A heated presidential election?
Social unrest and turmoil?
An Impending recession?
Unacceptable terms from a mayor who is seen as screwing it all up?
A possible New York City Teacher Strike?
I'm sure that sounds like 2020 to you. And this year does, in fact, have all of those components. But I'm actually describing 1968.
During that year, the sitting president announced that he wasn't going to run and the leading candidate was murdered in Los Angelos. During this same year, millions of Americans found themselves facing job loss due to an impending recession and let's not forget the turmoil of America's most famous year. This was the same year that the mayor, John Lindsay, supported community schools at the cost of basic due process rights for teachers, causing the most famous teacher strike in New York's City history.
That strike was difficult. The union, after making the decision that they had to go (Fred Newman had been fired without due process and the community board refused to acknowledge it) needed to convince all of the other teachers (across five boroughs) to walk out as well. Most did. We didn't lose due process.
That strike lasted for 36 days. This one won't last that long.
I would imagine teachers in 1968 showing up, picketing around their school during their ninety-minute or two-hour shift, maybe attending an end-of-day rally and going home. Between those appearances, they probably had to scrimp for food and gas in the car and then call all of their friends when they got home to find out how their day had went. When it was all over, teachers had to make up those days for no money. They worked the day after Thanksgiving, the day after Christmas, the day after New Years and missed most of the vacation days just because the terms of the settlement included making up for the lost days.
That generation had it rough.
Ours? Eh ....
Look, the last prediction I made was that they would close schools and that was right. So let me make another prediction: There *will* be a job action next month. They mayor (who, like Lindsay is a 'profile in weakness'. he micromanages. He bickers. He pits subordinates against each other and, after seven years of dealing with the governor's pettiness, rarely communicates outside of what has come to be a very tight circle) will not avoid opening schools. He promised a nurse in every school, but he didn't say when. He promised everyone would be safe, but he he hasn't said how. And let's not forget, a lot of people got sick because he kept those buildings open last Spring. But he is bending over backwards to try to look as though he meeting some demands. But the UFT's demand that everyone test negative before they enter a school is one demand that he may not be able to meet. The tests are taking too long to process and, thanks to the mayor taking so long to get us to this point, there is no way close to one million people can be tested in tine. So I put the chances for a job action of some sort at around 80% as of today.
But what, exactly, will be our action?
Shanker had to convince thousands of teachers to get up, leave their house every day and report to their picket site. Mulgrew will be asking us to stay at home.
Now this is for many reasons! One reason, obviously, is COVID. But another reason is that it isn't exactly illegal to tell us to not report to a place where it is unsafe. In order for the Taylor Law to be evoked, the mayor would have to file an injunction with the courts here in the city. If there isn't a hearing then, there will be one on appeal. It seems pretty clear the UFT will bring evidence that one or more schools aren't safe. And if the court refuses to issue the injunction, then it isn't exactly a violation of the Taylor Law). (Read section 210 - 212 here and see for yourself).
But no one in New York City is stupid enough to call a teacher strike because schools aren't safe and then ask us to report to our schools to picket. It's just, I'm sorry, really, no one is that stupid. We'll all be remote picketing this time through.
All of this will happen over the period of several days, not several weeks. The mayor wants school to start. The union wants school to start. Hell, I want to school to start. We all need school to start. So here is the way it is going to go: either the mayor, or a court, will decide to keep the school buildings closed for a while longer as the city does what it should have done last Spring (its job). Once the buildings are safe, we will all (er most) go in and perform the duties that we love so much.
But we will be in our homes while it is happening. We will be watching it on TV. We will be zoom conferencing, group texting and keeping ourselves glued to social media as it is happening (you know. Just like we all do now 😃 )
And, if my prediction is right, what will happen on September 8, 2020 (or soon thereafter), will be nothing short of the largest sickout in the history of New York City. Tens of thousands of New York educators (or more) will simply not report. Remote teachers will not log in. In-person teachers will not walk in. The buildings aren't safe.
We will all stay home, watching all of it. The heated election, the social unrest, the slow coming recession, a bungling mayor -and our own "strike". That is how solidarity will look in the year 2020.
And, with any luck, it will all be resolved by that (very important) Friday.