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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

(Recently the members of the AFT-OKC voted to reject the contract that the union leadership negotiated with the district administration.  The union went back to the administration and asked to reopen negotiations, which the administration rejected.  There will be a second vote by the membership. This will be on whether or not we choose to go to impasse, which is a long process and will delay ratification until next year sometime.
The union sent out a flyer urging members to reject impasses and to accept the negotiated agreement as it was first presented.  
I recently resigned as Executive VP of the union because I felt the union leadership has been very neglectful of our membership. This was my response to their flyer calling for us to accept the agreement.
We really only have ourselves to blame for having lost the vote on the contract. 
I include myself in this because until recently, I was a part of this whole mess.
We have approved worse contracts than this, but the perception among the members is that we have not been on their side during the changes going on in the district.
We have not spoken out against those who have blamed the teachers for the perceived failures in the schools. In fact, several statements Ed has made have given the impression that we agree with those who believe that by firing teachers, we will somehow transform the culture in our schools, much of which is beyond our control.
These are forces involved with poverty, racism, neglect of the problems brought on by these forces and a host of other ills.
We have neglected this because we did not want to be perceived as giving excuses rather than solutions.
We could have been working for reforms while we were pointing out that simply firing teachers will not bring the sort of systemic change that is needed to truly and permanently turn our schools around.
This sort of change seems to be happening in places like Harlem, but we have never brought this up to my knowledge, and certainly not to the knowledge of those who voted down the contract.
Now, we are on the verge of losing this union.  Even if those showing up vote to reject impasse, as you urge, those hundreds of members who feel abandoned by their union will be tempted to "vote with their feet" out of the union.
This could have been avoided had we played it smarter, had we talked about the need for real change in our community.
We brought this on ourselves. I want no further part of it.  I will vote to go to impasse and urge others to do the same. 

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