Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Modest Proposal

Yesterday I gave some thought to leadership's request that I organize a committee to persuade people to continue being duespayers. UFT leadership has asked me to select three people to run this committee. I thought of two, and I approached the person I deemed best to lead. The first question she asked me (and I swear I did nothing to provoke it) was, "Why don't we have our own union?"

I was pretty shocked. I blog all sorts of things but send out a newsletter that's a lot more tame. I try not to directly address union politics, though I guess my coverage of the Executive Board meetings, which I  share, reflects things like Unity curtailing our few privileges and making sure I don't get to speak. It's a good question. I think I picked a smart leader. Sadly for Unity, smart leaders think things through.

When you consider the fact that the person we chose as High School Vice President, James Eterno, is off, you know, teaching and stuff, it kind of grates on you. If you consider that not a single person we chose has voice or vote on NYSUT, NEA, nor AFT, it grates a step further. So our conversation didn't get too far. Back on topic, she said she was uncomfortable speaking in front of crowds, and I told her I'd happily help with that. She said she was better one to one, and that was pretty much what this job was going to entail anyway.

Then we came back to the elementary school teachers, the middle school teachers, the nurses and the retirees not only making decisions for us, but most definitely making decisions we did not. What the hell is up with that? How do you rationalize shutting 19,000 members out of decision making? The only answer I can come up with is that Michael Shulman went and won High School VP back in the eighties. I guess that makes it his fault. If only he'd have had the foresight to lose, Unity wouldn't have unilaterally taken our vote and choice away from us (for our own good of course).

Sure, that's bend over sideways and backward logic, but it's better than the real answer, which is that high school teachers exercise free choice and leadership cannot tolerate any dissent or debate whatsoever. They want it, they want it all, and they want it now. Anyone who disagrees can sit down and shut up, and they're prepared to rig the election if necessary to ensure that result. In fact, they've already rigged the election and that's why we have no representation on bodies to which we pay dues.

One UFT employee told me he was sorry I felt we had no representation. I'm sorry he felt I felt it, because it's simply the way things are.

Maybe dues should be proportionate. For example, elementary teachers have 100% of their chosen representation, so they should pay 100%. I don't remember how many names were on the ballot, but I do know I put an X next to MORE/ New Action. Let's be conservative and say there were 100 names. We got seven of our choices. Therefore, high school teachers should pay 7% of dues. Let's be generous and round it off to ten.

That means we should be paying $140 a year. That's maybe six bucks a paycheck. The other $1260 per member we could devote toward promoting our interests. We could pay people to negotiate separately for us. We could try to negotiate, for example, reasonable class sizes as per the C4E lawsuit. We could negotiate fewer observations for teachers who do well with two. We could take strong stands against abusive administrators, even though they're union members. All of those things are opposed by Unity, and that's a good part of why we voted against them.

We could start our own paper, New York High School Teacher, and cover stuff that our elected leaders do, as opposed to the ones the retirees chose on our behalf. And if patronage job holding, loyalty oath signing Unity picks told our reps at the Executive Board to sit down and shut up, it wouldn't matter. They wouldn't be making our decisions for us anymore.

What's the issue with that?
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