Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Mr. Eterno Takes a Position

I'm very happy for my friend James Eterno now that he's won a delegate spot in the UFT. I know, for him, it's ritual, second nature, to go to the DA. I always enjoyed his accounts and have been trying to follow in his footsteps. For my money, James is the best chapter leader in the city, and the only way they could take him down was to actually close his school. What a shame to lose someone so knowledgeable, so qualified, so ready to put himself on the line for UFT members.

James has also been very active in trying to get a voice for ATR members. James thinks ATRs should have a functional chapter, like secretaries, guidance counselors, or paraprofessionals. UFT leadership disagrees. They say ATRs are represented by the chapter leaders of the various and sundry schools through which they pass. In theory, well, that doesn't even work in theory. If I'm in school A this week, represented by CL A, how the hell is CL B from school B gonna help me next week? I have to start from scratch with a new person I don't even know. I'm not feeling it.

When ATRs complain they are not represented in the DA, leadership says, no, you are entitled to run for CL and/ or delegate of the school in which you are working as of May 1st. Never mind that you may not be there May 2nd. Never mind that no one knows you from a hole in the wall, and you have to run against people who've been around for decades. This, to leadership, is a reasonable process.

And James may be used by leadership as an argument the process works. Who knows? After all, he won. I'd have voted for him. James is one of the people on whom I rely for advice. When odd things happen, it seems like most of them have happened to him before. He seems to know every clause of the contract, and if he's unsure he dives right in to check. But ostensibly at least, his job entails representing a school in which he probably won't be working in September. That's absurd, isn't it?

One of the issues for someone like James is he's never signed the Unity loyalty oath. That limits your mobility within union to absolutely nothing. Were things different, he might be a delegate without all that inconvenient being elected. For example, in a nearby school, a friend of mine defeated a Unity chapter leader. But the deposed CL was delighted to find that, despite having lost the faith of her colleagues, the union was happy to keep her on as a rubber stamp in NYSUT and AFT, and also doing whatever the hell it was she did for UFT.

No such luck for James. All he's got going for him is absolute competence and decades of experience. So leadership is now in the position of having to explain why someone who doesn't even work at a school represents it. And when ATR teachers complain they have no representation, leadership can say, hey, look at Eterno. You too can run for chapter leader or delegate of a school in which you don't work. What's better than that?

What's better than that is real representation for all ATR teachers, not just those as extraordinarily knowledgeable and capable as Mr. James Eterno.
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