Saturday, December 09, 2017

HIgh Schools Unrepresented in Union

It's a daunting job to rep the high schools. Every two weeks we step into an art film. We kind of have to play checkers with Death. I know it was chess in the film, but I feel like we begin the game halfway through. We have half our pieces and they have all kings. We are over 25% of New York City teachers and our voice is limited to 5% of a largely dysfunctional body.

I'm not saying we don't accomplish anything. We support a lot of good causes. In fact, though they paint us as mindlessly contrarian, we support virtually everything Unity proposes. Are we going to oppose supporting striking workers somewhere? One week we brought up DACA at the same time they did, and the resulting resolution was a blend of our ideas.

The problem, of course, is that we are outnumbered 20 to 1. While it's true that some of those on the committee represent nurses and others, it's also true that they vote on teacher issues. So if we bring up class size, for example, they get to oppose our ideas even though they aren't affected by them at all. We can try to work out solutions with leadership. I held back on an already prepared class size resolution because Howard Schoor said they'd meet with us. I offered to meet over a week ago and have heard nothing but crickets.

It's significant that we have been prohibited from electing our own Vice President. This is because Michael Shulman of New Action, who I've gotten to know over the last year, once had the temerity to win that office. This was an unforgivable offense. What Unity did was wait until Shulman was out of office and then change the rules. All VPs would now be elected "at large."

Let's put that in perspective. Imagine that Donald Trump decided elections were not sufficiently rigged to please his discerning taste. Let's say he determined that New York's choice was too liberal, and that Andrew Cuomo was not frothing at the mouth insane enough to Make America Great Again. Let's say Trump therefore added Texas and Oklahoma to the pool of New York voters to insure that we'd elect a Republican.

Actually, I'm surprised at the number of Unity members I've said that to who've remarked how unfair it is. Nonetheless, that's our system. High school teachers have no elected representation in UFT officers. We are the only branch of UFT who did not vote for the current sitting officer, and the election is purposefully rigged to create that result.

That's not all, though. High school teachers, like all NYC teachers, pay dues to NYSUT, NEA and AFT. I don't remember offhand how many delegates we send to their meetings and conventions. I do know that New York City high school teachers, numbering more that the entire Philadelphia teacher union, have no elected representation in these organizations.

With Janus looming, I wonder how they explain that. In the highly unlikely event some door knocker shows up to my house, I'll ask about it. UFT now asks me, as a chapter leader, to organize some committee in my school to spread the word about union. I'm a strong believer in union. I will pay dues no matter what.

But if leadership wants high school teachers to go the extra mile for them, it's time for us to have a genuine voice and vote.
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