Saturday, February 20, 2016


I was reading a piece from Labor Notes on Friedrichs this week while on vacation and a couple of parts really hit home concerning unions. The public sector unions received an unexpected reprieve this week with the death Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia which will likely mean they will survive to collect agency fees from non-members.

Will the unions see this as a wake-up call and start really organizing?  My guess is the answer is no but Labor Notes' Editor Alexandra Bradbury offers up some fundamental advice on what is necessary.

On organizing:
What’s required is no mystery. Unionists have known the fundamentals of good organizing for a century or more: listen more than you talk; find on-the-job problems your co-workers care about; take action to solve them; map out natural leaders and groups; act together instead of alone.

Is anyone in the UFT doing any of this work outside of a small group of people in certain schools?

On union power:
A union’s strength, after all, is its members—not just how many are paying dues, but how many have caught the spirit of solidarity, how many will stand together on the job, how many are training their co-workers to see through the boss’s agenda, how many will go to the mat for the union because it’s their organization, fighting for what matters to them.

Based on this very realistic definition of what makes a union strong, the UFT is one of the weakest unions out there.  We can probably count the number of people who would go to the mat for the UFT one one hand and have a couple of fingers left over. Such is the sorry state of our bureaucratic top-down union in 2016, featuring out of touch leadership that does little except go through the motions many times for the members and has encouraged the rank and file to do next to nothing as a union and therefore become almost completely apathetic.


NYC Educator said...

This is an important post and point. I was very struck by Mulgrew's remark that if we'd lost Friedrichs union would need to organize. I wondered why they hadn't been doing just that for the last ten years. Likely they were too busy going on member-funded junkets doing whatever they please with no regard for rank and file. Thus, the cynicism, discouragement, and lack of engagement that makes for an election in which only 17% of working teachers can be bothered even to vote.

Anonymous said...

NY Post has piece on how they spent our money last year. All fun for them and politics to support people who hate us.

Anonymous said...

The fact that only 17% of UFT members voted in the last election is the very reason we find ourselves blessed with the brilliant and talented Michael Mulgrew. Just as citizens get the government they deserve, union members get the leadership they deserve as well. I have to hand it to meathead Mike, he at least understands that New York City's "brightest" are really not that sharp at all.

ed notes online said...

why did only 17% vote in the last election? total apathy? or more like the election with winner take all doesn't mean much. If you had a real legislative body elected to check and balance the leadership people would find it worth voting. Even if Mulgrew wins it wouldn't be a dictatorship. Unity makes its own bed and while maybe dodging a Friedrichs bullet for now their chickens will one day come home to roost.
The goal of any opposition must be to form a viable organization that operates after the election and doesn't just focus on winning crumbs.

James Eterno said...

An educated educator is Unity's worst nightmare.