Sunday, October 11, 2009
Who does Michael Mulgrew see when he looks in the mirror? Does he see the newly minted president of a once powerful labor organization, or does he see....Randi Weingarten?
The question isn't a frivolous one. Whenever anyone takes over the helm of a huge operation--from Barack Obama on down--they must ask themselves whether they intend to steer the ship in their own direction or passively allow it to float along the same course. In Mulgrew's case, doing the latter would place the UFT on the same metaphorical path as the Titanic. Because Randi stood on the bow and said, "Iceberg? What iceberg?", we need Mulgrew to say, "Let's right this ship."
In my view, Randi went off course when she decided that she could please everyone and be conciliatory. The press and politicians heaped praise on her and she ate it up, gobbling up as much power and influence as she could along the way. She always had her sights on bigger goals, such as the AFT presidency she now holds. She even came close to being a senator and the Ed Secretary, all because she saw compromise as the path to her own personal triumph.
To get back on course, Mulgrew must--starting with this contract--redefine the role of UFT president. He must realize and act upon the idea that he is working for teachers--not the city, and not the children of New York. His one and only resposibilty is to strengthen the union by making sure teachers have respect, decent pay, security, and a reasonable work environment. If we really want to benefit children, the best way to do so is to make sure that we have a dedicated pool of qualified teachers who are happy to come in and do their jobs each and every day.
Now is the time, Mr. Mulgrew. To wait is to go further off course and make the turn around much more difficult. Remember who you work for, Mr. Mulgrew, and remember who it is you want to see in the mirror every morning.