Monday, August 13, 2018

Unions and Luncheonettes

I took this photo in Parksville, NY yesterday. We got off the highway to get gas and I was really struck by it. When I was a kid, there was a luncheonette on every corner. We called them candy stores. I bought many, many comic books from places like this one.

Now you rarely see them anymore. There was one I used to visit regularly, but now it's a bagel store. They've gone out of fashion, evidently. In Parksville, it looks like no one wanted to take it over.

The bar across the street is doing great. Alcohol never goes out of style. Some things do. Some of my teacher friends ask me, "This was OK twenty years ago. Why can't we do it now?" I haven't always got a good answer for that. Some things change. I was pretty happy being stuck in the trailer when they were screaming at everyone to use PowerPoint. I didn't have to do it because they never gave me any tech to work with. Now I get placed in a regular classroom and I've moved beyond PowerPoint to Keynote. I don't know how I ever worked without it.

Some changes, of course, are not for the better. You always hope to see things like nazis and that klan in the rear-view mirror. Now they go out and march, and they are protested. The frigging President of the United States says there are good people on both sides. For my money, bigots are not good people. They can become good people, but why should they when  the President says they're just fine the way they are?

Then we come to one of my favorite topics, which is union, which is us. Are we luncheonettes, or alcohol? Or are we something altogether different? The struggle of working people to make a living is not going anywhere soon. The fact that many of us manage to do so is not accidental. As much as people like me complain about the UFT leadership, we're doing a whole lot better than many of our brothers and sisters in red states. It's vital that we keep that advantage.

How do we do that? We do it by keeping up. We do it by growing. We do it by thinking out of the luncheonette. We can't just be the same old thing we have been. Otherwise, we'll look like that building. Unless you actually dress like that building, you don't want to look like it.

The possibility of becoming more activist is one we should embrace, from lowly teachers like me right up to the leaders sitting at 52 Broadway. If your chapter leader sucks, it's on you to replace him. You can recall the chapter leader who won't speak against the principal and run yourself. If everyone lives in fear, it's on you to organize.

We sink or swim together. If you're mad at Mulgrew, tell him. If you're mad at us, tell us. We're at Executive Board twice a month. If you wish, you can sign up to speak. Emily James spoke and now we have parental leave. CPE 1 and Townsend Harris spoke and got rid of their principals. I spoke and got an annex for my sorely overcrowded school. I will admit that not everyone got the help they wanted. Nonetheless, doing nothing guarantees no one gets what they want.

Once that happens, we'll look like that photo. And we simply cannot allow that to happen. We need renewal, both inside and out. And the time is now.
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