Sunday, January 7, 2007

SHAME


I received this about a month ago but it got lost on my desktop. It is still very relevant despite the overwhelming passage of the contract and indicates that a lot of people voted "yes" while holding their noses.

Notes to myself on the way home from the OCTOBER (‘06) UFT DELEGATE ASSEMBLY

by an elementary school chapter leader, unaffiliated with any caucus

I am ashamed I did not speak out publicly that there was a grave wrongdoing at this evening’s Delegate Assembly.

Regardless of the fact that agendas for tonight’s October Delegate Assembly were mailed to the delegates’ homes just the night before last, as Chapter Leaders and Delegates arrived at Union Headquarters they received an amended agenda.

On this new agenda were the bargaining coalition demands. The assembly was told that the first bargaining session was to be held tomorrow therefore it was imperative the assembly decide by vote tonight whether they wanted to accept these demands or reject them. It was explained that if the vote carried to table the demands we would lose the opportunity to bargain with the coalition.

Then, an outspoken chapter leader named Dave made a very valid complaint when a few members began to question the lack of sufficient notice and asked to table the decision.

To paraphrase Dave, he argued: Three hundred people worked diligently and gave of their time over the summer to hash out these demands and it is unfair to disregard their work.

That is very noble - perhaps the gravity of the problem is escaping Dave’s overworked consciousness. When the membership or any people are kept in the dark it weakens us all. In these difficult times when workers’ rights are being eroded away it is especially important to fuel and foster openness - the sharing of information is key to building strong organizations.

Why had we heard nothing ALL SUMMER from this negotiating committee? Nothing on the results of the survey? Which can also be argued against as a very narrow focus for NEW contract demands. The members I have personally spoken with since the ratification of the last contract had many issues they would like addressed the next time around.

For example: A YEARLY CALENDAR on a PAR WITH OTHER NEW YORK STATE SCHOOL DISTRICTS -the state minimum is 180 days.

Why do we have a variable number of work days/year unlike any other unionized school system?

SET HOLIDAYS (this year they took Veterans Day-What next?)

LOSS OF SENIORITY RIGHTS: ALL those members who were told by their seniors: “YOUR DAY WILL COME - you’ll get your chance- you just have to work long enough.
NOW that they have put in the time-their time has come but there is little to no rights left.
Check out the new contracts article 15E.
DESCRIPTIONS for NEW PER SESSION jobs- talk about leaving loopholes!

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is merely a brief beginning to stress my point.

The ONE CRUCIAL question is: Why isn’t Dave along with the rest of the DA asking:

Why NOT table it until we can disseminate this IMPORTANT information to the membership for discussion and debate?

The membership needs to be well informed in a timely manner not rushed and forced into making decisions that offer only one choice, which is in effect NO CHOICE AT ALL.

This agenda item #1 was presented to the membership to vote on.

Without question, to engage in this type of practice is not simply unfair, it is far worse - it is disgraceful. Those who bear the title of EDUCATOR MUST ASSUME the responsibility that goes along with that title.

These coalition demands that were the new item on the amended agenda needed serious and thought-provoking discussion among EDUCATORS - the membership - the very people who – we, as delegates, ALL represent - this is probably the most disturbing fact - that we were asked to vote on something without input of any kind from the membership.

I am most ashamed for NOT speaking out in the face of this type of disregard.

Educators share a set of values where integrity and the promotion of healthy and lively debate are held in the highest regard. To refrain from acting and speaking out on this is MORE THAN disregard for A PROFESSIONAL responsibility. It is a shunning of A MORAL obligation.

I now seek repentance and hope my fellow colleagues will join me.

First and foremost, we must engage among ourselves to speak and act in accordance with our moral responsibility as educators.

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