Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Verbal Attacks By Paid Union Employees Must Stop -Now

In my last post, I wrote about paid employees of the teacher union (up to and exceeding $160,000 per year) who use their paid salary time and their paid salary positions to argue with and confront members of the union. In fact, part of what I wrote went something like this:

[Regular members] who are publicly critical of the union have been accused of being "anti union" or of "having problems" just because they choose to spend their free time criticizing the people who run the union. To be clear, these are sometimes very confrontational exchanges -and they are always being initiated by the paid foot soldiers of the teacher union.

Basically, the long and the short of it is this: If you want to disagree with a critic of the union, that's fine. You're a highly paid professional. We trust in your ability to articulate that without slipping out of your professional responsibilities.  But don't take advantage of the opportunity to slip into verbal attacks. 

And, no,  the silly nicknames from the. critics don't help. But you're the professional. You're the one who, we presume, has professional standards to adhere to. Please adhere to them. 🤷‍♂️. Simple right?

Now Norm Scott has spent decades being publicly critical of the leadership of the UFT. It's sort of what he does. Don't misunderstand me. He loves this union. He is the strongest unionist I have ever met. Norm does more without being paid than a great many who are paid. (He also possesses one of the more brilliant minds I have ever come across and is one of the kindest persons I know and everyone who knows him says the same thing). 

So it was interesting to see that, after Norm posted about this topic on his blog, another highly paid Unity-Loyalist UFT staff member chomed in to attack him. 

To attack Norm. 

To attack Norm Scott. 

The guy who used to write, edit and publish a free newspaper just for UFT members and then hand them out at the monthly city-wide UFT meetings. (The newspaper was called EdNotes. Somewhere along the line Norm moved it to a blog (ergo Ednotesonline). 

This highly paid Unity-Loyalist UFT staff member attacked that guy.  

Read the report. Seemed a little childish. Just tell the story. Keep the snide comments to yourself. You don’t hear anyone coming up with nicknames for Norm Scott after he crossed the picket line in 1968.‬

‪Oh, y’all didn’t know?? Norm Scott crossed the picket line in 1968.‬


and again

You were on the picket line in ‘68…until you crossed it.

No need to explain. We already know.

And again to his 368 Twitter followers under the Pseudonym "New York's Finest" 

I didn't realize a union rep could be a police officer. I, myself am a NYC teacher. Our nickname, "New York's Smartest", is a bit different from the NYPD "NY's Finest", but that's none of my business and, besides, I digress. 

Now I admit, Don Normleone does have a penchant for getting under people's skin. Over the years, he has developed this little knack of his into a bonafide skillset and he has become famous for being a loving critique of the UFT. And those who run the union sometimes like and also sometimes hate the Don. But Norm Scott is as much a part of that union hall has the bricks that were used to build it. And he is loyal to collective action as the day is long. 

So when another UFT employee accused Norm -the guy who used to write, edit and publish a free newspaper just for UFT members and hand them out- of being anti-union, I thought it was a joke.

It wasn't and that sucks. I'd rather be watching TV than writing this post but, the truth is, it wasn't a joke (and that sucks). 

Norm's response, though, didn't quite cut the mustard for me either:

I’d bet anything that I’ve written about 1968 numerous times and argued why even if I was woke in 68 I wouldn’t have crossed a uft picket line if I had any intention of organizing in the union. 

He makes a good point. Why cross a picket line and then spend the next 40 years organizing? But even that is a bit too defensive and quite completely misses the point. For me, the only responses that would have been worth noting would be these: 

1. Norm Scott never crossed a picket line and anyone who thinks he did must be an idiot either by trade or an idiot by travel (you know, like an otherwise nice smart person simply deciding to visit idiotville for a few hours. We all do that from time to time). The 1968 strike that man participated in paved the way for Mr. Hughes to have a union in the first place and one that could hire him to a rep job in the second place. I think Mr. Hughes should thank Mr. Scott for his service in building the house he lives in. 

2. Stop it. Just stop it. While the playbook (of saying anyone who is a critic is anti-union) is old, the essence here is that a union employee, responsible for executing and helping to shape union policies, should not be verbally attacking a person who is critical of those policies. Just stop it, please. I would like to stop thinking about my union for a while. 

Going to leave you with Google's definition of verbal abuse and sign off for the holiday. 

Verbal abuse is a type of psychological/mental abuse that involves the use of oral language, gestured language, and written language directed to a victim

Saturday, November 20, 2021

But Why Are Paid Employees Trying To End Debate

I don't very much like writing about union matters. On the one hand, I'm too busy and too occupied with teaching. The students seem to need us (teachers) to do what we do more than in other years. Andso much of my work time has been occupied with that, so I have no time to do so.

On the other hand, unions are set up to work kind of like a car insurance policy and who wants to write about that? In each case, you pay each month and, in exchange, it's supposed to be there for you when you need. Unions aren't always there for you, but they are supposed to be be and, heck, we all pay every month (or payday). This is why I often find myself comparing my union to a car insurance policy. 

Would you enjoy writing about car insurance companies in your spare time? I think not. Speaking only for myself here, I don't much like writing about union issues in my spare time either. 

But every so often, I come across a 🍩 so big and so ridiculously stupid, that I must literally do my best to try to tell the tale as best as I can. 

And our doenut begins with my car insurance policy metaphor. You see, you may hope and trust that your car insurance company will be there for you when you need but, after paying good money each and every month, many folks like to go double check. I search "State Farm" on Google News at least a few times a year -just to make sure my car insurance company isn't screwing around or in some kind of trouble. 

In this same manner, a mentally fit person might check in on his or her union a few times a year. Maybe they will read the union newspaper. Maybe they'll join a Facebook group. Or maybe they will read up (via the internet of course) on some of the latest union functions and debates that have been taking place. This is what healthy people do, anyway. And they do it, I suspect, a few times each year, just to be sure that their union dues aren't being wasted. 

That money was hard earned. It was earned by a New York City school teacher. That school teacher is doing the very best he or she can, working under a Byzantine system that cares about his or her kind (teachers) less than absolutely nothing else on Earth. No one hates classroom teachers more than the collective group of people who run the NYC Department of Education, period. And that classroom teacher had to work his or her craft through that culture just to earn the money that he or she used to pay that union its monthly dues. That money was hard earned. 

And, because of this, healthy people check in on the union from time to time. 

If anyone were to check in on the union during its monthly "Delegate Assembly" meeting this week, he or she might feel as though she or he were wasting that money. Here is part of a live blog from the union's last meeting:

A Delegate on the phone says lower class sizes are important contractually or through other means.

A Delegate calls the question on all matters before the house.

Point of Order: This is an important issue asking if the person who spoke previously was on the union payroll. Delegate responds that he is elected and insulted that someone asked this.

A closer look into what the heck happened revels this:

Then, it starts to get crazy when DR William Woodruff calls the question to get a vote on ending the debate. Independent Delegate Daniel Alicea [(here)] shouts for a point of order on whether the person calling for the end of debate on this fundamental issue is on the UFT payroll. Woodruff is on the payroll and makes close to $200,000 per annum as a District Rep so it is a valid question if he represents his employer (the UFT) or the members in the school where he works one period a day. 

I'm not going to concern myself with the exchange itself. I heard it was a tough moment for both people involved. They are both grown adults and can resolve their situations themselves. But if this happened at State Farm during one of those times I went to check in on my car insurance company, I'd switch insurance companies. 

The fact seems to be clear: One volunteer delegate asked another highly paid delegate a public question about whether or not that highly paid delegate was, in fact, highly paid, and at the very moment that the highly paid delegate was trying to end a debate. 

As highlighted above, this was and is a valid question. 

For months now, there has been a growing concern that UFT  employees have been overstepping the authority (of "union rep") that has been given to them by school teachers.

Many of the people who guide the discussions in the UFT are, in fact, paid by the union as employees. Until recently, this has gone unnoticed. But many people (folks who are a bit more active in the UFT) have observed that these highly paid employees are spending an increasing amount of time policing the social media groups and in the comment sections (and in-person) arguing with teachers using combative tone and words. In some cases the concerns are around whether a school teacher was being verbally attacked by the highly paid reps of their union. These are serious concerns. 

I'd like to attest here that many of the more regular folks have found these paid employees becoming more and more confrontational in these spaces. In the past, I have witnessed them accusing people of "being dangerous" because they shared information when it was asked or because they shared a poor opinion of the union in a public space. The ones who are publicly critical of the union have been accused of being "anti union" or of "having problems" just because they choose to spend their free time criticizing the people who run the union. To be clear, these are sometimes very confrontational exchanges -and they are always being initiated by the paid foot soldiers of the teacher union. 

This pattern of behavior has lead to a growing chorus of concern over whether the teacher union's own union officials are just defending their 'team' or whether or not they are participating in an unfair labor practice by routinely confronting anyone who dares to disagree with the union's policies or decisions.

 When James Eterno calls this a "valid question" he is, unfortunately, correct. It is a very valid question. And it is unfortunate that a question like this is valid. 

And that leads me back to the question I posed in my title: Why are paid employees trying to end debate during the union's Delegate Assembly? If there is a good answer, then the union should communicate it. The group who runs the union must have had at least 200 "Unity Loyalists" in the room with them on this night (these are folks who are NOT paid by the union but who are loyal to the union's ruling caucus). Why not just have one of these unpaid loyalists make a motion to end the debate? Embers, when blown, do catch fire, you know. And this hub bub seems to have been easily avoided. 

The union could have also played nice. I understand that the whole argument was over a 12 word amendment to one their resolutions (with the resolution being written by the ruling caucus and the amendment being added by one of the non ruling caucuses). It was not, as I understand it, a harmful amendment nor was it an amendment that would have forced the union to change one damn thing. Why not just shrug and say "sure. We'll add it"?

I like my union much more than I like my car insurance company. So I won't be switching or pulling my dues anytime soon. But the time has come to allow these highly trained, highly paid union officials to use their skills to stay behind the scenes. We trust our union employees. We trust them plenty.  But these actions are becoming an apparent misuse of influence, power and authority by paid union employees. toward non paid union members. 

The Unity caucus has tons of talented teachers who are not being paid to defend the union. Allowing them the opportunity to do things like argue with school teachers on social media and move to end a debate in the union assembly would avoid this disaster of optics and would steer the union, as I know it deserves, away from valid questions about honesty. 

The Unity Caucus is filled to the brim with honest people. They need to be seen being honest and acting with fidelity and with integrity. The volunteers of that caucus need to be getting to a mic and asking for debate to end. The employees need to be working on other things. Like helping members, not arguing with them. Like listening to them, not yelling at them. Like not trying to shame them by implying that they are insulting when they are, in fact, only using strategic opportunities to ask extremely important and existential questions. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Satoshi Nakadoenuts

You may not realize it now, but the Bitcoin Whitepaper is as groundbreaking to human development as Gutenburg's Bible or Homer's Iliad. Trust me here: It is that historic. 

This one nine-page document, published way back in 2008, has led to the growth of an entirely new financial system of transactions and investment. Soon, it will change the way we understand property, property transfer and wealth storage.  Trust me here: The Bitcoin Whitepaper is that historic.

By "new financial system", I mean, of course, decentralized. And by "decentralized", I mean power to the people. 

Since the release of the Whitepaper and the growth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, a great many average regular everyday people have become wealthy just by investing a part of their income in Bitcoin. While this new sector is fraught with danger (including fraudsters and risks galore), CBS News recently reported  that as many as 100,000 people may have become millionaires by investing in Bitcoin and its related cryptocurrencies. 100,000 new millionaires. 

Cryptocurrency investor Raoul Pal is a popular voice in this space. He has described this power to the people phenomenon in this way  

"...what this really is is real time venture capitalism for the everyday person. The everyday person has been shut out of the big opportunities because you have to need to go through a financial institution and there's barrier after barrier after barrier so only the rich people get access...."

Now I'm not recommending you run out and open up a Coinbase or Gemini account.  If you are thinking about that because of something you have read here, please stop and understand that the entire sector is literally the Wild Wild West and is terribly terribly dangerous and risky. 

But don't forget that an entire generation has had to sit by and watch as opportunities went to rich, connected people and powerful organizations. Within that context, the presence of a mere possibility for an regular person to enjoy these types of financial gains (just like the big banks and real venture capitalists) has, in fact, captured the hopes and imagination of millions of Americans (and roughly 150 million people world-wide to date). 

This simple fact -that Bitcoin has captured the imaginations of millions- is beyond dispute for any reasonable person. The hopes and imaginations of millions of Americans have, in fact, been captured by this aspect of the new economy. 

And those people vote. 💡

This is why I found it interesting when a popular showboat mayor from Miami started his city's very own crypto currency, the Miami Coin. Billed as a way to raise revenue for his city, the Miami Coin has already achieved something far more powerful -for the Mayor of that city

Francis Suarez, you see, is an American politician by trade. That's his profession. The success or failure of his entire career depends upon capturing the hopes and imaginations of his voters and then capitalizing on both. This is what Miami Coin has truly accomplished.

Now let's be clear,  Miami Coin has raised only  $7.1 million for that city's budget. This is not (repeat not) a 'King's Ransom' level of money. But the political capital that has come from aligning himself with the hopes and imaginations of regular folks is indeed a King's move, one which paid large political dividends for mayor Suarez last week when he won his reelection bid by a landslide.

The last generation of American politicians aligned themselves with the anger and frustrations of voters. Bill del Blasio tapped into those frustrations with his 'Tale of Two Cities" campaign. Andrew Cuomo tapped into them by promising to be the tough guy; the one person who could beat all of the people who made voters frustrated and angry in the first place. This new generation of American politicians are shaping up to be leaders who have figured out how to align themselves with the hopes and dreams of voters. And one of them just won by a landslide. 

So it should be no surprise to note that our new mayor-elect has recently announced that he will be taking his first three paychecks in Bitcoin, not US dollars. 

There actually is no way for a city employee to be paid in Crypto (mayor or otherwise). Mayor Adams will have to open up a Coinbase or Gemini account, or go to PayPal, just like everyone else. But Eric Adams is also an American politician by profession so that one small logistical reality was probably part of the messaging his team wanted to send out. That messaging surely includes a premise that sounds something like this: "You see? I'm just like you. I have the same challenges as you".  

Just one week after his election, our soon-to-be mayor has already aligned himself with the hopes and dreams of regular people -just like 'the guy from Miami who won by a landslide'.  

This shouldn't be overlooked.  As he gets ready to begin his first term, it is becoming more and more clear to anyone paying attention that our next mayor has taken on a populist's persona. 

And this is why, when Eric Adams says ... 

"NYC is going to be the center of the cryptocurrency industry and other fast-growing, innovative industries!" Adams said Thursday...

...the message he really sending out is, "I'm down with what YOU want, regular voter. Think about what YOU want, and I'll be down with that". 

This should be overlooked either. Not for one moment.

(Bitcoin to the moon 😍!)

And this is why it is so important to quickly parse Adams' words about the DOE last week when he was on Pix11 News:

Wow! Just wow! That quote could have (and probably has) been muttered by every frustrated parent in the city at one time or another.

By issuing this public statement, and indicating that the DOE will fall under scrutiny, Adams is (again) aligning his actions with public sentiment. All of this has the same goal, of course: Capturing the imagination and hopes of regular everyday New Yorkers so that he remains popular. 

A closer look at the quote will probably show you that what is at play here is a very a very simple concept. The mayor understands that parents generally like their child's classroom teacher ("Great teachers..") and are generally happy with their child's local school ("great educators ...") but that the department of education itself, with its many unpopular personalities, initiatives and policies, has come to be widely disliked by regular New York City voters. ("One of the greatest embarrassments ..." sends a pretty clear message, in my opinion). 

This was, again, a smart political move from a talented, populist oriented politician who is trying to closely position himself with the hopes and imaginations of his voters. Look for the policies that flow from this statement to be only those that are popular. Not unpopular but needed. Not visionary. Not groundbreaking. Popular among his voters. 

So here is my summary on Eric Adams; he is going to try to do things that, generally, people like and that's all there is to it. If he is good, then he is going to avoid doing things that are contentious and that's all there is to it too. This approach will have wide reaching consequences for teachers over the next 4 years. 

So, my predictions:

  • Don't look for the new mayor to give every city teacher a small budget on ShopDOE to order their own school supplies. He's not looking for that type of popularity. Instead, look for a reasonable expansion of charter schools. Parent voters like that. 
  • Don't look for a teacher raise anytime soon. Most parents understand that teachers make more money than they do and this city is about to be in dire financial straits. Instead, look for a greater emphasis on Students With Disabilities or on class trips or on anything that is generally popular.
  • Don't look for a mayor to stop your overly abusive principal. I'm sorry. This is just not going to happen. As a captain in charge of his own precinct, Adams' was the NYPD version of a principal himself. Instead, look for him to be cut from the 'support principals' cloth. 
  • Do look for the mayor to stay within the realm of what is popular. He may go after the union, but he will avoid going after teachers in general. 
  • Finally, Mr. Adams is about to learn that the Department of Education is New York City's version of the Military Industrial Complex. So don't look for too much change from Tweed. To the bureaucrats down at Tweed, this soon-to-be mayor is just the "hired help" who will be gone in four or eight years. Carmine Farina didn't get rid of them. Richard Carranza didn't get rid of them. Meisha Porter (who had already targeted by them  with this NYPost hit piece before she even took the job) won't get rid of them.  I don't think the new mayor will be able to do much about them either. 
  • Do look for this to be a show. Like mayor Suarez from Miami, Eric Adams is a showman who wants to make voters happy. So whatever happens, it's going to be interesting. 

Part of the mystique around Bitcoin is that its true inventor is unknown. The whitepaper that lead to Bitcoin's creation and development was published under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto and nobody has ever known for sure who Satoshi Nakamoto really was. To add to this mystique, this person simply vanished shortly after the whitepaper was published. Don't look for our next mayor to be mysterious this way, though.  But, just as there is an air of mystique around Bitcoin, do look for Eric Adams to align himself with as much mystique as is out here. He wants to be loved. He wants to be popular. And that knowledge should give the people who he leads a lot of power.

Power to the people. Ain't that democracy.