Tuesday, April 10, 2018

We're Negotiating a Contract, and Therefore Cannot Discuss Anything Whatsoever

That's about the sense I get from leadership.

Every few weeks I go to the UFT Executive Board. It's extraordinary, after all these years, to be able to direct questions to leadership. Now I don't always get an answer, but nonetheless it's extraordinary. It's also kind of sad that, in order to directly pose questions to leadership, you have to run for Executive Board and win. I spent a lot of time with Long Island locals a few years ago, and union leadership is much closer.

Before the last meeting I asked here, and also on Facebook and Twitter what people would like me to ask. I got an awful lot of responses about what people wanted in the contract. Here's the thing--all questions about the contract will be answered with, "That's the province of the 400-member negotiating committee."

That's not precisely the first answer I'd give if I were presiding over Janus. And we are not blameless in Janus. By jumping on board so early to endorse Hillary, which many of us saw as a fait accompli anyway, we may have affected the outcome. I don't know how many AFT people reminded me of 1972 in telling me why we couldn't endorse Bernie. In 1972 George McGovern opposed the Vietnam War and was considered a wild-eyed radical. In 2016 Hillary Clinton, the sure thing, lost the election and make no mistake, that's why we're facing Janus.

We, the AFT and UFT, declined to endorse a candidate who believed in universal health care, a living wage, and affordable college. Instead, we endorsed a candidate who was Not Donald Trump. While I'll freely admit that beats the hell out of Donald Trump, it wasn't enough to motivate enough Americans to get off their asses and vote in key states.

These are the same people telling us to rely on the good judgment of the 400-member committee. I can't tell you what goes on at that committee, but neither can I tell you what goes on in Unity Caucus meetings, and the overwhelming committee majority is Unity Caucus. Unity Caucus has brought us contract after contract, giveback after giveback, and we're still waiting for most of the money NYPD got back in 2009.

The city, according to PBA, is demanding draconian health givebacks. I can understand why they don't even wish to bother sitting down and discussing the insulting proposals. Bill de Blasio, if you read the NY Post, is some kind of hippie commie weirdo, but by a whole lot of standards, he negotiates far tougher than Bloomberg ever did. Take a look at the miserable pattern we imposed on our brothers and sisters--10% over seven years. As far as I know, that's the lowest pattern bargain in city history. And if that's not enough, take a look at your copays.

I'm glad it isn't my job to tell you everything, without exception, is wonderful. It is my job to tell you that we are certainly better with than without union. I know a whole lot of charter teachers and hear stories where they click their fingers and you jump, no matter how stupid the request is. I know exactly where each and every ATR teacher would be without a union. I have not been an ATR, but I once worked for a principal who'd certainly have fired me for having told a NY Times writer about two students in my ESL classes who actually knew English but were illiterate.

I have a friend who used to work for a charter, was treated in an unconscionable fashion, and now works in a public school. I criticize leadership a lot, but I do not take what I have for granted. We stand to lose an awful lot if we fail to support our union. To save it, we will all have to become active. That means, just for starters, we will all have to vote in union elections.

Should we do that, we may be able to seriously improve on leadership
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