Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Chapter Leader Training Part 2

I learned a lot about APPR complaints this weekend, but having been through several of them, I was pretty well versed in what they can and cannot achieve. I'll take you back to the plenary, where I listened to genial Paul Egan discuss the miserable percentage of people who vote in the United States, and in New York. He regaled us, in great detail, about all the sacrifices people made to procure our vote. He spoke about the excuses people make to not vote. I forgot, they say. Or I don’t like the candidate. Or I don’t care. Whatever.

He pointed out how convenient it is for people to vote. Often we pass by our polling places whether or not we vote. It’s not like we have to walk 20 miles carrying weighty buckets of water or something.

He pointed out cases of people who won for only a handful of votes and suggested it was ridiculous for us to assume our votes have no value. He told us that even in cases where people won by landslides, they could claim they had a mandate. He showed that Adolf Hitler was elected with 89% of the vote. I hope I'm not invoking Godwin's Law when I look at Trump's success and see that’s not necessarily surprising.

Egan was absolutely right. It’s a disgrace that so few of us vote, particularly when you consider that other countries have voting percentages that approach 100%. He pointed out that in 2012, more people voted in American Idol than for President of the United States. People really care about that, evidently, even though I don't. (My daughter watches it, but when I see twenty-year-olds showing off their voices with Beatle songs, I want to get a gun and shoot the television.)

Bad politicians, he said and displayed on a PowerPoint, are elected by good people who don’t vote. He told some colorful stories about egregiously crooked politicians who got elected despite being on trial and clearly criminal. You are more likely in NY State to lose your seat by being convicted of a crime than by losing at the polls, he said.Think about Silver and Skelos, both just indicted. (I don't know about the rest of the room, but I got all wistful hoping Cuomo would follow in their footsteps.)

This, of course, led up to a plea for COPE. I contribute to COPE myself. But I am one of the awful people he referred to who says, “I’m not sure if I want to contribute.” I have to count myself among those who have second thoughts, as we’re now supporting a presidential candidate who’s said she’d close any school that wasn’t above average.

Now I vote every chance I get. I will certainly vote in the Democratic primary, and I will certainly vote in the general election too.

But the elephant in the room, and I have no idea exactly how many people saw it, was that fewer than 17% of working teachers could be bothered to vote in our last union election. I don't know how Paul Egan feels about that, but I'm personally horrified by it. This, rather than Friedrichs, ought to have inspired a union awareness campaign. The fact that 52% of UFT votes came from retirees, who are most definitely smarter than we are, is also outrageous. Maybe we ought to call ourselves the United Federation of Retirees.

We'll see if we can wake up the sleeping giant that is the UFT this year. If that happens, Unity could be in more than a little trouble. Because even people who voted for that stinker of a contract hate them for it.
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