Sunday, December 04, 2016

Patsy Cline Sings Crazy. UFT Practices It.

It's kind of funny, if you fancy gallows humor, that the United Federation of Teachers, the largest teacher local in the United States of America, can't manage to change. After all, patronage has been the icing on the cake, perhaps the cake itself. Last Monday I went to a meeting in which UFT Unity loyalists all stood up to say it was too dangerous to take sides against Trump, because we might alienate Trump voters in our midst.

Why did they do this? Because "leadership" of the union, according to Secretary Howie Schoor, made this decision. Jonathan Halabi asked for names, but instead, we heard "leadership." Who is that, I wonder. Is it Michael Mulgrew, who won't get on social media, who carries a flip phone so as not to be troubled with electronic communication, who flits in and out of Executive Board meetings like a butterfly who doesn't want its wings ruffled? Is it LeRoy Barr, who seems to think on his feet, whose mind appears newly open to the fact that we may actually need to do something differently? Is it the entire mysterious and elusive AdCom committee, whose meeting minutes we are asked to approve even though we don't attend? Is it Randi Weingarten, hanging around DC and still pulling our strings?

We'll never know.

Leadership doesn't understand that at all. What they know best is inertia. Nonetheless, when they put out the bat signal for Unity Caucus members to get up and speak, they do. They stand and wait for the chance to argue that the United Federation of Teachers ought not to take sides against the bigoted, homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic Donald Trump. People might get mad at us if we take sides. That's what they're told to say, so they do. This is activism, UFT style.

Of course, this follows their all-out miserable failure of a push to make Hillary Clinton President. In fact, there was a Hillary Clinton office at 52 Broadway, and Mulgrew boasted of it to the Delegate Assembly. Now why the hell was that if we can't alienate people? Were they worried about Trump supporters then? Were they concerned about alienating me, a Bernie Sanders supporter? Was Randi Weingarten worried about how I'd feel when she tweeted about "Bernie Bros," the stereotypical and baseless insinuation we were a bunch of thugs?

I know Trump voters in my building. They won't support me for US Senator, but they'll vote for me as chapter leader. They've told me so. They know absolutely I will stand for them when they're in trouble no matter who they or I select as US President. They aren't so sure about the folks at 52 Broadway, particularly when things like class size violations go fundamentally unchecked.  

By the logic leadership advanced last Monday night, the UFT ought not to ever take a position on anything, because there's always the possibility someone might disagree. We ought not to oppose "right to work," even though it will shoot an arrow through our veritable heart, because some members may support the notion of saving 1200 bucks a year. Instead of soliciting donations for COPE, we ought to abandon it altogether. Taking sides is too risky. Let's drop the pretense and officially stand for nothing.

The argument might hold merit, considering UFT leadership's long and uncanny run of political failure. Who can forget the musical chair-style endorsements of Hevesi, Ferrer, and that idiot Mark What's-His-Name who alienated Ferrer voters and lost to Bloomberg? Who doesn't recall our failure to support Thompson against third-term, won by 5% Bloomberg? Who's forgotten, after we stabbed Thompson in the back, that he said we couldn't afford raises for teachers, and we then finally supported him anyway? Who can't forget Thompson's loss against de Blasio, and our failure to get what NYPD and FDNY got until ten years later?

Oh, and who recalls our champion Hillary failing to support any substantive change or improvement for working Americans, thus enabling demagogue Trump to take over? Wasn't Hillary a foregone conclusion, wasn't she inevitable, and weren't those of us who dared question those assumptions apostates, to be ridiculed and derided?

Of course, the now-officially sanctioned conclusion that we ought not to take sides is preposterous. One Unity person got up and made the inane and outlandish argument that Trump was of no consequence, and that we ought to instead write in the name of Hitler. I stood there thinking if it actually were Hitler, we'd lack the nerve to utter his name. Another spoke to MORE rep Ashraya Gupta, who openly wondered how a Trump presidency would affect people who looked like her. The Unity member said she was Latina and understood Ashraya's concerns. Then she spoke a bunch of nonsense, and went back to Ashraya's concern, angrily declaring, "I don't play that card!" This was remarkable because when she declared she was Latina, she indeed played that very card. A good thing about being Unity is no matter what you say, no matter how you contradict yourself, if you're on the correct side it's officially sanctioned and therefore always right.

We've got a whole lot of people in Unity who formulate arguments I would not accept from my beginning ESL students. UFT Unity will stoop to any level, invent ridiculous nonsense to attack those of us who dare question them, and give not a second thought to alienating, say, the opt-out movement that made Cuomo step back from his vicious anti-public education stance.  UFT Unity employs a social media twitter person who is outrageously sexist, who posts things from real education defenders and has zero awareness they fundamentally oppose UFT positions.

Of course, the Unity Caucus members sign a loyalty oath, and therefore get up and say any damn thing they are told to. They enable and recruit people who are, charitably, less than diplomatic, people who feel no compunction to think things through, people who say what they're told and stoop to any level to defend it. On Twitter I got into an argument with a Unity loyalist who contended it was great that burden of proof was on teachers at 3020a. He thought teachers facing career loss could then own their arguments, or some other such blithering nonsense.

A few weeks ago, UFT Unity unanimously supported the original resolution rightly criticizing Trump. We, the high school reps, applauded and enthusiastically supported it. Last Monday they were scrambling back and forth to rationalize the cowardice of deleting Trump's name. I give credit to LeRoy Barr and Howie Schoor for enabling an honest discussion on this issue. The last time I was able to participate in an honest discussion with union leadership was never (and if you're reading this, Unity, that cuts to the core of our problem).

This notwithstanding, the notion that a labor movement ought not to take a stand against demagogues is simply idiotic. Trump is coming for us, and being fraidy-scared to speak his name is not only disingenuous, not only unprincipled, but also short-sighted and counter-productive, the same thinking that's gotten us into the rut we're in now.

I hope against hope that leadership wakes up, palm-slaps themselves on the forehead, and realizes stifling thought and allowing patronage-inspired, self-serving obsequiousness to pass as activism has gotten us exactly where we are now.  I'll certainly do my part to sound the alarm, but it's hard to teach an old machine new tricks. 
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