October 9, 2008

Bottom up!

Just to let you know before you get on with reading this that more of the same theme is going on over at Ednotes, particularly his Oct. 24th post.

I wish everyone would start talking this issue up. Cognizance leads to Change.

A comment I wrote over on the ICE blog ties in with AVoiceIn's Oct. 8th post at Chancellor's, so here's a bit of both.

AVoiceIn worries about Weingarten's re-alignment with some very dark forces in our city, Klein and Bloomberg:

"Like other union members, I’ve watched with some shock, distaste and frustration as Weingarten seemed to lose focus of what she was supposed to be doing. As teachers find themselves fighting against a depressing tide of abuse, blame, and discredit, Weingarten has seemed oddly quiet. . . . Well, call me crazy, but if you were the president of such a massive union, wouldn’t you then make it a point to turn the ant-union sentiment around? Wouldn’t that sort of be a part of what you were being paid to do?

That Weingarten has recently "seemed to lose focus" is certainly what it looks like.

The way I see it, she's gotten herself all caught up in some positions she'll never back off from, like calling for "collaboration" with administrators, accepting merit pay (by any other name blah-blah-blah...) and charter schools (they're not really charter schools if the union runs them), using test marks for evaluations (but shhhh, don't tell anyone), stifling oppositional voices in so many ways she could write a book on the subject, allowing non-differentiated staff development (because what the heck, it really doesn't matter how those teachers spend their time, they're getting paid, aren't they?), and making sure the threat of withholding labor remains anemic (that one really pisses me off).

Each one of these cuts at core union principles. But, here's where I'm taking this:

Forget top-down union management, that era's over. Fully certified rank-and-file members are going to have to get their gear on and go build union back up, inside each school and particularly where it's not happening at all. They'll have to educate, communicate, organize, and hold to contract for themselves. There is simply no other way.

That's because Weingarten hawks her leadership and her "brand" every time she gets a chance — at new teacher initiation conferences, opening delegate assemblies, and forays into the schools. It's clear she wants a good chunk of her union to be as inexperienced and maniputable as Klein does. She needs these new teachers to believe everything she says, writes, pushes for, or doesn't act on is the "best that union can buy." Recruits don't know the enormity of the givebacks or the politics. Only the vets do, and it's the vets she's been abandoning.

In answer to an anon. 11:57 pm over at the ICE blog: "Will people vote against them in the next election?"

It's hard to tell if Weingarten's already abdicated or just playing footsie under the table with the educrats we despise. But there's no way to wrest votes from her without tenured teachers doing the real work of labor unionism, taking on time-consuming tasks and toughening up union positions from within.

And if you aren't willing to do this work, even in a small way, you forfeit the right to moan. Weingarten's not listening anyway, and the activists can't do it without you.

I mean it: This work goes from the bottom up.


avoiceinthewilderness said...

s to the question of whether or not people will vote against them, here's the problem: many teachers, especially new teachers don't realize they have a choice.
When I was a new teacher I asked my union rep about the candidates and was told, "we are a part of the Unity caucus, so we always vote for Unity."
Now, how would I ever know the difference as a newbie?

Pogue said...

I believe a good start would be to post a list of favorite and helpful teaching websites in the teacher's lounges of the schools we work in. If there is one thing older teachers and new teachers share, it is our extensive use of the internet and blogging communities. Getting different viewpoints on education, teacher, and union issues can be quite illuminating for everyone, young and old.

Woodlass said...

Thanks, Pogue, neat idea. There's a range of blogs out there, and each has its use. We could even start making up a NYC EDBLOGGER'S GUIDE, for which each blog owner could supply a blurb describing the goals of his particular blog and what readers would expect to find there. We could all then post this GUIDE on our sites, and it could also be printed out and hung on UFT boards.

Also, there's a great need at this point to move past sharing ideas and start doing the hard work of building union: disseminating info, helping each other through the contract, going to the press, meeting with principals in groups over and over again if need be, to make sure they understand we will be reckoned with. Taking on one issue that interests you and WORKING IT!

ed notes online said...

I agree. If even this small army of bloogers and commenters who understand the problems with the union moved to the next step of activation that would be the beginning of a movement for change.

That could mean attendign an ICE or TJC meeting or in the least offerign to be a building rep for those groups. Or put toether a local group even if only 2 or 4 people in your school or district. Put out info to people - gather emails. Share some of the stuff you are reading on the blogs.

At some point people can make an attempt to pool their efforts.

Anonymous said...

Teachers need to stop being fearful of losing their "position" in the union, and vote their concience. Then democracy will be restored in the union.
Vote for who you think is right and let the chips fall where they may.