Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Downsides of Democracy

Donald Trump is about to become President of the United States, and that wouldn't be possible in a democracy. First of all, the guy actually lost by almost three million votes. Second, his agenda doesn't fly with most of the American people, including a whole lot who voted for him. And with more people voting for Democrats in the Senate than Republicans, he just wouldn't be able to enact his agenda if some votes weren't worth more than others.

A majority of Americans want health care for all. A majority of Americans want college to be affordable. A majority of Americans want a vibrant middle class and a society in which people who work can actually support themselves. But Donald Trump and the GOP think people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, whatever the hell bootstraps are, and make do with the millions of dollars they inherit from their Daddies, as Trump did, or with whatever they can steal while in office, and everyone else can go to hell.

In the UFT, the system is similar in that democracy is kind of frowned upon. I sit on the UFT Executive Board, elected by the high school teachers along with six of my colleagues. And yet James Eterno, who the high school teachers selected as Vice President, is sitting home watching his two kids. Now there's nothing wrong with watching kids. In fact I've met his kids and they are lovely. But why isn't James representing us at AdCom, and why isn't anyone representing us ad AdCom?

It's the system, don't you know. Once in the eighties, Mike Shulman of New Action won the election for high school VP, and that was unacceptable. The only thing to do was contest the election and hold it again in order to get the result demanded by leadership. Well, the second time they did it, not only did he win again, but he also won by a higher margin. Therefore they did the only thing they could, which was rig the vote. Once Shulman was gone and they controlled everything once again, they changed the rules so that elementary teachers, retirees and nurses could help select the High School VP. Voila! No more Mike Shulman, and no James Eterno, ever.

So now there's something called Team High School that doesn't have to bother to actually represent the majority of high school teachers. Consult with elected representatives? Nah. Why bother? After all, are they gonna stand up and do whatever is asked of them by leadership? Probably not. For one thing, the UFT high school reps haven't signed loyalty oaths and won't stand for whatever they're told, like mayoral control, charter schools, junk science ratings, and substandard contracts.

Here's what they stand for--When the high school Executive Board reps got in, they pushed for a resolution against abusive administrators. Alas, that was not acceptable to leadership, which likened it to a scatter gun and stated that administrators were represented by union and therefore deserved to be respected. Oddly, when teachers are brought up on false or ridiculous charges, the administrators bringing said charges never seem to say, "Gee, they're represented by union like me. Maybe I shouldn't place letters in their files or try to fire them for no reason."

So we're nicer than they are. And when we try to enforce existing class size regulations on our contract, we're told we've sacrificed pay to get them there. That's an interesting point, given it happened fifty years ago and most of us were in diapers if even alive at that time. More interesting is the fact that the resolution didn't ask for anything more than enforcing the UFT contract and state law.

Then there was a resolution that we look closely at the Netflix documentary 13th and examine the effect that has on Americans of color in the United States. Though most at the Executive Board hadn't even seen the documentary, that was voted down. They weren't even able to honor the modest request of placing an article about it in NY Teacher.

It's important, if you aren't going to do the whole democracy thing, to marginalize people who don't share your agenda. Thus Bernie supporters are wild-eyed lunatics, Hillary supporters can go to hell, and 20,000 high school teachers, more than the entire Philadelphia teacher union, should shut up and sit down.

After all, we're gonna do another round of Union Loud and Proud, which seems to entail placing a logo on UFT email, and that oughta be good enough for anyone.
blog comments powered by Disqus