Saturday, October 28, 2017

Unity Fiddles While High Schools Unrepresented

It's kind of frustrating being a high school teacher in New York City. Some people will tell you that the kids we teach are difficult, but I always think as long as we can be crazier than they are, we'll be OK. I've got a difficult class this year, with widely varying levels of ability, but all of them are kids, and all of them are learning one way or another. The frustration I don't really get is that of being in a union with leadership that treats us like garbage.

I mean, we pay the same dues as everyone else. We pay UFT leadership. We pay NYSUT. We pay AFT. But we have absolutely no representation in any of it. We have more members than the entire Philadelphia teacher union, and just about no say in the decision making. Leadership has engineered it that way. Around the time I first started teaching, Mike Shulman of New Action was elected high school vice president. I knew nothing of union politics, but from the crap that showed up in my mailbox, he appeared the underdog. That was good enough for me.

UFT Unity contested his election. They kept him from office for a while. Then they ran another vote, and Shulman won by a larger margin. I voted for him again. I vote every chance I get. Unity was not happy, so as soon as they won the seat again, they changed the rules. Now high schools are not allowed to choose their own vice president. All VPs are chosen "at large," which works for monopolistic Unity. After all, it was only the high schools who challenged them.

This is like Donald Trump saying New York is too liberal when they choose governors. Maybe Trump will decide to have Oklahoma and Texas help us choose, thereby preventing our own choice. It would be an outrage, and what Unity does is an outrage. In the last election, high school teachers chose James Eterno as their Vice President. And yet, Eterno has no voice at AdCom. Thus we don't either.

Yesterday, a Unity rep who went behind my back to arrange an event in my school told me he was sorry that I "felt" high school teachers have no representation in NYSUT and AFT. Here's the thing--it's not something I "feel." It's something, period. And when UFT Unity ignores elected chapter leaders to do any damn thing they feel like, it's counterproductive and stupid on multiple levels.

For one thing, there's no need to run around backstabbing people and doing things surreptitiously. We can get things done that benefit all of us by communicating directly. I can't speak for everyone, but I'm not really big on dirty tricks. I don't see the point in cooperating with people who deliberately deceive me. I'm busy, I have priorities, and I'm not wasting time playing juvenile games.

I hear some suggestions that high schools can go another way, and I usually reject them. I've been trying pretty hard to see what we can do hand in hand with leadership. I've taken flack from a lot of my friends for supporting COPE in the face of the Constitutional Convention. Sometimes people in leadership say things that make sense to me. Sometimes they persuade me.

Other times I wonder just what in the hell we need some of these people for.
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