Tuesday, December 20, 2016

UFT Executive Board Takeaway

It was really a remarkable night on Monday. I learned a lot. First of all, I learned that, if you're in the Unity Caucus, you don't need no stinking rules. Only Executive Board members are supposed to speak for and against resolutions. But that doesn't matter, because the head of the Grievance Department, Ellen Procedo, got up and spoke against the class size resolution I introduced.

That was perfectly fine until Jonathan Halabi from New Action rose and quietly pointed out that Ms. Procedo was not a member. She then huddled with LeRoy Barr, who got up and utterly misrepresented one of the RESOLVED points. I can only suppose that this was the best argument either of them was able to muster. Barr stated the resolution said we would fire any arbitrator who disagreed with us. Here is what the resolution states, exactly:

RESOLVED, that the United Federation of Teachers will not consider reappointment of any arbitrator who allows for violations to persist indefinitely and instead makes irrelevant rulings on class size that do not benefit students or teachers...

That does not say what Barr says it did. I got up and said as much, but it did not much matter to the loyalty oath signers, who sit at the meetings like placeholders and wait for Barr to signal to them how they are to vote. While this was indeed the best argument they could invent on the spot, it's what you call a strawman, a logical fallacy. That's when you misrepresent your opponent's argument, putting words into his mouth and hope that he defends an argument he never made. So logic played no part whatsoever here.

The important part was to reject the premise that we should vigorously defend our contract, and the meticulously crafted resolution. For one thing, it contained a whole lot of history on class sizes. It spoke to how reasonable class sizes help our students. It spoke to the systemic failure of UFT to address class sizes, and the preposterous things that passed for "plans of action." It spoke to how existing city class sizes violate New York State law. But we're just about to endorse the mayor, and he might get mad if we were to stand up for the students we are paid to serve (not to mention working UFT teachers).

Barr also made the argument that the UFT was a bold union because we wrote class sizes into our contract, at the expense of money and benefits. He neglected to point out that this happened over 50 years ago and has never been revisited, though this was written right into the resolution. I don't know how old Barr is, but if was even alive at the time this happened, he was likely as not in kindergarten. No one from current leadership has ever pushed class sizes in any way, and the argument about money is ludicrous. These are the same people who told us the "cupboard was bare" and we couldn't get the money NYPD got in 2009 until 2020, interest free. This argument further disregards the CFE lawsuit and the state law it inspired.

Another really interesting argument, from some Unity loyalist or other, was that class sizes got fixed in his school and that the system therefore worked. Now I guess he's right if his school is the only standard by which we judge 1,800 NYC schools.  Of course, anyone with a rudimentary concept of logic would not accept that argument either.

There was an interesting argument set forth by Howard Schoor, the secretary. He objected to our bringing motions at the last moment, because they couldn't give them enough attention. Oddly, that is what UFT Unity does all the time, as a matter of course, We show up at the Executive Board and there are their resolutions, all copied and typed out. We get no advance notice whatsoever of what they are. But again, rules don't apply to them so they can do whatever the hell they please. In fact, after we vote on them they can just change them the very next day, so as not to offend Donald Trump supporters. Perish forbid we should condemn a thin-skinned, narcissistic, juvenile, pathological, lying weasel like that. Someone might object.

I happen to know that the other resolution, the one supporting sending UFT members to DC, was previewed by Unity, which slashed the guts out of it before my very eyes. As they cut, I crumpled my copy and tossed it on the floor. Gone was each and every reference to Donald Trump, and we were no longer going to DC to protest him. We were, I suppose, going to protest The Presidential Election. I can only suppose we are to attribute the surge in hate crime to that, rather than Donald J. Trump.

One Unity member stood up and said, "Let's just cut the whole thing." This made me reflexively laugh out loud, though it had that effect on no one else in the room. She came up to me later and tried to explain. I said, "That's OK, I thought it was hilarious." She told me how rude I was and walked away angry.

LeRoy Barr, memorably, said we would eventually be permitted to utter the Trump name, and that we would engage him the same way we engaged Obama. I absolutely believe we will, which is to say, not at all. For eight years Barack Obama proved himself to be the worst education president ever. After four years, the UFT endorsed him. After he pushed charters and junk science ratings all over the country, after he made the lives of many UFT members, among others, a misery, we endorsed him.

Barack Obama hired Arne Duncan, who said that Hurricane Katrina was the bestest thing ever to happen to New Orleans education. He ridiculed white soccer moms, implying their kids were not very smart. If I publicly said something as idiotic as that I'd be up on charges, facing the loss of my career. But UFT not only said and did nothing whatsoever, they also endorsed him with no preconditions. To thank us, he made John King, reviled all over NY State, Secretary of Education.

So I have faith UFT and AFT leadership will engage Trump the way they engaged Obama--not at all. They didn't hesitate to endorse Clinton, another big charter cheerleader, and didn't ask her to modify her positions in any way. That she selected a longtime corporate reformy as her campaign manager mattered neither one way nor the other.

Then there was the matter of the mayoral endorsement. As though it were not already a predetermined conclusion that UFT will be endorsing Bill de Blasio, given that Randi Weingarten just held a fundraiser for him, they announced they had formed a committee to discuss the endorsement. They did not bother to ask any of the elected high school delegates to participate, because screw us, we aren't Unity. Nor did they bother to ask anyone from New Action or MORE, because screw the 11,000 UFT voters who supported us.

The important thing is to let the leadership decide, and they will do so with no input from us whatsoever, because we aren't Trump supporters, and our opinions therefore do not matter.
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