Friday, February 24, 2017

Six Hundred Seventeen Dollars (times 800)=Half a Million to Send 800 New Yorkers to New York

That's how much UFT will pay to send people to the New York Hilton for the NYSUT Representative Assembly on April 7-8. This is an important event, because there will be an election that will determine whether NYS Unity or Stronger Together controls NYSUT. We all have an interest in that because as UFT members we all pay NYSUT dues.

Of course we all know that Unity votes Unity, and approximately exactly100% of them will be doing just that. So given that, why are we spending half a million dollars to send 800 New Yorkers to New York? In fact, I live in Long Island. I could take a train there from work on Friday, take the LIRR on Saturday, and maybe see the whole thing for thirty or forty bucks out of pocket.

I'm hoping to go as press and write about it, which is what Jonathan Halabi, Norm Scott and I did at the AFT Convention in Minneapolis last summer. If my constituents can't have a vote, at least they can know what happens. I've made a few inquiries. Alternatively, I guess I could go as the guest of another union. That would be fun to write about.

So here's the thing--I'm one of seven people elected by 20,000 high school teachers, and as such I'd deem it my business to know what goes on there, Still, I haven't got a vote in NYSUT, and consequently, neither have any of us. Unless the majority of high school teachers want to give a blank check to Unity to vote Any Damn Way They Are Told, this is not what I'd call an ideal form of democracy.

But let's not dwell on petty politics. Let's take a look at what sort of deal this can be if you're a loyalty oath signer. So you get $617 to go to the convention. You take the subway there and back a couple of times. That's what, $11.00? If you live outside of the city, you add a round trip LIRR fare, and you're out around 40 clams. You've got $566 left over. This could come in handy if you decide to buy $14 beer at the Hilton, but really you could eat on the cheap and pocket $500 easily. That's pretty good pay for sitting around a five star hotel and listening to a few speeches.

Alternatively, you could give $150 each, save hundreds of thousands of dollars, and use it on the organizing that hasn't been done in decades, so as to preserve the United Federation of Teachers as an entity when Friedrichs 2 comes down the pike next year. And if you really want to save money, you could send one representative to vote eighty thousand times. Now it may not be sufficiently dramatic watching Mulgrew sit by himself and do that. Also maybe you need someone who can speak, so you send LeRoy Barr. That's a few subway fares, and then you have to cover the Staten Island Ferry for Mulgrew. Let's say you budget $1000 for both of them, and let them eat any damn place they like. Let them take cabs if they want to.

For this particular convention, I'm not sure I covet a vote. I'd probably lean toward Mike Lillis over Andy Pallotta. I'd choose activist Bianca Tanis over just about anyone. I can't think of any earthly reason why anyone would choose Martin "Buy NYSUT Auto Insurance Even Though Allstate Is Half the Price" Messner for any job more challenging than lifeguard at the car wash. But that's just me. Of course I've got no vote, just the great honor of paying dues. Whichever side wins (because theoretically, at least, it is a contest), the 20,000 NYC high school teachers I represent get no representation whatsoever (and thanks a lot to both caucuses for that).

I could see spending a lot of money to go somewhere if they were going to represent membership and deliberate about something important. I could see spending a lot of money if they were going to make decisions. But they aren't. They're gonna sit in some room, someone from leadership is gonna tell them how to vote, and they'll vote that way or no six hundred and seventeen bucks next time around.

A bunch of people go to the Hilton and pretend they're doing work. They go to meetings they're told to go to, vote how they're told to, and the preordained winners win. That's not a lot of bang for the buck, or more accurately for the 500,000 or so bucks. Given our share of paying for the common rooms, gala luncheons, and whatever the hell else goes on it will likely be more.

Perhaps leadership imagines this sort of thing will inspire all the Trump voters to pony up $1300 a year, as they'll be forever grateful we didn't mention his name when bemoaning his awful practices. On the other hand, maybe we could just buy them off and it would be a wash. But there are a whole lot of ways we could save hundreds of thousands of dollars that weekend, and a whole lot of better uses for that money.

Maybe, while we still have dues deducted from our paycheck, leadership should give some thought toward giving us a vote in organizations our dues support. I shall nonetheless sit while waiting for that to happen.

UFT Unity Response-- From Facebook: I'm a life member of nra and uscg retiree besides a social studies teacher. So you boys sound like a bunch of cry barbies .follow the advice of Ted Kennedy. " instead of saying " why say why not " and maybe you goathumpers will win an election and affect change.
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