Thursday, May 21, 2015

New Action Takes a Position on Semi-Democracy

There's an interesting dynamic in UFT. The primary dynamic is Unity Caucus has all the power, completely shuts out all opposition voices, and does whatever it damn pleases. It apologizes to no one. It praises itself for every position it takes, and when it changes said positions, completely ignores its previous positions, dumping them down the ever-open memory hole.

I know this well because I transferred to my current school via the UFT Transfer Plan. I had a boss who wanted to make me teach all Spanish because her current Spanish teacher threw a lot of kids out of class. I never threw kids out of class. So for her convenience, she wanted to make a change that really would not have served the students well. I am certified to teach Spanish, but my English is much stronger and more precise.

The UFT Transfer Plan was a great victory, I thought, and it helped me tremendously. But when leadership replaced it with another plan, including the disastrous and counter-productive ATR, they called that a great victory too. They rationalize it by saying there are more transfers now and ignoring the ATR completely. 

Anyway, New Action is now embracing democracy, and rejecting the winner take all mode that shuts out the activists who speak their minds rather than that of Big Brother, Randi Weingarten, or whoever the hell it is that makes the calamitous decisions that have led us to the lowest point in teacher morale I've ever seen. They've taken the same position this blog has taken for years--that high schools ought to select the high school VPs, that NYSUT and AFT reps ought to represent everyone, not just those who sign oaths to vote as told, and that chapter leaders ought to select the District Reps who will support them.

They're absolutely right, of course. What's sorely missing from their piece, though, is representation on the UFT Executive Board. New Action has a deal to be cross-endorsed by Unity, resulting in their having seats on this board. Their first deal entailed Unity not running against them, but ICE was able to take the seats earmarked for them by leadership. (Unity corrected the inconvenience of having ICE on the board by cross-endorsing New Action.) Also missing is an explanation of why they support UFT Presidential candidates who absolutely oppose everything their column supports.

I can only suppose the answer is they want democracy except where it interferes with their keeping seats on the Exec. Board. Unfortunately democracy is not something we grant when it serves us, and deny when it doesn't.

I would be happy to work toward democracy with New Action. The very best thing New Action could do would be to ally with MORE and work toward democracy across the board. Our union has been unsuccessful in mobilizing membership, fighting apathy and cynicism, and that's why the overwhelming majority of members don't find it worth their while to even vote in union elections.

It's time for leadership to stop building brick walls around opposition voices. I will help with that, if they choose. And if New Action wants to genuinely work toward that, I'll help with that too.
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