Wednesday, November 30, 2016

UFT Leadership--Wake Up or Give Up

I was a little upset at the AFT's early endorsement of Hillary. I had one or two issues with candidate Clinton. But they did a "scientific survey" that asked who knows whom who knows what, and that was it.

Of course no one asked me or anyone I know, but I don't travel in the circles Randi or Mike do. I'm just a lowly teacher who talks to other lowly teachers, you know, the kind who get rated by Danielson and live with the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Michael Mulgrew, like every UFT officer, has never experienced that, so why should he worry?

Anyway, we all know how the Hillary Project came out. We now face a GOP President, Congress, Senate, and any moment now, Supreme Court. This last detail has not escaped the attention of UFT leadership. It appears that, while Friedrichs did not prevail, some copycat will. This will make the United States of America effectively a "right to work" state.

Now "right to work" is a misnomer. Everyone has the right to work. It's just that, in a union shop, you may be required to actually pay into the group that negotiates for you. What "right to work"  really means is "right to not pay dues." It's a right to weaken union, and a right to weaken collective bargaining. In Wisconsin, it's crippled union, as was its intention.

NY State is a bastion of liberalism, more or less, and it is possible that legislation could circumvent it. Of course it's questionable whether our esteemed governor, who ran on a platform of going after unions, would support it. But it's possible with the urging of UFT and NYSUT (among others), NY State could pass legislation that says everyone must pay union dues.

The thing is, there's a bit of a timing issue here. Next year a Constitutional Convention will appear on the NY ballot, and it's imperative we defeat that. Otherwise, folks like our buddy Andrew Cuomo could open up our pensions and make us all explore cat food diets into our golden years. It would be really unfortunate if the two things were to overlap and our enemies could twist our support for union into a campaign against our pensions. Of course that may not be a problem if the Friedrichs copycat doesn't rear its head in the next 12 months.

But there's another problem, and it's more fundamental. That problem is the insidious nature of the loyalty oath powered United Federation of Teachers. We are not an activist-driven union, and in fact we are the polar opposite. A full three fourths of our membership deem it a waste of time to even vote in union elections. Most think about union only when it's time to get a pair of glasses every other year. UFT hasn't done a boots on the ground activity in over a year, and even those are mostly populated by loyalty oath signers shoring up patronage points toward keeping their trips or jobs.

So now leadership has concrete concerns about what to do if they lose the dues checkoff. Predictably, their instincts are completely off-base, trying not to alienate Donald Trump supporters in the ranks. The thinking appears to be, if we're nice to them, maybe they'll volunteer to pay dues when the time comes. That is, of course, ridiculous. It's yet another step in the direction of not taking chances, the same direction that brought us the spectacular and devastating loss of the Presidential election.

Hillary did not stand for universal health care. She did not stand for a living wage for all Americans. She did not stand for free college tuition, and even advanced the preposterous argument that such a move would subsidize the children of Donald Trump (as though they'd even consider state schools). The AFT supported these positions, and no less than President Randi Weingarten ridiculed Sanders supporters as "Bernie Bros" in tweets that stereotyped us as thugs. How primitive of us to want better lives for Americans, to want our brothers and sisters to enjoy the same rights as citizens of most non third-world countries.

UFT is but one local, but it's 28% of NYSUT and controls 33% of NYSUT votes. NYSUT is but one state, but it's the largest delegation in AFT. So make no mistake, we are the tail that wags the AFT dog. Our unwillingness to take stands, to take risks, to mobilize our ranks is deliberate. It concentrates power in the hands of the very few, and they are not gonna relinquish it any time soon. NYPD and FDNY may find the overwhelming majority of their members voluntarily pay dues, but that won't happen with us. The people who sit on the 14th floor at 52 Broadway aren't judged by Danielson and have little empathy for those of us who are.

The fact that they are too cowardly to even utter the name of Donald Trump in a resolution condemning the bigotry he's engendered just underlines how utterly out of touch they are. This bodes ill for our survival as a union. We have a President who urges us to get on social media, but can't be bothered with it himself. We have a President who doesn't bother to answer email from chapter leaders. We have a President who can't even be bothered to sit through his own Executive Board meetings. He walks in whenever he feels like it if he shows up at all. Then gives a little talk, and leaves without even listening to anyone else. How much more out of touch can you get?

If there is any chance of our surviving in a Right to Work United States of America, it's time for a sea change in our sleepy and complacent leadership. Otherwise, it's clear the only thing they value are those cushy offices on the 14th floor. I wonder if they'll be able to pay for them with a 70% drop in dues revenue.
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