Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Democracy--AFT Style

I just read a retweet from Randi Weingarten. It was some teacher in Texas (or somewhere) who voted for Hillary and wrote about how proud she was that her union had endorsed Hillary. Now that's fine. You can be proud of anything or anyone you want, and as long as you don't try to shove it down my throat I won't give you any grief about it.

Here's the thing, though. I represent the largest school in Queens, one of a handful of the largest schools in the largest district in the country. I was not asked who I wanted AFT to represent, and I don't know a single other person who was either. I'm told there was a scientific survey, but I'm not sure exactly what it means. For one thing, I haven't seen a single question on this survey, and for another I have no idea exactly what sort of science we're discussing here. Is it the same kind that rounds out my teacher rating?

And who exactly filled out this scientific survey? Again, not I or anyone I know. In fact, time after time I read survey reports saying teachers support Common Core, or Hillary, and I wonder why the surveys show that teachers support whatever leadership does. Personally, I can't think of a single working teacher who supports Common Core. I know some very smart teachers who've found ways to deal with it and ways to help their students do the same, but I haven't heard a word of enthusiasm about it even from them.

Months ago when AFT began its exhaustive search for whom to endorse, I was invited to be part of a conference call featuring Randi Weingarten. At this call, supposedly, we could push a button or something and get to speak our minds. I couldn't help but notice the first person who spoke was this NYS Unity guy who wrote a column about me. The guy called me a part time union leader and a part time teacher, and said I was obsessive over having lost the NYSUT race for EVP, all of which is ridiculous.

Randi, of course, posted a link to this blog (I won't), and kept it up, saying what I great blog it was. I was kind of surprised at how impressed she was by a combination ad hominem/ strawman personal attack. Nonetheless, when I pointed out to her that the characterization of me as a part time teacher/ part time unionist insulted not only me, but also every working chapter leader in the city she took it down.

Anyway, I decided whatever pearls of wisdom this NYS Unity employee had to offer were probably not worth my time, and turned it off. Of all the hundreds of people on this call, it was absolutely impossible that guy's call happened to be first by coincidence. So in Democracy, AFT style, you get in this long queue, and they call on whoever they're gonna call on.

And then there's the UFT winner-take-all system, which means anyone who disagrees with Punchy Mike Mulgrew gets no voice whatsoever in AFT or NYSUT. It was pretty obvious that AFT was gonna endorse Hillary, just as it was obvious that UFT was gonna endorse that mayoral candidate, what's his name, who told the Daily News the city just couldn't afford to give teachers the raise everyone else got.

We have a shot at changing that this May. It's usually in April, but in a typical quirk of UFT-style democracy, May happens to be when a 3.5% raise kicks in. So May it is. I'm sure that decision was made just as democratically as our decisions to endorse Hillary, to support Common Core, to support junk science ratings, to support mayoral control, and to allow Reformy John King the right to arbitrate our rating system. 
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