Saturday, March 31, 2018

UFT Executive Board Takeaway, March 26, 2018

I'm hard-pressed to discuss what goes on at the Executive Board. Its primary function is to rubber stamp whatever. There is no virtually debate or discussion, ever, unless you pretend things whose conclusions are pre-ordained are not so.  Nonetheless, our presence there means UFT leadership has to publicly discuss things like class size and reasonable representation of ATR members. Our inclusion of a few groups has managed to help as well.

I remain flabbergasted at their inability to formulate credible arguments. I'm no genius, but every time I hear the things they say I think I could argue the other side better. I don't mean once in a while, but rather each and every time. In fact, I spoke to one former ATR teacher the day we proposed representation for them, and she made arguments that did not cross a single Unity mind. She made me consider withdrawing our resolution, but most ATR teachers I know favored it. I'm not going to write the argument here. Unity will have to figure it out themselves.

We heard several ATR teachers speak. You won't see their comments in the official meeting minutes because guest speaker comments are not recorded. Nor are questions. I have no idea why this is. I have no idea why the UFT president doesn't engage in these meetings. The only conclusion I can reach is that meetings are intended to be pro forma and of no actual significance. We're not supposed to discuss the upcoming contract, for example, because there's a committee of 300 400 talking about it.

Mulgrew stressed the importance of teams at schools encouraging union. I agree on that. If we don't have a union, we pretty much have nothing to discuss, and principals have carte blanche to do any damn thing they feel like. Of course many already do that, with the support of the Bloomberg holdovers in "legal," but we are still able to fight back. Teachers without unions are teachers without contracts. If you want to know how that goes, try working in a charter school.

I have personal struggles with this, because even as we fight for the union, Unity publicly paints us as traitors and liars. They decline to work with us at all, even as they publicly declare otherwise. I was unable to get anyone in leadership to discuss class size with an eye toward writing a resolution, even though they publicly and privately offered to do so. Instead, they simply cut out all references to actual class size changes and placed a line in that indicated they are already working on class size. I'd argue that when you work on something for 50 years and fail to improve it, it's time to reconsider your approach.

Last year Unity unilaterally decided they needed advance notice of resolutions. I presume this was so they'd have time to develop better arguments to reject our requests. Let's examine some of the arguments they came up with on March 26th, in opposition to our resolution ATR teachers elect leaders who'd actually represent them.

The first argument was that this came up three years ago. I suppose this suggests either that nothing can change over three years, or that any decision the Executive Board made based on loyalty oath could never be wrong. I'd agree that little has changed over three years. Still, UFT Leadership did not just come down from Mount Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments, and they are more fallible than they acknowledge.

As for the second argument, that the Chapter Leader represents ATR teachers in schools, that's true, at least theoretically. I have represented ATR teachers in my building. I have also heard horror stories from ATRs who did not get anything like adequate representation, and who have been told to put up with things they should not. However, that's not even the point. The point is these ATR teachers do not get to vote for anyone who actually represents them. This point was ignored in every single Unity argument.

The next person said that this would be a big mistake because it would be saying we want to have the ATR forever. That's what you call a strawman. First of all, no one who signed this resolution wants to have the ATR at all. In fact, the ATR was the single most egregious thing in the awful 2005 Contract, and is largely what turned me to have the beliefs I now hold. In case that's not enough, our resolution specifically asked that the chapter exist only until the ATR was eliminated.

The most interesting argument was the last one, where a member got up and said that he was an ATR when he first started in 2003. This was particularly curious because the ATR was not even established until 2005. Even if you accept the premise that this person was an ATR two years before the ATR existed, how does someone get hired as an ATR? Most ATRs have either left closing schools or been placed after disciplinary hearings. Why would the DOE actually hire someone for whom they had no position? I don't imagine even Klein doing something like that.

I was also put off by the notion that ATRs left a school feeling like they were part of the family. A lot of ATRs I know leave feeling like they've been booted from the family. This was the same person who argued he'd met two ATRs delighted by the severance package. Oddly, my school is much larger than his, I speak with ATRs from all over the city, and what I mostly heard was outrage.

I was glad that KJ Ahluwalia got up and spoke reason. He came from a closing school and while he landed on his feet, many of his colleagues didn't. I have no idea how so many Unity people can stand up and say to ATR teachers that they don't merit a vote in who represents them. That's unconscionable.

As usual, Unity is behind the curve. In America today, the trend is depriving people of their vote altogether. Unity has merely allowed ATRs to vote for someone who, once elected, will not actually represent them.
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