The other day I was told there were officials from the UFT who were coming to Middle College High School to meet with us "to answer any Union issues or concerns." Well, like everything with our union, one has to be a little skeptical. We only had a short time at lunch but I came to the meeting to listen to my colleagues who I heard wanted to address what we can do since we are a PROSE school. However, instead of the UFT listening to our concerns, most of the time was used for them to pitch for us to contribute to the union's political arm--COPE (Committee on Political Education).
UFT members pay mandatory union dues and then can volunteer to contribute additional money to COPE. The really sad part about the union COPE sales job is it sounded so stale that I don't even know if the union people believe their own rhetoric any longer. It appears the main goal of the UFT is still to turn the State Senate back to the Democrats when there will be higher turnout in a presidential election year in 2016.
Newsflash: There are enough Democrats in Albany who could care less about us and they will side with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to see to it that little changes in our favor. I am a long time Democrat but I also have my eyes open enough to see that the Democratic Party can not be counted on to support teachers or public schools. The Republicans in State government aren't any better and in many ways are worse on education issues so starting to solve our problems needs to be done at the grassroots level with parents. Only by working with the communities will our lobbying efforts have real leverage behind them.
I did tell one of the UFT officials that the UFT needs to stand behind the parents in support of the growing opt-out from testing movement as most union locals and even NYSUT are doing. Opt-out is weaker in NYC compared to much of the state and I believe that if the UFT was on board, the movement would have huge growth here in the city.
As for COPE, there is no need to once again repeat the UFT's long list of failures and elected official betrayals since the three mayoral endorsements blew up in our faces in 2001.Our continuing lack of political insight is well documented. Some quick examples are us backing mayoral control of the schools in New York City twice; not supporting Bill Thompson when he ran against Mike Bloomberg for mayor in 2009 and of course giving money to Andrew Cuomo and not supporting Zephyr Teachout's bid to unseat him last year.
We have had some victories in local races and in the presidential elections but what have we gotten for our support? I would argue that working conditions have deteriorated rapidly in schools so our political wing has obviously failed. Asking us for our money now instead of listening to the membership is precisely why this union is in trouble and will more than likely lose tens of thousands of members if there is an unfavorable Supreme Court decision in the Friedrichs case. If we lose Friedrichs, teachers will no longer be required to pay union dues (agency fee) if they are not union members.
The UFT"s COPE sales pitch seemed to go over at Middle College about as well as a tray of Big Macs being served at a Vegan convention. While I believe a union needs a political arm and I do contribute some small change (literally) to COPE each month, I would not encourage others to make even token contributions under current circumstances. The money could be better spent by giving to plenty of worthy causes that are out there including MORE (caucus opposed to Mulgrew's Unity) or Stronger Together (statewide opposition caucus to Unity) or Leonie Haimson's Class Size Matters.