Friday, November 28, 2014

Meanwhile, in Chicago

Our leadership has had a lot of exciting adventures lately. There was the election, of course. When someone finally reached out to me to explain they were making calls to keep the Senate under Democratic control I contributed some time. I was not moved by their first organizing effort, the notice as to which days there was Chinese food and which there was deli.

I alluded the other day to NYSUT's rationale for the bath we took. According to Randi Weingarten's hand-picked leaders it's the fault of the members who didn't vote, and local presidents who didn't push them to vote. On the other hand, a lot of us loved brilliant Zephyr Teachout, and our leadership made sure she didn't carry the Working Families Party nomination, thus depriving us of someone who could've really brought out the vote. Also, when WFP supported Cuomo, it rendered them farcical. Who actually believes Cuomo supports working families?

Revive NYSUT ran on a platform saying they equated Cuomo with Scott Walker, and opposed him. But they couldn't manage to support Teachout's bid for the Democratic nomination, and they sat on their hands in the general. Perish forbid they should support Howie Hawkins, the only non-millionaire in the race. I voted, but I certainly understand the disgust of my brother and sister union members.

While we get Happy Thanksgiving messages from UFT, NYC just found 2.6 billion dollars under the sofa cushions. Maybe we shouldn't have taken the city's word (or Mulgrew's) that the "cupboard was bare." Maybe we shouldn't have told members if you don't take this piece of crap contract you get behind 151 other unions and may get nothing. Maybe we shouldn't actually indulge in appeals to fear, because maybe it encourages members to be fearful. UFT leadership repeatedly uses arguments that ought to come from management.

Today in Chicago, their leadership is urging members to stand up to corporate rule. They're protesting at a Walmart grocery store, demanding that working people be paid a fairer wage. While we were tacitly supporting Andrew Cuomo, their leader was running for mayor until health issues stopped her. I went to Chicago with members of the activist PJSTA and met her.  The room was electric with inspiration the likes of which I hadn't seen in a long time. And unlike the monthly get-togethers at 52 Broadway, none of us were patronage recipients.

By making sure there was no viable opposition for Andrew Cuomo, we supported everything Walmart stands for. To thank us, he stood up in front of God and everybody and swore to break the "public school monopoly." What does UFT fight for? Two-tier due process and pay raises a decade after everyone gets them. One party rule in which teacher interests are blatantly ignored. Charter schools, mayoral control, junk science ratings, and depriving members who resigned or advanced of money they earned.

When we stand up to their nonsense, they spout nonsense like we oppose teacher empowerment, and actively frighten members to cow them into compliance. They criticize the statewide vote but fail to note that the UFT, the largest local in the United States, can't even must 20% of working members to vote for union leadership. Although I vote every chance I get, that's even more understandable. More than half of UFT votes came from retirees who have absolutely no skin in the game when it comes to contract negotiations.

Our Chicago brothers and sisters have chosen another path. Things had to get worse in Chicago than they are here before they rose up. Of course, in Chicago, only working members vote for leadership. In NYC the deck is stacked against democracy in multiple ways.

We simply cannot afford to lie down and allow our leadership to continue collaborating with our reformy enemies. It has gotten us nowhere. I'm thankful for our brothers and sisters in Chicago, and hopeful that we will wake up and follow their example.

Now seems like a good time. Unless you think we should wait until our leadership sends us memos why it's a good idea to break the "public school monopoly."

There's absolutely no reason to assume that's not what comes next.

Thanks to Mike Schirtzer
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