Thursday, August 30, 2018

Oklahoma Shows We Are Powerful When We Stand Together

NY Magazine ran an amazing article about how Oklahoma teachers stood together and made GOP tools pay for their indifference to education, the voters and their children. This is what happens when working people come together, ignore the blaring noise of those who feel life's purpose is to enrich billionaires, and vote the bastards out. This story is full of wonderfully crafted paragraphs:

Tess Teague mocked the ignorance of protesters who were demanding tax hikes on fracking companies — in a Snapchat video that made heavy use of animal filters. Sooner voters just gave Teague a lot more time to spend with her social media accounts.

I'm really happy to see teachers engaging in such effective collective action. Sadly, the impetus for it was things getting simply so awful that no one could tolerate the job anymore. Pay was so low teachers could not make ends meet. The Republican pigs saw education as a place to cut so as to support their caprices and megadonors.

Here in New York, things are not nearly so bad. I have a friend in a school district just over the Queens line, and he told me top salary over there was within a thousand dollars of NYC. That is not actually a result of our gaining wonderful amazing raises, but rather Cuomo's two-percent tax cap, which has seriously slowed teacher raises in the rest of the state.

Yet we are fractured, with the majority likely wallowing in indifference. No, there hasn't been a mass exodus from union, but neither has there been a massive, focused and well-financed campaign to destroy us. Make no mistake, it's coming. Fred Klonsky posted the photo above on Facebook yesterday. and refers to it as "a waste of stamps."I certainly hope he's right.

There is no doubt whatsoever that our union has become complacent and sleepy after decades of guaranteed dues. Our focus on organizing has been sloppy, indifferent, and bordered on non-existent for decades. It's a new thing to have to reach out and listen. There is a bright side, of course. I don't think we'll see another 2005-style contract, ever. Leadership will have to think very carefully before tossing a giveback-laden piece of crap to us and claiming it scrapes the skies.

On the other hand, after decades of self-congratulatory action, painting absolutely everything as a great victory no matter what, they're going to have to be just a little more introspective. No more can they say Bloomberg wanted 8 pieces of Danielson, but we got 22 so it's a victory, then turn around and say we reduced it to 7 and that's a victory too. No longer can union reps tell aggrieved members they still have a job and therefore everything's okay. No longer can we support pols who hate us and everything we stand for and tell members that's as good as it gets. Old habits die hard.

For my part, I see what the Koch Brothers and the Walmart family want, and they can't have it. They want to tear us apart so we'll have no collective strength. They will succeed with some of us. Some people just see an opportunity to keep a little money and will go with that. I'd argue those people are not socially responsible enough to be teachers. Others will think of past grievances, decide the union sucks, and go that way. I've had people argue to me that their chapter leader sucks, and therefore they shouldn't have to pay. To me, if your chapter leader sucks, you run to replace him, or at least find someone else who will.

I'm irked by people who say the UFT sucks. If that's true, then we suck. In fact, when only 25% of us vote in leadership elections, we kind of suck big time. What kind of role models are we when we don't even give a crap who leads us? So there are a few scenarios here. One is that we allow the corporate giants to get us to leave en masse, watch the collapse of our union, watch our working conditions and pay deteriorate until we are at a point as low as Oklahoma. Then we rise from the ashes like a phoenix, run the corporate bastards from office, and step by step win our way back.

Here's the thing, though. That's not gonna happen. I see the anger of teachers at other places on the net. I don't believe those teachers have the numbers, let alone the voice to become something. I also don't believe the bastards who send this crap will succeed in crippling us. I think leadership is feeling the pressure and needs to continue doing so.

Standing together is a big ask, but we need to find a way to do it. It would be a lot more productive to do from where we are now, rather than wait until we're swirling the drainpipe.
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