I was peering at the UFT bulletin board in a high school, the results of a UFT Chapter Leader election had just been posted, the outspoken, rather militant incumbent had won, something like 120 -15, the principal walked by, glanced at the results and commented, “A lot better than I would have done …”
In 1995 UFT members defeated a contract negotiated by UFT leadership, and re-elected the same folk who negotiated the defeated contract.
Teachers are sophisticated voters.
Michael Mulgrew has fought the “good fight,” standing up to Joel Klein against each and every assault, and dueling with the mayor, albeit in a respectful manner.
The NY Times blog muses that the NY Post and NY Daily News editorials and op eds pillorying Mulgrew and the union on a daily basis aided his landslide. (see final results here)
Joel Klein invectives supporting firing ATRs and rubber room habitues, abolishing seniority, and unleashing principals has unified the vast majority of the teaching force. Unified them in opposition to Klein.
The next phase will be how effectively Mulgrew can navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of the State and City budgets. If layoffs are averted it will be a huge feather in his cap.
The next hurdle will be the contract.
Negotiating an agreement that includes an acceptable raise, protecting core principles and dealing with a resolution of the ATR and rubber room fiascos.
As long as Joel Klein assaults teachers, he fails to understand that attacks on the union are perceived by union members as attacks against them.
Parents, community activists and electeds despise the administration. The reason: arrogance.
If demonstrations or sending faxes and emails, manning phone banks and visiting elected officials are required, union members are anxious to participate. The union has become an organizing model, members participating in the actions of their organization.
The biggest challenge for Mulgrew and the union will be post-contract negotiations and post Klein.
Will the union settle for outlasting Klein and returning to a school system of yore, or, will the union move toward a more collaborative model?
On the national scene Randi Weingarten has challenged her million plus membership to take a careful look at “touchy” issues, i.e., teacher evaluation. Weingarten doesn’t negotiate contracts, and, change is difficult, especially in an atmosphere in which teachers reject Obama-Duncan initiatives.
Thousands of teachers standing side by side and chanting, “Teachers, United, Will Never Be Defeated,” is exciting and empowering.
Teachers sitting together with principals discussing education, and, perhaps participating in the tenure granting process (peer review) requires sharply different skill sets, for teachers, for principals and for the union.
Winning the peace may be more challenging than winning the war.