Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teachers Unite Chapter Leader Support

I'm on the road this week. I'm up in Manchester, NH at FIRST HQ for a robotics conference this week so blogging may be sketchy. Certainly, no graphics.

Monday night was a busy one. There was lots of stuff going on at the PEP meeting at Stuyvesant HS with the anti-mayoral control parent group and others on military recruitment.

I couldn't make it because Teachers Unite was holding its prospective chapter leader training session. Michael Fiorillo (ICE), Megan Behrent (TJC) and I were the old hands answering a wealth of questions from people thinking of running either for CL or Delegate.

If you are running or thinking of running for chapter leader or are involved in supporting a candidate in your school, the discussion was very valuable. We hope to continue meeting and eventually form a meaningful support group for chapter leaders that will be able to link the role of union leader at the school level with the broader issues facing teachers.

There was a lot of meat on the table to chew on and I will try to report on some of it when I get a chance this week to follow up.

Here is one item that came up:

The type of support CLs get from the union varies. The key person is the District Rep. Since Randi killed elections (they used to be elected by the CLs in the district) they are more beholden to the leadership than to the members. But I maintain they were never all that beholden in the first place since they were all in the ruling Unity Caucus, which runs the union as a one party system.

The DR is like an overseer, watching for signs of dissonance. They keep CL from wandering off the reservation. CLs feel very beholden to the DR as they are the major conduit to the UFT and even friends of Ed Notes and ICE often feel wary of handing out our literature. ("My DR will rip me a new a-hole if I pass this out was one comment.")

Monthly District meetings of CL are always well attended, way more than Delegate Assemblies. There the DR passes out the word of what the union needs them to do. You see, the union views CLs as their employees and gophers even though they are chosen by their staffs. Thus, these meetings are filled with "Do Nows" and very few DRs hold full discussions and brainstorming sessions for CLs to help each other with their issues and coordinate a multi-school strategy. The goal is to keep them all isolated and dependent on the DR and the union, not each other.

One thing we pointed out to the attendees was the narrow view the UFT has of the way to deal with many issues in the school. Basically, the advice it to keep things between a teacher under attack and the CL, and not to fight things politically by trying to mobilize fellow teachers and parents where appropriate. Again, isolate the teachers and make them dependent on the CL, thus reinforcing the UFT chain of command and its tight top down control.

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