Saturday, September 19, 2015

UFT Leadership in the Face of Friedrich

Here's an interesting piece suggesting that losing Friedrich might inspire a leaner, more effective union, with possibilities for more involvement with rank and file. It does, of course, mention union's abject failure in Wisconsin, with the proviso that they've also lost collective bargaining. If unions can't do that, it's an even harder sell than it would be here.

What happens in NYC if UFT loses the right to automatic dues collection? Will Mike Mulgrew do a barnstorming tour, shaking hands and kissing babies? Will he get on Twitter? Will he begin to answer email? I don't think so. People don't fundamentally change overnight and UFT leadership is quite set in its ways. Of course there are people in Unity who are a whole lot more responsive than the President, but the organization runs primarily on patronage, and is largely tone-deaf to what teachers live with every day.

I will tell you exactly how UFT will react to a negative decision. Of course great effort will be directed toward dues collection. After all, 80% of working UFT members who can't be bothered to vote. If writing an "X" on a piece of paper and dropping it into a mailbox is too much of a personal strain, how are you going to get them to send a hundred bucks a month to 52 Broadway? That will be an uphill battle, to say the least.

But I know one message that Unity will certainly be broadcasting, because I've heard it over and over before. If we lose Friedrich, Unity will say, "This is not the time to be opposing leadership. All those of you who dare question the wisdom of the loyalty oath need to sit down and shut up immediately, if not sooner."

How many times have you heard that old chestnut? We're fighting Giuliani and now isn't the time to oppose leadership. We're fighting Bloomberg and now isn't the time to oppose leadership. Bloomberg wants to (insert outrage here) and now's not the time to oppose  leadership.

In fact, according to leadership, there is absolutely never a good time to oppose leadership. But this is the argument they invariably trot out when times are tough. Ask yourself, over the last few decades, when have times not been tough?

The problem with that argument is this--the very leadership asking us to sit down and shut up has actively contributed to these tough times, and continues to do so. By accommodating reforminess, by consistent appeasement that invariably results in further loss, leadership has contributed to the misery teachers face each and every day. I've seen Michael Mulgrew praise the Open Market system with nary a mention of the ATR situation it created. I've heard him wax poetic about a "growth model" that was somehow not value-added. Don't get me started about how UFT brought Steve Barr and Green Dot to NYC.

Unless leadership wakes up tomorrow and says to itself, "Gee, maybe we should start thinking about what effects rank and file, and have chapter leaders represent them instead of us," there's always reason to oppose leadership. In fact, through years of appeasement, leadership has emboldened our opponents to the point that they're bringing us, like animals, to the vet to have us declawed.

I don't like fighting leadership. But I don't like their decades of abject failure to fight for us either. They're going to have to address that, and if I were them I'd begin right now.

Advise you to sit while waiting for that to happen.
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