Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blah, blah, blah.....Norm. I just want a union to protect me

This was a comment on my piece which talked about caucus history and connections to social justice union work: On ICE and Why MORE: History of 40 Years of Failures of Multiple Caucuses in the UFT
Blah, blah, blah.....Norm. I just want a union to protect me. What you are saying is part of it but we need to have the teachers believe in the union again before we can do anything.... anon
Chaz chimed in too:
Norm: You almost had me convinced but then there goes that "Social Justice" issue that muddles the message. Until all teachers are treated correctly, I don't have the ability to solve the world's problems.
My response to Chaz:
I'm not looking to solve the world's problems just try to help find solutions to the problems your students and their families face. That is not the world's problems - we're not talking about Greece here. That is the problems sitting before you every day on your job. try to tell me you don't care about them and only about your problems as a teacher, many of which are connected to the issues facing your kids. If race and poverty affects your kids it affects your working conditions - not muddling the message but making connections between working conditions and Social justice. The very idea of unions is a social justice issue - defense of worker rights is a social justice issue. You choose to define social justice in the narrowest sense as "solving the world's problems." we can't even solve the problems of toilet paper in the teacher room sometimes - as caucuses without power we can't solve much of anything - all we can do is raise the issues and try to inform our fellow workers. If you think that the attacks on teachers by ed deformers who claim these attacks are needed and turn these attacks into social justice issues by stealing the rhetoric then you are ignoring a major way of fighting back by recapturing the issues to our advantage. Opt out by parents is a social justice issue which in the long run helps teachers fight back against an unjust rating system. People don't give a crap about what happens to teachers unless we shape things in ways that link our rights to the interests of children. 
At the ICE meeting on Monday, the same social justice/trade union discussion came up - as it does time and again. Mike Schirtzer made a passionate statement that the very concept of union organizing and the protections thereof emerged from a social justice movement.

I echoed Mike in this response to the blah, blah, blah guy (or gal).

Many of the newer teachers come with an anti-union bias because they have been brainwashed. Someone at the ICE meeting told me that many new teachers in his school are Rand Paul libertarians. Then they see the UFT/Unity inaction and that only confirms what they believe. Finding the fine line of crit the union leadership and feeding into this anti-union bias is tricky. Yesterday some people came to the ICE meeting who said they had no idea about the union until they got in some trouble. They are not new. But they had no sense of union consciousness until it affected them personally. That is partly the fault of the leadership which does little work or any at the school level in raising this consciousness about the history and importance of unions. The building of unions was all about being a social justice movement for workers' rights. What was won through a social justice political movement is being lost and you want to ignore the very means by which we gained those rights in the first place by terming it blah, blah, blah. Shame on you.
The majority of people who vote apparently still believe in Unity enough to keep him in power. I find it funny how the newer activists think social media is an alternative to gut level school to school organizing. They count likes and clicks as success. I count a real body in every school who will stand up against Unity as success. New Action - the combo of TAC and New Directions in the mid-90s had enough people to help defeat the 1995 contract the first time around -- the clear advantage when the 2 leading opposition caucuses merged into 1. Soon after a self-serving meglomaniac started yet another caucus because I wanted to run for president. That caucus lasted for about 5 years before disbanding -- just as ICE came on board. Then it was ICE and TJC with their own brands from 2004-2010, which led to MORE - one caucus, with a broad enough perspective to understand the political struggle it will take to protect you, not bombast and personality cults.
Related: I headed back into the city on Tuesday to Union Square for a 2:00PM meeting with a batch of MOREs to plan our upcoming retreat. I was sort of shocked to see so many people show up on a beautiful afternoon. So many people who I love and respect. Almost everyone a leader of some sort in their school. People trusted by their colleagues. We occupied 3 small tables under an umbrella. Present was Gloria Brandman who retires officially tomorrow and will be able to join me in retiree actions next school year - like lunch on the first day of school. Some of us stayed around to chat until after 6 and I remained to read the chapters of the novels from people in my writing group which was meeting at 7 in Park Slope. Crazy -- I sat in a chair in Union Square -- rhymes and has a beat -- from 2 to 6:30. Not a bad way to spend a lovely summer day - except for the occasional drizzle.

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