Sunday, February 7, 2016

NYSUT Bargains Without the Collective

With a case before the Supreme Court that could eviscerate public sector unions, more American workers may soon see their salaries and savings evaporate. The case of Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association threatens to severely undermine the ability of Unions like New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to collect dues and thus muster the many to stand up to a handful of assholes who are wreaking havoc on public policies. Union members can say goodbye to the professions they once knew in favor of jobs concocted by those who embrace "efficiency" at the expense of decency. Obedient or unemployed workers we all shall be.  

NYSUT has already been deploying a few instead of many members when bargaining teacher evaluations. Since Governor Andrew Cuomo's latest law dictates how communities must rate and fire their teachers, a negotiation which was once left up to thousands of NYSUT members within their respective school districts has been subsumed by NYSUT leadership and their lackeys. Schools now have little control over how outside evaluators and asinine tests will impact their teachers.

When the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association (PJSTA) recently had the nerve to question what the Union was doing about Cuomo's ludicrous law, NYSUT President Karen Magee responded that there are just some things low-level people need not know:    
Thanks for writing. While we are always interested in engaging our members in the substantive issues that you raise in your email, I'm sure you also understand from your position as a union officer that much of what you raise here is subject to high-level negotiations. In any negotiating scenario, it's imperative for the officers to let the members know that they are fighting on their behalf, as we have done, but just as crucial that the ebb and flow of the actual negotiations remain at the bargaining table. 
Though NYSUT refuses to reveal the "ebb and flow" of these "high-level negotiations", they promise to let you know if and when your career is no longer subject to the whims of idiotic politicians.  

Perhaps United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew can shed some light on these mysterious negotiations. After all, Mulgrew is a favored lunch guest of the Lobbyist for the Students and rejoiced upon passage of Cuomo's law last April. It seems Mulgrew's hard bargaining at the lunch table has somehow paid dividends for everyone except students and teachers. Did Cuomo order the fish before frying the job security of middle class teachers? Only Mulgrew can say.
When 100,000 workers protested Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's insidious assaults on collective bargaining in 2011, they sought to sustain a system that gives voice to the voiceless up and down all levels of government--including public education. They fought so workers could forge agreements with those for whom a service is directly provided--not some distant bureaucrat beholden to his benefactors. There's nothing democratic or "collective" about an elite group of people bargaining away the fates of thousands of teachers and schools and refusing to talk about it. 

Instead of using the sanctity and secrecy of collective bargaining to shield their alleged efforts to protect teachers, NYSUT should call it what it has become: bargaining that is limited to those more concerned about their own seats at "high-level" tables than the shrinking seats of teachers at tables throughout the state.

Not unlike their colleagues in Wisconsin, the collective voice of working teachers in New York has been greatly diminished in recent years. If NYSUT expects to survive in a post-Friedrichs world, they must awaken this voice and bring the collective back to bargaining.