Friday, February 20, 2015

It's No Fun Fighting the Union

A few weeks back, some guy wrote a really nasty piece about me. It called me a part-time teacher and a part-time union leader. Then it delved into Amazing Kreskin territory, suggesting I was bitter about losing a race for Executive VP of NYSUT, and whatever else the guy was able to come up with. It wouldn't really mean anything except that AFT President Randi Weingarten tweeted a link to it, along with her thoughts on how good it was.

This upset me just a little bit. First of all, I pay her salary, and it is her job to work for me. It is not my job to work for her. It is not my job to agree with her or her friends in leadership. To express my disappointment, I tweeted her much of the night, with questions like "How dare you?" and various comments on how it's unconscionable for a union president to attack a working member. I pointed out that, by endorsing this attack, she was endorsing the label of part-time teacher for every UFT chapter leader in NY.

The truth is that chapter leaders get one class off if they have 100 members or more. My school has over 250 members and I still get only one class off. I represent more people than many NY State union presidents. I'd argue that I'm a full time teacher and an overtime chapter leader, because holy crap, being chapter leader is complicated. I'm not complaining, and if I didn't want the job I wouldn't do it. As it happens, I kind of thrive on chaos.

Eventually Randi conceded and removed the offending tweet, admitting only that I am not a part-time teacher. But I've got to say it would be a whole lot easier to join leadership than do what I do. There are so many benefits. You can go on trips, score cool gigs, and move around with an incredible support group. You can be in the elite and exclusive UFT Unity Caucus, learn the secret handshake, and avoid the awkward moments when the dimmer members of Unity Caucus spout idiotic insults or orders and fully expect you to pat them on the back rather than respond.

You don't have to worry about whether or not the contract is a stinker, because you've signed an oath to love it no matter what. You can go to the DA and smile at whatever Michael Mulgrew says. You don't have to fret when he starts screaming about punching people in the face. When they support mayoral control, so do you. When they support charter schools, so do you. When they support two-tier due process, you jump and shout yippee.

Or whatever. Honestly, there are people in leadership for whom I have great respect. There are others for whom I have none. But the system, the system that fails to consider outside voices is awful. It's beyond ironic to hear UFT leadership criticize the top-down style of Bloomberg.

For me, this is not about winning or losing. If it were, I'd most certainly have joined Unity Caucus. That is unquestionably the path of least resistance. And if they had not come up with so many things that were hurtful to working teachers, to schoolchildren, to community, I'd never consider opposing them. I'm a role model for children. That's my job. I am regularly bombarded with talk, usually hollow talk, from Common Core advocates about critical thinking. Those of us who bother to oppose UFT leadership suffered from critical thinking before it became trendy. That's why we oppose leadership when they support Common Core, which actually tests kids to death in ways that are developmentally inappropriate.

I questioned UFT leadership for years before I ran for EVP, and if any evidence is needed, take a look at this blog after the 2005 contract came out. Running was an amazing experience, I knew it was an uphill battle and took it on anyway. I learned a lot, and I met teachers and leaders all over the state. I learned the UFT concept of union, that you sit down, shut up, and do whatever you told, is not replicated all over the state (though Revive's victory serves to promote and further it). I met amazing union presidents who did amazing things, and even some Revive supporters who I really liked.

For the record, I'm not bitter at all. I loved every moment of it, and win or lose I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
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