Tuesday, October 20, 2015

DA Takeaway

I was pretty surprised that this DA largely repeated the talking points of the September chapter leader meeting. If the content is the same, why do we actually need two meetings?  It's nice to hear chapter leaders encouraged and praised, but Mulgrew offered almost exactly the same message for the delegates. I, for one, don't need to travel downtown Manhattan on a school night for an additional "attaboy," or a rehashing of Mulgrew's prized joke about how we're crazy to do this work.

It was disappointing to hear a good idea to ameliorate one of the ridiculous terms of this contract shot down in flames. Why should people who happen to be on leave have to wait two more years for money they earned over five years ago? Telling them to wait for a "big magical chest" to open is insulting, to say the least.

It also begs the question, if you happen to be on leave the last time the "big magical chest" opens, what the hell do you do then? Go screw yourself? What about the people on leave who don't return? Clearly they, like those who resigned or were terminated, can go screw themselves. Another thoughtful feature of this contract. If half of teachers leave within five years, there are a whole lot of people who are never "made whole." How many other city workers will not be paid for work they did over five years ago?

It's possible the Unity folks will introduce a version of MORE's idea and try to take credit for it. After all, saying wait two years is not all that far from the go screw yourself thing, and it doesn't exactly jibe with Mulgrew's happy-talk-UFT bus message. (Funny how a few months before every UFT election there's a TV commercial that appeals to teachers more than the public at large.) On the other hand, there appear to be so many ways, under this agreement, that teachers could forfeit the future payment, the collateral, that Unity may deem the risk unacceptable.

I admire Jia for bringing up the resolution, but I knew they would find a way to kill it. Once the Unity person complained of the MORE ad on the back of the resolution, the faithful knew how they were to vote. Then there was her nasty insinuation there was no "union bug" on the paper, as though MORE had the work outsourced to slave labor in some third-world banana republic.

There's been a lot of talk at 52 about Robert's Rules and democracy, but in fact most of every DA I've attended is Mulgrew filibuster. I've seen him insult people from the stage. He denounces bloggers and suggests we're liars. He's rolled it back just a little lately.  Still, despite his frequent joking about how he shouldn't say this or that,  or how he's controlling his naturally vulgar language, it's tough for me to buy that regular guy routine.

He announced he was going to talk for a long time, and that he did. He went into a little more detail about Friedrichs, and his comments on it were very much on target. For me, that begs the question of why we spend so much time seeking the "seat at the table" with people who hate us and everything we stand for, people who take every conciliation as weakness, people who redouble their attacks with each and every concession.

I don't really understand the democracy inherent in a forum in which the chair talks about whatever for three fourths of the meeting, entertains a few questions, and needs to add extra time to allow a single motion. I wonder whether he wants people to come back, or whether he wants to drive them away so as to ensure the "highest decision-making body in the UFT" remains largely a forum for his pontifications and indulgences.

Mulgrew rambles, fools around, and does not seem at all concerned about whether or not he's on topic. He announces topics and fails to talk about them. He puts up visuals, clearly planned in advance, and fails to discuss them. He fools around with the good old boys on the stage, makes inside jokes and couldn't care less whether we follow.  If I were to teach that way I would not only lose my audience, but I'd certainly garner an ineffective rating if observed doing so. (Of course my students haven't signed a loyalty oath, and are free to say and do pretty much whatever they wish.)

Some things Mulgrew said resonated with me. I was right with him when he called it child abuse to test by chronological age rather than ability, and I had actually blogged to that effect about the PSATs on beginning ESL students that very day. I liked it when he said that schools and teachers ought not to be judged by test scores. But was this the very same Mulgrew who offered to punch us in the face for opposing Common Core? Was it the same Mulgrew who boasted of having taken part in negotiating New York's first APPR junk science law, the one that terrorizes so many of us no matter how we are rated?

Mulgrew posted a photo of John King under failed leadership, but did not elaborate. I agree that King is a failure, but can't help remembering Mulgrew's enthusiastic support of King as an impartial arbiter of NYC's evaluation system. According to a Chalkbeat piece, neither the UFT nor DOE wanted the number of observations King imposed.

Mulgrew also said it was our duty to let our members know what happened at the DA. He specifically said, "you can report out on it anyway you want." That was not what he said last year, after I chose to tweet it out. What he did at that time was say someone was "tweeting to the media," as though I targeted which of my followers could read my tweets. (It's unlikely Mulgrew understands Twitter, since he urges us to tweet but can't be bothered himself.) In fact, this was when Cuomo's punitive Heavy Hearts law was only a proposal rather than a fait accompli (one for which Michael Mulgrew eventually thanked the Heavy Hearts Assembly) .  Mulgrew clearly felt addressing a renegade tweeter was more important than addressing APPR, and did that first thing before his indispensable hour and a half of lecture.

Another whopper was when he said UFT Welfare Fund never denied drugs. I had cancer, and I distinctly recall being denied a very costly drug. You tend not to forget that sort of thing.

Last year there was a woman who was a communist or something, and Mulgrew always called on her. I honestly believe he felt people would find her extreme and determine that's how all opposition was.
For the record, I don't always agree with everyone in MORE, or everything they do or say. But whether I agree with them or not, they are among the most dedicated unionists I know. A good number of them could have joined Unity, signed the oath, and gone to conventions to vote as Mulgrew instructed. Instead, they opt to lobby for member voice.

If I were running Unity, facing Friedrichs, I'd start bridge-building. But Michael Mulgrew, with an army of patronage-inspired activists, thinks he's bulletproof. And maybe he is.

It's the rest of us I'm worried about.
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