Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Them Changes

This has been a very odd year for me. I find myself in positions I'd never imagined, and I find myself more in sync with union leadership than with at least most of the opposition. There are a few reasons for this.

The first is Janus. For years I'd heard leadership say we're facing Giuliani/ Bloomberg/ Cuomo and who knows what else, and therefore it's not a good time for criticism. I never bought that. It's always a good time for criticism when the contract is so flawed it stands out like a sore thumb. I won't belabor all the issues we had in 2005, but there was no way I could support that contract. The rationale was we got money, but I'd have rather done without it.

Janus is different. It's an existential threat. It's not just another bloviating politician rambling on about how much we suck. It's a serious attack on union itself and working Americans. We won't know how much it will hurt us until the spring, and the ones after that, when the reformies and right-wingers start airing commercials about, "my pay, my say," and other misleading crap suggesting that weakening union strengthens workers. To my ear, this sounds very much like "war is peace," or, "freedom is slavery." This notwithstanding, in a country where Donald Trump can be President, these arguments have to be taken seriously.

A second hit, for me at least, was when the MORE Caucus stabbed several of my friends in the back, kicked them to the curb, and followed up by asking others to leave. It's funny, because for years I've criticized Unity for a loyalty oath. MORE made a lot of noise about how they wanted to be with people like them, who believed the same things they did. That's antithetical to union. I represent everyone in my building, and it's none of my business who they voted for. I don't get to decide that this person is too conservative for me. Who I like and who I don't is besides the point. I had envisioned a big tent for opposition, but that wasn't what they wanted.

I understand one MORE member, not satisfied with having lost in a landslide to Mulgrew, went and ran on the statewide Green ticket, so as to lose by a more spectacular margin. I'm not particularly sure how that represents moving forward, but any group that stabs my friends in the back is not one I'll be moving with anyway. Just to ensure they lose by a wider margin this year, if they even run, they've decided not to align with New Action. Great strategic thinking, guys. I'm glad you don't run the union. Doubtless you'd purge a bunch of us for thinking the wrong way just as you did in your little clique.

The final change is one I've seen this year in Unity Caucus. I'm not part of it, but I know that everyone in leadership is a member. This year Mike Schirtzer dragged Emily James and a friend to Executive Board. After they spoke, Mulgrew vowed to get paid parental leave, and a few months later, he did. It was remarkable to play even an indirect part of this. Of course, I read a whole lot about things like losing six weeks of seniority if you took fully paid leave. I once spent months out of the country engineering an adoption, and I'd have been more than happy to work an extra six weeks, if that's what it took to be fully paid.

We were also able to negotiate fewer observations for teachers, something members in my building have been demanding since the inception of this evaluation system. In fact, I also saw fewer observations demanded on opposition blogs, When we got it, though, it didn't mean anything. Why didn't we take back every giveback since 2005? Why didn't we get a raise that surpassed the pattern? Why didn't we do all that with no givebacks whatsoever?

Those aren't very tough questions, so I won't bother to address them. I will say, though, that our voices moved leadership to demand and win two observations. I'm certain leadership has taken note of Janus as well, and I'm pretty sure there will be no more 2005-style contracts, ever. There will also be more energy devoted to organizing. If there's any upside to Janus, that's it.

I'm not jumping up and down doing cartwheels over the contract, but to me, it was the first decent one in decades. Along with most working teachers, I voted yes. I don't know what happens to opposition now. For an effective opposition, you need something that really bears opposing. I'm just not seeing that in this contract. Those of us who served on the committee had a definite voice in it, and to reject it would be to turn our backs on our own work.

Of course, there are forces worth opposing. I oppose Trump, largely because he's a malignant, bigoted, racist, xenophobic, small-minded, self-centered, self-serving, mendacious, narcissistic, juvenile, delusional, stinking weasel. To me, those are less than ideal qualities in a leader. I oppose his SCOTUS because most of the country voted against not only Trump, but also GW. This court would not look the way it does if it reflected the will of the American people. The House election was a referendum on Donald Trump, and he lost.

Our country is in crisis, and union is sporting a big old target on its back. I'm up for a fight, but I've got a very clear notion of exactly who our enemy is. We rise or fall together. I don't know about you, but I'm not working to fall.
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