Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Does Your Chapter Leader Represent?

It should be clear that your UFT chapter leader needs to represent you when you have issues with administration. Sometimes, people tell me their chapter leader says things like, "I can't take sides," and that's inappropriate. Your chapter leader needs to take your side, particularly when there is a contractual violation.

Of course not everything is a contractual violation. If you're on a crusade to paint the walls hot pink, it will be tough to find language in the contract to back you up. Your CL may advise you against this grievance, but ultimately you can make it if you so desire.

In fact, you never know. If you can muster a particularly persuasive argument for the pink walls, if the principal agrees it's necessary at Step 1, and finds a way to manage the paint and labor, congratulations.

It's different when you're assigned to go to a meeting during your lunch period. There are some principals who'd just as soon let you starve rather than have you miss a lecture on how to execute a better bulletin board, and the contract protects you from such nonsense. In that case, things ought to be a lot easier. It's time for your chapter leader to take a side.

But what about when a contract shows up that eviscerates seniority rights? Let's say, for example, the contract, rather than placing teachers whose schools close, proposes to render you a substitute teacher without classes of your own? What if it makes you patrol lunchrooms and bathrooms rather than prepare lessons or help kids? And what if you and your colleagues oppose it?

What if union leadership decides to support mayoral control, placing the school system in the hands of a fanatical billionaire ideologue like Michael Bloomberg? What if, after learning what an awful system it is, after seeing thousands of teachers displaced, after seeing new teachers hired rather than placing people who are subbing rather than teaching, leadership decides to support it again?

Let's say leadership determines that it will support rating teachers based on student test scores, even though there is no research to suggest there is any validity to such a system? Let's say leadership boasts that only 40%, rather than 50, will be based on said junk science, and that it's therefore a victory. But what if there's a clause saying if you fail the 40% you must fail overall? And what if part of this agreement means the DOE no longer has to prove you're incompetent if one person says they don't?

What if said tests are to be based on some program that Bill Gates spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, and what if this program has never been tested or evaluated anywhere?

If you and your staff oppose all these programs, should your chapter leader represent you and your staff? Or should the chapter leader represent leadership, which supported every one of the above cited programs?

If your chapter leader signed the application cited in this post, then he or she is bound to represent leadership rather than you and your colleagues, no matter what you think or how you feel. Should the chapter leader vote the feelings and opinions of your chapter? What if doing so entails a risk said chapter leader will be bounced from the Unity Caucus?

Is it better that they stay on and thus get to go to conventions, where they applaud for the likes of Bill Gates or risk expulsion for failure to cooperate?

Here's the bottom line---shouldn't chapter leaders represent chapters? Should they do so even if the will of the chapter contradicts that of leadership? Are they doing their job if they take orders from leadership rather than those they ostensibly represent?
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