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Apples and Worms
I revive a tradition, once published regularly in New York Teacher
Over a week before the last Executive Board meeting, I asked permission to speak. To UFT bosses, members are so unimportant at the Delegate Assembly that they get a mere 15 minutes to speak. At Executive Board, lowly members get only ten. It turned out 8 people asked, so I was allotted one minute and twenty seconds.
Now in fairness, a person or two didn’t show, so I may have gotten one minute and forty seconds or something. But I had a plan, and they didn’t give me enough time. Here’s what I would have told the bosses at their dais. (Full disclosure—I’ve updated it to reflect events of last week.)
I remember when I began teaching we’d get a UFT paper pretty regularly. There was a column in there called Apples and Worms. UFT writers would describe good things the city did as Apples, and bad things as Worms. Of course, now that UFT’s main focus is saving money for Eric Adams, his administration can do no wrong. Apples for him. And as far as I can tell, those of us who fight to preserve our health care are enemies of the union. Worms for us.
I’m going to give my list of apples and worms. Let’s do a worm first and get some bad news out of the way.
A worm for repeatedly sending the message that anyone who questions you is an enemy of the union. This discourages the very activism that would awaken the potential of our union. We could be the “powerful teacher union” the tabloids fret over. Your unwillingness to accept anything but blind faith cripples us.
Another worm for the 2018 contract. I supported it, and I deeply regret it. I thought it was a simple contract that was more or less cost of living. I later learned there was an agreement in some appendix in which we agreed to save the city money to the tune of 600 plus million dollars a year. Not only that, but we agreed to do this in perpetuity, in exchange for a contract that expired in only three years. Like most members, I had no idea I was supporting such an atrocious and short sighted notion. Who on earth negotiates a cost of living agreement that contains a giveback so outrageous?
Evidently, that would be you.
As of now, that particular worm threatens the health care of retirees, myself among them. Like many I know, I love Medicare. I don’t require the approval of Aetna, which made its bones selling slave insurance, and makes its money denying the care people like me require.
It’s fantastic to see a doctor, just about any doctor, whether or not they accept GHI, and not worry about those ever-expanding copays. It was amazing, when I had an allergy attack, to go to an Urgent Care and not have to wonder whether or not it would cost me a hundred bucks. It’s disgraceful UFT bosses presume to make unfavorable deals for retirees, who have no voice whatsoever in negotiations.
However, along with this worm comes an apple. You awakened a sleeping giant, to wit, the NYC Retirees. I’m proud to be among them. I’m proud to have contributed to them multiple times. My RTC chapter boss, Tom Murphy, can’t be bothered answering my email. He ran an entire meeting without allowing those of us who pay his salary to ask about our main concern—health insurance. But if I call or text Retiree leader Marianne Pizzitola, she gets right back to me. I’m proud to know her. She, I and many more of us will keep a close eye on union bosses, like yourselves, who try to deprive us of what we worked for.
I’m afraid it’s another worm as you try to take in-service members out of GHI. I know, you claim the program you’re paying 10% less for will be just as good or better. However, you also claimed all doctors who took Medicare would take the Advantage plan. Your credibility is poor. Your unwillingness to discuss this honestly, let alone put this to a vote speaks to your aversion to democracy.
A giant worm, like one of those from a cheesy movie, for removing beloved Queens Borough Rep. Amy Arundell. I disagreed with her on many things. It was her job, I suppose, so she did indeed favor your inscrutable and indefensible positions. She endorsed the latest contract. She stood up for your outrageous diminishment of our health care. That said, she was readily available to help chapter leaders, members, and just about anyone who needed it. As chapter leader, I would tell members call UFT, and if you don’t get good help, get back to me. Quite often I’d call Amy, who recommended good people. Unlike you, she knows who helped members. Unlike you, she is irreplaceable.
A rep who actually helps us should be the norm, rather than the exception. Of course, you hire for loyalty and don’t give a golly gosh darn about competence.
Now many members would say paying lawyers, with my dues money, to threaten me with civil and criminal penalties for parodying Michael Mulgrew rated an enormous worm. I mean, it’s plainly despicable to go after someone you ostensibly represent. It’s particularly egregious that you used my dues money to do this. Parody is protected by the First Amendment. If your lawyers don’t know that, they are incompetent. If they didn’t recognize what I wrote as parody, they are stupid beyond belief. But hey, you picked them.
Weeks after your lawyers sent me the threatening letter, my blog address was blocked. I presume this is because the lawyers sent them a cease and desist, and they took it more seriously than I did. In fairness, a union official told me he didn’t think they would do that, but no one has denied it.
In any case, I’m going to grant you an apple for that, because since you pushed me off the blog and onto Substack, my readership has more than tripled. In gratitude, I’ve brought you this Whitman’s Sampler. They are great because they clearly list what’s inside each chocolate. You won’t open this box and find I’ve cut your health care or something.
I know you have a very strict chain of command, so you could let Mulgrew choose first. He could take the coconut, for example. You could then do the VPs, and move down the line until there’s no more. After all, this is a hierarchy.
And one final worm for that, because we should be a union.