Friday, October 16, 2015

Callousness or Compassion?: Retro On Leave

In the closing minutes of the October Delegate Assembly, a motion was raised proposing consideration in November of a "D.A. Resolution on Immediate Retroactive Money for UFT Members on Unpaid Leave for Maternity, Child Care and/or Restoration of Health."  When the motion was raised, given its length, more hard copies were presented to the audience.

Jia Lee spoke in favor of the resolution.  She referenced President Mulgrew's previous words regarding unfair profiteering by pharmaceuticals; members in distress should not have to suffer aggravated financial distress.  Ms. Lee pointed to members on maternity leave, child-care leave as well as a particular chapter leader suffering through brain surgery.  The resolution asks the City, the Union or "another labor friendly institution" to help provide no-interest loans for U.F.T. members on unpaid leaves, in need of their financial arrears.

The Queens maternity liaison for the U.F.T. rose to oppose the resolution.  First, she objected to the printing of the resolution on a page containing advertisements for an opposition caucus, free of the "union bug."   Even the parliamentarian, himself, could not say whether it was permissible or not.

Then, she proceeded to oppose the motion on the grounds that people on leave must know what they're getting themselves into.  I would guess, however, if one is fighting off a deadly disease or surviving brain surgery, one doesn't have much of a choice.  If one is about to give birth, although the situation is usually infinitely more joyous, one may also lack much choice.

The Queens liason further stated that the resolution seemed vague and that all persons on leave would be made "whole again" when the next retro check rolls around, provided he or she has returned to work.  It is my understanding, however, that if one dies, not only will one never be made "whole again," but one's spouse, children or family will never be made "whole again" in more ways than one.  The money once earned will be gone.  Perhaps, retro is not a "God-given right," but the Union might have taken further pains to fight for it as a contractual right for those who might need it most.

The arguments used by the maternity liaison struck me as callous, particularly to our colleagues fending off life-threatening illnesses and those who are the parents of children, much like the ones we have dedicated our lives to teach.  So many members of our profession are women and so many are mothers.  The system is stacked against them and the Union seems unfazed--even the Queens Maternity Liaison.  Given that all members were asked to create a sea of pink shirts at the October Delegate Assembly in recognition of breast cancer, the callousness was magnified many times over.  It felt like a flood.

When the vote came along, the motion was rejected by the majority.  Were they swayed by callousness, "vagueness," or did the MORE stamp on the reverse side of the resolution serve as the guiding signal to the pack?  Following the vote, Mulgrew recognized that more needs to be done to help members in distress or those on maternity leave.  Then, ironically, the discussion turned towards the Breast Cancer raffle.

Perhaps, the resolution needs to be slightly rewritten and placed on a caucus-neutral page with a "union bug."  One thing is for certain, no matter what the case:   We are all doomed, teachers as well as the Union, itself, if against the backdrop of the U.S. Supreme Court potentially defunding unions in the Friedrichs Case, the UFT emits callousness in the place of compassion.
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