Tuesday, July 24, 2012

To Be an Activist

If you wish to join Unity Caucus, and participate in leadership decisions, you have to agree to support all Unity/ UFT decisions. One of those decisions, in 2002 and again in 2009, was to support mayoral control. Many of us are painfully aware of what that entails--a fake school board called the PEP that rubber stamps absolutely anything our billionaire mayor desires.

In 2002 many members had reservations about giving all that power to any one person. I know I did. Giuliani had always tried to get that sort of control, but he was always pursuing insane lawsuits, like the one to bring him mistress into the home he shared with his wife and young children, and no one took him seriously. Bloomberg, much smarter than his predecessor, made it happen.

By 2009, it was pretty clear what Bloomberg's notion of democracy entailed, given he'd dismissed a couple of members who dared to contemplate voting against him. And, of course, the PEP has approved every school closing, ignoring the cries of teachers, parents, students, community leaders, and absolutely everyone but Michael Bloomberg.

UFT asked for some modifications, but got nothing that substantively eroded what is effectively mayoral dictatorship. However, feel free to correct me if I've missed anything.

Regardless, virtually no Unity member in New York City was able to publicly speak against mayoral control, because that violated the official leadership position. Then, in 2010, they were sent to Seattle to applaud for Bill Gates. While no UFT members were permitted to oppose Gates, some AFT locals apparently had people who did, and those who were vocal in opposition were ridiculed by the faithful as they walked out.

Whatever margin Unity won by, there is a large percentage of UFT teachers who oppose what Gates has done to education. Even if it were solely the 9% that opposed Unity/ New Action, that 9% ought to have a place in leadership. I'd suggest, though, that many more teachers oppose Gates than represented in the percentage that voted for opposition.

It's a far cry from democracy to deny those teachers a voice. We ought not to run our union the way Michael Bloomberg runs his PEP. In fact, by granting zero voice, zero votes, to anyone but leadership-invited caucus members, we're doing worse--at least Bloomberg grants five representative votes to face his insurmountable eight.

To be continued...
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