Monday, April 10, 2017

Ignoring Rank and File Not Paying Off for NYSUT. Or UFT.

Now it's official, of course. UFT has placed its man at the actual head of NYSUT, and has dropped all pretense of simply placing someone in the Executive Vice President position. That's because not one, but two consecutive NYSUT Presidents thought they were Presidents of NYSUT.  That's unacceptable to UFT leadership, which took reliable Andrew Pallotta and pushed him to President. After all, why bother pretending that UFT doesn't control NYSUT 100%?

This notwithstanding, there are some spoilsports who actually want to, you know, have a voice in the organization to which they pay dues. Jeez, why can't these people get with the program? We in the NYC high schools are completely accustomed to having no voice whatsoever. We don't even get to pick our own Vice-President. And it serves us right for not selecting the one UFT leadership picked for us 30 years ago. We can't be trusted with democracy.

Clearly, neither can the rest of New York State. I mean, just a few years back there was that awful Richard Iannuzzi, getting his panties all out of shape because Pallotta wanted to give a bunch of NYSUT money to Andrew Cuomo, you know, the guy who ran for governor on a platform of going after union and passed not one but TWO junk science based teacher evaluation systems. If UFT leadership wants to give the guy money, that should be good enough for anyone. That's why Iannuzzi is history, along with much-beloved secretary-treasurer Lee Cutler.

And when Karen Magee started supporting opt-out, well, that was beyond the pale. Who the hell does she think she is supporting a program that, according to UFT Secretary Howard Schoor, only affects 3% of NYC students? (And hey, while we're at it, let's pretend the lack of support from UFT leadership is just incidental in this, even though other unions all over the state work hand in hand with opt-out.)  If it isn't popular in NYC, who the hell do these hillbillies think they are supporting this? And sure, you could argue that opt-out moved Cuomo to become marginally less insane on the subject of education, but you could just as easily argue that UFT leadership is responsible for it. So why not do that and give opt-out no credit whatsoever?

On the other hand, Long Island teachers and unionists are worlds apart from UFT. While I live in Long Island, three years ago I began to meet and know Long Island teachers. I know several union presidents out here, and unlike the president of my union, they answer my email. In fact, some of them even answer my phone calls. Not only that, but as far as I can tell, they do the same for their members.

Some of them are pretty tired of being told what they can and cannot do by the United Federation of Teachers. Making a UFT Unity member President of NYSUT didn't sit all that well with them. Hence, a lot of them are not precisely feeling the love for NYSUT. Some are thinking about forming their own umbrella union. That's the sort of thing that happens when you bounce two presidents in a row. Sure, the most recent one took a golden parachute to AFT rather than put them through a campaign, but since that benefits a grand total of one person, it's not precisely smoothing the ruffled feathers out here.

I saw NYS Unity, on Twitter, boasting that they would hold the RA somewhere other than NYC in 2020. Nice as that is, it's not much consolation to all the people who didn't get to vote on the NYSUT presidency this year. I understand that, because as a city high school teacher, absolutely no one we voted for represented us at all. Now sure, you'll say, we're not that many. Actually there are more of us than there are members in the Philadelphia teacher union. So we understand.

Long Island is a pretty big place. It's a hotbed for opt-out, and neither UFT nor NYSUT is inspiring a whole lot of love in that movement. If Long Island were to move out of NYSUT, and several local presidents have told me they plan to do so, could upstate be far behind? What can NYSUT do about this? What can UFT do about this?

It's pretty simple, actually. You can start respecting views that differ from your own. You can start at home, by listening to the high schools. Maybe when we bring up things like fighting abusive principals and enforcing reasonable class sizes, the first reaction ought not to be reflexive resistance. Maybe it's not a good idea after all to get up and oppose and table and tear apart each and every contribution we offer. Maybe it's not a good idea to do that to every district in the state with its own opinion.

We in the loyal opposition support almost everything that leadership suggests. The sole exception, in my memory, was when they took a resolution we loved, condemning racism and discrimination, and decoupled it from Donald Trump, absurdly attributing it to "the Presidential election" instead. That, and lack of fundamental democracy. We kind of hate that.

But like our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the state, we don't give up, and we aren't going anywhere. We can work together or not.

We're ready for anything. Are you?
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