Sunday, July 29, 2007

UFT Deal with Green Dot: New Low for UFT Leadership?

From TJC:

In April and May 2007, the UFT leadership was preparing to wage a fight to "put the public back in public education!"

Only a few short weeks later, the UFT leadership announced it was going to link arms with a charter school company, Green Dot, and help it enter the New York City charter school arena. So much for championing public education! Charter schools are completely private entities except for one feature: they get their money from the public coffers. So the public foots the bill, but all the decisions are outside of public accountability.

The UFT leadership reached this decision in a totally undemocratic manner. It was never even brought before the Unity-monopolized UFT Executive Board, let alone the Delegate Assembly where there would at least be possibility for independent voices to speak, although the outcome of any vote would be whatever Unity wanted.
On June 28, the UFT announced this decision in an email to chapter leaders and delegates. . Instead of calling it a charter school company, Weingarten's email calls Green Dot a "non-district public school operator." The Green Dot Company calls itself "Green Dot Public Schools," an utterly Orwellian title. Sort of like Coca Cola Soda renaming itself "Coca Cola Health Beverage" without changing its ingredients
This union-written screed was chock full of coded language with union busting significance. It calls Green Dot's working conditions "progressive," including "a full and fair disciplinary process based on an independently mediated 'just cause' standard." In other words, all that is necessary to fire a Green Dot employee is that Green Dot has "just cause" to fire him or her. As inadequate as our UFT protections are, this is far less protection. To call this "full and fair" reminds me of when I was recently shopping for underwear and I had to look out for pieces described as "cottony" that were 100% synthetic.
The next "progressive condition" in the UFT email is even better: a "professional work day rather than defined minutes." Get it? Instead of having a limited work day- like 6 hrs 50 minutes - , at Green Dot you work as long as the boss tells you to! And getting screwed like this is called a "professional work day." Last I looked, a real professional hits the golf course the moment he or she decides to call it a day! Wanna bet whether Green Dot teachers are going to be doing that?

Another "progressive condition" is "flexibility to adjust the contract in critical areas over time." The "flexible" contract generally means employee working conditions are subject to change, and changes are always to the advantage of the boss. The changes may in fact seriously hurt all employees or, more often, certain groups of employees.
By collaborating with Green Dot, the UFT leadership is promoting these inferior working conditions in other New York City schools that compete with other UFT members' schools for funds and for students. By abetting Green Dot's entry into New York, the UFT leadership is undermining all of our working conditions. But it looks like as long as the Green Dot teachers' dues go into the UFT coffers, the leadership isn't bothered by what happens to our working conditions.
The email quotes Green Dot CEO Steve Barr, "Green Dot has had great success in working with the unionized teaching force in Los Angeles." What Weingarten's email doesn't say, and what the article in the July 24 New York Times ("Union-Friendly Maverick Leads New Charge for Charter Schools" p. A1) reveals, is that what Barr actually did was to break the LA teacher's union (United Teachers Los Angeles) in the schools it took over, and set up what is apparently a company union. The way the NY Times article describes it, Barr has "driven a wedge through the city's teacher's union" and has been "welcoming organized labor - in contrast to other charter school operators - and signing a contract with an upstart union." Later in the article, Barr is described as "splitting the larger teachers union." Sounds like union busting to me. The Times also says that Weingarten's decision to work with Green Dot's Barr has "embarrassed United Teachers Los Angeles" and notes that some UTLA officials "have been fighting him tooth and nail." So rather than stand in solidarity with the UTLA, Weingarten is supporting the CEO who is busting their union.
In L.A., the Green Dot teachers have a 33-page contract "that offers competitive salaries but no tenure, and it allows class schedule and other instructional flexibility outlawed by the 330-page contract governing most LA schools." The lack of tenure speaks for itself. Here again "flexibility" is an anti-union code word. Examples of flexibility might include no guaranteed lunch period, teaching four or five classes in a row, no daily preparation period, mandatory conferences at the boss's discretion and working evenings, holidays, summers and weekends. Needless to add, these teachers have no defined benefit pensions and it is a matter of conjecture what their medical benefits are.
The UFT leadership's support for this union-busting outfit shows how completely and utterly our union leadership has given up any pretense of identifying with, let alone fighting for, our interests as working teachers. They have been emboldened by their escape from paying any political price whatsoever for the awful 2005 contract, and by their overwhelming victories in both the 2006 contract and the 2007 citywide elections. They now feel they can do whatever furthers their quest for influence and prestige as leaders of a wealthy, famous organization. The fact that this organization began as a labor union is receding in the historical distance.

1 comment:

Son Of Unity said...

Seriously, does ICE even serve a real purpose other than to drive a wedge within our union? Has ICE ever accomplished anything worthy of mention? And no, a sham presidential candidate in the last election, shoddy quality YouTube films, and heckling during the Delegate Assembly doesn't count.

-Son Of Unity, the next generation
I'll be back!