Friday, April 20, 2018

UFT and Janus--Can We Be Proactive Beyond Collecting Dues?

I couldn't make it to the DA Wednesday night, though I wanted to go. I understand this was the big release for the UFT app. I know that because I just got an email from Michael Mulgrew, asking me to install the app. I did and now can see Frankenstein, the Musical at a discount. I can get discounts at Heavenly Crumbs and Chatime Bubble Tea. You've got a whole lot of phone numbers at your fingertips. The possibilities are endless, and I'm sure it will be improved upon. Still, I kind of wish it hadn't taken a gun to the union's head to produce it.

Evidently, this isn't the same app I'll be using to sign up members in my building, but there is an app for that. I actually have to give UFT numbers of thirty or so of us who will be trying to sign up our 300 members. It's a big job, and I didn't love it a lot. Someone had to assign about ten members to each of the thirty plus, and despite my best intentions otherwise, it turned out to be me.

We will each get a list, and we will be able to sign up people as union via our phones. It's a good idea, I think. This is the first time I've actually collected phone numbers for the union, though I've been asked on multiple previous occasions. I don't mind the face to face, but the prep work was no fun.

For me union is a moral imperative. Though I've skipped a few nights this week, and though I've gotten more sleep than I'd had any right to hope for, I don't spend my free time running to 52 Broadway just for laughs. I don't do it for money either (though as an Exec. Board member they now reimburse my parking and tolls). So it's hard for me to respect people's decisions to say, "Screw it. I'm not paying." When these people don't pay, it will be my work and money (and yours) carrying them.

There is a new law in NY, though, and I wasn't sure it was going to be successful until Chaz said so. I don't always agree with Chaz, but when he makes a wholly unexpected statement like this I have to. A lot of people will kick and scream, but I'm not sure how many will be hiring lawyers to rep them when the principal says they threw that cheeseburger at a student. Also, I'm not sure how effective a lawyer would be, even if his tie turned out to be considerably nicer than mine.

I'm glad, though, not to have to provide services for people who reject the work that we do. It really makes me sad when I meet members who decide the entire UFT sucks because one decision didn't go their way. I negotiate a lot, and I go to a lot of hearings, and decisions don't always go my way either. I can't manually insert brains into arbitrators, and much as I wish they came pre-installed, they blather any way they choose and make ridiculous decisions. (Of course, sometimes they're right, and those are the times we hope for.)

So I have to say, even though I don't always approve of leadership, they made a good deal here. Of course, the timing was great, with Andrew Cuomo intent on convincing America he's the Second Coming of Bernie Sanders. Andrew Cuomo reminds me of a character called Mr. Haney on Green Acres. Mr Haney will sell anything to anyone at any time. Two years ago, Cuomo was calling us a self-serving industry that cared nothing for children. Now he's our best bud, but that too will change with any way the wind blows.

Here's my problem with this program, successful though it is. The upside of Janus, and another reason I'm willing to run around and organize, is that we finally have leadership reaching out to us. This is a great organizing activity, involving a whole lot of us. Alas, if this is as successful as I think it will be, they may decide to sit atop 52 Broadway and continue to look down indifferently on rank and file issues, same as it ever was. That would be sad for a number of reasons.

First, leadership only noticed we were a union in anything more than name when Janus reared its ugly head. That's when they started to get people to knock on our doors, though they're a long way from reaching all of us. I'm not holding my breath for a UFT doorknocker here in Freeport NY. I'd argue that leadership was perfectly content with a membership in which three out of four of us can't be bothered voting in union elections. That way, it's Unity now, Unity tomorrow, and Unity forever.

Leadership is still tone deaf to working teachers. Yesterday I spoke with one who's been rated Highly Effective three years in a row. She's much-loved by her supervisor, and likely by everyone else. Yet she hates Danielson and she hates APPR. She is terrified by the observation process even though it's deemed her universally excellent. Not a single UFT official has been through Danielson, and not a single one knows what teachers feel.

When we go to Executive Board and say we should have the state minimum of two a year for teachers who do well that way, we're told teachers do better with more. I'll bet you, though, that when teachers are rated effective, almost all will say good enough for me and hang it up until the following year. When we say we need lower class sizes, we're told we made sacrifices fifty years ago and we're forming a group you aren't in, so sit down and shut up.

I'm very happy that UFT can continue being UFT. Leadership moved quickly and decisively to assure that dues money would continue coming in. Now I'd like to see that sort of alacrity applied to the issues working teachers grapple with each and every day.

Monday night I will certainly bring another one to their attention. And if they say, "We'll get back to you." I won't need a psychic to tell me just how seriously they take it.
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