Monday, September 7, 2020

NYC Educator: Union 101

NYC Educator: Union 101

Union 101

It's Labor Day, and we are labor. Yet there's no labor section in the newspaper, online or off. We don't study labor history in school. Worse, a whole lot of members see it as a pair of glasses every other year, and the odd chance to ask the chapter leader why there's no toilet paper.
When we were contemplating a strike, a chapter leader told me, "We’re sending draftees onto the coast of Normandy and they’re in the landing craft asking, “What’s a war?” 

I feel that way sometimes when I try to explain to people exactly what union is, what it does, and what it means. The United Federation of Teachers hasn't been on strike since 1975. I know only a handful of people who were involved. 

I started in 1984 and of course I've never been on strike. Nonetheless I was ready for this one. A member texted me, "I will be a SCAB," with the letters in caps like that. Why? Loss of pay. Inconvenience. As though it were convenient for me, or for anyone. That was antithetical to everything union is and stands for. I could not take that in stride. (Evidently, though, I was expected to.)

My generation of teachers, as well as all those who've followed us, have never really been asked to make a personal sacrifice, e.g. go on strike. This is absolutely dangerous, because there are forces in this country right now that would happily strip us of all our rights, and go out for drinks afterward.

For me, there was no question. I'm ready. You want to penalize me? Penalize me. For others it was tougher. Some people said, "Oh, those young teachers don't know." But I know young teachers who were absolutely ready, and older ones, like the aforementioned, who were not. It's about what you know, what you feel and believe, not how old you are.

Union means coning together as one. It means when a mayor faces one of us, that mayor faces us all. It means that when your principal calls you in to discipline you, there are rules to follow. It means we have help, beginning in the form of a chapter leader, to inform the principal what the rules say. It means the rules will be enforced, though some CONTINUE READING: NYC Educator: Union 101