The big push for opposition, as far as I can tell, is two-pronged. First, of course, they’re still railing against the awful contract we ratified 17 years ago. I didn’t vote for it, in fact, but I have lived with it. There is indeed a way to mitigate its effects during negotiation. That would entail taking less money than our brother and sister unions, which would be hugely unpopular. Were leadership to negotiate such a thing, it would be labeled a “giveback,” and opposition would immediately condemn them for it. So would I, and so would most of the membership.
Of course, that’s not going to happen. In fact, it wouldn’t happen if opposition were to win either, which is highly unlikely. It’s pretty easy to sit around and write that everything sucks, and that you’d do better if elected. I should know, because I did so for years. Becoming chapter leader of the largest school in Queens, the most overcrowded in the city, changed my perspective. Change is slow, and change is tough. The best I could do, for the most part, was try to help members one at a time.
Of course I could not always get members what they wanted. Often, people will argue about fairness. It’s hard to explain that these things are not always about fairness, but rather what is written in the contract and elsewhere. In fact, the grievance procedure is very tough. Members have to be willing to not only grieve, but also sit through a virtual kangaroo court from Tweed at step two, and then wait for an arbitrator to hear the case. Arbitrators are not infallible, and I have found some either incapable or unwilling to understand basic English.
This process was much improved by the addition of operational complaints. (This, by the way, was very much the initiative of brilliant Unity member Debra Poulos.) If your principal claims not to understand basic English, there are people in the DOE who will not abide such nonsense. Too bad none of them are sitting in Step Two hearings, but you can’t have everything.
The other big issue opposition push is opposing the Medicare program the city was going to offer. In fact, it went to court and is now in limbo, even as Adams appeals the ruling. It’s quite easy for opposition to tar this program as awful, and that’s partially the fault of the MLC, which failed even to recruit the doctors it was going to compensate at the same rate Medicare does before announcing the program. But why, ultimately, would any doctor accepting Medicare reject a program that paid the same?
I’ve read articles stating this program was inferior to the standard Medicare, but the fact is this program has never seen the light of day, has yet to exist, and aside from requiring approvals for certain procedures (as GHI already does), I can’t see exactly how anyone can prove that. I was personally pretty happy it offered me insurance if I were to travel, which I’d likely do if retired. I was once in Canada and my daughter had to visit the ER. Blue Cross covered me, minus the standard deductible. I was quite relieved about that.
Of course I can’t sit here and tell you that the new program will be roses and unicorns either. It doesn’t exist. If I were the MLC, I’d make sure that it were all I said it was, but only time will tell. Opposition did indeed stop it in court for now. We’ll see if and how that lasts.
Adams could win his appeal, or the city charter could be changed, and we’d be back to square one. Or they could lose, and we’d be back to trying to find some other way to hit promised savings. What will opposition do then, aside from complaining? As far as I can tell, not much.
One reason, again, is they’re highly unlikely to win. The other is, even if they did, they’d be stuck with hard choices. Who gets to pay this? Are we going to impose a premium on working members for the first time ever? That would be a slippery slope. Union members around this state and elsewhere know there’s no end to it. I have friends from other districts who’d have to pay a whole lot more than the 200 bucks a month proposed to retain standard Medicare. You’re free to believe opposition has a solution for that. I don’t.
It’s easy to promise the sun and the stars when you’re in no position to offer anything. I’ve got over ten years of experience working with opposition. When I finally won an office, their position was not, “How can we expand on this?” but rather, “How can we control the people who’ve won office?” It was ridiculous and counter-productive, leading them to pass stupid resolutions attempting to control us or condemn us. The objective was not, in fact, bettering working conditions for teachers.
As chapter leader, I used to seek advice from opposition members back when they were the only people I knew. You will see the extent to which I did that wildly exaggerated and twisted elsewhere. In fact, when the person who wrote that came to me for help, I got it via Unity Caucus members. I found, in fact, the more I did the job, that the only people who could or would actually help me get things done were part of the Unity Caucus.
You can say, yes, but the Unity Caucus are the only people in office. That’s true. But there’s a reason for that. The reason is they keep getting elected. And a big reason that happens is opposition has a pattern of uniting every few years, then devolving into battling among which faction is in control. That’s simply history. You’re free to deny it, or pretend it won’t repeat itself. But those who fail to learn from history are going to be banging their heads against various walls for a long time. I’m done with that.
What exactly is this big conflict? It might be that my socialism is better than yours (and again, I don’t give a damn who is or is not a socialist. I’m a Sanders supporter, but opposition labeled me and my friends “right wingers” before tossing us out.), or it could just be a crude battle over who has the biggest voice, or biggest whatever. I don’t know and I don’t care.
What I do know is a whole lot of them are unfit to lead, and while I won’t single out UFT members on this space, they’ve made some horrendous choices. My values have not changed at all, and I’m running with Unity. I hope you support me, and I hope you vote (or preferably voted already) for us.