Friday, January 18, 2019

Moving Forward

I'm running for UFT Executive Board again, and this time I am running on the Unity Caucus line. I have not joined the caucus, but they approached Mike Schirtzer and me and specifically asked that we keep challenging them. Given our former caucus stabbed Mike in the back, and was surely not looking for me to run again, this was the best option for us, albeit one we did not at all anticipate.

It's sad when ostensible teacher groups chose to place narrow sectarian goals over real teacher interests. It's pretty easy to get up on your hind legs and shout about striking. Strike, though, is something you do as a last resort, after everything else has failed. In New York State, with Andrew Cuomo pretending this year to be Bernie Sanders, we have better options.

Strike in New York means losing two days pay for each day we're out. It also means coming back, as Norm Scott did, to be probationary employees for a year. That would give the still-Bloomberg DOE carte blanche to fire real activist teachers. While I'm not keen on that notion, I'd walk if times warranted. However, we are not up against the wall that striking American teachers found themselves facing. A strike would not garner public support today, and it would be easy for our enemies to beat back what support and alliances we now enjoy. Janus proponents would have a field day, at our dire long-term expense.

Teacher priorities are certainly not the priorities of fanatical ideologues looking to foment revolution and utilize our union as a vehicle. Teacher priorities, however, are my priorities. They are Mike Schirtzer's priorities as well. We believe empowering teachers is a fundamental social justice issue. We've made ourselves available to members who wanted to meet with us twice monthly for the past three years, and we plan to continue doing so. Even if that were not the case, I'm chapter leader of a very large school and I see teacher issues up close and personal every day of my working life.

Over the last year, Mike and I have been able to work well with leadership, and over this year alone, we've been able to move forth some important incentives for membership. First was parental leave, which means every UFT parent will be able to get six weeks of fully paid leave when giving birth or adopting. The system is not perfect, but demanding perfection is not a feasible way to move forward. UFT's priority was getting a leave that was fully paid, and that's why this one looks the way it does.

Mike Schirtzer brought Emily James to Executive Board, where she spoke of how important it was that we work toward this. Mulgrew got up, said he would get this done, and proceeded to do so.  Teachers in my building were jubilant at hearing about this agreement. It will get a lot of use in our building. Can it be improved? Of course. And now we have something to build on. I think the best improvement would be a national agreement, and there's nothing precluding our working toward that either.

I was very involved in the last Contract Committee, very much at the urging of UFT High School VP Janella Hinds. I was at first quite discouraged by the massively large group, but when Janella dragged me back we were in much smaller groups. We got to speak face to face with the DOE muckety-mucks. I was fascinated by hearing the muck from the very mouths of the DOE mucketies. I spent several summer days at 52 Broadway doing that, and also speaking truth to muck.

I pushed for fewer observations and lower class sizes. While we won only one of two, it is significant. (I was pretty surprised to hear, from the head muckety's mouth, that the DOE doesn't give a crap about class size. Maybe that could be their new motto. Instead of, "Children First, Always," they could say, "We don't give a crap about class size.") The number one complaint I get as chapter leader of a huge school is the observation system. It's clunky and oppressive, and halving the number of observations cuts the oppression almost by the same percentage. Of course there is much work to be done. I want to be part of the team doing it.

Janus has been a game changer for me. I was horrified to see people, in my Twitter feed, quoting me and using the hashtag, "My pay, my say." I blocked them. I have always been pro-union, and I will no longer give our enemies fuel to attack us. Janus was step one, and there are further attacks down the road. We need to not only survive, but also thrive. We need to take this arrow aimed at our collective heart, forge it to be far stronger, and turn it against those who'd destroy us.

Janus appears to have been a game changer for leadership too. I'm encouraged that they would approach us to continue speaking out, even though they do not always agree with us. It's important that leadership hear our voices and that we be there to make them heard. It's significant that they were responsive to us last year, and it's important that we rep membership now and in the future.

Leadership has also asked us to go to NYSUT and AFT conventions, somewhere I've thought we should've been for years. I will report back from all, and you will know what goes on firsthand. We have not agreed to vote in any bloc, nor have we been asked to. I believe along with Mike Schirtzer and me, Mindy Rosier will be joining us. This is unprecedented and a step forward.

I have looked at everything going on this year, and I've determined this is the best way to move ahead. I've long stood with opposition, However, due to the dedicated efforts of a handful of disingenuous intransigent jackasses, opposition is going nowhere but backward. I've seen internal communications asserting one caucus does not wish to win, and that they're running only to keep their name out there. Maybe they're looking for ways to lose even more spectacularly in the future. Who knows? 

I'm going to work not only to preserve and grow our union, but also to help it move into the future. I'm going to try and save ESL students and teachers who face the blithering idiocy that emanates from Albany. I'm going to work to find better solutions to issues like insane evaluations, insane supervisors, rampant overcrowding, and hurtful class sizes.

I'm very happy that Unity Caucus has invited us to take part in these efforts. I very much look forward to working with them over the next three years.
blog comments powered by Disqus