Friday, March 15, 2013

How Not to Use the WEA-RA

One of the main reasons I’ve decided to run to be WEA president is to offer a different approach to the WEA-RA itself.  I’ve been absolutely flabbergasted and flummoxed at current WEA leadership’s approach to the two-and-a-half day annual event that gathers about 1200 delegates representing 82,000 WEA members each spring.  In speaking with both current president Mary Lindquist and presidential candidate Kim Mead, I’ve listened to how plans cannot be top-down, they must emanate from the grassroots, that no local will want to be told what to do by WEA leaders.  

I fundamentally disagree.  I believe that our members hunger, veritably salivate for leadership.  They've been fed sand so long, they believe it to be water.

As a local leader whose hotel, meals, mileage and substitute costs are paid for by my underpaid members, I’ve had to be embarrassed time and time again by WEA leadership’s lack of a coherent plan and program, instead relying on random and often nonsensical initiatives from rudderless delegates.  

How much time have we wasted year after year arguing about what color t-shirt to wear on what particular day?  Or whether or not we should fund a WEA chorus to sing pro-labor songs?  Or whether or not we should send a handful of look-at-me members to a Save Our Schools conference in Washington, D.C.--and if we do how much should we set aside so that they can have a grapefruit as opposed to a melon each morning for breakfast?  Or debating the immigration laws of Arizona, for Pete's sake?

The one time that a brave delegate dared to read off-script and propose that we scrap the Friday morning session to instead travel to Olympia to give our legislators hell, WEA courtiers and operatives fell over themselves to rush to the microphones to presage locusts, plague, and the end of the world if we were to actually use the RA to DO something union-like.  The proposal was soundly defeated.  And we continued instead with debating foolish ideas.

My absolute favorite time-wasting inanity, one that still fills me with abject incredulity--and this was allowed by WEA leadership to go on at two different RAs—is when some delegate commandeered the microphone on a baldly-specious point of personal privilege to urge the 1200 delegates to decry cuts in funding to public education and to lament the resulting loss of educators by yelling like idiots, or in Walt Whitman’s phrase, “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”  I can’t possible fathom anything less effective than 1200 educators screaming in a windowless room.  Twice.  Like the Koch Brothers give a rip?


This is why my members send me to the annual convention of the preeminent representative public education organization in the entire state?  I think not.

If I was WEA president, I would spend the entire year planning for the WEA-RA, which would be held on a Saturday and Sunday so as to reduce costs for delegations, to lay out a well-thought-out—but amendable—plan on how to best utilize our power in service of our core values.

Union Meeting from "The Life of Brian"

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