I first became aware of Jia Lee at an ICE meeting over at the diner in 2014. During that time there was a bit of a row within MORE. A few folks, myself included, were kicking around the idea of leaving MORE for greener, or is that bluer, pastures. The meeting wasn't particularly tense, I mean, there was a lot of yelling going on but most of that wasn't directed at any one person at the diner. Not anyone in the room, that is. Many folks yelled at, you know, things in general; people in particular -and the general sorry state of affairs we were all in to be specific.
Jia's presence at the meeting took me a bit off guard. I knew her to be "the High Stakes Tests" person within MORE and while I respected her toughness and pronounced intelligence, I just never expected her to be sitting at a table of grumbling trade unionists on a Friday night. Yet there she was, urging folks to remember the bigger picture -of everything that everyone in that room could accomplish with MORE.
She didn't take anyone on in any sort of direct confrontation or anything. Instead, she put forth her points at the table, then stayed for the whole meeting, making it a point to say hello to each and every person who had expressed a temperamental thought during it -repeating her points about hanging tough the whole time, while reassuring and reminding folks that MORE's greatest time lie ahead (she was right).
That impressed me. It takes a toughness to calmly repeat yourself to upset unionsts. You don't have to talk loud or go all postal in order to be tough, you know. Toughness comes during those quick, fleeting moments when others expect you to back and you don't. I've never seen Jia raise her voice. Yet I've never known her to back down either. Not once. That's Trade Unionism 101: Do.Not.Back.Down.
Fact is, Jia is all about the fight.
Writing about her Trade Unionists bona fides, Norm's post continues:
"Jia knows all about crazed administrators, having worked in a school under a Leadership Academy slug and even took on the job of chapter leader despite seeing previous CLs chopped or sent to the rubber room (a founder of ICE was the previous CL who was rubber-roomed). Jia had to spend so much time trying to defend her colleagues from being assaulted there was a danger of having her teaching affected. "
There is a bottom line here. Trade Unionists care about their working conditions, and little else beyond that scope. I identify myself as a proud trade unionist and I feel right at home helping Jia Lee take the presidency from Michael Mulgrew next Spring. I know that working conditions across the city will come to the front burner under her leadership. I know teachers will win back the respect and dignity we lost under the previous mayor (and have yet to fully gain back under this one) with her as president. I know my job will be easier with her in office and the experience of my students in my classroom (and tens of thousands of classrooms across the city) will be better because of it too.
And I know these conditions will improve while all of the things that effect my students -all of those social justice things that do impact my working conditions- will be addressed and improved as well.
I wanted to say that. I wanted to say that I'm not supporting her because she's with MORE or because she's been a Chapter Leader -or because she and her work have made life easier for my own third grade daughter (although it has). I'm behind her because she stands for the Trade Unionist agenda that I'm willing fight over. And that's all the difference.