Sunday, July 08, 2018

What's a Chapter Leader to Do?

It's a new world, post-Janus. No longer will all my colleagues be union brothers and sisters. Yet I'm chapter leader of over 300 people. It's a job I love, but things will be very different now, one way or another.

I'm assuming that it will be my job to recruit newcomers to my building. Though I could be wrong about that, I've prepared a Keynote presentation showing things that labor has won. (Keynote, if you don't know, is more or less PowerPoint for Mac.)

I'll also have to tell them about improvements we've made in our building. I'm fortunate in that there actually are a few. We are preposterously overcrowded, a victim of our own success, among other things. When I complained about it at Executive Board, Ellie Engler set up a meeting with the school construction authority. We're set to get an annex to handle our overflow. Construction has begun, and I'm hoping to live to see it. Should that be the case, I'm gonna demand a state of the art classroom, since I spent forever in the trailers and worked to get this thing started.

We've also had a few successful paperwork complaints. There was some insane memo floating around saying that we had to document student participation. I was flabbergasted, as were several members who'd never complained about anything before. I thought, I can record participation, or I can teach, but how could I do both? Our complaint, with the help of Debbie Poulos, killed the impossible demand.

There have been many, many sixth classes in our building. They're attractive because they pay pretty well in shortage areas, like mine. I've turned down extra classes for years. I'd always been told that sixth classes meant no relief from C6 assignments. One day James Eterno instructed me to actually read circular 6, and in fact it said otherwise. Unfortunately I was unable to get a single person with a sixth class to grieve.

Another thing we have in our school is a nine period day. We were able to negotiate a program that gives a lot more prep time to our teachers, and it's very popular. In fact, 100% of staff voted it in for a third year. We gave up one day of our regualar C6 assignment for a teacher team meeting, very much favored by our principal, and get one day for OPW. I was able to file a paperwork grievance stating, since our teachers with sixth classes were not required to do C6 assignments, that the paperwork involved in the teacher teams was excessive. We won that complaint.

When people get in trouble, I go around and ask questions. I try to find out what happened and what circumstances might mitigate whatever someone's being accused of. I also try very, very hard to find technical screw ups that might get a letter killed, if indeed there is one. I'm often successful, though the grievance process sucks and takes a long time. But I never give up.

What if you aren't a member? I mean, you may think you're the sort of person who could never get in trouble. You're probably wrong. CR A-421 says your screwups are in the eye of the beholder, to wit, the student. If you say, "Good morning," and the student doesn't like your tone, I see a disciplinary meeting in your future. If the principal is reasonable, she'll toss it out. If she hates your guts, however, you'll get a letter in file, at least. (I'm quite surprised at some people who've gotten in trouble. If you think you're invulnerable, you're laboring under a serious misconception.)

I also send out a weekly email. I scour education news and blogs on a pretty constant basis. Members get a whole lot of descriptions with links. I usually write the first part myself, leading with school issues and telling members whatever I'm working on. I send out emails when people we know pass away, along with whatever arrangements there may be. I send emails when rat bastard DOE investigators are in the building, telling members not to talk without representation, and to contact me so I can procure it.

When I first got this job, a piece of advice I got from several people was this--Whenever a member comes to you, say, "Put a letter in my box."  80% of them won't do it. That's certainly an effective way to reduce your CL workload, I guess. I've never said that to anyone. I have a whole network of people I can go to for answers, both within and without official UFT. I have a good sense of who can help with what. In fact, once in a while, I know the answer myself. When things happen more than once, I tend to remember.

What am I gonna do with people who think I should pay and they shouldn't? Well, there are a lot of things I'm not actually required to do. I don't get paid to send emails. So they're off my list. I don't need to spend time getting points of view about disciplinary matters. I could be writing a lesson plan, or a blog, or taking a nap.

And hey, if you have an issue, if admin isn't reasonable with you for whatever reason, I'm pretty good with the contract. I can tell you which article is violated, and why. If I don't have it on the tip of my tongue, I can look it up. I can ask any of a number of acquaintances how strong the argument is. I can write you a grievance within minutes. I'm a very fast writer.

On the other hand, I could also say, hmmm, that's interesting. Put a letter in my box. Then, after I deal with every issue union members have, maybe I'll look at it. I'm usually pretty busy helping union members, but you never know. I might get around to it. If I do, I'll have questions.

Why don't you check to see where in the contract that might be? Get back to me when you do.  And when you do, I can say, OK, go write a grievance. Bring it back to me. I'll look at it when I get a chance. Then I could check it when I get a chance.

I don't know whether I'd do things like that. I'd much rather not. But one thing is for sure-- members take precedence over the goons and the ginks and the company finks.

What would you do if you were me?
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