Thursday, November 16, 2017

The UFT Committee of 300

Someone told me yesterday that, as a member of the Executive Board, I am automatically on the Committee of 300, tasked with the negotiation of the UFT Contract. I'm torn between being honored, confused, or confounded.

It's nice to earn a place in such an important decision-making body. But then, I've been observing UFT leadership for around 12 years, and democracy is not their particular strong suit. It's great that they include opposition voices in something as fundamental as contract negotiations, but will they really listen? Do they even have to?

On the Executive Board I watch them vote in lockstep. The voice comes from on high, or more accurately from one of the microphones, and they instantly oppose dumping the evaluation system. It doesn't matter if they all supported dumping it at NYSUT. They instantly oppose reducing the minimum number of observations to 2, as per state law. They instantly oppose placing teeth in the class size regulations. After all, there's a committee, so all these violations must not even be happening.

It's nice to form committees, but it's no substitute for, you know, doing stuff. I'm not personally persuaded that the 300-member committee makes the decisions. Let's say, for example, that 200 of the 300 members are from Unity, and have all signed loyalty oaths. What are the chances the other 100 of us could persuade them? Let's say there are 250 of them and 50 of us. Let's give a more accurate estimate of 290 to 10. How do you think the vote's gonna go?

Let's say I'm on that committee with my fellow high school Exec. Board members, and leadership proposes More Work for Less Pay. The upside is we will win public support. People are sick of seeing prosperous schoolteachers riding around in their 89 Hondas, and once they see us working extra time for less money they will rally to our cause. Here's the thing--the media hates us and everything we stand for. They'll call it a cynical publicity stunt. Best case scenario--the Post will praise it for a week, then go back to vilifying us. That's what happened in 05.

And we'll argue precedent. But what difference will that make? The call will go out to support the More Work for Less Pay contract. If we don't sign it we'll have to get behind 160 other unions and wait. The cupboard is bare. There is no God-given right to More Work for Less Pay. If we don't accept this it could be terrible.

Meanwhile, we're sitting on the committee. We aren't allowed to reveal that we're discussing More Work for Less Pay. Then, when it comes out, they say, "We discussed this with the Committee of 300. We voted on it. The Committee contained members of the opposition and overwhelmingly favored More Work for Less Pay. After all, it's the best we could do. The mayor demanded even More Work for even Less Pay, but we stood firm. That's the kind of guys we turned out to be."

I'm not sure about the whole Committee thing. If I can't reveal what happened, and if I could be characterized as having supported the More Work for Less Pay Contract, it seems kind of pointless.  On the other hand, turning it down would be rejecting a chance to vote. I tend to vote every chance I get.

What would you do if you were me?
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