Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The UFT Answer Man

Recently the union has begun sending people to my school to keep us informed. They come in the cafeteria and give speeches about things. I usually mind my own business and eat lunch, but the other day one of them started a conversation with me. He made the egregious error of asking if I had any questions, and I asked him the same one I've asked Leo Casey on Edwize, the same question I've asked several NYC education reporters, the question I've posed to various wonks on the net:

"The UFT is now partnering with Green Dot, a charter chain that announces on its website their teachers have neither tenure nor seniority rights. Edwize says because or their "just clause provision their teachers have something better than tenure. How many times has the clause been tested, and how many teacher positions has it saved?"

"When I was in Nebraska," he began.

"What does that have to do with my question?" I asked.

"Well, you have to understand how things work in the middle of the country. Sometimes these teachers sign contracts, they get raises, and then they don't get them the next year."

"But Green Dot started in California, and now we've brought them to New York. What does the middle of the country have to do with my question?"

He smiled and showed me a form. "Would you like to contribute to COPE?" he asked me. "We've done a lot of great things, like 55-25."

"First of all, it's 55-27 for most. And also, we paid for that with all those givebacks in 05."

"No, it's COPE that paid for that."

"But COPE also paid to support Serphin Maltese, who was instrumental in breaking two Catholic school unions."

"Well, yes we did that."

"And you supported Governor Pataki against Carl McCall. Also, you didn't oppose Mayor Bloomberg when he ran for re-election."

"Well, he was going to win."

"And you supported mayoral control, which has been a disaster for teachers and kids."

"Well, you need to support the union." he said.

"The union needs to let high school teachers select their own Academic Vice President, even if it means they may lose. They changed the constitution to take our choice away."

"Yes, but they won that year."

"Who won that year?" I asked.

"Unity." he replied. Perhaps he was a New Action guy. New Action, you may recall, was the party that ran Mike Shulman, who beat the Unity guy. When Unity insisted on a revote, he won again, by a larger margin if I recall correctly. Unity used to vilify them precisely as they now vilify ICE. Then UFT President Randi Weingarten gave all their leaders patronage gigs, and now (surprise!) they support whoever Unity says should be UFT President.

Otherwise, there go their gigs.

"It's unconscionable," I told him.

"You know what your problem is?" he asked me. I love when people offer to tell me what my problem is. Don't you? Isn't it kind when people get ready to offer you constructive advice?

"You think you know everything," he said. He then went on to lecture me about the virtues of working within the system, and how that was the only way to get things done.

Oddly, I hadn't suggested anything about working outside the system. But I'm very familiar with the UFT system. And I know very well what they've been doing since 05.

We'll answer your questions, as long as they're the right ones. Ask the wrong questions and we'll make nonsensical speculations on what you think. Who the hell do you think you are, being well-informed? This is not how we get people to vote for us, and don't even think about telling anyone else what goes on.

Isn't it ironic when you hear Ms. Weingarten complaining about the top-down management style of Mayor Bloomberg? For all I know, he may have learned it entirely from her.
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