Friday, February 12, 2016

Union Going Forward

UFT is doing a kind of pro-union drive with buttons and signs. You can see a sample on the left. The notion is to be proactive. We can't wait until we lose Friedrichs, so we have to begin now.

This is not such a bad idea. A better idea, though, would have been to have started, oh, twenty years ago. I don't think the cops and firefighters are having panic attacks over the Friedrichs decision. They know they are brothers and sisters and have to stick together.

UFT, sadly, is different. I got into a small argument with a young teacher the other day who derided the need for union. (In his defense, he'd just been busted down to co-teacher status via Part 154, about which UFT, to date, has barely devoted lip service.) He said that people who worked for Google, Apple and Microsoft didn't need union. I told him that the Microsoft model of firing the bottom 5% didn't work for them and won't work for us either. I told him the people who worked for Google and Apple were an elite group who didn't represent the overwhelming middle class. This morning I was thinking about the Apple employees who live in Chinese dorms with fences on top to keep people from jumping off and committing suicide due to the miserable working conditions. I'm thinking they could use a union.

I absolutely believe in union. I absolutely believe we are stronger together. Of course, I'm not entirely sure leadership shares this view, despite the cool new graphic. As far as I can tell, the UFT is a top-down hierarchy that runs on patronage and loyalty oaths, and what's good for rank and file is a distant consideration to what's good for leadership. Rules are created to perpetuate power and disenfranchise membership, and that's why there's absolutely no opposition voice tolerated. Whatever Mulgrew (or whoever makes actual UFT decisitions wants, is what happens.

Now if there is to be a sea change in union, if there is to be choice in whether or not to pay dues, agency fees, or whatever, there's also gonna need to be something more than a bunch of chapter leaders wearing buttons. Buttons are fine, and there's one on my coat. But members are not gonna cough up $1300 because of a few buttons. And they're not gonna be swayed by Unity's typical appeals to fear.

There's gonna have to be some movement toward member voice, and that doesn't appear all that likely. For one thing, the union vote is scheduled for May rather than April, when UFT finally gets a 3.5% raise. Unity is counting on people jumping up and down shouting, "Hallelujah!," and praising Michael Mulgrew for the great job he did getting us another miniscule part of the money we've been owed since 2009.  It's a transparent, cynical ploy, and I'm not altogether certain that's gonna happen.

Even if it does, all we would get is more of the same. I don't think Michael Mulgrew understands what an activist union is or does. If he did, he would not be able to muster the audacity to urge us onto social media while utterly avoiding it himself. If he did, he'd interact freely and openly with membership rather than walking around with a flip phone so he didn't have to be bothered.

If we lose the dues checkoff, it's gonna be tough for Unity to maintain the patronage mill and keep doing business as usual. We will need people for whom activism is a way of life. That's why I'm voting for MORE/ New Action this year, and that's why I urge you to do the same. It's time we build walls to shield us from our enemies, rather than our brothers and sister who favor the activism we'll need to build union going forward.
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