Thursday, October 04, 2007

CTA says that I'm a lair

Well, as you noticed last week, I called out the CTA on comments they made on a draft proposal for voluntary teacher bonuses. They sent out an e-mail saying that Rep. George Miller was trying to pass a bill that would link teacher salaries with test results. After being enraged, I called the congressman, got a copy of the bill proposal, and sent a letter to the UTA leadership and the teachers telling them that the message was incorrect. I received an e-mail from our President stating that the e-mail had been forwarded to the CTA district rep.

The response I received was that of a head official addressing an inferior. It was full of politicizing crap and basically stated that I was wrong in my interpretation of the proposal. I was severely irritated and I went into the bill and cut-n-paste the portions that I felt where correct back into my response and sent it off. I then received a response that included a CTA legal brief and the insistence that I wasn't a lawyer, therefore could not understand the bill. I read the legal brief and it stated that the CTA was against the bill for two reasons.

1. It was negative to the collective bargaining process.
2. It would make teachers divisive and that was not in the best interest of unionism.

Neither one is acceptable as a reason not to support the bill. First, the bill clearly asks for union support of teacher evaluations, and second, the best interest of unionism is the best interest of its members, and giving bonuses to hard working teachers is in the best interest of the profession, period. Plus, nowhere in the bill does it say that teacher salaries are linked to test scores, which is in the e-mails that I continue to receive (including the one I received five minutes ago).

So, I attended the UTA meeting this week with the intent to tell site reps that when they talk to their members, make sure to tell them that the e-mails going around are not true and that they should go read the bill summary for themselves. When the time came our chair made a spiel about making sure to call every Congressman on the planet to not support the proposal. I piped up and asked to speak, but was immediately told that we "had to move on". I stated that there was misinformation on the information provided, but I was again told to pipe down. Surprise, I didn't. I used my "teacher voice" and stated the location of the bill on a website, and that the CTA was not informing the members correctly about the bill. I was then told two things that blew my mind. First, that what I said was irreverent because the CTA lawyers knew more than anyone. And second, that since we were a unit of the CTA that we were to follow their directions without question. To say the least, I wasn't happy. My parting shot (whether immature or not) was asking our President, "Did you read the proposal". I received no answer, was hushed down and we moved on.

Being a history/government teacher, I have an incredible appreciation of the concept of a union. I have massive respect for the members that fight for our "fair days work at a fair days pay", while also understanding that the economics sometimes don't allow for the best conditions possible. However, the next day I was told that many in that room felt my actions rude and disrespectful, out-of-line and not in the best interest of the organization.

Organization? Isn't it the best interest of the profession that we are talking about? Isn't this an organization that demands "One person, one vote"? Don't I pay dues to this organization and wasn't I asked by members of my school to represent their best interest? What I see is an organization that is primarily full of a generation of people that have followed the standard CTA party line without ever looking at the facts. I don't see the young teachers there because they are busy barely keeping their heads above the water and are discouraged from coming to meetings where their voice isn't really heard. As the district changes, this must change.

Fine, I wasn't at my most diplomatic at the moment, and maybe this post in itself is immature and petulant. However, young teachers looking to get into the profession don't really understand what the union is about and either leave it others or follow the party line without questioning. I brought the Bonus Pay proposal to teachers in my building and well over half had interest. Therefore, a voice is needed for that position, whether the organization that I pay into likes it or not. Sometimes, that voice needs to speak up to be heard.

One last thing to leave you with, because I'm sure the image out there will be that I hate my local union and I'm just up for rabble rousing. At the previous meeting I voted with the vast majority on EVERYTHING. At this meeting I voted with the vast majority on everything EXCEPT ONE ISSUE that I wanted addressed. I don't want to rabble rouse, I wanted value for my dues, and to make an honorable profession better.
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