Friday, July 13, 2018

Greetings from Not Pittsburgh

Today the AFT is holding a convention in Pittsburgh, PA. I'd very much like to be there, but decided not to go anyway. Everyone I wanted to go with is here in NY. They have all sorts of excuses. They're undergoing surgery, they have family emergencies, and all sorts of other trivial excuses. Mine is even more trivial--I'm not going because they aren't going.

It's too bad because I'd love to go there and write about it. This year they're featuring Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I'd be really interested to see what they say. I saw Hillary in Minneapolis two years ago. She told us we could learn from public charter schools. It was one of the stupidest things I've ever heard, and spoke to just how compromised she really was. All charter schools are public in that they take public money. They are private in the sense that they do whatever they golly gosh darn please without community oversight.

It's also too bad because the fact is NYC high schools have no vote and no voice there. Not one single person we voted for is in Pittsburgh, not even on our own dime. Every single one of the reps there will vote as they are told. I know this because I sat through a meeting in Minneapolis where some guy instructed every single UFT rep to vote yes on this and no on that. Anyway, while it's a great honor to pay dues to the AFT, it's disappointing to have absolutely no representation there. I'm unequivocally pro-union but that's indefensible.

It's ironic because on the Executive Board we vote for virtually everything they propose. Support strikers somewhere? Yes. Oppose oppression? Yes. Mom and apple pie? Yes to both, even though I've personally been off sugar for a while. I guess we got lucky that this was not the year of voting for Common Core, junk science evaluations, or John King as an impartial arbitrator.

In fairness, there were a few roads on which we parted ways. There was one resolution where we condemned the racism encouraged and enabled by one Donald Trump. Leadership removed Trump's name and attributed everything to "the presidential election." In retrospect, they may have been correct. You can't dump blame for everything on Donald Trump. It appears to me that Hillary Clinton is the biggest reason he's President, though I don't suppose she will make that her theme when addressing AFT. I'd still argue that winning UFT Executive Board seats gives us more right to be there than losing the US Presidential Election to the Worst Person on Earth.

In fact, I'd go even further. I'd argue that Hillary Clinton, via her terrible campaign, via her failure to present ideas more compelling than, "I'm not Donald Trump," and via her refusal to support ideas the American people support, like universal health care, a living wage, and affordable college, enabled Janus. It wasn't her intention to do that. It was her intention to take the least risky path, put herself out as little as possible, and win the presidency. She didn't inspire me, but since she was running against Donald Trump I got off my ass and voted for her. Alas, many didn't.

When you're in a rigged system, full of interference from within and without, you have to do better. Given Janus, UFT has to do better too. I don't expect to see 2005-style poison pills in the next contract agreement. Still, a system in which our "activists" are solely people who've agreed to represent leadership whether or not leadership represents membership needs to be fixed. It's a mistake to build brick walls and keep out those of us who don't believe in reforminess. It's a mistake to invite Diane Ravitch to speak while not allowing those of us who support her ideas to have a vote.

It was a fundamental and egregious error for AFT to jump ahead and support Hillary with no preconditions. It's another to think you can sustain the organization while purposely disenfranchising intrinsically motivated activism. In 2018 and going forward we can and must do a whole lot better.
blog comments powered by Disqus