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Why do I support my union? I have another question

March 27, 2011 pm31 10:07 pm

My post Tuesday, after hours of wordpress being down (read-only) and a stress-y day, my post was a bit intemperate. So I wanted to redo it, and found that I had little additional to say.

  1. I support my union because supporting your union is the right thing to do. I’ve never thought twice about it.
  2. How many ways have I written there’s only two sides, or there are no neutrals. Which side am I on. No question mark, since it is not a question. This was true a decade ago when it may have seemed stranger, and today, when it seems obvious. Hello, Wisconsin. Indiana. Michigan. Florida. Bloomberg. Gates. Duncan.
  3. I support my union, I support unions for the history, for the battles they fought to win such basic rights. And I support my union as a guarantee that my generation not swap those rights, and the legacy, blood, and lives of those who came before us, for a handful of magic beans.
  4. And I support my union, even when it is not doing the right things, as a place, the place, where the potential of collective action exists and resides.
  • I do criticize my union. Loyalty demands no less.
  • But my support never wavers. This is our union, it must continue, we must improve, and even fix it. For those who know better, but are foolish enough to question why we have a union, or why we pay dues, expect a quick tongue lashing.

So this is uninteresting, right? I support the union. Has nothing to do with whether I am a good teacher or not. Has nothing to do with a heart-warming personal story. Sorry. My mom once got fired for trying to organize a union, but she was just doing what was right. She helped organize at her next job, and at the job after that came in after a successful drive and helped organize for the first contract. Because they were the right things to do.

I’m partisan. I have a side. I am not open-minded. All good. All straightforward. No explanations needed.

But let’s flip this.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——– —– — — – –

Why did I participate in EduSolidarity? When Steve Lazar contacted me, I could have said, go ahead, you, Jose, Ken, I’ll be supportive, but I’ll stand on the side.

I did not end up answering, after all, why teachers “like me” support unions.

I participated because it made a small splash. I participated because it involved more teachers in speaking out. I participated, completely tangentially, because I have an interesting web of great math teacher bloggers that I did not think the others would reach.

But mostly I participated to help make the space more apparent – the space where it is okay to talk about the good stuff about unions.

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——– —– — — – –

Better question: how can we get more members, especially newer members, to support their union?

That, in fact, is what I am in it for.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2011 am31 2:36 am 2:36 am

    Jonathan, I am glad you changed nothing and there is nothing I would add to it, except to say that I am a better person having you as my friend. Keep on keeping on…


  2. Suzanne Donahue permalink
    March 28, 2011 am31 9:13 am 9:13 am

    Jonathan, I love this peace. And I totally agree that the biggest challenge we now face is getting the younger teachers on board to support their union. As you know, I am nearing the end of my career, but they are only beginning theirs and I would like to think that my legacy is not only in those I have taught in my classroom, but the influence I have had on colleagues as well. I would like to leave this profession a better one that it was when I began my career. Sadly, I this point in time I do not see that happening which is why I am so grateful to have a friend and colleague like you who will not give up the fight.


  3. Suzanne Donahue permalink
    March 28, 2011 am31 9:13 am 9:13 am

    sorry – that should be piece!

  4. March 28, 2011 am31 10:38 am 10:38 am

    I hope this campaign has given diverse enough responses to the (original) question to help younger teachers see why it is both right and necessary to support both their own union and other unions.

  5. Stephen Lazar permalink
    March 30, 2011 pm31 4:39 pm 4:39 pm

    I think you nailed the importance of what we did: we increased the space where people are talking about these issues.

    But this is just a drop in the bucket compared to why needs to be done to get young teachers. It’s a messy game, but I think it comes down to classroom support.

  6. April 2, 2011 am30 9:28 am 9:28 am

    JD, is rationality one of your values?

    • April 2, 2011 pm30 4:22 pm 4:22 pm

      Interesting question. No. I am rational, but that’s not what you asked.

      I have a side. A class, in quaint, old-fashioned language. And that is where I begin, with my side, rather than with abstract values.

      I should add, I would have preferred that you stated your point directly.


      • April 2, 2011 pm30 5:54 pm 5:54 pm

        I was concerned about asking in this manner, and almost wrote “if yes, if no” instead, but I wanted a more open response to gain more understanding of your meaning, and hoped you will take, and answer, the question in good faith that I am not trying anything too untoward. My hope is fulfilled, because “class” isn’t something I would think to write. I hope it makes sense. Thank you very much for answering.

        Then, the point of this post is that your loyalty to your class is a value, an axiom rather than a decision. Hence the language that isn’t based on rationalizing the decision based on any considerations other than that it is right. “Class” in its traditional sense is also something you don’t necessarily choose or decide yourself, but are born or socially thrust into – my reading is you are using this word to underlie, again, that it’s not about decision-making. Well, beyond the global decision to do what is right.

        • April 3, 2011 am30 12:00 am 12:00 am

          Fair enough, though you could have asked directly, and I would have answered the same way.

          I do not expect to convince, but baldly assert, that advocating for “my side” is actually advocating for a productive and rich future for humanity, and that is, in fact, rational (small “r”)


  7. April 3, 2011 am30 11:23 am 11:23 am

    It’s interesting to see this from the other side – a country where essentially all state-employed teachers, and a great many (in my experience, the clear majority of) private-school teachers, are union members. It’s a dead issue here in most regards.


  1. Math and Solidarity « JD2718

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