Friday, April 19, 2019

Time to Move Forward

First of all, thanks to all who voted for me. I'm honored to serve another term on UFT Executive Board representing high schools. I hope my voice will help us advance in some small way. Thanks to all who voted at all, because apathy is our biggest enemy. Congratulations to all my brothers and sisters who ran on the Unity slate with me and won.

I know some people are disappointed I went this way. It's beyond odd for me, because I'd been on the other side for so long. I started this blog back in 2005, with the intention of defending my union against the slings and arrows of the local papers. The editorial boards seemed to hate the fact that we drew breath (let alone salary). But I was taken aback by that year's contract, the worst I'd ever seen. It turned me into a pain-in-the-ass blogger, which turned me into a UFT chapter leader, which turned me into who I am right now.

Odd though this journey has been, odder still was finally winning a union election a few years back and getting no support whatsoever from the caucus with which I ran. For a long time I thought I was promoting them and their brand, emphasizing it with every word any of us said at Executive Board. I thought we could expand our victory. I had no idea that wasn't what they wanted. I was pretty shocked when they moved to waste my time and tie my hands. I thought, if I wanted to be treated like that I'd have joined Unity. Given that, it was a great surprise to me when Unity approached Mike Schirtzer and me and said keep doing what you're doing, sign nothing, and work with us.

People have told me yeah, you can do that, but now you won't be able to publicly trash Unity anymore. Here's the thing, though--I'm not in the habit of trashing people with whom I work. I'm not in the habit of trashing people who actively support my work. (I'm not even sure I know anyone with those habits.)

I see a change in direction post-Janus, and I'm sorry if you don't. I don't think we'll ever see another contract in the style of 2005. I've seen leadership changed, and I've seen it exemplified by the way in which they reached out to us. I've seen it in the bottom-up way parental leave and fewer observations were achieved. I can only paint what I see.  (However, for those who enjoy seeing people trashed, I pledge to do my fair share on worthy targets.)

As working people, we face great challenges in the near future. We have a President who hates us and everything we stand for. We have a governor whose loyalties sway with the wind, whose principles change from day to day. Let's hope he continues to try and be Bernie Lite, but we'd best be ready for anything.

Locally we have the most progressive mayor we've had in years, but his hands are tied by a state law that forces him to pay rent for the likes of Eva Moskowitz. (In fairness, Eva is forced to scrape by on less than 800K a year. Honestly, you can barely buy a house in Queens for that anymore.) We have a chancellor who is brilliant and articulate, but weighted down by Tweed, jam-packed with Bloomberg leftovers, all of whom should have been fired when de Blasio took office. 

I'm glad it's not my job to somehow twist this year's results as an opposition victory. This notwithstanding, I guess I should congratulate my former running mates on the MORE Caucus (or what's left of it after the various purges). They set out to lose the election and did so in spectacular fashion, garnering fewer than 25% of the votes they did last time. That's a remarkable achievement from one election to the next. However, if you pinpoint those who work the hardest and care the most, then do everything you can possibly do to alienate them, you can really reduce your numbers. Considering the years of name recognition they were burdened with, this was no simple task.

I've got a different vision. My vision is better conditions for working teachers and the students we serve. One thing MORE has right is that our working conditions are student learning conditions. There is now a well-financed movement that will pretend to care about giving us a raise, but which in reality wants to achieve precisely the opposite. Without union, we'd be like our red state colleagues. We'd have no tenure, and work on year to year contracts. My friend in Florida tells me the best contract she can get is a "permanent" one, which is good for five years.

That's not what I want for new teachers. That's not the kind of future I envision for my colleagues or my students. We need to move our union forward, and we need to be a beacon for those in red states. Of course we can actively support them. Beyond that, we need to keep battling straight ahead, and we need to win. By supporting ourselves, by thriving in the face of adversity, we support them too.
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