Friday, August 28, 2015

A brief thought on union matters

The new school year was about to start and I was in my classroom doing some preliminary work such as planning classes and checking the teaching materials. I was sitting down at my desk enjoying the solitude of the room and listening to some relaxing music when a couple of individuals entered in the room and began literally preaching on the advantages to become a member of the teachers’ union with. While I was listening to their allocution, I though on my parents when they were young because come from a family that was very involved in union tasks before the Cuban revolution took place in 1959. Even though my parents were member of a union, they were profoundly anti-communists in opposition to a common thinking that put an equal sign between unionists and communists or socialists. My parents were member of a union organization of Catholic inspiration. I thought that they were very proud of me I were a guy with unionist enthusiasm, but I am not. During most of my life in Cuba the union institutions appear to me nothing else but another government formation. Therefore, becoming a member of the teacher’s union (or any union at all) has no appeal to me at all.
After I began working as a high school teacher in this country, I became a member of the union for one simple reason: to protect myself against any possible mistreatment from the administration or early firing. After I reach a certain point in my teaching career in which the union means nothing but an expensive membership, I decided to give a raise in my salary by resigning that membership. As I was telling before, I was in my classroom in perfect communion with myself when this couple of enthusiast unionists entered in and began praising the goodness of the United Teachers of Dade. I listened to them in silence –not a word came out of my mouth during the fifteen-minute-long speech. At the end, they asked me to rejoin the union and I simply said no. At that point, one of them asked me for my nationality and I said, Cuban. Ah!, said this person, smiling broadly and masking impishness, I understand why now. Then, this person said to the other slightly confused person, I’ll explain to you later, and they left the room together.

I tried to clarify nothing. That comment was made out of a common stereotype in which Cubans are portrayed as right-wing militants and enemy of everything that could be close to a leftist position. I consider myself a person with a progressive social sensibility, closer to the left in their historical demands than of the right in its maniac defense of the capital. I have certain political culture that put me closer to classical leftist positions. I was not offended by the comment –I understand it. Cubans have a well-gained reputation of ferocious conservative people. Perhaps an intelligent conversation rather than an uncontrollable prattle could have resulted if not in becoming again a member of the union at least in a mutual understanding of different perceptions on the role of the union organizations in a capitalist society such as ours. Besides, it is highly probable that in readings and attitudes I am more to left than these union members.