Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Best Meeting Ever

I go to a lot of meetings. The whole chapter leader thing places you on all sorts of committees at the school and every time anything happens there's a meeting about it. And then there are UFT chapter leader meetings. I usually go to the borough high school meeting and the DA. But when the HS VP comes to Queens I try to see her too.

Last night I got to Queens UFT around 3:30. I walked into the meeting room and it was empty. I was a little early, but that never happened before. But lo and behold, there were all kinds of sandwiches and salads and drinks. I figured I'd eat all the sandwiches and then call for an adjournment. It would be the fastest meeting ever, depending on how the sandwiches were.

I gotta say, the turkey was very good, but the eggplant looked and tasted like a dishrag. Anyway, a little after four, people started coming in. Three of them. There went 75% of my sandwiches. Eventually ten or twelve people showed up. It was disappointing because I like when the VP comes to Queens. In my opinion, she should hold all of her meetings there. But how do we persuade her when only a dozen people show up?

Well it turned out that Randi Weingarten was downstairs giving pep talks about Hillary, for whom UFT is phonebanking. I voted for Randi once. It was some time in the 90s. I was not at all involved in union politics but I had some primal instinct that told me union was a good thing, so when our President showed up at the school library, I ventured upstairs to listen.

She called Rudy Giuliani a prick, which very much endeared her to me. After all, I read the papers, and it was absolutely clear to me that Rudy was a prick. But I'd never heard anyone just say it out loud before. How perceptive, I thought.

She was with the High School VP, who at that time, I think, was John Soldini. Soldini got up and made a stirring speech about how there was absolutely not truth the the rumor that the UFT was going to make anyone wait 25 years to hit maximum salary. Anyone who told you such a thing was a filthy liar. I raised my hand.

"How come, if UFT doesn't want it to take 25 years to reach maximum, did I receive something in the mail from Sandy Feldman urging me to vote for a contract that called for a 25-year maximum? Didn't she say I must be smoking something if I thought I could do better?"

Soldini, clearly, had not been expecting that particular question. He hemmed and hawed for a few moments. Randi walked in front of him and gave some kind of answer. I don't remember what it was, and I don't remember it being particularly persuasive, but at that moment I really respected her for getting up to answer the impossible question. I decided she was the smartest person in the room and I had to vote for her.

That year, I spent 45 minutes splitting my ballot. I voted Randi for President, and everyone I could find in New Action for everything else. Sadly, my enthusiasm for Randi's negotiating skill began to wane around 2002. I thought it was a very, very bad idea to barter time for money. I remembered the zeros we'd gotten from Rudy and thought such raises could easily be washed away in another tide of zeros.

2005 was the year I finally woke up. It took me twenty years of teaching, which makes me question how successful the loud and proud campaign is gonna be.

Last night I was talking to a union rep. We got out on the 4th floor and someone came out to hush us. Randi was talking. Should I go in and listen?

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