This month is the 50th anniversary of my membership in the UFT -- I've paid so much dues I own a piece of 52 Broadway -- so when Unity people try to stop me from going upstairs I point this out. But that's a story for later.
Before I begin, I was saddened to hear that long-time union official Bob Astrowsky died. I knew Bob for over 40 years back to the 70s when we sparred with each other. In recent years Bob was in charge when we held election position drawings and we had a lot of laughs at those events or at vote counts. A man with a great sense of humor, we never failed to have a laugh over something when we ran into each other at DAs or conventions in other cities, especially if he was wearing a METS cap. Bob ran the Brooklyn office and was always available. Bob was a big man in size and in heart. There's a story
about Bob in the NY Teacher, I believe on p. 14.
Now on to business.
Once a year, in September, the UFT/Unity Caucus leadership holds a chapter leader meeting -- Delegate Assemblies which actually have some rules attached - which Unity feels free to break at will but the process requires some kind of voting and that can be inconvenient - don't start until October -- late October. A CL meeting is more cozy -- Mulgrew can talk even longer than he does at DA's and then take a few questions.
This report is on what happened outside the meeting but my personal experiences on Wednesday provide some insight into what is good, bad and ugly in the UFT. You can read Arthur's report of the meeting here.
Chapter Leader Citywide Meeting
These are not very well attended meetings because most delegates don't come. But some do - and find that they are not allowed in -- to which I say - holy shit -- are you guys crazy? Half the room is empty, delegates made the trip down and are turned away? More on this idiocy later.
Well, anyway, I always show up to hand out something or other, either from Ed Notes, GEM (in the pre-MORE days), and MORE - when it has something to hand out that I think is worthwhile -- but more on MORE later in this report. I can't get into either CL or DA meetings because security is tight -- ISIS, you know, might try to sneak in.
I took the ferry from Rockaway - one of my favorite ways to travel nowadays. I was there early and the first people I ran into was a crew of retirees from New Action
who had a fairly nice two-sided leaflet and a plan to ask CLs going in if they would distribute New Action materials in their schools. A Good idea -- a few years ago they signed up 200 CLs and during the election that helped get material into mail boxes. Why MORE doesn't have such a good idea is beyond me but many MOREs often have their heads in different places than a mundane UFT chapter leader meeting. You know I always had issues with New Action, not only because of the dirty deal they made with Unity for a dozen years but also because of the approach they took to Unity even before the deal - and even to some extent now -- but let's not get into all that -- we've had a good working relationship and are doing some joint projects. So I was glad to see they are still engaged, even if their most active people seem to be retirees.
|New Welcome Center in back of lobby|
Having some time, I strolled into the brand new Welcome Center in the back of the lobby which was staffed by some heavy hitters of UFT officialdom, who posed for some photos on the condition they appeared in Ed Notes. Someone told me "they spent $70,000 alone furnishing that space when a desk is available right next to security." The price of balloons has certainly been going up.
I was glad to see they look pretty happy.
Someone is apparently not so happy and sent me this complaint that they are "Pressuring UFT workers to staff the welcome center during regular work hours and extending work days without pay." I pointed out that people like David Hickey and Janella Hinds seem to be there but this insider claims the staffing is often from the lower paid employees and comes from "An operator from administrative services, MBO and membership staff,
accounting staff, David Hickey's secretary, print shop staff, IT staff ---- the big wigs usually have the administrative staff cover for the shift
assigned to them." I have no real knowledge of who is staffing and if readers know more leave a comment.
[I was also told that the union is spending a lot of money to set up more conference rooms next door at 50 Broadway. I asked David Hickey about that and he said the union needs more space because the activity level is so high and also that it had rented out some space next door so money was coming in.]
I kept running into people I knew so didn't get into the other lobby to the meetings where we give out lit and even have a table reserved for our lit. They always have someone by the steps checking cards and also someone by the elevators to make sure those ISIS people don't get upstairs to the 2nd floor. Visitors like me are supposed to go to the 19th floor, which is ridiculous.
When I entered the lobby there was an officious looking young fellow who told me all materials must be distributed outside. Now I've been told this before and always refuse to follow that rule and they Unity crew always end up backing down because I will sit down on the floor if I have to and force them to call security to have me removed. I have insisted on having a table for alt lit since they ban our materials from their tables. I pointed "our"table out to him and sat down.
A few other MOREs showed up to hand out whatever material MORE might have but nothing arrived so I sat with a delegate at the table waiting and nothing came so we chatted and greeted people. One lady came over upset over the fact they weren't lettign her in because she was "only" a para rep. She was pissed because she had shlepped down and her CL couldn't make it. She had to track down her district rep to get in.
I told the delegate from MORE to go up since her CL was there but she said she was told she wasn't allowed in. I was astounded. You could see that not a lot of the 1800 CLs were showing up and here they were keeping even elected union people out -- yeah, I get why people like me are kept out.
Finally, around 5PM with nothing to hand out I decided to take the elevator to the 2nd floor to use the bathroom, get a cup of coffee and watch the proceedings on TV -- which is what I do at every meeting even though I am supposed to go to the 19th floor. Fact is I go to the 2nd floor so I can socialize with people I know who work for the union and also some of the CLs I know. I think the 19th floor rule is stupid --
especially when you can see there are a lot of empty seats in the main hall. But I don't ever try to go in there anyway.Well I tell the delegate to come up with me and we can watch on TV and the Unity guy tries to stop me and I ignore him but the delegate says she doesn't want a confrontation and decides to go home --- imagine -- she schlepped to the meeting and can't get in and that pisses me off. I go up to the 2nd floor and someone asks me for my card and I say I ignore her. Down the hall they are giving out
convention lawn signs and low and behold, one of my former students, who has worked for the UFT for 20 years is there. Jessica shows me a photo of her baby whose dad is also a former student - sadly his brother who was also my student died this past summer at the age of 50. I also had Jessica's older brother in my class and her mom was one of my favorite parents (and not just because she was one of the most beautiful too).
By the way -- follow what Jessica and her pal are urging you to do ---
Well, anyway it turns out that the Unity guy had actually followed me and now wanted me to leave. I was astounded at how well this guy was following orders. I proceeded to give him a lecture on following stupid orders and why so many people will leave the union post-Janus due to this idiocy of not letting delegates into the chapter leader meeting- and also mindless order followers.
I ran into Amy Arundell who many of us who deal with her a lot happen to like and feel she is competent - I told her to kick ass in her new job running the Queens borough office which has been considered one of the worst. We had a very nice chat about lots of stuff.
I watched Mulgew's spiel and on TV he did seem to have vigor and verve and some passion. Arthur and I went out for a bite and he also felt that Mulgew at the EB meeting Monday and at this meeting was not bad - on the surface -- but if you scratch - esp about the ratings system for teachers ---well, read the commentary at Arthur's and at the ICE blog.
Now I have to run down to a hearing or a principal they are trying to fire--- usually I wouldn't give a shit but this one looks like a witch hunt. Maybe more on that later.