Remember Fremont

Never forget. Stand and Be Counted.


The Difference

Posted by Chuck Olynyk on March 22, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Today is Tuesday, March 22, 2011 and Day 71 of Year Two. It’s another Red Shirt Day.

That means another reminder that we have the deadline for casting ballots in the UTLA elections. I kept getting annoying phone calls all weekend, telling me to vote for this candidate, for that one. The race is hotly contested for the leadership of the the teachers’ union in the second largest school district in the land.

And only 17% of us voted last time. Thank God there is a run-off. It will give folk a chance to actually participate, if they threw their ballots away And they do need to vote. You can argue you have problems with the choices. You can argue that you disagree, but you have to remember that because of union actions, you do have choices.

And, historically, when you do not vote, it doesn’t go well. “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”—Plato. Those of us who were at Fremont High saw that.

I was used to wearing my red shirt at Fremont, even before we faced the threat of reconstitution/restructuring. After the December 2009 announcement by Superintendent Ramon Cortines to reconstitute (later rephrased as restructure) Fremont High, there was a bit more red seen on campus. People saw the United Teachers of Los Angeles as the ones who had the lifeboats and we were on a foundering ship in a stormy sea, facing a perfect storm.

Union meetings were attended, for people wanted to ask questions. They wanted to save their jobs. They wanted to save the programs they had built up which were helping kids. Unfortunately, as the administration resorted to lies and threats, some of the faculty stopped wearing red. I guess they didn’t want to be easily identified as trouble-makers, or even supporters of trouble-makers. Maybe they believed the lies and threats, even when the lies were exposed, because they wanted to “just do the right thing.” Maybe they gave in to the guilt trips laid upon them. “If you don’t do as we say, you’re against kids.”

Maybe some thought that it was about building relationships. Unfortunately, as many have discovered that remained, it is a relationship between master and slave.

Sometimes, especially when you disagree with what union leadership says or does, it is easy to become disenchanted, to forget why a union exists in the first place. It doesn’t help when those in our own ranks cannot permit questioning of the union’s decisions.

And that’s the cleft stick. If we all agree with each other, then the media demonizes us as mindless minions manipulated like pawns by our greedy union leadership. If we disagree, that just shows how dysfunctional we are, and weakens any position we have.

It is not either all or nothing, “Yer with us or agin’ us.”

But I have been there when there wasn’t protection. And I know about it from a historical point of view. After all, I teach history, and feel the heartache as I watch others forget the hard-won lessons and belittle the hard-won achievements which came before.

Why am I involved? Doesn’t the union just protect bad teachers?

I don’t consider myself a bad teacher. I never did receive a negative evaluation… except for that one in 2000. And I’m glad the union was there. The principal came to observe me late in the year, and I’d received glowing reports from her. Then, in an instant, she turned on a dime. I was accused of not doing anything innovative or different in the classroom. I was mediocre. My character was slurred. I was chastised and denigrated in front of my oversized AP Government class.

I received an unsatisfactory evaluation, complete with falsified dates for conferences and observations. I tried to clear the air. I’m a handshake kind of guy. Silly me. The principal lied.

When students supplied statements as to what occurred in class that day, the principal loudly dismissed the statements, proclaiming that they students had been coerced by my chapter chair and by myself. When the dates had been pointed out, after I had signed this legal document, I was given another copy, with a date whited out and typed over.

Eventually the evaluation was thrown out, solely because my chapter chair fought for me. Unfortunately, that principal was never punished for her actions of forging said document.

This is why I voted early. You see, I experienced the difference of having a union there to back me up or not. When I was in Corona-Norco, I saw otherwise. I saw teachers targeted unfairly, saw veteran teachers merely wag their heads, commenting on how sad the situation was, but none were willing to stand.

With events in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Connecticut, with the reconstitutions taking place throughout LAUSD, we cannot afford to ignore the union elections. We cannot afford to ignore what is happening in education today. We cannot afford to stand alone.

Got a red shirt?

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1 Comment

Reply Barbara
12:27 AM on March 23, 2011 
And lets not forget the symbolic acts that demonstrate an increasing anti-worker, corporate fascism in America- the Governor or Maine ordering the removal of labor murals and the removal of the names from rooms like FDR and Francis Perkins. Wake Up America. I got my red shirt!