Thursday, August 27, 2009

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

I was at session 4 of Teacher Unite's 4 day teacher activist course today. This was the one session I missed the last time around in May and with Megan Behrent (TJC and ISO) facilitating, it was excellent. Megan explained the philosophy behind current union leadership in the UFT/AFT and in most other unions as the so-called service model of unionism, where the union provides the minimum service to members. This is in contrast to an organizing union that builds a firm base of active rank and file support instead of the passivity leaders, whose major goal is to hold onto power, crave.

Megan explained that since the NYC fiscal crisis of the mid 70's, followed by Regan's dismantling of the air traffic controllers in the early 80's, with only tepid union response in both cases, unions in this country have been on the run as their only strategy is based on the idea that if they are to win anything at all (mostly salary and little in the way of working conditions) it will only be by giving back concessions.

Remember: the UFT was built based on militancy and strikes in the late 50's and early 60's, the roots of their success. New contracts not only had more money, but contained aspects of better working conditions.

All that changed around the early 80's (connection to air traffic controller wipe out?) when Al Shanker started sounding like a partner with the very people hammering teachers.

Three fairly new chapter leaders and at least two delegates attended and they said this was better than any training the union does. Sally should just run the darn thing for the UFT. But then again that would activate the rank and file chapter leaders into viewing themselves as organizers rather than the UFT view of them as disseminators of whatever propaganda that supports the UFT narrow view of the relationship between the leadership and the members.

There were some good lines about UFT officials. "Two 60 year old white guys talking at us and putting on a show with little interest in hearing what we had to say." "My district rep mostly talks at us at district meetings and disseminated material. There is no dialogue.

Ahhh! District reps. The overseers of the plantation. The key people in keeping things and people in line to make sure no militant movement gets started in the teaching ranks. There to deflect and give people who want action busy work so they will eventually get tired and give up.

The people at the course today said they had their eyes opened as we workshopped their school, principal and their own role as chapter leader with suggestions and actions. "The union never does this," was a common refrain.

That is why if you are a chapter leader or delegate or even someone just interested in organizing your chapter, these Teachers Unite monthly sessions are for you.


RANK AND FILE TEACHERS UNITE!


Wednesday, September 2nd, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. (starting promptly!)
Brecht Forum
451 West St. between Bank and Bethune Streets

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

Join Teachers Unite's third monthly meeting where teachers committed to social justice and human rights share their school stories, organizing strategies, and visions for a UFT that fights for what we believe in.

*SPECIAL CALL: Do you work in a school where the teachers and principal work well together? Wondering what the role of the union could and should be in your small, progressive school? We need your voices too!*

At the September meeting we will:

1. Share best practices for chapter organizing.

2. Talk about the kind of positions we'd like to see the UFT stand for (for those of you wondering: "What's the union got to do with social justice?")

Please let us know if you're coming through: sally@teachersunite.net

Directions:
A, C, E or L to 14th Street & 8th Ave, walk down 8th Ave. to Bethune,
turn right, walk west to the River, turn left.

1, 2, 3 or 9 to 14th Street & 7th Ave, get off at south end of station, walk west on 12th Street to 8th Ave. left to Bethune, turn right, walk west to the River, turn left.
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212-675-4790
http://www.teachersunite.net

Think Teachers Unite is doing great work? We need your support! Please visit http://www.teachersunite.net/sign up to become a member or http://www.teachersunite.net/node/339 to make a donation.

1 comment:

  1. This will be my 2nd term as a chapter leader. Although the first three years as a CL was mostly based on learning the culture within the UFT and diseminating union info to the members, the next three years I do not want to be on the sidelines of these education issues. I am also questioning the operation a particular union caucus, which I feel do not have the true interest of the rank-and-file. Sadly, I am noticing that they are pushing their own personal agenda to hold on to very prestigous positions in the UFT. I feel that I need to learn how to be one of the forces that will change unionism for the betterment of all the educators who demand respect and deserve it. See you then.

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