Monday, February 08, 2016

What if the Unity Gravy Train Is Derailed?

SCOTUS appears poised to deal us a loss in Friedrichs. But what will a loss look like? Will they simply decide that there are no more agency fees? That could be inconvenient for 52 Broadway, which has a machine to maintain. Will they be able to continue to send 750 rubber stamps to AFT conventions? Will they have to stay at Motel 6 instead of the Marriott? Will they have to buy in six packs instead of drinking the $14 beers at the Hilton?

Actually, things could get even more inconvenient. Will union members have to opt in, or opt out? It would certainly be easier if the default position were in. Of course, even in an organization where fewer than 18% vote in elections, some people will manage to get their grubby little paws on a card that saves them $1300 a year. Even if UFT leadership can't deal with people opting out of developmentally inappropriate tests, it's gonna have to face the possibility of people opting out of dues.

Now if the default meant people had to opt in, that would be even tougher. People would have to actually lay their hands on a piece of paper, fill it out, and say yes I want to send Michael Mulgrew $1300 this year. I want to make sure he can bring all of his minions to some convention where they cheer for Bill Gates the week before he attacks teacher pensions. I want to make sure he gets a gold plated seat at the table where he negotiates laws that ensure teachers are rated via junk science. Not sure everyone would jump up and down at that possibility.

Or they could insist on another model, where union ratification votes took place annually. That would mean that Mulgrew, who has never even been on social media, would have to be in perpetual sales mode. That would be a big change for a guy accustomed to interacting only with those who've signed loyalty oaths, a guy generally surrounded by a comfortable entourage with whom he exchanges in jokes, even when in public.

Mulgrew said at the January DA that if we lost Friedrichs, we'd have to spend a lot more time organizing. This left me scratching my head why leadership hadn't spent the last few decades doing precisely that. One answer is they like a system in which members are so cynical and disenfranchised they can't even be bothered to vote, a system in which the actual vote is dominated by retirees who have absolutely no skin in who negotiates contracts for working members. I mean, if people will keep electing leaders who negotiate substandard contracts rife with givebacks, why bother even trying to do better?

Will a loss in Friedrichs wake up the aloof, elite Unity Caucus leadership? That's doubtful. With typical and predictable arrogance, the last Unity handout at the DA declared that Unity is UFT. Who cares if most members don't even know they exist, let alone the fact that they are shut out of virtually all union decision making? We are the UFT, and the overwhelming numbers of rank and file, uninvited and unaware, are not.

What is Unity gonna do when the gravy train can no longer be taken for granted? Do you imagine the folks who sit in Albany steakhouses and send back the quail they bought with our COPE funds are gonna degrade themselves by actually mixing with lowly teachers? We got a glimpse at Unity's idea of organizing at last week's DA. They handed out buttons that said, "Union loud and proud," right before Mulgrew announced we were technically not allowed to wear them at school. I guess I'll wear it to the supermarket, so the woman beside me squeezing oranges can know exactly how I feel.

On the brighter side, those who don't pay dues won't get to vote in union elections, not that they ever did anyway. If we lose 25% of working members, the turnout could be just as pitiful, but will appear inflated since the percentage will come strictly from duespayers.

It's gonna be a new world. One thing's for sure--Unity leadership's love of reforminess and concessions helped embolden our enemies and usher in this nonsense. So much for the smart and visionary leadership Mulgrew's always boasting about.
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