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.