The opponents of the contract have produced a list of thirty ways to berate UFTers who speak in support of ratification of the contract, in the form of a list of questions.
In the pedagogical spirit of inquiry, let us propose a question or two about the questions.
Take Question 23. It reads:
Given the choice of evils, wouldn’t it have been better to do what the police did and cut pay for future hires to get annual 5% increases without major givebacks for incumbent officers rather than agree to these draconian givebacks that the UFT is accepting? 5% is greater than 3.4% isn’t it?
Are we to understand from this question that the member of the Executive Board who authored it, and the caucus he represents, is advocating that the UFT negotiate to cut the salaries of new teachers in order to finance a salary increase for senior teachers?
One asks this question because in the volumes of literature they have produced calling for a ‘no’ vote on the contract, there is not one affirmative argument made for that position.
And it is certainly an issue on which Randi and the UFT negotiations committee have been unequivocal, insisting that the UFT must not violate the principle of union solidarity and abrogate our stewardship of the teaching profession by selling the birthright of the next generation of teachers. Just imagine the future of solidarity in a union where a new generation of members believes that the older generation advanced itself at their direct expense. And just think of what would happen to the recruitment and retention of new teachers, and thus to the quality of New York City public schools, if we agreed to lowering the salary of new teachers.
So if there is a principled point of difference on this question, why is there no attempt to mount even the most rudimentary facsimile of an argument? Don’t the members of the UFT deserve to hear the arguments on behalf of lowering the salary of new teachers by those who advocate it, as well as the arguments of the UFT leadership on why it is wrong?
Or take Question 19. It reads:
Why didn’t the UFT wait until the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case was settled before giving away our rights in exchange for pennies since greater funding could be forced on the state and the city for NYC schools?
Are we to understand from this question that the member of the Executive Board who authored it, and the caucus he represents, is advocating that the UFT wait until the Campaign for Fiscal Equity money flows into New York City public schools to negotiate a contract?
We ask this question, like the one before it, because nowhere in the extensive literature advocating a ‘NO’ vote on the contract does one find an actual argument for such a delay, much less an estimate of exactly how long it might take for CFE funds to make it into New York City schools, given a Governor and a State Senate leadership who have indicated their absolute determination to fight the delivery of funds every step of the way, and a Mayor who still refuses to provide even a dime of the city’s fair share. [NY Times $] Nowhere in that literature does one find any sense of the struggle that will have to be fought with Bloomberg and Klein to have those funds spent on such essentials as lower class size and competitive teacher salaries, after the funds are finally provided. [NY Times $] And nowhere in that literature does one find any recognition of the fact that Klein has used the CFE case to pursue his campaign against the collective bargaining agreement and the UFT. [NY Times $]
So exactly how long is the UFT supposed to wait to negotiate a contract agreement? Until we have a new governor, new mayor and a new State Senate leadership? Until the 2009 election or later?
And take Question 10. It reads:
Suspension without pay for up to and over three months based on an Office of Special Investigations report which is based often on a mere allegation of sexual misconduct will become the norm under the new agreement. How does weakening our tenure protections by allowing suspension without pay, possibly illegally, help us?
Are we to understand from this question that the member of the Executive Board who authored it, and the caucus he represents, is opposed to a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ toward teachers who engage in sexual misconduct with students or other children?
We ask this question because – yes, you guessed it – nowhere in the endless stream of leaflets they have circulated does one find an actual criticism of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy.
And Randi and the UFT leadership have stated rather clearly that anyone who sexually preys upon students and children do not belong in our profession and in our schools, which is why we agreed to a ‘zero tolerance’ policy. Moreover, Randi and the negotiations committee negotiated specific language in this memorandum of agreement to ensure that any teacher who was the victim of false accusations was made whole, with their position, their seniority and their lost salary restored.
So if the opponents of the contract truly believe that the UFT should not adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ stance on sexual misconduct with students and children, don’t they owe it to the members to lay out the reasons for their objections? Why dress it up as a denial of tenure, when they know full well that Chancellor Klein sought to end tenure in this contract, and was completely turned down on that count by the fact finders?
And while we are in the spirit of inquiry, let us add a few more questions which have been on our minds.
If opponents of the contract believe in democracy, as they tell us, why do they show contempt for the democratic process in the Delegate Assembly of the UFT by constantly interrupting and shouting down UFT leaders, chapter leaders and delegates who have a different point of view? If they want more time in meetings to express their point of view, why do they consume so much time of those meetings with disruptions that prevent actual discussion and debate? Do they conduct their own classes the same way they behave at the Delegate Assembly?
And if opponents of the contract are the most loyal of teacher unionists, anxious to protect New York City public school teacher from the attacks of Bloomberg and Klein, as they tell us, why do they seek support from the most implacable, far right foes of teacher unionism and public education, such as Michael Antonucci of Intercepts?
Is there any conviction in which they can invest enough courage to make a forthright argument? Enquiring minds need to know.