Thursday, March 29, 2007
Breaking News: March 29, 2007
UFT vote count all day at Park Central Hotel, 7th Ave & 55th St. Election committee announced that mail received today will be counted. We may ask for Friday's mail also to be accepted. I will be there with Kit Wainer and Josh Kahn from TJC.
ICE meeting at Murray Bergtraum HS, Friday, March 30 at 4:15 to analyze election results, with a scavenger hunt to follow to find a restaurant in Chinatown.
When a question was raised at the DA yesterday about the red-baiting flyer Unity sent out, Randi as usual cried about how she has stood up to such terrible personal attacks -- like questions about her teaching credentials and said she lives as honest a life as anyone she knows. (Except for that statement on NY 1 she made not long ago claiming she taught 5 periods a day for 6 years.) Randi then gave Unity head Jeff Zahler the floor to engage in another round of red-baiting, saying he was proud to have sent that out and reading excerpts in an attack on Kit Wainer. He said accusations of McCarthyism are not true because in those times Kit would be thrown out of the union and not even have a job. He attacked Kit for criticizing Al Shanker for supporting American foreign policy (like the was in Vietnam, which apparently in retrospect Zahler must also support. When he started frothing at the mouth Randi signaled "enough" and he sat down like a good boy.
Kit tool a point of personal privilege but didn't go beyond referring to the TJC response on their web site. Many thought he should have gone on the attack the way NYC Educator did and said he was proud to be a socialist who is willing to fight for a strong union and if Randi was a socialist our people wouldn't be in such trouble.
By the way, not one New Action member said a word or tried to say a word. so ironic since Unity had always red-baited them. I had a brief confrontation with some New Action people before the meeting when I castigated them for lying down with snakes and for not standing up. They argued they had sent a strongly-worded protest to Weingarten and said something on their web site. Whoopdee-doo! They should have come to the DA and handed out a leaflet. No guts, no glory! They also said they objected to the counter red-baiting in TJC's response. Let's see what Zahler and his friends in New Action have to say when his Unity faithful finds out they have elected members of a certain leftist organization who ran on the Unity slate to the Executive Board. Call this counter red-baiting if you want. If you lie down with snakes, expect to get bitten.
Having been involved with people from the left in union politics for a long time, I always feel people should be open about their political affiliations, especially if they are associated with a party which can have such a major impact on their political stance. That goes for people in TJC and in New Action. The word "Independent" in ICE has a lot of meaning. There are a lot of left people in the group but they are truly independent, people not comfortable with left party ideology. At least the 3 Progressive Labor Party members in ICE are out front, though sometimes in an awkward way.
Speaking of which....
Ironically, Jonathan Lessuck from the Progressive Labor Party (and ICE) got up right after Kit on a point of order to make the annual PLP May Day motion because Randi had shunted the New Motion period to the end of the meeting as she usually manipulates that time. She began that with me back in 2000 when she didn't want one of my motions in front of the body and actually called me outside to apologize. She was fairly new, with a Unity party still loyal to Sandy and looking for allies - not nearly as arrogant as she has become. That was my first indication (ok, I was slow) of how manipulative she was.
Jonathan has proven very adept at handling himself in these sticky situations. I was almost hoping he would say what Kit wouldn't in a rigorous defense of left activism in the union but when Randi engaged in an attack on him for daring to upset the democratic process because there is a backlog of so many motions (due to her long reports, invitations to DA's to politicians and DOE officials, etc.) but as usual, she tried to blame Jonathan. But he turned the tables on her when he called her Dusty, followed by "oops! When under pressure I get mixed up with my repressive, dictatorial principal." The place rolled with laughter and even Weingarten had to laugh. Humor is the best way to work this crowd and unfortunately few use it. Kudos to Jonathan.
When his first sentence of the May Day resolution mentioned the word Communist I said "Uh, oh!" but he saved the day with a great case for celebrating May Day as a way to reinvigorate the labor movement. When the vote was taken even Randi said it was 70-30 against. 30% of the DA FOR the May Day motion? Holy Cow! We must be moving left. More kudos to Jonathan.
When people ask how it is to have PL people (Jonathan, Carolyn and Joan) working with ICE I answer that it has been a pleasure to have their viewpoint which is very pro-student, presented. (I know I'm simplifying - I object to them pinning every ill in the world on racism.) All to often, all you hear from teachers is the bad stuff about students. One of the reasons PL and ICE can work together is that we have always tried to deal with the rights of teachers and students (and parents.) Sometimes people, even in ICE arecritical, saying a caucus should only worry about teachers. My view is that is not a caucus I am interested in. Again, kudos to Jonathan.
I hung out in the back of the DA with Josh Heisler a teacher at Vanguard HS in the Julia Richman complex. Josh works with NYCORE (New York Collection of Radical Educators.) I met Josh through Sally Lee from NYCORE and Teachers Unite. Josh is doing work on anti-military recruitment. It was Josh's outrage at receiving the Unity red-baiting attack that spurred NYCORE, which usually doesn't get involved in UFT internal struggles, to endorse the ICE-TJC slate to their very large mailing list. I'm hoping we can get Josh to work with us in ICE.
The more I meet people like Josh and Sally, the more I appreciate the fact that there are still young leftists (Peter, Megan, Ellen from TJC) out there battling. Change in the UFT will only come from being spurred by the left and there is hope. I know there is a right-wing anti-Unity sentiment out there but it is not organized and frankly, I don't see that happening. If the right wants to get rid of Unity it will have create a caucus, join with the left, or sit on the sideline. Though I do not view myself as a leftist, I love meeting and working with them and there is a glimmer of a future for a movement.