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Exec. Board September 25 Takeaway--The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

So last Monday was a mixed bag. Let's get to the good. I was inspired by the women who spoke on child care. They managed to gather 80,000 signatures in support. Mulgrew spoke well, and said he would use that to work for us. He also said that he wouldn't settle for a crap deal like the one imposed on the non-union workers. I have the feeling that any agreement we hammer out would apply not only to us, but to other unions as well.

I was fascinated to hear that the women didn't know about Executive Board, had no idea it existed, and that there was nothing at UFT.org to even suggest it was possible to visit and speak. Things must've been great over there before we not only showed up and started asking questions, but also started inviting others. Howie Schoor, last year, showed amusement over questions, making jokes about them. On September 25, his position was, "If you hate someone, have them run for Executive Board." Hilarity notwithstanding, it speaks volumes on how some in Unity feel about having to endure free speech from rank and file twice a month before climbing back onto their pedestals.

Two years ago, some woman from Unity told everyone at the DA that women on maternity leave, and everyone on leave would have to wait for the "big magical chest" to open before they got the last payment. Now, it sounds like they will get that payment this year, this year's payment next year, and everything else a year later. Did anyone know that when they voted for the 2014 contract? I sure didn't. Not only is there no maternity benefit, but there's also an effective maternity tax. Unity voted it up before even seeing the MOA, which made no mention of it anyway. (Then, in case anyone has forgotten, there are those raised medical copays no one knew about when we voted.)

Adult ed. is alive and kicking, and Mulgrew spoke in unequivocal support. Of course the adult ed. situation has been going on for some time, and we heard from them last year as well. Let's hope that a meeting with the chancellor might do something to curb the terrible leadership she imposed on these teachers. Of course, words aren't deeds so we shall see. Mulgrew stayed over a half hour, which I've never seen before. Are we moving toward a situation where the President stays for the entire meeting? Probably not. If I were him, I wouldn't want direct credit for the way Executive Board is run.

There was much talk of a District Rep. who members suggested did not rep the district all that well. Howie Schoor characterized it as personal attack. If those stories were true, I'd want to tell them too. I have heard UFT people telling others they still had a job so they were alright. I knew one who, upon a complaint from someone suffering from cancer, astutely pointed out she was alive and somehow expected her to be consoled by that. I haven't heard the outright negative statements like you're screwed or something, but I know how I'd react if people spoke to me like that. You'd probably be reading about it here.

I presented research done by Class Size Matters and based on DOE stats. Schoor questioned its validity rather than addressing it. In a way, I don't blame him. Class size is out of control, and overcrowding is epidemic. UFT can form committees and study groups from now until Doomsday and the problems won't go away. It's nice that we placed class size into the contract half a century ago, but an update is long overdue. It behooves union leadership to address this crucial issue and they are failing utterly. (Schoor also claimed never to have heard of the 2014 law requiring de Blasio to pay rent for charters, which pretty much made my eyes roll to the back of my head.)

Despite all the grievance hearings I've attended (and I attend them twice yearly), the problem is getting worse. Some of the arbitrators are troglodytes, and it's frightening to imagine the future of UFT members can be in their hands. A week ago, a $2400 a day arbitrator ruled that it was OK for principals to cut up old programs the day before last in June, stick them in mailboxes and say they'd given complete programs. That was his learned interpretation of article 7A1. Imagine what would happen if your principal asked for your lesson plan and you gave him one from last year. Meanwhile, at class size hearings, brilliant arbitrators rule that if you have oversized classes, you get one day off from C6. That way the kids in oversized classes get less tutoring, so it's a WIN-WIN!

I'm still waiting for an answer to my question from the first meeting--whether UFT supports the NYSUT opposition to APPR, the resolution for which they voted unanimously. It's odd, because I've heard from leadership how wonderful this system is, how wonderful the system before that was, and how wonderful the system before that was. It's like everything that happens is the bestest thing ever, I know we said last year's was the bestest thing ever, but this year's bestest is even bester. Teacher morale, ironically, gets lower each and every year, despite how bestest it gets. And yet they voted to oppose this bestest of the best. Go figure.

I was surprised to hear Jackie Bennett defend using 7th grade scores as baselines for 8th grade teachers. These are tests for which there is a statewide moratorium. They don't count for the 7th grade teachers either. They are basically treated as meaningless by the state, and boycotted by a whole lot of students. But there you go--Unity voted against test-based evaluation but is pretty bullish on using the most discredited tests in the state as a baseline to judge teachers.

It was pretty ugly when they moved to the resolution about resolutions. I was shocked they felt the need to further restrict us. It's not like it's a fair fight to begin with. It's not like we have anything resembling proportional representation. It's not like anyone at Adcom represents those of us who voted. It's not like we have any vote or voice in NYSUT or AFT, to whom we pay dues. You'd think they'd be happy with that. But that's not enough for them.

They vote down absolutely everything we bring just because we brought it. But that's not enough. Evidently, they need more time to try to muster arguments against things that are often not even debatable.

With one word from the dais, they all vote as they're told, and upon request, argue for it passionately. After all, there are those after school gigs and such they've literally signed a loyalty oath for. The free trips to Schenectady. All you have to do is get up and say ATRs are delighted to dump their careers immediately for 50 thousand bucks, or it's empowering when members are guilty until proven innocent at 3020a.

Unity makes the rules and may change them at will, as Howard Schoor pointed out. If I can go to a forum in which I'm outnumbered 19 to 1 twice a month, where they vote against us just for the sake of voting against us, I can adjust to whatever.

For me, it's ironic, because I just came off of bringing in a resolution through a UFT official, having it blended with their own, personally motivating the resolution and having it passed unanimously. I am more than happy to work like that. But if that's not good enough for them I can also write a resolution in ten minutes. I can make copies, leave them around the tables at 5:30 and make them vote down things that teachers want, twice monthly. I'm flexible like that. I can do other things too. I have a lot of ideas.

All I can tell you is that if I were a union head facing Janus, I would move to increase democracy rather than suppress it. I would move to heed member voice rather than acquire better earplugs so as to avoid hearing it. I would embrace activism rather than build walls around it.

Here's my tip of the week--bet dimes to dollars that come Janus, NYPD and FDNY keep a far higher percentage of members than we do.

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