Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Is There a Reality Disconnect in the UFT?

If you as an individual stand up for your rights how likely will it be for the UFT to make a strong stand for you? When I say a strong stand I don't mean advice to "file a grievance" but a political stand using its resources to make it clear the behavior of the principal is not tolerated. There are too many schools where the union at the chapter level is not functioning effectively. The UFT leadership does not seem to take a proactive posture, seemingly waiting for the teachers to take action. I would argue that the lifeblood of the union depends on them sending in competent forces to organize teachers, even if they have to do so offsite. Meaning - start by identifying key resources in the chapter and teach them organizing skills - the union I think is doing training of volunteers on how to organize their chapters. I would volunteer but they don't really want people who might drop a word of dissonance out there. They want company people. And there-in lies a problem for them. Company people don't think outside the box, which is what is desperately needed.

As Arthur says on his blog the other day:
There are schools Bloomberg started that are still full of untenured teachers. The principal says everyone's C6 assignments is doing teacher teams five days a week, and poof! You have an entire building full of teachers, all of whom are already frazzled and overworked beyond, doing something they universally detest five days a week. Sure, the contract says you can choose a C6, and the menu needs to be negotiated by the chapter, but maybe there's no chapter leader. Or maybe the principal picked someone and said, "You are the chapter leader," and no one ran against that person. Who knows? Nonetheless, in a building where no one asserts or defends the collective bargaining agreement, there may as well not be one. In a building ruled by fear, there's not a whole lot of teacher voice.
So let's look at the scenario in all too many schools Arthur lays out.
  • Lots of untenured with little real protection. There could be 10K or even more --- do some math -- the last 4 years of new teachers -- they get around 3500 a year unt - in the system. Maybe 20K.
  • A CL possibly chosen by the principal. 
What real, not contractual rights do untenured have, especially if the CL is playing on the other side?

Arthur makes an argument for teachers to stand up:
I'd argue that teacher voice is one thing that really makes a building special. Even the best principal can't clone everyone in his own image and expect good results. In fact, the best principal would know that and actively interact with disparate voice. It's the worst principal who treads all over everyone no matter what, and that's why we have checks and balances written into the contract. Are the checks and balances perfect? Do they always work? Of course they don't. But they are there, and it behooves us all to use them. Do you want to be in good physical shape? Then you have to exercise, one way or another. Do you want to enjoy the rights you have? You have to exercise them too.
I agree totally with the concept of defending your rights - with the caveat that you must be sure the union has your back.

Therein lies the problem - the weaning away of the union's power to respond, which has led the leadership to fundamentally blame the lack of action by the members. I get the UFT leadership frustration. They have been defanged compared to the power the UFT seemed to exert pre-Bloomberg c. 2002.

James Eterno on the ICEUFT blog constantly makes a similar plea as Arthur does - for people to stand up - but he is talking more to tenured than untentured. But read the anonymous comments to see how scared even the tenured are.

My old ICE pal, Under Assault, a former middle school CL has a few interesting posts that touch on the issues:
The UFT leadership sat idly by while Bloomberg equipped the principals with enormous power, while reducing our protections in the 2005 contract.

The weakest link in the UFT is often the district reps who have been chosen instead of elected since 2002. Before that they were elected on the district level by the chapter leaders and were thus held somewhat accountable to the most vulnerable people. The leadership doesn't trust this process which might put some political undesirables from their point of view in these positions.

The prime example was Bruce Markens who broke historic ground by being an anti-Unity elected district rep in the Manhattan high schools who was re-elected over a 10 year period from 1990-2000. He is the major reason the union killed the elections. The only way Bruce could get elected was that the majority of CLs were not pro-Unity and Bruce became a center of opposition voices, even though he never affiliated with any formal opposition. The prime example in the 1995 contract when Bruce, nominally an employee of the UFT made a very public stand in opposition and played a role in the only defeat in history of a UFT contract.

I can see their point for why they feel they cannot deal with another Bruce Markens as a district rep in today's times. But on the other hand, the UFT is weaker by not having independent district reps at its root level.

Now don't get me wrong. Some DRs are pretty good but always working inside serious constraints like make nice with the Superintendent.

They are between a rock and a hard place.


1 comment:

  1. There IS an enormous reality disconnect in the UFT, an even larger disinterest in members by any "full-timer" and the UFT leadership is EXTREMELY unlikely to make a stand for anyone but themselves; even then when one gets in trouble (often/every time) they shy away from him like he's something nasty in the punch bowl, knowing that they,too, are doing the same and worse.

    I've never met a DR that's not a jerk. They ONLY work with the superintendents against the membership and I'm having serious doubts as to why I didn't forgo joining the union when I had the chance to choose.

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