Sunday, June 28, 2009

Are you a new Chapter Leader, Delegate OR someone who is interested in helping mobilize school staff?

Rank-and-File Teachers Unite!

Are you a new Chapter Leader, Delegate, OR someone who is interested in helping mobilize school staff?

Join our first of monthly meetings where teachers share both their school stories and supportive strategies.

1. Assess your school climate
2. Meet with other teachers in similar situations to strategize
3. Share your visions for building a rank-and-file movement

Please let us know if you're coming:

Teachers Unite!

Wednesday, July 1st, 3-5pm
Brecht Forum (library)
451 West St. between Bank and Bethune Streets

This meeting being organized by Teachers Unite is an extremely important event. While I also recommend the UFT's training for new CLs, it is very narrow. The UFT really doesn't provide support for CLs. The monthly Dist Rep meetings are geared to laying down what they union expects the CL to do for them. There is rarely a sharing of common problems and brainstorming solutions. Or even considering how schools can act together and support each other. To the UFT, each school is an island.

The goal of TU in these and follow-ups is to fill this gap, while including the aspect of dealing with a UFT/Unity caucus that is more focused on maintaining control than on organizing an effective chapter. (An organized chapter is a threat to the Unity machine because then people start looking at their activities.)

With so many teachers contacting us about the overwhelming power of principals, which the UFT/Unity Caucus has sat by and allowed to occur, there is a need to develop a clearer concept of leadership at the school level.

I've learned a lot about these ideas this past year through activities with Teachers Unite, NYCORE, ICE and GEM.

There seem to be three pillars: educate, organize, mobilize.

The educate level is a crucial precursor to effective organizing and is something UFT/Unity doesn't do except on the narrowest grounds. What they do is propagandize. Thus, teachers at the school level are left isolated and without the kind of information they need to function effectively as a chapter. I learned this lesson as a chapter leader in the mid-90's when I put out the chapter newsletter (the precursor to Ed Notes) more and more often until I was doing one more than once a week. I could see the impact in the attendance at meetings (which used to be about giving them info, with little participation). Now they got that info from my newsletters and the meetings were able to focus on school issues. (This was occurring just as the internet was getting reved up and most teachers didn't have email yet so it was hard copy. Nowadays just hit the "send" button and its done, as long as people open the email and read it. I still think hard copy works and the tools should be used together.)

Now, what info to provide? Do you reveal the activities of the union leadership or just feed colleagues the line being tossed out by Unity, which they can read in the NY Teacher or in the numerous propaganda sheets and through visits by union officials? Some people fear that they will be accused of being anti-union if they give their staffs the ICE or Ed Notes point of view.

I disagree. How can they make an informed decision of they don't get various versions of events so they can make up their own minds? Take the recently restored 2 pre Labor Day days in exchange for a massive pension give-back and a Tier 5, which will further divide teachers at the school level and in fact become a hindrance to the ability to organize a chapter to fight back (imagine how newbies will feel about their colleagues who sold them out for these 2 days).

More and more people,whether a chapter leader or not, seem to have taken it upon themselves to send out info they read at Ed Notes or other blogs to their personal lists. I urge people who read Ed Notes to start doing so. Just don't make the email too long. Use snippets and links so they can pick and choose.

Once people are well-informed at the school level - and I mean informed on every aspect of school life that it is possible to share- the next level is organizing for certain actions. Like grievances. Instead of keeping them quiet like the UFT urges, as long as the person is willing to open up, make them a political fight for the staff instead of a battle of one teacher with the principal. Of course that depends on the grievance, but as a principle, I say fight it publicly.

The next step would be mobilizing people when necessary. More on this another time.

No one has the answers, but Teachers Unite has been exploring these ideas and this meeting is a follow-up to an earlier meeting for people interested in running for chapter leader or delegate where we talked about continuing these discussions even for people who didn't run or get elected. I mean you don't have to be a chapter leader or delegate to provide info to people. I have a friend who has been sharing Ed Notes info for years and talking about how the UFT/Unity machine was operating, or the impact of charter schools which his staff wasn't aware of. Finally, he took the plunge and ran for CL. He was opposed by the retiring CL and the principal. But he won overwhelmingly, partly I believe because he has been laying the groundwork for years.

So, if you are free on July 1 from 3-5pm, and feel it is time to do some basic organizing, rsvp to (If you forget, still show up.) I will be posting an agenda soon.

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