The UFT leadership are a smug bunch.
They've been in power for a long time and the swagger they exhibit whenever they deign to come and talk to the rank and file makes me think that they think they're going to be in power for a lot longer.
Now I wouldn't bet against the Unity caucus staying in power in perpetuity or at least until the neo-liberals complete their privatization job on the NYC public school system, but I got an eye-opening look into something this week that I haven't seen much of in my 12 years as a UFT member - genuine outrage, anger and frustration aimed at the UFT leadership.
I graded Regents exams this week with teachers from a dozen different schools around Manhattan.
Many of them expressed outrage over the DOE, anger at Bloomberg and Walcott, and frustration over the latest ed deforms that are wreaking havoc across the system.
But there was also a lot of fire and brimstone aimed at Mulgrew and the UFT leadership for their collaboration with the deform movement and the DOE.
One teacher said, as we were talking about all the ways the UFT has caved to Bloomberg and the DOE since the infamous 2005 contract, "I can't think of one thing that they've really said no too that ended up really being no."
And it's true - they say there's too much emphasis on high stakes testing, but then they help develop the APPR system; they give the okay on the Teacher Data Reports with the assurance that the numbers will never see the light of day in public and when the DOE decides to publish them in the media, they half-heartedly fight that with ineffective lawsuits and the TDR's end up in the papers with names attached.
One teacher, now working in high school but then working in a middle school said "I can't tell you how angry that made me, when they published the Teacher Data Reports - angry at Bloomberg for doing it and angry at the union for not stopping him from doing it."
Someone else told a story about working in one of the SIG schools and how unhelpful and indeed toxic the union people were, almost as unhelpful and toxic as the DOE and network people were during the turnaround battles.
"All they wanted to do was sell us on the Danielson rubric and tell us how great it was. But we were telling them that the administration was using it as a weapon against us and they didn't want to hear it. They only wanted to hear how great the Danielson rubric was."
Someone else concurred. "Yeah, the union people never really want to hear from you. They want you
to listen to them
, not the other way around. And that makes me really, really angry. Why am I paying union dues? What am I getting out of this?"
Someone said "Dental insurance?"
And everybody laughed. "Yeah - and shitty dental insurance at that!"
Someone else complained about all the perks the core UFT people get and wanted to know why they were getting those when so many rank and file members are fighting for their jobs.
Now I hear this kind of anger, outrage and frustration toward the union leadership in the blogosphere all the time and I express this kind of anger, outrage and frustration myself toward the union leadership on this blog all the time.
But to hear this same anger, outrage and frustration toward the union leadership in person from a whole swath of people from a dozen different schools was very informative for me.
It means that the swaggering bullies in the UFT leadership had better watch out.
There is a huge amount of anger, outrage and frustration out there already and we haven't even gotten the APPR system yet with the official use of the 57 page Danielson rubric which you had better do well on or you're "I-Rated," and the Student Learning Objectives that require 170 folders with a dozen pieces of Common Core work graded per semester which you also had better do well on or you're "I-Rated," and the value added measurements based upon test scores which you had better show growth on or you're "I-Rated," and the additional meetings and paperwork that are going to come as a result of the APPR system.
Just wait until that stuff comes to fruition.
My sense is that Mulgrew and his Unity hacks think they can bullshit their way through the APPR fallout just the way they have bullshitted their way through the odious '05 contract and the '07 extension to that, just the way they bullshitted their way through all the closings and the turnarounds, the TDR reports and the naming of names in the papers, and now the evaluation negotiations.
Experience says the UFT leadership are correct - they will be able to bullshit their way through APPR no matter how bad it is and maintain their power and privileges and double pensions.
But the anger, outrage and frustration I saw at the grading sessions this week leads me to believe that the UFT leadership will have a harder time bullshitting their way through the APPR fallout than they have over the other stuff in the past.
First, because all this stuff has built up - the odious '05 contract, the TDR's, the school closures, the co-location fights, the increase in "U-Ratings," the SIG mess, the Leadership Academy principals and the horror that is the ATR pool. There is a lot in the pit already and when the APPR fallout hits, the pit is going to be close to overflowing.
And second, because we are now seeing anger, outrage and frustration aimed at the UFT leadership from teachers who used to be pretty apolitical folk but have found themselves politicized by the crimes perpetrated on them by the Tweedies that the UFT either ignored or couldn't do anything about.
Somebody mentioned MORE today during this discussion (not me, btw) and everybody at the table said they would be open to hearing from someone new, someone who would be willing to stand up for teachers rather than sell them out, somebody who would be more interested in political issues that mean something to teachers rather than just public relations opportunities to aggrandize themselves and further their own careers.
I'm not naive enough to think the Unity people won't win this coming election - Mulgrew will probably win another overwhelming "victory" that will put a smirk on his face and the double "g's" in his swagger.
But the same person who mentioned MORE at the grading session mentioned how Julie Cavanagh is an appealing leader who really could give Mulgrew a run for his money in the future.
I think that is right with one qualification - the future is farther off than this next UFT election.
We haven't hit bottom yet in the NYC system.
There is more horror to come, as Bloomberg attempts to go out causing as much chaos and destruction as he can.
And the state has some horrors up its sleeve too with APPR and the VAM.
I think after a year or two of that kind of devastation, the anger, outrage and frustration at the smug, swaggering Unity guys is going to be at a fever pitch and that will give some new blood - hopefully MORE - a real opening to do to Unity what CORE did to the entrenched CTU leadership.
If that happens, I will remember what I heard today from those teachers from a dozen different schools as they told their Tweed horror stories.