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Thank you, thank you, thank you

March 30, 2015 pm31 7:25 pm

I was glad to be at Saturday’s rally. It was the first larger UFT event I’d been to in some time. And I liked challenging Cuomo, though I wish we’d done it during the election.

About 15% of my chapter’s members turned out (it’s a small school, there were four of us). I talked to teachers from other schools, to parents, to a principal from a D2 elementary school. I saw union activists I know, and total strangers. United against the governor, against absurd evaluations. Most of us, except for a handful of union leaders, were also united against high stakes tests.

I left a little early. It was cold and snowy. And I missed my Saturday morning whitefish, and was cranky. As we passed the stage heading north, I saw a familiar face on the corner.  At twenty yards I shouted “thank you” to Zephyr Teachout, and I waved. She looked up, waved back, and smiled. Teachout challenged Cuomo for governor last year, and our union leadership snubbed her. But here she was, speaking forcefully at a UFT rally. She didn’t have to come, didn’t have to stand side by side with those who had taken the Working Families Party endorsement that was rightfully hers, and handed it to Cuomo, but she knew what was right. She spoke loud and true. AFT president Randi Weingarten made telephone calls during the campaign for Cuomo’s running mate, some woman named Hochul, but she didn’t come, Zephyr did. Thank you.

As I got to the southeast corner of 42nd and 3rd I saw a small cluster around an old guy. Robert Jackson. Hero of Public Education. Dewey Award Winner (UFT). Lion for the Children of NY. This is the guy who made the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit happen. And this fall, running for State Senate, the UFT leaders endorsed his opponent. Actually, NYSUT did. But that was with UFT support. So what does Robert Jackson do? He keeps fighting for public schools. He keeps fighting for the children of New York. And he keeps fighting shoulder to shoulder with the UFT, who abandoned him. His opponent, who the UFT endorsed? He was a no show. But Robert Jackson does what’s right. “Thank you” I smiled at him on the corner, and he smiled back and waved.

Finally we got to Grand Central, and coming out as we were coming in I saw Audrey. Audrey’s a freshman at Brooklyn College. Back when she was my student, I knew she was into environmental issues, but I had no idea she was going to be an activist. But here she was, with a large hand-made sign, ready to stand with teachers and parents and give it to the governor. “Thank you!”

No one took their attendance. No one forced them to come out. It was cold and snowy. No one would have blamed them for staying away. But they stood in solidarity. They spoke. Everyone who came out deserves a thank you. But I chose to thank these three.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2015 pm31 1:07 pm 1:07 pm

    I wonder about the game theory of endorsements. If the UFT is a a small potatoes endorser (doesn’t expect their endorsement to influence the election outcome), then what I see is:
    (a) their allies still support them, even without getting the endorsement
    (b) maybe the endorsement curries favor, at least a bit, with people who aren’t their allies.

    In other words, maybe the endorsement is a calculated hedge?

    • April 1, 2015 am30 7:32 am 7:32 am

      The UFT is a union. We should behave like one, and not some two bit PAC. Our endorsements should be based on what’s right.

      We see the cost of not doing so in member alienation, and in the long run with politicians holding us in contempt.

  2. April 1, 2015 am30 10:59 am 10:59 am

    In case no one said it to you; “Jonathan, Thank you.”
    Thank you for attending and for sharing.

  3. deb permalink
    April 3, 2015 am30 7:34 am 7:34 am

    Randy Weinarten was at the rally. My friend who attended texted me a picture of herself with their signs.

    • April 3, 2015 pm30 12:03 pm 12:03 pm

      And Randi spoke.

      Lieutenant Governor Hochul, whom Randi made phone calls for during the election, she of course was not there. But Zephyr Teachout, who Randi’s calls opposed, she came and spoke.

      And Randi’s phone calls? There was a NYSUT non-endorsement in that race. Randi had to create the fiction that she was making the calls on her personal behalf, and not on behalf of the AFT – a fairly far-fetched claim by the president of the AFT.

  4. ahumbleteacher permalink
    April 6, 2015 am30 4:35 am 4:35 am

    I am glad there was a rally and you and others went. I think I speak for a few others when I say a few things.

    (a) Many of is are so hard-pressed, fatigued and demoralized in the schools, where we have to cover too much material in too little time, under conditions that have been steadily getting even more difficult, if not impossible, than they were in the past, that we no longer have the time and energy to be active in the way you and the others were — and as some of us were in the past. This is very unfortunate.

    (b) While there may be quite a few who still are able to function effectively, more and more of us, including and perhaps especially those who have been teaching for a long time, can no longer do so. Since our work and our jobs are often the main part of our lives, on which everything else rests and depends, this is an unsustainable situation.

    (c) What Andrew Cuomo turned out to be could easily have been divined, by even the most casual observer, from the statements he made during his first campaign for governor. How could our union leadership, and indeed, so many of the rest of us, have missed that? Of course, his Republican opponent was worse. Even if we give the union leaders and our colleagues a pass on the first election, how could we do that the second time around?

    (d) It was the same with Obama, who is not as virulently anti-union, but who still has helped , via his actions, led by his secretary of education, to effectively set back whatever was left of public education in this country — perhaps with good intentions, perhaps not, but still inflicting more damage than the past Republican administration did, or at least adding to it so that the cumulative effect has been devastating.

    (e) I need not speak of Bloomberg and his chancellors. But the story here mirrors, to some degree, what happened in Chicago when Arne Duncan did his work there and what Michelle Rhee did in DC, much of this being done under the auspices of “socially liberal” Democrats, with, of course, Republican support.

    (f) While we may blame all of these folk who have launched a concerted attack on public education, we should not forget that our own educational hierarchies here, including both the DOE and the union, and including especially the supervisory chain and its union parallel, but also, sadly our colleagues and fellow union members, have been, by and large, compliant yes-persons and obedient employees, doing the bidding of their bosses.

    (g) Those who used to speak out and be active in the past have largely been silenced. I myself am a case in point. I am sure there are many others in my situation.

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