My friend, NYC Ed, thinks retirees should not be allowed to vote in UFT elections. He's right. Most retirees have no idea what is going on in schools today and they really have no idea as to how much has changed since they left the system. But, the problem with the union is not retirees, it is lack of interest and involvement of the rank and file.
I remember a heated UFT election for chapter chair several years ago. I had strong leanings toward one candidate but felt everyone should vote, and vote knowingly, even if they shared my choice or not. The union leader is the one who fights for our rights and that person should be the one chosen by the majority. I remember walking into my department office and asking the room full of young teachers if they voted. What I heard was: "Voted?" "What are we voting for?" "Does it really matter who gets elected?" "Nothing changes anyway." I remember feeling disgusted with the lot and felt they deserved whoever they got.
Several teachers were asked to represent their departments on the UFT's executive board. Many refused. There wasn't enough in it for them to make it worth their time. Others were afraid of retribution by administration if they said something out of line. They hoped to spend their careers as invisible members of the staff. Some, on the board, made lots of noise at meetings but never stood up outside of them, always waiting for someone else to do it for them.
Blaming retirees for the state of the UFT is like blaming teachers for all the ills of education today. Yes, we should not vote but if the people affected stood up, we would be outnumbered. Just look at how many of us don't vote at all. And, if the UFT really pushed the plight of teachers today, more retirees would vote with those still on the front line.
As for me, I am taking courses and enjoying my days. Here are some pics of Friday's High Line walk with a bunch of fellow retirees (and one who is just enjoying her summer.) Notice the smile on every one's face. More pictures here, on Facebook.