I sometimes have issues with what UFT Secretary Howard Schoor says but in retrospect, he said two of the most important things I heard all night. First of all, in answer to my question as to why no one got to vote on the ATR agreement, he gave the only credible and honest answer, stating they don't need no stinking votes, thank you very much. Perhaps more importantly, he unwittingly answered the question that haunted me for much of Monday night's meeting--how could so many people get up in public and say so many stupid things? I'll get to that later.
I sat for much of the evening shaking my head, literally, as I furiously tried to record the statements of the Unity faithful. One in particular shocked me, claiming that he spoke to two ATR teachers who were really excited about the buyout prospect. As someone who regularly speaks to ATR teachers face to face, on social media, via unsolicited email, on the phone and elsewhere, I found that impossible to swallow. It's inherently frustrating to be an ATR, being a teacher yet not a teacher, and I saw little or no understanding of that from Unity.
This buyout is beneficial if you are either on the cusp of retirement or are so frustrated and beaten down you're ready to walk. If you've already filed your papers, hoping to grab a sub license, you're out of luck and probably angry about getting left out. I know one person who took a permanent but tenuous appointment who's not happy about finding this out right now.
However, I also know one person for whom this is tailor made. I won't share her circumstances except to tell you this came at a perfect time for her. While I'm happy she can walk away with an extra 50 thousand bucks, and take a dream vacation, send a kid to college, or whatever, I also know this is a bittersweet moment for her. She's kind of painted into a corner on this. While she will enjoy the money, she's not happy about being pushed into a position in which she has to abandon her career. And if not even she is excited about this, it's impossible to conceive that two random ATR teachers would be.
Here's my exchange with Schoor:
Arthur Goldstein--MORE--Given the near certainty of impending US Supreme Court decisions it seems a good idea for our union to expand, rather than abridge fundamental democracy.
In 2011, there was an ATR agreement voted on by the Executive Board and the DA. In 2014, there was an ATR agreement that was part of the UFT Contract, and of course we voted on that too. This year, we have an ATR agreement that was not voted on by the DA, or any rank and file, let alone ATRs. Clearly there is precedent for us to vote on ATR agreements.
Why was that precedent not followed this year?
Schoor—No obligation for us to have a vote on ATR agreements. I see there is a resolution and we can debate that.
Now this says a lot. In fact, there is not always debate over matters we introduce. More often, LeRoy Barr gets up to speak against it, and everyone in Unity understands they are to vote against it. Schoor knew we would debate it because that's what they planned. They somehow put out the bat signal, texting or emailing a bunch of people to get up and oppose our motion.
What continually shocked me was the sheer volume of people who had nothing to say but got up and said it anyway. Though they got up one after the other and defended the agreement, we hadn't even criticized it. All we asked was that rank and file, or at least Exec. Board and DA, get a vote on this. We pointed out that ATRs had no say in this. Oddly, almost every Unity speaker ignored our argument altogether. They got up in rapid succession and claimed this agreement was made in good faith. Yet no one had claimed otherwise. They said this gave ATR teachers an option. Yet no one had said it didn't. When you argue against something your opponent did not actually say, that's known as a strawman. It's a logical fallacy.
Admittedly, a few of the speakers defended the failure to permit a vote. Schoor, to his credit, was up front about it. Several said we trust leadership to make those decisions. However, it was leadership that permitted ATRs to exist in the first place, an egregious error they permitted in 2005, an error for which thousands of UFT members have been paying the price ever since. And it's the height of hubris for these same people to get up and insist ATR teachers ought not to have any voice whatsoever in their destiny.
As Norm Scott pointed out, it would have been very easy for them to take all the wind out of our sails by holding a vote that very evening. They could then have said, "There. You asked for a vote and you've had it." In their haste, that didn't occur to them. Instead they got up and spouted a great deal of nonsense.
A recent column on this blog bemoaned the lack of positive vision in many administrators. It's a big problem when administrators are focused on nothing but their own advancement. Unfortunately, the same issue exists in the upper echelons of UFT. A mind focused on defending the status quo at any cost is less than productive, and I have met many such people who are employed full time by the UF of T. Instead of looking forward for members, they focus on glorifying leadership. I'm surprised there aren't ten-foot statues of Michael Mulgrew in front of Queens UFT.
I'm encouraged by people in leadership who are smart, who focus on problem-solving and moving ahead. I know a handful of such people and hope to find more. But as long as they keep stocking the Executive Board and district offices with loyalty oath signers who possess little to no positive vision, it's gonna be an uphill climb.