Gene Mann is a retired teacher who is an organizer for the UFT. He is a decent guy but he touts the Unity line word for word. Gene writes an online piece called The Organizer which we have quoted on a number of occasions. It is one of the places where sometimes we can discover some Unity thinking. This week's version was astounding as Gene puts in writing that he didn't handle a situation well. He then publishes a letter from UFT Middle School Vice President Rich Mantell calling for real solidarity. In over two decades of activism, I have never seen two pieces like the ones below from anyone in Unity Caucus.
From the June 27, 2017 Organizer:
Be Sure To Read
I publish the letter below from Rich Mantell, UFT Vice President for Middle Schools partially to reproach myself.
Specifically there was a disturbing incident recently at one of “my” schools. A teacher received a vile and threatening, anti-semitic challenge from a student. The school, instead of supporting the teacher and seeking appropriate discipline for the student, turned it all around. The fault was all the teacher’s-poorly formatted lesson plans, no doubt. The priority was keeping knowledge of the incident from coming to the District Representative. The teacher was upbraided in front of the principal by some of her colleagues at an ad hoc department meeting. They were no doubt scoring points with the principal while ganging up on their fellow. Two teachers who refused to participate in this group assault passed the word on to me. I took it up with the Chapter Leader alone. I didn’t even talk to the affected teacher, who clearly didn’t want to. The day after my visit the good guys were questioned by the principal: How did Gene Mann find out what had occurred?
Connect the dots.
On my next and last visit to the school I should have ripped into the sycophants. I demurred, telling myself I would only be causing more harm to the “upstanders,” as we call them in the anti-bullying work I do for Child Abuse Prevention Services on Long Island. I have regretted my reticence. Then, I was privileged to read this on FaceBook:
As professionals and union members, we must collectively fight these tactics but also seek to improve communication and relationships with supervisors. It’s not always possible, of course, because it takes two willing partners to form a healthy relationship.
Granted, teaching or working in a school is not a job for everyone. Every profession has those who, perhaps, are not suited for that particular career. However, no member deserves to be poorly treated at work, and, simply put, it should never happen nor should we accept it. We have protocols in place and a contract to help each other. An attack against one of us is an attack against all — that’s the basic premise of a union. By banding together, supporting each other, we can turn things around.
Unfortunately, some turn their heads.
Our members who have faced abusive work situations tell us that they didn’t start to panic until their colleagues ignored their plight or took the administrator’s side. That’s when they felt alone and isolated, began to hate going to work, became despairing and, sometimes, suffered physical illness. No one wants to be a pariah; it takes a terrible toll. I know of some who left a profession they loved rather than endure the situation.
Too often, administrators persuade other staff members to side with them, knowing full well the import of looking justified in their behavior. Too often, others want to curry favor with a superior. They kick someone who is down, instead of supporting them, to receive favor from a power-that-is.
Dr. Heinz Leymann, a Swedish psychologist, identified this concept as “mobbing,” or "psychological terror" by one or a few individuals toward another. Bad-mouthing, criticism, spreading rumors and ridicule are but a few examples of mobbing. Mobbing is led by an individual (a principal or other supervisor) who encourages others to abuse a victim. The target starts to question who he or she can and cannot trust — almost all relationships come into question.
Leymann concluded that, in many instances, mobbing victims are “damaged to such an extent that they can no longer accomplish their task ... at the end, they resign, are terminated or forced into early retirement.” Sound familiar?
It is bad enough to be the target of an administrator and, worse, to be mobbed as well. To help our colleagues survive these attacks, we must recognize this kind of bullying when we see it.
First, don’t take sides with your boss. Avoid gossiping with supervisors about colleagues. The only purpose is to manipulate you.
Second, if you see a colleague mistreated, stand up for him or her and push back. Don’t spread rumors or gossip. It’s just as easy to support your colleague as to attack him. Next time, you could be the subject of that nasty rumor.
Third, if you know a colleague is having a hard time, be a stand-up person. Let him or her know they are not alone. Help them fight back against that recalcitrant administrator. Remember the 1961 Ben E. King hit song, “Stand by Me”? Do just that — stand by your colleague.
If you need a better reason than compassion, unity and solidarity, remember this as well: Next time, it could be you who’s running scared, who needs a friend and who needs support. What goes around comes around: You’ll be glad to have the support of your colleagues just the way you supported them.
UFT Vice President for Middle Schools
UFT Vice President for Middle Schools
My guess is there will be a comment or two on how Unity people have used "mobbing" on those of us who do not agree with them and how President Michael Mulgrew curries favor with administration or politicians at our expense so Unity does not practice what they preach. In my neighborhood we call that hypocrisy but I would rather focus on the substance here and try holding all of us to this standard as we move ahead. Rich Mantell provides very good advice.