Our job has been turned into a nightmare in many school buildings. In spite of the working conditions deteriorating to the point where a large number of teachers cannot physically or emotionally take it much longer, our Union President's response is hinting that we want more of the same. President Michael Mulgrew told the Executive Board on Monday that we have to get a committee together on a Mayoral endorsement soon.
Unions are coming out early for Bill de Blasio's reelection according to the President . What is the argument for another four years?
NYC Educator in his Executive Board report gives us Mulgrew's reasoning:
Mayor inherited no contracts, now we all have them. There will be general election candidate, will run against UFT and school system.
If we use Mulgrew's rationale, then we haven't had any bad mayors since I have been a teacher. We had contracts under Mayors Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani and even Bloomberg in his first two terms. I don't believe we supported any of their reelection bids even when they had easy roads to victory. The question is not if we have a contract but does the city and its agencies respect their workers?
At the Department of Education, the answer clearly is no.
If anyone can see any improvement in our working conditions since Bill de Blasio became Mayor and Carmen Farina was appointed Chancellor, please let us know. Maybe I am missing something.
The ICEBlog 2017 crystal ball sees an early UFT endorsement of de Blasio's reelection. Meanwhile, conditions in the schools will not improve at all and many of our members will grow further disillusioned with the UFT when they come in and fear monger about how Mayor (fill in the name of your favorite Republican villain here) will mean the end of public schools. I don't doubt that this argument will have some validity but some of our members who are hurting under our current mayor and see no hope will have no problem backing a Republican who wants to destroy the UFT and public schools. People are at the point where they will cut off their noses to spite their face.
When union activists ask teachers to support the mayor's reelection bid, members will respond by asking us what has he done for us?
We would look absurd if we were honest. Here's what we would have to say:
- Be grateful that we got that contract that gives us 10% total in raises over 7 years and a month. That averages to over 1% a year and we threw in healthcare cost increases. You want more?
- We are fortunate enough to be saving our city some serious cash by giving them an interest free loan of our 2009-2011 salary increases that other city unions received back then but we won't get paid back in full until 2020 as city surpluses bulge.
- We are also extremely lucky to work for Chancellor Farina. She has been the wise steady hand who decided to keep the vast majority of the anti-union Bloomberg team at the DOE in place and she supports budgeting that hurts senior teachers. She has done next to nothing to ease the burden our members face because of abusive administrators, oversize classes or unruly students. She hasn't been very friendly on evaluations either but we still like her. At least she takes our phone calls.
- Be happy that we are treated like garbage. If we worked in a charter school, it would be worse under Eva Moskowitz.
- We need not worry that the school system is a mess because we can keep filing grievances and getting money for work we do on SESIS.
There are alternatives that could be better than trying to prop up a mayor who has been fairly awful to us because we believe if he loses his opponent will attempt to kill public education in NYC. We should at least discuss the options openly.
Option 1: Why can't we find someone to primary de Blasio?
There has to be a Democrat out there with some pro-public school credentials who wants to be mayor and will move the debate in a pro-teacher direction. Whether they can win or not is not really the issue right now. It is that we can finally assert ourselves by having someone who will move our issues to the center of the agenda. Let's back a long-shot if we are so inclined.
We're now about to hear all of the excuses on why this is impossible. It's too late for a challenger to raise the money; de Blasio is an incumbent with a huge war chest; we will only weaken him for the fall if a Democrat runs in a primary, blah, blah, blah.
Option 2: Why can't we stay out of the mayor's race?
I completely understand that it is very difficult for us to just keep our mouths shut and not make an endorsement however I personally am sick of choosing between the lesser of the evils when it comes to public schools. How else can we let this mayor know we are not at all satisfied by how he has treated us since taking office in 2014 then by telling him our members are disgusted so we can't support his reelection? It is anecdotal but in the progressive school where I am presently employed, the mayor is not a popular figure.
I think most of us can agree that conditions in hundreds of schools are atrocious. There is consensus among teachers I talk to that nothing much has improved under de Blasio.
Giving him our unqualified support means we want more of the same as a best case scenario.
Small wonder the UFT will lose plenty of members if and when we lose the next Friedrichs case and union dues aren't mandatory any longer.