Friday, August 26, 2016

UFT Will "Hook You Up" with the "Right People"

I often get calls for help from all sorts of people. Alas, I don't know everything. But I know people who know everything, or almost everything. My District Rep has been very helpful to me over the years, and I know a few people at central who are always willing to help.

Former chapter leaders James Eterno and Jeff Kaufman have been invaluable sources of advice. Blogger Chaz has expertise on subjects ranging from 3020a to the NY subway system, and always has a moment for me. Please forgive me if I've left out anyone (because there are a lot of people I've left out).

I'm also pretty fond of the UFT website. I get emails from members asking about all kinds of things, and that's the first place I check before I bother anyone. There's a little search window there, I type in a few letters, copy and paste, and I'm a genius. The longer I do this, the more the questions are repeated and the more I actually know off the top of my head.

There are some things UFT has told me not to respond on, particularly certification and retirement. I'm loath to give advice that may set someone on the wrong path. What I tell people in those cases is to call the borough office. I tell them to get back to me if the office doesn't help and that, in that case, I'll find someone who will.

I was pretty disappointed recently when I suggested this to someone new to our system. The person at the office was helpful, but also offered to "hook up" my friend with the "right people" at the UFT so as to get involved. I mean, there is this person, whose salary is paid by our dues money, and appears to be pushing caucus politics on my friend. I don't actually have an issue with partisan politics. I eagerly take part. But I don't do it on the union dime.

I've done a lot of partisan things. I've run for office. Sometimes I've even won. What's more partisan than that? A month ago, I went to Minnesota to see my first AFT convention. I figure I should know what the hell my dues are paying for. I saw that what they were paying for were a whole lot of high school teachers who NYC high school teachers voted against. They were there voting for whatever the hell UFT Unity told them to. I sat and watched as they were instructed how to vote.

Does UFT Unity tell its summer staff to push "the right people" on new teachers? Or do they do this on their own accord? Either way it's unacceptable while they're on the clock. I guess they could say they were only trying to get my friend to go to the Labor Day parade. On the other hand, you don't need to know "the right people" to do that. You just have to show up.

I'll be there this year, actually. And I will bring people with me. But dimes to dollars I'm not "the right people." The most leadership ever calls me to involve people in union is never.

Fine with me. The "right people" have brought us Danielson, junk science ratings, mayoral control, 3020a with burden of proof on the teacher, the ATR, severely curtailed seniority rights, and money you don't get until ten years after you earn it (if you're lucky enough to be alive by then and haven't resigned).

Isn't it ironic that we are judged by how engaged our students are, but that leadership's notion of engagement is so limited? It's basically sign a loyalty oath,  do whatever the hell we tell you, and we'll get you a trip to Minnesota and a gig answering phones. This is not precisely intrinsic motivation. I help people. believe it or don't, because I like doing it. If you ask me, it goes hand in hand with being a teacher. Supporting union means enabling the next generation to do my job, not just attending some gala luncheon with Mike Mulgrew.

I guess "the right people" don't expect that anyone like me will hear about it when they pull nonsense like this. When your circles consist of "the right people," you don't have to bother entertaining other points of view. But if you're in leadership, it's your job to consider all points of view you represent. It's too bad our leadership opts not to. If they'd do their job, representing us, we'd be a lot better prepared to do our job of representing ourselves.
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