Those people are like your lazy uncle who doesn't want to work but would gladly sleep on your couch, watch your TV and eat your food. Twelve hundred bucks is a lot to volunteer, and in the short term it seems like a lot of money. Maybe it's a giant big screen TV to go with that Xbox. Maybe it's buying caviar for your dog. The options are endless. 

Now's when I want to tell you that you're paying to have people negotiate for you. Regrettably, UFT negotiators are fairly awful. It's hard to make them a selling point when we're waiting for five years from now to receive the money everyone else got five years ago. But it's not just UFT here. NYPD and FDNY were able to squeeze 4% and 4% over two years from retired Emperor Michael Bloomberg. UFT took that, sort of, and added 10% over 7 years, the lowest pattern in the living memories of anyone I know. 

Now imagine if FDNY, NYPD, and other union leaders had to scrounge around begging for dues instead of negotiating fair contracts. We, the teachers, might not be able to depend on them to establish a decent pattern. Perhaps there wouldn't be a pattern and we'd have to depend on the inept negotiators who worked out our substandard, miserable pattern, dual due process piece of crap contract, the one we have yet even to see. Or maybe they'd get a fabulous raise but make us give it all back for health care costs. (And, to be fair, that might yet happen under this contract, which stipulates that if Mulgrew's projected savings aren't met, arbitrators can make adjustments. That might be why there is as yet no new paper contract.)

Crappy though the contract is, we still have very good health benefits. Dental is not quite as good as it once was, but a whole lot better than the nothing many of my friends utilize. And it's good that every school has a chapter leader, though I understand some may be better than others. 

I believe in union with my whole heart. Flawed though ours is, it beats the hell our of standing one by one in front of Andrew Cuomo with a bowl and begging for more a la Oliver Twist. Make no mistake, that's what our reformy friends want for us. That's why we're facing a ridiculous observation system. 

I believe this school year we can start to change our union for the better. It won't be fast and it won't be easy. But a flawed union is a hell of a lot better than no union at all, and union can accomplish a whole lot more if it doesn't need to troll schools, hat in hand, begging for people to collect dues. 

Don't believe Michael Mulgrew and his gang when they tell you they know what's best. We are the union, we know what's best, and this is the year they will begin to listen, whether they like it or not.
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