What really needs to be discussed first is how our very own union failed to represent us and insulted our intelligence at the same time. Let me recap what went down on Thursday...
The first shortcoming of our union came days before our meeting to ratify the contract. Our Union announced a meeting in which members would vote on a life changing contract that would effect the rest of our careers. They gave us teachers a whopping three days notice, not even quite enough time to arrange a babysitter for the kids. Our union also announced that NO DETAILS of the contract would be released until the meeting Thursday. This would allow a good thirty minutes to look over six pages of fine print changes that would forever alter our lives (plenty of time to discuss the implications of this contract with our family, loved ones, and colleagues). Fortunately because of the pressure of some concerned teachers the Union ended up releasing the details of the contract the day of the meeting. This gave some teachers a few hours to look over the big changes to the contract.
The actual meeting was one of the most disgusting and disappointing things for a paying union member to witness. PFT president Jerry Jordan spouted off all the things he and his team prevented Arlene Ackerman from getting. He mentioned the few things we gained, such as a normal 3% raise and the ability to defend ourselves against student attacks. He also mentioned all the new PFT positions that were created. Coincidence? Then he touted the creation of the new Renaissance schools as a new way to earn extra cash. He failed miserably to explain the ramifications these changes will have on the teachers who currently teach in these chosen Renaissance schools (look to later blogs). He didn't mention that all teachers in these schools would have to reapply for their jobs, he didn't mention that only 50% of the staff could be hired back, and he didn't mention that teachers will be working two Saturdays a month. When Jerry finished giving his selected details of the contract the debate was opened up to the floor.
This perhaps was the most frustrating part of the evening. The first five speakers were clearly hand selected by the Union's CB team to say very pro-union things. The first speaker said something like "Jerry I would just like to thank you and the executive board for all the wonderful work that you've done, I know I couldn't have dreamed of a better contract." The next four that followed were almost just as sickening. Finally a gentleman came to the mic who was not handpicked. He requested a motion to postpone the vote to a later time. Shouts could be heard all over the stadium, "yes, postpone!" and "I second that motion." Unfortunately our union president was very prepared to stop this more than reasonable request. The former union president cut the line to get to a mic and called the motion "out of order because the motion wasn't stated first", Jerry Jordan quickly confirmed and we move on. Thankfully a few teachers got to truly speak their mind in between the plants the union sent to the mics. Jerry Jordan continually dodged questions that were directed around the Renaissance Schools. He refused to tell how many schools were going to become Renaissance, or where all the teachers would go who don't want to work and extra hour a day, two saturdays a month, and the month of July. When the verbal vote was announced the "Ayes" and the "Nays" sounded split. Jerry quickly stated the contract was ratified.
As an individual who believes in unions this night disturbed me. It was clear that Jerry Jordan and the PFT were not there to truly represent their people. They were there to do what was best and easiest for them. Yes, I know they have a difficult job and that these are difficult times for teachers in urban districts, but please do us justice and let your members decide! The truth was not shared and our Union leaders insulted us by filling the mics with plants who were told to say specific things, taking away the voice of the teachers who are going to have their lives changed. I say, "Shame on you Jerry Jordan! Shame on you PFT executive board. You all failed to do the very thing you have been chosen and paid to do. In my mind you no longer represent us!"