Just Let Me Sip My Coffee in Peace, Will ya… Another ‘Unabashed’ Cheerleader for My Union Awakes. Thanks, Fred.

My comment on Fred Klosky’s blog: Saturday coffee.

Fred writes, 

“Let me answer the charge that I am a cheerleader for the NEA. It is true.

This is precisely what I tell the union leadership. I am an unabashed cheerleader for my union. “Unabashed.” Without regret or embarrassment.”

Immediately, the comments started below the blog.  One commenter wrote,” I really don’t know what else to say at this point. I suppose we can’t expect anything from anyone during an election year, that’s the lesson. But all I know is that there are still children and communities suffering out there and, from an outsider, all I saw the NEA doing was sitting on their asses and passing resolutions. Very quaint, oh so democratic, and weak.”

I am floored. Really.

OK. So, I will admit, like Fred, I am an unabashed cheerleader for our union. Unlike Fred, I have only been at this union thing for a few years. My first decade and a half of teaching, my union was simply a safety net. To say that I was ‘un-involved’ with the daily workings of my union is an understatement. As I became more involved with activism and took it online, I heard many bashing my union … calling my leaders “thugs.” So, I decided to check it out. I went to a local Union Rep meeting.

I expected it to be like our Chamber of Commerce – fancy, catered. It was not. In fact, I sat in the large room that looked like a warehouse, on a metal chair, staring up at a decaying ceiling and a lone pic of Martin Luther King, Jr… wondering. Wondering, where were all the thugs? Wondering, what kind of building I was in?

I learned many things since that night. I learned, from the shaking of the metal wall behind me each time a plane passed, that my union hall is an old plane hanger. I learned that the ‘thugs’ are all plain old folks, like me, dedicated to teaching and fighting for the future of public ed. I learned that they are ready and willing to help my grassroots campaigns. I learned that together, we accomplish more.

I also learned that there are many unions out there, just like my own. I visited firefighters and other public workers, councils… any meeting that I could. And as I sat in each hall, whether a plane hanger or an old fire station, I realized that I am not alone. There are others out there who are also fighting for democracy, public schools, due process, equal education, and social justice. They sit in halls and garages all over our nation, together.

I also learned this: The one hour that they sit on those metal chairs at that Rep meeting, for many, is the only hour that they sit, all day.

So, with respect, for you or for anyone to say that our NEA sits on their asses is laughable, and offensive. My NEA, because my NEA is me, and Fred, and countless others… My NEA are working their asses off.

And, I thank them… and, Fred for the coffee.


4 thoughts on “Just Let Me Sip My Coffee in Peace, Will ya… Another ‘Unabashed’ Cheerleader for My Union Awakes. Thanks, Fred.

  1. Please view the entire context of what I have written. However, I stand by my claims. One, unions are never immune from critique and should accept criticism from sypmathizers as a call to action. If we prohibit critique or severely discourage the freedom to do so, then we immediately delegitimize debate and instead promote a monolithic, party line mentality. Two, as a union outsider yet educator, I view the education reform trends of the last ten or more years as a failure of the major unions to protect public education from the indefensible. How else should we view these trends, as success? If this is success then I would certainly not want to experience failure. How can we explain the close ties both the NEA and AFT have with entities responsible for undermining public education? Now, I’m reserving most of criticism of the unions at the national level. There are numerous examples of local chapters that are more activist. There are examples of other public unions that are doing great work. I’m not against that. But I think you and Fred and others are engaging in some kind of knee jerk reaction here that a little roasting is somehow going to destroy the unions. Hey, if UOO is just a tiny wittle organization that made a big bad threat to the unions, then why the panic and outrage? Ignore it and it might go away. Or, is it perhaps a subconscious reaction to the repeated failures of the national entities, the big ones, to really do what is right for educators and children? If the current trends hold, then the unions have indeed failed big time to prevent more testing, for instance. It’s not my job to stand idly by and defend the indefensible because the teachers unions are supposedly Democratic allies and we should respect their efforts. I have a freedom of speech that I will use to state the following: the large national unions are failing their mission to defend public eduction and professional educators. Thats it.

    • I am all for freedom of speech. So, thank you for the response.

      And, no — not a knee jerk or subconscious reaction here. Just a natural one. To hear such criticism of our unions and say nothing, well… that is just not my style. Nor Fred’s, I am guessing.

      As far as UOO, I think every grassroots movement out there fighting against high stakes testing deserves credit. I happen to have much, much respect for many of the names behind the movement. And, Chalk, I have always followed you… I just wish the insults to union members like myself would stop popping up. I agree with Fred that we are ‘unabashed’ … but not for the lack of bashing. There is plenty of that going around.

      Oh, and I have never seen The Bachelor.

    • Looking back at this blog now warms my heart. It also reminds me of my first dealings with UOO. I have since joined their fight. If you have not checked out UOO and you are a parent, I suggest you do. You have a choice. Google UOO – United Opt Out. #Blessings

  2. Pingback: The in box. The one hour that they sat on those metal chairs at that Rep meeting, for many, was the only hour that they sat, all day. « Fred Klonsky

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