I was on the UFT Executive Board for a decade from 1997-2007 representing the high schools in opposition to Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus. I give my full support to the six bold members from MORE and New Action who are standing tall against Unity's 95 representatives today. If anything, Unity has gotten even more arrogant and less responsive to the rank and file since 2007. The High School Division has been completely marginalised by UFT leadership.
In 2015, MORE and New Action coming together gave me some hope that we could be a little bit of a force at the Executive Board to at least embarrass Unity into doing something more than just going through the motions to support the membership. I appear to have been a little too optimistic in that hope.
As Arthur Goldstein shows in his latest commentary on this week's Executive Board proceedings, on the issues of abusive principals, lower class sizes, and closing/reorganizing schools where UFT members have to reapply for our jobs, Unity is either not up to the task or is downright working against our interests.
Maximum class sizes of 34 in high school subject classes are way too high and the UFT cannot even force the DOE to hold to these caps. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity agreed to average class size limits of 25 for high schools that are in the law are as elusive as ever.
UFT HS VP Janella Hinds now says we must take responsibility for low performing schools. The UFT helps to decide who gets rehired in closing or reorganizing schools by having representatives on hiring committees. When I proposed that the UFT boycott the process in 2008, Unity was shocked as if I just asked for the UFT to endorse selling crack in school cafeterias. A union boycott is unthinkable to Unity. As Jonathan Halabi pointed out on Arthur's blog, the union once went on strike to stop a handful of members from being transferred. Now, they happily are part of the process of deciding which teachers get to stay or have to go from schools where the DOE decides we are the problem without any research based evidence to back up the claim that poor teaching is what causes schools to be so called "failing" schools.
As I have said before, there are two possible solutions that are each next to impossible to achieve:
1-Mobilize a massive rank and file movement to defeat Unity at the ballot box;
2-Get at least 100 activists to get about 65 signatures each on petitions to fragment the high schools into our own collective bargaining unit (union).
The frustration our high school reps are experiencing at the Executive Board further convinces me that Unity is not going to hear us in any meaningful way until they are threatened.
That can only work by getting information out to the schools. Social media is great but not sufficient.
Finally, all I have to say to the misguided folks who are salivating waiting for the US Supreme Court to rule in the Janus case that union dues are optional in the public sector is to be careful what you wish for. We need a union. We really need a union. We'll be even weaker without one or one where half of the members defect and go without any union for collective strength. You think the contracts and working conditions we live under are bad; you ain't seen nothing yet.