Monday, June 2, 2014

UFT Contract - Dissecting MORE Contract Discussion Happy Hours: Should Unity be Worried?

I spoke and asked if there were any next steps since after Tuesday, when the contract will most likely pass, it will all be over. She turned to me with a defiant stare, shook her head and said, "No! It isn't."
One of the "benefits" of the recent contract struggles is how the consciousness of so many rank and file teachers has been raised. Not only about the contract itself, but about how the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership and their core of full-time employees and chapter leaders are willing to mislead the people who elected them for the interests of their masters at 52 Broadway. Here is one such story.

I attended MORE happy hour contract discussions each of the last 3 Fridays. Each one was very different in character and attendees. The Bay Ridge and Park Slope events attracted over 40 people in the back room of bars. Some people who showed up had never heard of MORE. Some were leaning toward voting YES but felt they were not getting the full story from the UFT/Unity leadership - the visits to the schools were often a turn-off. Some had Unity chapter leaders pushing the contract with vehemence, while shrugging off legitimate questions.

MORE people familiar with the details and the various "gaps" in the UFT's "What Me Worry?" approach shared their knowledge and answered questions. Afterwards people gathered engaged in the happy hour portion with small group conversation. While exciting to see so many people turn out, there were too many people to drill deep.

This past Friday, the lower east side event on Ludlow Street was very different. A small group of people, with 7 newcomers joining 4 MOREistas in a wide-ranging discussion of issues - so much more intimate than the large groups. How important is it for the activists to listen to these new voices?

Jia Lee, our super dynamo who helped organize the event,
Jia and teachers at her school support Intl HS Teachers Who Opted Out
pointed to the fact that 2 years ago she was new to this kind of activism - after about 12 years teaching. And that struck me -- you can't build an alternative to Unity Caucus with the usual suspects - like me and others who have been doing this for a long time.

A 2-year ATR (whose school closed) - a science teacher - who found out about the event on Ed Notes - and bought me a beer for doing this work) was quite impressive, making so many interesting points. She felt the experience has not been all negative - by being in so many schools she actually felt she learned lots of things on many levels -- and feels more equipped to teach than ever. I hope her salary is not too high for her to get hired. She also pointed out how in her travels she absolutely saw instances of administrators  just making stuff up against teachers to get rid of them.

Three teachers came from an elementary school with a Unity Chapter Leader who had been force feeding the pro-contract point of view --until they just plain got fed up and began to search the web for alternatives - which is how they found MORE - and also Jia Lee, who they contacted.

One of them made one of the most impressive statements I've heard - I only wish I had recorded it. I took a few notes. "We were sacrificed so the UFT could get along with the DOE. I feel so disempowered. I don't want to sit by helplessly and watch my profession being destroyed. It is time for a change." I don't think she meant only a change in the UFT leadership, but a change in her own behavior.

That gave me a chill - because she was so impressive. I was reminded of the first time I met Julie Cavanagh only 5 years ago.  I almost feel sorry for Unity. Think of her joining with the growing core of the newly active "not the usual suspects."

I spoke and asked if there were any next steps since after Tuesday, when the contract will most likely pass, it will all be over. She turned to me with a defiant stare, shook her head and said, "No! It isn't."


Anonymous said...

If contract passes when should I retire, since I am an ATR? Also is there a form to fill out to get the ATR bonus money? Does anyone know the answers to these questions?

Anonymous said...

Try reading the contract.

Anonymous said...

I did read the contract. I also called the uft and they don't know anything. They said they are first working on a form, but they are unclear if you can retire and still get the severance package. UFT chapter leader old me I must resign and therefore would not get the retro pay. Is this true?