Anybody who has read this blog for a while knows that one of the best bloggers out there was Reality Based Educator. His blog was more popular than ours and my ego would be bruised sometimes when I used to think that he wrote a better blog. Unfortunately, he is not blogging these days but on the bright side he is still on Twitter and he also continues as an active NYC teacher. This is his reaction on Twitter to the first death of a teacher from complications from COVID-19. Sandra Santos Viscaino from P.S. 9 worked on the three days (March 17, 18 and 19) that the UFT let their members toil in unsafe schools for professional development. The UFT didn't tell members in no uncertain terms to work from home in the middle of a pandemic.
Awful. Just awful.
I am so angry at the chancellor and the mayor for their callous disregard for our lives.
But I am even angrier at the @UFT because I fucking pay them to protect me and all they protect is their own power, perks and privileges.
RBE is totally right; we pay for the consistent UFT surrenders. I very much doubt what happened at P.S 9 was an isolated COVID-9 in the schools case. Word came to me that five UFT members at one Queens High School who went into work with the UFT's okay from March 17-19 are now sick with Coronavirus. The Union knew this building was infected on March 17 and didn't pull the teachers out.
I know of another Queens High School building where COVID-19 was suspected. One principal in that school building wisely told her staff to stay home but in another school in the same building, the teachers still were given the option to report the next two days. The UFT had a responsibility to clear out all suspected unsafe buildings. Why do we need a union if they won't do everything they can to protect member health? That is ultimately Michael Mulgrew's job.
The Department of Education not releasing the numbers on DOE COVID-19 cases again shows UFT weakness. Why isn't the Union screaming publicly for the numbers? Why is it left to Sue Edelman to fight this fight?
When the chips were down and UFT members were calling out sick en masse for March 16, the Union showed who they really are by putting out the memo to District Reps that was leaked to the Daily News. Don't ever forget these words from your Union:
“A coordinated sick-out will be interpreted by the DOE as an organized effort in violation of the Taylor Law and the Triborough Law,” union officials wrote its leaders.
“They will perceive it as a labor action and strike. Each participant is subject to a fine of two days’ pay for every missed day and arrest. However, even worse, the UFT will suffer greatly with fines and penalties. Please advise against.”
They cared more about their dues than member lives in the middle of a pandemic. Let's repeat what RBE stated perfectly about the UFT: "I fucking pay them to protect me and all they protect is their own power, perks and privileges."
Some UFT apologists will claim that the UFT's robust reaction to losing the first two days of Passover, Holy Thursday and Good Friday in Mulgrew's email sent out Friday night shows how angry the UFT is. No, it is another example of how completely impotent the Union is.
From Friday's email:
Under collective bargaining rules, the UFT has the right to negotiate a compensation package for all the extra days you are being required to work, and I will do everything in my power to see that you are properly compensated for your time.
This statement is basically a meaningless promise. Due to the UFT's usual overabundance of caution (I am being kind here), the Union has basically zero leverage in this negotiation, and as a matter of fact, in virtually every negotiation. The Mayor and Chancellor can laugh about the UFT threatening lawsuits in a pandemic. We do collective begging.
Ultimately, however, it is the rank and file and not the leadership that controls our union destiny. Please stop accepting that the membership's fate forever is just to accept the situation as it is but don't dream about voting Mulgrew/Unity out. UFT elections are rigged in a sophisticated way as the Union controls almost the entire flow of information to the members. There is no way an opposition group could possibly get to the thousands of retirees scattered around the country to get them to know them, like them, and trust them enough to vote for them.
As there currently is no viable political option, I would like to talk about a different idea: a DUES STRIKE. There is a June opt-out period when members have the option not to pay union dues. I will not opt-out. I am pro-union.
However, we can go on a dues strike until the UFT changes in big ways. I'm not talking about getting the 8.25% interest back on TDA or seniority transfers but rather internal, structural changes so the UFT functions as a union again. Unfortunately, this action will never work unless there are many making the statement of going on strike and are willing to return to paying dues if the UFT fixes itself. We can talk about what that repair means for me and open it up to everyone for their ideas in future posts.
The elite in this country are more than likely going to take advantage of the state of emergency and its aftermath from COVID-19 to enrich themselves while there will probably be major austerity for the rest of us. The economy is more than ruined and will be for some time. We need to stand up for ourselves collectively or beg for crumbs. Mulgrew and company can choose the latter route because they are not impacted that much. I choose the former path but my personal opinion as a humble, semi-retired worker who blogs means very little. I don't even represent ICEUFT in this thinking, just myself. It's the UFT members en masse who matter. If you are not going to collectively take control now, when will you?
P.S. I would like to put out a call today and ask how many other school districts around the area that are all in a state of emergency will be working on Thursday and Friday? I checked around and New Jersey is still getting spring break. I also discovered that one Long Island district still received a full spring break and will be off on Thursday and Friday too. Readers, do you know of many other districts working Thursday or Friday?