Wednesday, February 7, 2018

BEWARE of those who start fires

"Low blows" and "cheap shots" are taken by both parties involved. Neither admits to seeing the perspective of the other yet, somehow, each party involved knows just how to hurt the other.

Both sides are to blame.

Both sides blame each other.

While this may sound like a confrontation between two children at your school, it's actually a description of the the squabble currently happening within your union, the UFT.  Full grown adults -educators from the best teaching corps in the United States- are actively seeking to convince their allies to fear hate the another.

And it's not just hate. The two largest groups within the union are, as we speak, actively trying to convince anyone who pays attention to union stuff that the other group is so vile and disgusting that they should be detested.


This all started last year when one group, MORE, decided to plan and execute a Black Lives Matter Week of Action. Many within the caucus hesitated to support the initiative, given all that the union is currently working to achieve. This includes securing paid parental leave and positioning itself to begin contract negotiations with the city on favorable terms. It also includes winning back a whole host of protections that were lost during the Bloomberg administration.

Besides the timing, the week of action seemed like an important idea for teachers to pursue. By itself, one full week devoted to spending some school time to raise awareness of an entire school community as to experience of African Americans today -in our present time- is more than sorely needed. It's necessary.  The Week of Action sought to do this across several dozen school communities over the course of the same week. And it was scheduled to occur during the only full school week of Black History Month. The group met and planned, and met, and planned until they had a game plan down and implemented it.

Then, at the end of January, MORE brought legislation to the union's congressional body -the Delegate Assembly- asking for the whole union to vote to support and participate in the Black Lives Matter Week of Action that they had planned.

If you're reading this blog, you probably already know that the union is essentially run by another, larger group, called the Unity Caucus. Well, when "Unity" read the legislation, they opposed it. Among other things, they cited the challenges with keeping such a diverse union united as they enter a post-Janus world (one where certain unions would be greatly weakened). I'm sure they also decided not to endorse a week of activities that they had not helped to plan and did not want to distract from their other important work.

I also, in my heart, believe that they felt and feel there are other ways to support a movement that seeks to gain for a group basic human rights in America during our time (if you drive to work, click this link instead).

So, on January 27 of this year, "MORE" rolled into the "Unity' lead assembly and raised the legislation. Unity opposed it. The assembly voted and MORE lost. The UFT would not not support and participate in the MORE lead and MORE created Black Lives Matter Week of Action.

And then something happened. Suddenly -out of nowhere and without any warning- MORE appeared on TV news and seemingly accusing Unity of not supporting Black Lives Matter.

The only sensible message taken from the news story was not that the union did not support the Black Lives Matter Week of Action but that the union did not support the Black Lives Matter Movement.* That this was faulty premise made no difference.


Of course, the internet was not very happy with this message. (how could they be when this was the message they received?) Neither was anyone who cared about a kinder, better cooler world (because all those people care about is that the adults in our union act like adults and sit down and plan a worthy city wide week of events, like adults would. You know, because all the people in the union are all adults and, well, adults).  


And, of course, "Unity" was not happy either.


Recently, when the larger Unity caucus sent its newsletter out to its own members, it warned of the differences between a 'loyal' opposition and a "not so loyal" opposition. Using words like "disturbing" and "burning" and "misinformation" as well as phrases like "spewing incendiary remarks" and  "burning a hole through the fabric of our union", the leading caucus lead  its members to believe that the opposition were extremists who were dangerous and could not to be trusted.

"BEWARE", warned the newsletter "of those who set fires".

So the next time the 'less involved'  people of the Unity Caucus come in contact with MORE, all they will see is a turn-coating, back-biting, press-mongering, commee-lovin' group of people who don't love our society or our union.

And the next time the less involved people of MORE come in contact with Unity, all they will think is that those people are just a power-lovin, politics-playing, overly-suspicious, toned-deaf group of people who either don't love all of the people in our society or just don't care to do anything about it.

That's all the less union inclined will see.


Now BOTH of these things, of course, will be untrue. And NEITHER group will be adult enough to admit it and to explain to their followers that the other side are mainly good, hardworking people who love teaching, love all of their students, work hard for their schools and love their (amazingly strong) teachers' union  (and love our city and our country). But, you see, that won't matter. The only thing that will matter is that the allies of each group will look upon the other group as dangerous. That's all either group cares about.


This outfit needs a restorative justice circle -quick.








* Sidenote:  The news outlet misidentifed the Black Lives Matter Movement as a group. It is not. It is a movement made up of several hundred small groups across the country. But it should be noted that the story's lede was not objected to or corrected in any public forum by either union group. 

"A rift has opened inside the city's teachers' union over whether to endorse the controversial group Black Lives Matter."  



It irks me that neither teacher group offered this correction.

23 comments:

  1. I am SO SICK of all this fighting over stuff that has nothing to do with our day to day working conditions. The freakin' UFT needs to focus on what is important to the 80,000 teachers who show up to work every day in our schools. We want a fair evaluation system!!! Sure Black Lives Matter. However, that is not what I, or my colleagues are thinking about when we walk into our schools each an every day. What we ARE thinking about is if this is going to be "the day" that an admin is going to do a drive by observation with a Danielson clipboard. We need to focus on the here and now. Everything else will fall into place in due time.

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  2. You are too funny doenuts. Tell me, how were we supposed to respond? And why do you waste your time with these people?

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    1. While I appreciate why you're upset, I don't think I follow. Did YOU write that newsletter? Were those the words you would have chosen? You see my people walk in and out of the EB and DA each every time. Do they honestly look like a bunch of extremists to you?
      Honestly

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    2. There is a simple solution. Stop walking into the DA with your poison. Or just stop walking into the DA.

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  4. If it were up to you people, the whole union would burn

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  5. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. But then again you have no shame.

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  6. Ok, ok. I get it. It's 5:30. Most of the calls about the contract have stopped for the day and you're bored waiting for 6 to roll around. That's all well and good so have your fun. I'll try to publish the comments later this evening. Just remember one thing: every single issue that Unity has resolved started with an activist from MORE standing on a street corner with a bull horn. Every single one.

    Sounds pretty loyal to me.

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  7. Most teachers don’t want the UFT preoccupied with racially charged movements when most of us are sinking quickly - from targeted veteran teachers to ATRs, 4 observations to doscontinuations, unsafe working conditions to forced grade changing - we shouldn’t be worrying about the BLM movement. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reflects on that fact.

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    1. I have to be honest -and I am just being honest. Most teachers want happy students who are in class, well fed and feel hopeful about the future. This doesn't have to be racially charged. It just has to follow common sense. I hate to go back to this geouo's orginal, slogan but our working conditions and their learning conditions are very VERY linked.

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    2. Of course we do, but if the plane loses pressure and is in a tailspin the adults but on their oxygen masks first in order to help the kids. BLM is not a prerequisite for happiness.

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    3. All of us - students and teachers.

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  8. Um, there were multiple cities involved in this. This was not a NYC only event. Lots of work went into planning and coordinating lesson exchanges, panel discussions, storytelling events, art activities, postcard writing etc. These events engaged parents, students and teachers. When MORE brings something up that is being organized on a national level, it is not to be divisive at all. When the actions involve teaching, community engagement and authentic collaborative discussion about policies and school cultures that impact all students it should bring us all together. However, some want to be on the wrong side of history to appear to not offend. Sorry, word got out that the Unity caucus wouldnt support the equivalent of a teach in to affirm the importance of the Black and Brown children that are unquestionably getting short shrift. This happened and boom a white teacher was removed from her classroom for walking on the backs of children she had laying face down on the floor so they could feel what slavery was like. It is obvious the time has come for black history, ethnic studies, training for teachers, more teachers of color, and an end to discipline that criminalizes children. The UFT took a hit when this got out, but Unity is famous for voting down or tabling things that could make a difference to vulnerable and marginalized groups. They are afraid of backlash. Leaders go into the fray, and the union groups in multiple cities did just that. Ours did not.

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  9. Not sure why MORE chose this issue. Did anyone from BLM ask them to put forth this resolution? Even more to the point, did any black person ask them to do so? I don’t see a lot of black people saying “if only the UFT would pass a resolution. . .” I suppose a reso can’t hurt. But, you’d think the MORE folks would understand the history of the union a little better. Look all the way back to the strike in the 70s, and you’ll see that the foundations against unionism always saw race as a fault line that could be exploited to drive a wedge between the union and the community. Additionally, pitting public service unions against one another seems incredibly unwise.

    It really looks like MORE’s stunt blew up all over all of us. UFT was in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t position from the moment MORE brought this up. For better or worse, it seems like, in Trump’s America, the UFT is really trying to fly under the radar. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. UFTers are definitely supporting BLM (Randi got arrested at a march). But, we’re doing it on our own time.

    Also, worth noting that many BLM leaders are former TfA dweebs, who are not friendly to Teacher’s Unions. Their racial justice cause is a good one, but, it would probably be best to support them individually, and not with the weight of our organization.

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  10. Resolution was about supporting BLM week of action in schools. Not the movement as a whole. Big different.

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  11. I’m not sure it’s that different. Is the BLM week of action something that is authentically coming from the black community? If so, I would support it. Maybe, before asking the union to run into the vanguard, it would be wise to make connections in the black community and see if it’s something they want. Right now, it looks to me like people (TfA and MORE) are using black people as props. I can’t speak for other people, that’s just how it looks to me.

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    1. Great point. Through social media I noticed a large amount of educators of color participating in the planning, including members of the African American community. I did not notice a high amount of unionist educators of color and that's not a poison pill statement but maybe that is worth talking about. I did, though, notice that the week of action was not planned exclusively by white people.
      That's just what I noticed.

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  12. Fair enough. Unity’s gestapo tactics don’t help. But, MORE seems so naive about how this was going to play out in the media. The local papers are running every story they can that make non charter schools look racist,

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    1. I agree about the papers and about the naive move.

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  13. Within the UFT most of the black activists seem to be in Unity. While I supported the MORE resolution I and others were also sensitive to this fact --- MORE must be sensitive to this issue and not assume - that the Black Unity people are just self-serving sell-outs or Uncle Toms. Especially since at the last MORE meeting there were about 30 people present, but one or two people who were not white -- but not black either. If Unity can attract so many people of color - even if they offer jobs, opportunity and perks -- I still think for many people who suffered under the race issue in the school system when Unity gave them opportunities starting in the late 90s under Randi - they appreciate those opportunities and the Unity rationale makes sense -- plus the union is not exactly anti-social justice. If you doubt racism in the DOE -- my poor school district in Brooklyn with 95% not-white kids was run totally white - and by the say -- also under some prejudice against secular Jewish teachers -- religious ones got jobs through the influence of the Hasidic community.

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