Solidarity, Loyalty, and Asking Questions
Fellow NYSUT member Bianca Tanis recently wrote a great piece about NYSUT leadership titled A Respectful Revolution: Questioning Union Practice as an Act of Loyalty. Tanis hits the nail on the head in the article. This blog, along with several others, have regularly called out NYSUT leadership for what have been a series of broken promises and behavior that is in the best interests of only the top few officers in the union, not the 600,000 members they represent.
Does loyalty to one’s union require blind faith? Must one eschew raising questions and concerns to demonstrate solidarity? Over the past few weeks, I have asked myself these questions. Certainly, any organization worth protecting is worth holding up to a high standard and can withstand tough questions, even when such questions are made in the public eye. In recent months, I have found it increasingly difficult to defend, let alone maintain faith in the current state union leadership in NYS, yet I believe steadfastly that the union can and will remain a powerful force for worker protection and student advocacy.
Tanis goes on to articulate her experience with the NYSUT leadership, in particular dealing with a situation in which she questioned NYSUT over spokesman Carl Korn being quoted in a Newsday article saying, “The vast majority of questions do appear to be age- and developmentally appropriate,” when referring to the 2014 ELA and math state assessments. After trying to question NYSUT over this seemingly bizarre comment Tanis received little or no response from the leadership. I urge you to read the entire article detailing her experience.
Tanis calls into question an issue that several of us have been dealing with recently. NYSUT’s leadership simply ignores any criticism or questioning of their behavior. Emails, tweets, and phone calls go unanswered as though they are teaching dissenters a lesson. While they ignore concerns from their membership, those who support the leadership accuse anyone asking questions of being disloyal and destroying solidarity. Some even claim us to be “union busters.” They did it when leadership broke their campaign promise of being “against the Common Core.” They did it when they worked to block a Zephyr Teachout endorsement. They did it one more time when members called into question the back room, double pension deal that suspiciously sailed through state government. Last week Arthur Goldstein echoed the very same concerns that I express here.
I love NYSUT and believe that our statewide union can be a force for good in public education. But members should have their eyes open. They should ask questions. They should hold their well compensated officers accountable. It’s part of the democratic process and it makes us a stronger union.