Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Waiting for Mikey

Guest Blogger: RBE

I've been a UFT member since 2001. I've seen a few contract negotiations in my time. And it's always the same, negotiation period after negotiation period. They put together a committee of UFT members who are allegedly on the contract negotiating team - and those people get Unity-approved dribs and drabs of what is happening to dole out to the masses. But the real negotiation is happening behind closed doors with Mulgrew (or in the old days, Weingarten.) We wait for Mikey to come down from the Mount with the tablets upon which are written the new contract terms - and we will be asked to vote on the new contract before actually seeing said new contract and understanding what, exactly, is in it.

Unity says this is the only way this can be done, that they will not "negotiate in public" because that would undermine the process and the outcome. I don't see it that way. To me, they limit this negotiation to those in the Unity braintrust (such as it is) just as they hold all other important union details and duties to themselves. It's about power, and perks, and privileges. Keep others out, keep others guessing, keep others in the dark about what is happening, keep members dependent on what leaders "do" for them and tell them.

Every time I see the UFT talk about the importance of voting, the importance of democracy, etc., I laugh. There are few entities as undemocratic as the Unity-controlled UFT. Mulgrew is the king, and it's good to be the king. He does what he wants, with impunity, shoves through what he wants, with impunity, and the rare time something happens to undercut what he wants, he just shoves said thing through with impunity again (see retiree health care sellout, for example.) There is nothing democratic, representative or admirable about this union leadership, nothing democratic, representative, or admirable about this union, frankly. I am not talking about people at the chapter leader level here. I have been fortunate to have good CL's (non-Unity) who try to represent members as best they can and work as hard as they can for them. No, I'm talking about the people above. The few times I have needed help for something from any UFT rep above the chapter leader level, they have always failed me. Always. One time, I needed to get my classroom checked for asbestos contamination after I found an "asbestos blanket" canister placed on my desk by some new custodian who has found the thing in the closet. My CL was right on it, getting us moved from the room until the air could be checked. The UFT DR, on the other hand, got belligerent and wanted to know what I was worried about, was I looking to sue over this in some bullshit lawsuit? Ah, the UFT Unity crew - always looking out for members. Fortunately we were able to get the air checked and all was well, but we had to fight the UFT as much as the DOE to do it. My CL, now long retired, got it done, no thanks to the Unity crew above him.

So, as we await Mikey's pilgrimage from the Mount with whatever sellout contract he is going to tell us "scrapes the skies" it's so good, I am reminded that it doesn't have to be this way, that this union could be more democratic, more representative, actually function as an entity in the business of protecting and representing the interests of members, not protecting and representing the interests of the leadership. Whatever comes from this contract (my last one - I will be gone by the time the next contract comes), let us remember the next election that we can and should do better than this.  

Wednesday, May 03, 2023


This email came earlier today, May 3, from the UFT telling me about an April 4 meeting. We trust our healthcare and union representation to these people who don't even know what month it is. Then again, maybe they purposely sent me the April 4 meeting notice on May 3.

This picture above shouldn't bother me but seeing UFT HS VP Janella Hinds take a picture from the Writers Guild strike picket line leaves me feeling a bit bittersweet. It is a positive that our leaders support the job acton as the strike is worthwhile. That is union solidarity. On the other hand, the UFT has done nothing to revise the part of the Taylor law that makes public employee strikes in NY, including by teachers, illegal. Evey worker should have the right to strike. I would like to see Janella work to repeal that portion of the Taylor law.