Wednesday, June 03, 2020

On Union in Apocolypse Times

The other day I read a post on Facebook that asked what our union was doing about the outlandish work/ PD day we have tomorrow. It continued to say something like, "I don't want to hear any of that we are the union crap." This member, like a whole lot of us, sees the union as a separate entity. When you're in trouble, the union should come riding on a white horse and untie you from the railroad tracks.

Of course someone should get you off of those tracks. But first, you have to be on them. You have to be somewhere. The truth is you aren't some helpless innocent at the mercy of whatever bad guy twirls his mustache. You can set your own course.

Tomorrow is more of a nuisance than anything else. It's wasteful, it's stupid, and it's poorly conceived. Truth be told, though, the DOE was supposed to put up work yesterday that required no correction or input from teachers. (Maybe they did. I haven't checked.) It's not like they're oppressing us. They're simply wasting our time, and that of 1.1 million schoolchildren.

So tomorrow, a lot of teachers will go to some crappy useless PD brought to you by people who have no idea what we actually do. I'm going to teach. We don't have that much time left, and as much as I want to hear from the people who brought us two extra weeks in overcrowded, Covid-infested buildings, I'm pretty sure that the kids I serve need English more than I need another PD session. I've been taking PD from the DOE for 35 years, and so far the most it's ever been useful has been never.

Leadership has not taken exactly my position on this, but they know what it is regardless. I haven't been shy with it. They know the DOE failed to plan, and they know tomorrow is nonsense. Beyond that, it's insulting to working teachers. We do not just give busy work.

There were things I really liked about the chancellor. I've seen him speak well of teachers, and I've seen him stand for students I serve. That said, I've found him disappointing of late. I was shocked that he rejected our petition to close the schools, demanding 108,000 signatures from epidemiologists rather than working teachers. We, working teachers, were standing up for health and safety, and that of our students. We were absolutely right, and days later the chancellor's boss acceded to our demands.

That's what happens when we, the union, stand together. The union is you and me. It's not just Michael Mulgrew sitting on a throne on top of Mount Olympus or something. It's all of us, bringing our voices to bear. If your strategy is to sit around and wait for Mulgrew to do something, you've got it backwards. Any power Mulgrew has comes from us. Without us, he's just one guy standing there.

When the chancellor makes a boneheaded decision, saying that tomorrow will be both a school day and a PD day, you can tell him what you think if you're so inclined. I know I was.

Of course the chancellor was talking about the unrest in the city, and I can't argue with that sentiment. Our kids should have every right to thrive. It's hard for me to see, though, how giving them busy work squares with anything but wasting their time, demeaning them and us. It's even harder for me to see how driving an SUV through a crowd of protesters supports anyone's right to thrive. But Carranza's boss, Bill de Blasio, defended that, pretty much counter to everything I ever thought he stood for.

I once thought Carranza stood for education, for teachers, for students. Yet now, after the epidemiologist nonsense, he's taken a cheap opportunity to pretend to parents that education is going on tomorrow even as he wastes our time with PD. Here's a fact--no one at Tweed, up to and including the chancellor, has done what we are doing, and no one at Tweed is qualified to help us do it. Tomorrow is a wasted day for most.

This pales in contrast with the issues of systemic racism and state-sanctioned murder. Like most people, I can get through one day of nonsense. On the other hand, it's unconscionable that this mayor condones police violence at this time. Our union took a stand on that Monday night.  I support it absolutely and voted for it.

As for tomorrow, I've made my voice heard. I've let people in leadership know how I feel. One wasted day is not precisely the hill on which I want to make my last stand. But I absolutely offer and advocate for my viewpoint.

If your idea of activism is getting on a Facebook page and asking what the union is going to do about this or that, you are part of the problem. The fact is you are part of the union, and the fact is you can make your voice heard. If your chapter leader sucks, there's an election next year. Run and win the job. If you disagree with a union position, let leadership know. Let the world know.

A chapter leader I know once told me, "There are two problems with the union--the leadership and the membership." We, the membership, need to let leadership know what we are thinking. We need to be active. If we're just sitting around waiting for Michael Mulgrew to read our minds, we aren't doing our part.

We can do better, and we can make ourselves heard. I know what works for me. Something works for you, and I'm afraid it's on you to figure out just what it is. September is coming up and we need your voice. We can't just sit around and expect de Blasio or Carranza to do the right thing.  
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