Tuesday, November 11, 2014

You Don't Need the Amazing Kreskin to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

A lot of people are upset about paying union dues. After all, it's a thousand bucks a year or so, your roof needs fixing, and that could make for a hell of a night out. And there are legitimate complaints. For one thing, I'm paying NYSUT and AFT to represent me, but in fact they do not. I represent the largest school in Queens and we get no voice at all. In fact, the only way I could get us a voice would be to sign an odious loyalty oath promising to support whatever I'm told, and if I did that we still wouldn't have a voice.

NYSUT put up a poll asking what we'd like from them. I told them I'd like democracy. My union brothers and sisters from PJSTA essentially said the same thing, but in far greater detail. After all, their locals can't pick who they'd like to represent them because of the UFT's massively huge rubber stamp. UFT-installed President Magee and her newly double-pensioned pals know if they support local representation they'll get booted out just like their predecessors. If it's a choice between democracy and going back to that classroom, we can guess pretty accurately where they're headed.

And yet there is a necessity for union. Though ours is inept, falling for one reformy thing after another, though they've watered down our Contract time after time to save their ridiculous seat at the table, it still protects people, and we still can have a voice where we work. Just about any day I'd rather be union than depend on the tender mercies of Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, and their merry band of fanatical ideologues.

So when I see things like this on Facebook, I know what they really are. How could the union use my money for politics? In fact, it's the union's job to try to influence politics. Anyone who thinks otherwise is nuts. Our union, of course, does a terrible job, picking Thompson four years too late, after he demonstrated his utter lack of conviction by telling the Daily News editorial board that the city couldn't afford to give teachers they raise everyone else got. And in the end, by delaying the raise ten years, the crack negotiators of UFT managedto make sure we didn't get it. They sold out our brother and sister teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve, managing to give back without even getting an equitable contract. As if that weren't enough, they managed to dump the worst pattern in my living memory on every city union. Anyone remember how we felt about DC37 when they dumped the zeroes on us? I do.

What the article is pushing, and it's not at all subtle about it, is right to work, and in California no less. This is a system in which you pay union dues only if you feel like it. While those who push it will tell you it's about your individual freedom, it's really about decimating union so they can do whatever to you and your brother and sister unionists, along with the non-unionists who want representation without paying for it. They don't like all those stinking rules, and would just as soon fire you over a whim as look at you. But some people will be fooled.

Now me, I still pay into COPE, even though I have grave reservations over what the UFT machine does with my money. And I'd probably continue to pay dues even if they became optional for as long as the union could hold out. But that would likely not be very long. UFT members are not like CTU members, and won't hit the streets en masse to support a union President who wants to punch us in the face and push us in the dirt if we touch his Common Core. Few are inspired by people more interested in free trips or patronage gis than doing their jobs, and there are all too many such people.

Since the UFT has enabled mayoral control, since it's enabled junk science and two-tier due process, since it sat silently while almost every comprehensive high school was closed, since it did nothing when Cuomo and Eva Moskowitz betrayed mayoral control under de Blasio it hasn't got a whole lot of street cred with the reformies. That's why they're coming full speed ahead after tenure. 

And don't fool yourself. They'll push right to work in NY in a New York minute. It would be nice for UFT and NYSUT if the most active members in the city and state would stand with them and support them. But it's a two-way street and our leader is not Karen Lewis, but rather a guy who will punch us in the face if we fail to support his favored corporate reforms.

This notwithstanding, it would be smart politics if they simply stopped building brick walls around activists moved by conscience rather than perks. People looking for free trips will not inspire the membership, dispirited and discouraged from decades of nonsense from these very cynical hangers-on.

Are our leaders so juvenile they cannot bear to entertain opinions that vary from their own? Do they really need to conceal themselves inside some massive echo chamber in which their notions are never challenged or even openly discussed? I find when you listen to others, you sometimes learn they're right, adjust your opinion accordingly, and do better.

Look where the echo chamber has gotten us. You don't need to consult the tarot cards to see where it's headed.
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