Thursday, November 03, 2016

COPE Is Like Medical Insurance

 I go to a lot of meetings. I go to them in my school all the time. I'm on committees. If anyone in my school is in trouble, so am I. And of course I go to regular school meetings. I am a real meeting guy, I guess, for better or worse, and I go to a lot of meetings outside my building too.

So anyway, last night  I was at a meeting.  The topic was COPE  (the optional fund through which members can voluntarily contribute to UFT and NYSUT political action).  A woman got up and started comparing COPE to medical insurance. Now I'm gonna let you in on a secret. I often hear things I've heard before, and I don't always pay close attention at meetings unless I'm taking notes. But my ears really perked up at that. She follows up by saying if you don’t pay into COPE you might not have medical insurance. I’m only slowly processing this line of thought when the woman opens her mouth again.

Now she says she knows how hard it is to get people to give money. She says boy, if I knew how to get money out of people I could've made a lot more than I did back when I was a teacher. Now she's got my full attention. I'm thinking gee, it's great that you no longer have to get by on some crappy teacher salary, like all the tens of thousands of teachers (among others) who pay to have you do whatever it is we pay you to do. Doubless it can really pay off to sign a loyalty oath and become a UFT employee. Gee, I wonder why you aren't good at getting people to give you money.

Then she goes on, talking about the people who only give 25 cents per paycheck. 25 cents was a lot back in 1980, she says, although I question whether she was even alive in 1980. (I was, and it doesn't sound like that much to me.) Now I'm wondering where she was in 2014, when she was certainly alive, and all of us lowly teachers were being told to wait until 2020 for money we earned in 2010. I thought that money had really decreased in value, particularly since I was not able to use the $40,000 NYC owed me to buy the car I got in 2014. But enough of my troubles. After all, I live on that measly teacher salary that the young woman had so handily surpassed.

It's ironic, because I'd been actually thinking about collecting for COPE. My friends tell me I shouldn't, you know, because Andy Pallotta uses it to buy tables at Cuomo fund raisers, because when Dick Iannuzzi curtailed such usage both UFT and NYSUT Unity rose up to toss him and his loyal friends out of office. Because COPE supported Serphin Maltese, who had a hand in breaking not one but two Catholic school unions. Because we supported Governor Pataki, who thanked us by vetoing improvements to the Taylor Law. Because we gave money to Flanagan, who sponsored a bill to remove LIFO from NYC teachers only. You know, stuff like that.

I give to COPE. I started when the UFT seemed to be holding tough on APPR. In fact, I invited someone from UFT to my school to speak to a meeting. He showed up an hour late and managed to sign up only me and one of our delegates. But he told us that Michael Mulgrew was very smart, and that we would get our raise and contract. Why? Because otherwise Bloomberg couldn't have his APPR.

When we got the APPR without the contract or the raise, many members approached me and asked me to bring the guy back. They wanted to shout him down. They wanted to beat him up. They made suggestions unfit for a family blog. Anyway, from that day on, I've given five bucks from each paycheck to COPE. Sometimes I question what it's used for, but I figure as a chapter leader, and as a blogger with the odd disparaging word here and there, I need to keep up my street cred. (Or something.)

Now, though, I'm thinking about the 2017 NY State Constitutional Convention, you know, the one where they can rewrite all the rules and stop paying our pensions and make us all eat cat food and stuff. I'm thinking maybe COPE may be a good way to fight that. I had been thinking about having a drive and asking for support from my members. Then this woman comes along and makes a quite unintentional statement about union values.

Anyway, the woman finishes her speech, and there we are. Five dollar COPE cards for everyone, someone declares, and they are passed out near and far. I go back to text a friend about what I've just seen. I am reprimanded for not filling out the card. I already give, I protest, but evidently it's some kind of activity to create enthusiasm and everyone is supposed to fill out the card whether they give or not. Screw that, I decide, and go back to texting.

The next topic on the agenda is repetitive paperwork. The people who just demanded I fill in a card for no reason whatsoever are lecturing me on how principals make people do redundant paperwork, and how it's totally and utterly unacceptable.

In fairness, there was also a very good speaker on special education who spoke and answered questions very well. You know where I would rather have been for the rest of the meeting? Home playing with my dog.
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