Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Whither Democracy, UFT?

How does a top-down, undemocratic, loyalty-oath driven UFT survive an unfavorable decision in Fredrichs v. California? Who is gonna pay $1300 a year to a union that has a fundamental aversion to essential democracy? If leadership can't inspire 20% of working members to vote in union elections, how the hell are they gonna get the majority to pay voluntarily?

The last time UFT lost dues checkoff was after a strike in 1975. It took until 1982 to resolve, and UFT lost 20% of its revenue. I hear that some UFT employees actually had to leave offices and go back to work in classrooms. Oh, the horror!

The thing is, on the heels of a strike, people saw things differently. Members had actually walked out en masse to support union. Members were united by a common cause. Members knew they were UFT, and that they had stood up for something. I'm not at all sure members know that anymore.

Times have changed. For example, I doubt UFT President Michael Mulgrew thought he'd need to sell union to every working member when he got up and said he'd punch Common Core opponents in the face and push their faces in the dirt. You have to wonder whether he's regretting having shown no punchiness whatsoever when we went years without a contract. You have to wonder if he's regretting having helped negotiate junk science evaluation, or thanking the Heavy Hearts Assembly for having passed an even worse version of it.

You have to wonder about a leader whose vision for fighting back entails mounting a Twitter campaign in which he himself does not participate. You have to wonder about a leader who refuses to take on the high-stakes testing noose around our necks because of the claim civil rights groups support it. (If they do, they're wrong and it's our job to let them know why.)  The opt-out movement is more important than our leaders realize, and merits more than lip service. The SCOTUS case is even more important, and should worse come to worst, we'll need someone who can envision something more than a Twitter campaign he himself can't be bothered with.

Here is a golden opportunity for leadership to embrace democracy rather than absolute control over everything no matter what. Here is a chance for them to utilize the voices of those who oppose VAM, mayoral control, school closings, charter schools, high-stakes testing, privatization, and the entire more-work-for-less-pay thrust of the hedge-funders and billionaires who've been setting the agenda of American education.

In short, here's a chance for them to preclude disaster, at least to some extent. They can say yes, we hear you. They can say yes, we will represent you and we will allow you a voice in the UFT. They can say yes, we will not only collect dues for NYSUT and AFT, but also we will give you a voice and a vote, even if it means disappointing some of our reliable rubber stamps.

I advise you to sit while you wait for that. 
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