In March of 2010 we had the elections for the United Federation of Teachers. Somehow, someway, the Unity caucus, headed by President Mike Mulgrew, received 91 percent of the vote. How could that have been with over two thousand ATRs, and at the time, almost a thousand Rubber Room inmates, conditions worse than they ever were, and a leadership that seems dumb, deaf and blind to the rank and file?
I have heard, read, and listened to the speeches of Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. Karen and her group CORE managed to beat the entrenched leadership of the CTU. One point Karen makes time after time was that change starts at the bottom, at the school level. I agree with her, and that is what needs to be done. But, we can affect the change at the top, which will trickle down to the school level and have given this a lot of thought over some months on how it can be done.
1. ICE/TJC needs to select a candidate for president now.
ICE/TJC are two caucuses that are trying to unseat Unity. Why should we wait until late 2012 or early 2013? We need to choose the best candidate for the job now. This person needs to be a shadow to Mulgrew. Whenever Mulgrew makes a proclamation, a statement or an appearance, our candidate comes out with a retort. Get the name and face out there, and NOW!
2. Once a candidate is chosen, start the fundraising immediately.
Bake sales, car washes, happy hour mixers; whatever it takes raise the money. It can be done, but that is why we need to start this several years ahead of time.
3. Direct mail
Yes, the old Karl Rove ploy. But it works. Radio ads are nice, so is free publicity. But teachers as a whole tend to be apathetic, ill informed, even lazy. This goes more so for the younger teachers, who haven't been raised in a time of strong unions. At the very least we can get the mailing list of the UFT paper. Once we have all the names, addresses, etc., direct mail can be targeted to young teachers, minorities, teachers nearing retirement, teachers that are reassigned, etc. Put Unity on the defensive!
Heck, this doesn't include the power of the Internet. Ads can be run on Facebook, Google, and many other sites much cheaper than traditional media. A total awareness can be had if the right keywords are used ads for opponents of the UFT leadership are right there in a search engine or a Facebook page.
4. Newbie teachers
This is a difficult group. The younglings of today have not been brought up in a world in which there have not been strong unions. We need to explain how even if at this point in their careers they feel they are fine with things, that one day they can become a target and will want that union there for them.
5. District leaders
Identify one person in each district that can organize other teachers. These "district leaders" can then get one person in each school in the district to get information out to the teachers in each school. Meet once a month to discuss what is and isn't working. Constantly adapt to what to what needs to be done.
We need someone down there to speak to the retired chapter frequently, to explain our positions, to listen to their concerns.
7. See #5
If this is done early enough each school organizer can be a de facto candidate for chapter leader of their respective schools in 2012. If we start early each "school leader" can shadow the CL, can be a person the staff comes to as well. Start showing that they can get things done as well.
8. Reach out to other unions in New York City.
The TWU seems pretty radical. Might they be of assistance? It doesn't hurt to try. The other municipal unions of New York City need to realize that once the City is done with us, they will go after the other unions.
I know this might appear simplistic, or easier said than done. But I truly believe that the Unity caucus and the leadership of the UFT are ripe to be plucked. The push back needs to start now, and not just in a small way. We need to announce our presence with authority.
And mind you, this is not just a road map for the teachers of New York City. This is a road map for any teacher in this country. The time of enabling, the time of caving into the politicians, the ed reformers, the people who do not have the best interests of children needs to end. Only we can end it, and it must be ended sooner rather than later.
Only we as teachers can affect change. Change will not happen if we are silent, sit on our hands, and do nothing.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more