When was the last time you felt excited to be a union member? I don't mean excited as in ready to jump out a window or pluck Randi Weingarten's eyeballs out. I mean when did you last feel that, as a union, we really accomplished something? (Pause as Jeopardy theme plays.) I can't remember either.
But if you ask that question of Florida teachers, they will all have an answer for you: Yesterday. That is when the teacher's unions in Florida, in conjunction with parents and concerned citizens, kicked the ass of the Republican controlled Florida state legislature by forcing Governor Crist to veto a bill that would have made drastic and draconian changes to teacher compensation and effectively ended tenure.
They did it the old fashioned way--by rolling up their sleeves and protesting. A quarter of Miami-Dade teachers participated in a sick out. Governor Crist received 120,ooo phone calls and emails opposing the bill, to about 3000 in favor of it. They made it clear that Gov. Crist wouldn't be elected dog catcher if he signed the bill.
And the teachers won. I can only imagine how good they feel.
I can only imagine it because it doesn't happen in NYC. What I remember most over the last eight years is our union giving up seniority transfers, sending us back to lunch duty, extending our day, giving up our rights to file meaningful grievances, and standing idly by as the Rubber Rooms and ATR ranks swelled. We sit without a contract and without the even pattern raise that has been given to all other unions.
There was a slight glimmer of hope yesterday for NY teachers as well, when the closing of Rubber Rooms was announced. Still, there has been nary a word said about the bill introduced to the New York State Legislature that would allow layoffs of senior teachers and base retention on test scores, much as the Florida bill aimed to do. One early sponsor of the bill has already dropped out, but that's just not good enough. We should be picketing the offices of assemblyman Jonathan Bing and state senator Ruben Diaz, bombarding them with phone calls and emails, and generally making their lives miserable for trying to screw us over. The UFT should seize this opportunity to let NY politicians know that from now on, they'd be wise not to scapegoat teachers or try to erode our hardfought gains.
As Brutus once famously said in Julius Caesar, "There is tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." The tide is in, Mr. Mulgrew. Your troops are ready. It's time to lead.
After Randi's hideous tenure as our leader, we need to become a more radical, focused union. I hope we aren't all standing in the unemployment line a year from now saying "Et tu, Mulgrew?"