Friday, February 10, 2017

DA Takeaway--I'll Sit While I Wait

This was one of the more colorful DAs I've attended. Of course the surprise appearance of Bill de Blasio was largely what made it that way. But there were a number of other noteworthy occurrences.

There were Michael Mulgrew's claims of victory over Betsy DeVos, though with her sitting as Secretary of Education this victory was not easy to understand. I'd also argue that there were a lot of parent groups involved in this fight, and a lot of voices that we are sadly not quite in sync with. If there were any victory, moral, pyrrhic, or otherwise, it was not solely ours.

There were several references to us getting every dime of retro pay, and much praise of Bill de Blasio for coming to agreements with 98% of city unions. If Bill de Blasio is reelected, I believe we will get every dime of retro pay, but that's not a done deal just yet. I think the winds of change will allow de Blasio to essentially run against Donald Trump, and that works overwhelmingly in his favor. UFT endorsement is a dicey thing, because we've been so wrong so often against such incredible odds that I'm afraid to even think about it.

The most notable reference to retro came from LeRoy Barr, who said we have to wait two or three years for retro, and seemed to shrug it off as a minor inconvenience. Now that's true if you ignore the fact that we've been waiting for seven or eight years already. For those of us who support entire families on teacher salaries, for those of us who have college tuitions and exploding medical copays (which may not yet have exploded to full potential), it's hard to ignore those seven or eight years. It's hard to ignore tens of thousands of dollars owed me, for example. I'm guessing I'm not the only teacher who feels that way. This is based on frequent questions about when we're getting raises, and what on earth the various charts really mean.

Then there's a pet resolution of mine that hasn't been voted on for the last two months--the one that tries to place Regents marking back in school buildings. This has been problematic in my school, where my committee was approached with a threat--either proctor midterm exams during Regents week or we will make you teach! Gasp!!! Go ahead, we said. The following year they did indeed impose class midterms and proctoring during Regents week. This year they held classes during Regents exams. I got tons of complaints both years from teachers with no time to do end-of-term work.  Returning the grading to school would resolve this issue.

Of course high school priorities are not the priorities of leadership, which can't be bothered consulting the elected high school Executive Board about anything whatsoever. After all, we're just a bunch of teachers. We haven't got union jobs, we haven't signed loyalty oaths, and we often say what we think rather than what we're told. So rather than find time for something that might help us, and our union brothers and sisters, we spent ten minutes watching a tape from Saturday Night Live that was so widely distributed on Facebook I'd be surprised anyone on social media hadn't seen it. (Of course Mulgrew, despite his talk about hashtags and such, isn't on social media.)

As for high school teachers, you can't have upstarts like James Eterno voicing their opinions in "debates." Better to call for a single opposition POV from another person with views that will alienate most of the people listening. You let that person talk for a long time, and then claim there is no more need for differing views. That way you shut out people who've actually got experience with specific issues that may cast doubt on candidate de Blasio. James explains here why he disagrees with the endorsement, but no one at the Delegate Assembly, ostensibly governed by Robert's Rules, got to hear word one about it.

It was also interesting to hear Mulgrew casually admit that we were on the precipice of becoming a "Right to Work" country. I haven't got the remotest notion of what we do when that happens. As a chapter leader, will I be expected to represent people who shirk dues? Will UFT expect me to go out and try to sell the insular top-down leadership that shuts up James Eterno, the person a majority of high school teachers selected as Vice-President? I don't know.

I like de Blasio a little better than some people do. Of course I haven't seen the sea change over at Tweed I'd like to have seen. I was not particularly ecstatic about the contract that gets me paid two years after it expires, if I'm lucky. I don't blame de Blasio for the contract, though. It is, in fact, his job to try and get favorable terms for management. It's labor's job to get favorable terms for us. It seems to me de Blasio, despite being portrayed as a hippie commie weirdo, managed to negotiate the lowest pattern bargain in history. Mulgrew vehemently denied that at the contract-centered DA, and turned off Eterno's mike when he brought it up. But I've seen no evidence Eterno was wrong, and leadership hasn't offered any.

There was de Blasio's claim that tests don't matter that much, followed moments later by a boast that we're doing better with tests. I'm not sure he saw the irony there, but I won't fault him for it. I think de Blasio tried to face up to charters when he came in, but got very little support, including from UFT. When Eva got that ruling that the city had to pay charter rent if it didn't give them space, a very highly-placed source at NYSUT told me that my union President supported that move. While I haven't got evidence to support that notion, I've also seen absolutely none that UFT opposed it at the time. I didn't hear boo about it from leadership at the time.

I don't think we have a better alternative than de Blasio, especially now. I hope our early endorsement pays dividends. But the same people who speak of how wise this early endorsement is told me how wise the early Hillary endorsement was. We all know how that turned out. I certainly hope the UFT endorsement isn't the kiss of death it's been looking like in various mayoral races, and most spectacularly in the ascendancy of Trump and his gang of high-powered, not-so-smooth-talking thugs.

I'm also not persuaded that the support public school campaign is what's gonna help, even if they do it in Cleveland. It sounds very much the same as previous campaigns that went exactly nowhere. Nonetheless, I'd be happy to be proven wrong. In Spanish, they don't say, "I won't hold my breath," but rather, "Espero sentado."

I'll sit while I wait.
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