Thursday, July 21, 2016

Happy Days Redux

Day 4 in Minneapolis and they've slipped the hotel bill under our door. $548.47 to stay at the Normandy Inn, which is kind of a cool place. Jonathan Halabi and I debated sending the UFT a bill as this is related to our Executive Board duties--we ought to know what the hell is going on--but have decided against it.

Normandy Inn has a great restaurant and a bar with local beer on tap. You have to pay for breakfast but the breakfast is amazing. I'm splitting the room and hotel tab with Norm Scott, but Norm can be difficult. For one thing, he strenuously objected upon locating various forms of pond life swimming in the puddle the shower somehow made on the bathroom floor today.

OK, that was my fault. I don't have a shower curtain at my house so I haven't quite got the swing of closing it. But Norm has his idiosyncrasies as well, For example, the night before last he went out bar hopping with a bunch of CTU people. He came back with half a bottle of Diet Coke. I tried to explain to him what bar hopping was all about but he couldn't seem to grasp it. (Some people don't understand anything.)

Minneapolis is actually a very cool place. Everyone has been friendly and there seems to be an abundance of great bars with great food and drink. I was pretty happy because I had no expectations. You can't be easily disappointed when you have no expectations.

The convention itself was a lot less interesting than I'd expected. You know, when you're an activist who's shut out of virtually all union activity you're curious about this stuff. But when the dominant Progressive Caucus held its meeting right out in the open for the whole world to see, all the mystery was pretty much gone. Some guy stood there and told everyone how to vote on everything, and all that passed after that was very little sound or fury, signifying whatever the caucus leaders said it would.

Now UFT Unity says they discuss this stuff behind closed doors, and I believe they do but only at a very high level. With all due respect, I do not believe a typical Unity chapter leader gets up and argues with the people who pay for the trip to Minneapolis or LA or wherever. That's kind of a shame, because people at our level are the ones who witness and experience what goes on each and every day.

If you only speak with people sworn to support you, you really get very little idea of what the hell is going on. That's why Michael Mulgrew can get up in front of the entire crowd, say virtually nothing of consequence, and assume he made a great presentation. I've no doubt there are 749 people here who will tell him his presentation was Brilliant Beyond Belief. Imagine that each of them comes here at two or three times what it cost me to, and that they come for the express purpose of doing whatever they are told.

The NYSUT event in NYC two years ago was a lot more interesting, UFT Unity decided to topple the popular sitting President, Dick Iannuzzi, along with his team. Secretary Treasurer Lee Cutler was much loved by virtually everyone with whom I spoke. I ran against EVP Andy Pallotta, and it was a great experience. The convention itself was fascinating, specifically because there was actually this ongoing tension as to who would win.

Of course it was an uphill battle, but here's the thing--UFT Unity is the big dog not only at AFT, but also at NYSUT. UFT had 28% of the state's teachers, but 33% of the NYSUT vote because small locals can't all afford the trip (let alone the NY Hilton). So while UFT had to recruit only 18% of the vote to win, we had to get 51%. Sadly we failed, and state leadership is just as timid as city leadership. Except, of course, when it came to making sure they had two pensions because Priorities.

This union needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Teacher morale is at an all-time low. This is not something we debate about for the next four years and hope for the best. This is a crisis. I'd love to just hang at Murray's, pictured above, and have the union pick up the tab for my silver butter knife steak, whatever the hell that is, but I'm gonna work to alleviate this instead.

First I'm gonna go home to see my wife, my kid, and Julio the Wonder Dog, who knows nothing but pure joy (except during thunderstorms).

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