Monday, February 01, 2016

Too Bad He Isn't With Us

Over the course of my job I meet a lot of Unity Caucus members. With very few exceptions (I know of precisely one), every single person who works for the UFT is a Unity Caucus member. I'm cordial with pretty much everyone unless they give me reason not to be. I'm not in the habit of striking up political arguments with people without provocation, as I usually hope we have better things to do. But sometimes people know who I am anyway.

A friend of mine went to 52 a few days back and reported he'd met someone who had good things to say about me. I'm always happy to hear that. But then the person added, "Too bad he isn't with us." You could take that a lot of ways, but the way it was meant was, "Too bad he isn't Unity." To some people, that's tantamount to not being union. Now it's kind of odd to imagine I'm not with union. I am, in fact, and I'm more committed than a good number of people who I know are in Unity. I know Unity members with not a clue what's going on, Unity members who get all their info from central. Such people tend to question nothing unless it contradicts what they've been told and can be less than expert in proactive argument.

I certainly share union opposition to the SCOTUS case in which Friedrichs wants to make the entire nation "right to work." This blog vigorously opposed Bloomberg's anti-union, anti-teacher antics, and I'm sure there are hundreds of posts testifying to that. You'll also find a word or two protesting Andy Cuomo, and a whole lot about charters and school closings. You'll find a pretty consistent anti-reformy point of view here going back almost ten years. I support empowering teachers.

Here's the thing--Unity has been less than steadfast in opposing reforminess. Bloomberg got a grab bag of goodies from us in 2005, and we really haven't come close to recovering. A blog post from Peter Goodman on Edwize (now offline) suggested the sacrifices were short term, and that the idea of 25/55 was well worth it. In fact we've recovered nothing, and 25/55 is no longer available to newbies either.

In 2004, excessed teachers were placed based on seniority, and could even request transfers where there were openings. (I'm very thankful for that, because I actually used it in 1993.) Since 2005, we're looking at the ATR, where teachers are sent to perpetually wander. I had the dubious pleasure of meeting an ATR supervisor last week, and please don't even get me started. The ATR was also presented in Edwize as a temporary setback, and it's been around for a full decade now.

As far as reformies, every concession we make is viewed as an invitation to extract even more. When UFT gave away the store in 2005, a popular rallying cry on Edwize was, "What will the papers say about us if we don't take this contract?" In fact, the papers liked us for about 5 minutes and then went back to the stereotypes and vilification we've all come to know and love.

The only reason I'm not "with" leadership is because they've built brick walls to keep me out. These walls apply not only to me, but also to all of us who adhere to the common-sense, research-based education ideas of Diane Ravitch. The walls are constructed of bizarre election rules designed to keep the Unity machine in total control. They're built of patronage that pulls self-serving people in and keeps them by virtue of perks rather than dedication. They're built of cynicism and indifference, carefully cultivated in a membership that almost utterly lacks awareness, let alone memory, of what a union is.

We're here to tear those walls down, and not so people can be with us. We just want to be us, and we are the United Federation of Teachers.
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