Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Another Day of Surreality at the UFT...
....Yakety Yak, Yakety Yak
Apr. 24, 2007
(For readers not in the NYC area, background of the deal Randi Weingarten made with Mayor Bloomberg and the cancellation of the May 9th demo is available in the post titled "What was gained, what was lost" at Norm's Notes. Guide to acronyms: ICE and TJC ran against Weingarten's Unity Caucus in the just completed UFT elections. She was supported by the former opposition, now sell-out, New Action. To read more about the results, go here.)
Well, where do we start? Today was the emergency DA to withdraw the May 9th demo passed at the DA 2 weeks ago, support the Deal of the Century the UFT made with BloomKlein, and pass a resolution to put the pubic - er - public - back in public education.
I finished getting the ICE leaflet printed then sat on the deck smoking a stogie and reading my current fave "Lincoln at Cooper Union," a follow-up to Dorris Kearn's Goodwin's book. Ah, the benefits of Tier 1 pensions. Naturally lost track of time and didn't get to the DA until a bit past 3:30.
Saw TJC's Nick Licari outside hanging out. Nick would have been on the Exec Bd if ICE-TJC had won the high schools and it's too bad we missed out on that show. You'll why see later.
I passed by the guy handing out what looked like the old Communist Party stuff "The Daily Something" except it is probably a weekly or monthly or yearly by now. Oh, yes, The World!
Derick Pearl was also outside with the Progressive Labor Party newspaper. Always great to see Derick's great cheeriness. Always better with a British accent. Derick will be the last person proud to be called a worker left standing.
Inside were the usual Unity retirees handing out the Unity Caucus lit, a peon of praise to Randi. Just more dead trees.
Lots of TJC people there with their leaflet, which says some very good stuff and works well with the stuff ICE is saying in our leaflet.
Unity's Dist.22 rep Fred Gross stops by to take a leaflet and offers to help me give them out. He takes one and crumples it. Very mature. He smirks, "nice job in election." I smirk back, "You lost more votes than we did. Nice work getting 22% to vote." He comes back with,"Only 40% came out to vote in the presidential election with that idiot Bush running." Okay. 40% seems a little better than the 22% that voted for your idiot. No, I don't mean that. ICE's Yelena Siwinski passes by. Fred is her Dist. Rep. and he starts telling her how I attacked him just after he became a DR. I said I just printed what a teacher in his district told me -- that he and the Dist. 22 UFT were sellouts to the Supt. John Comer. Fred just can't seem to get over it.
New Action has nothing to give out. Of course not. They would have had to take a position on the Deal of the Century Randi just made with Bloomberg. They are either relishing the idea of having 8 Ex. bd seats with only 9% of the vote of working members while ICE-TJC got 20% or hanging their heads in shame. I saw a few that wouldn't look me in the eye. They are all pathetic.
Speaking of ...
New Action leader Mike Shulman, who will take the position handed to him by Randi on the Exec. Bd on July 1 walks in with a sour look on his face.
I found out why a few minutes later when Licari walks in smiling. "Shulman was hanging out with his "friends" he said - Nick is talking about the guy with the Daily Something. "I asked Shulman if he was proud of himself. Shulman said he was. I called him a piece of shit," said Nick. I would have not used the word "piece."
Very surprising how many people come out for a Tues. emergency meeting. Must have been around 800 people. The number of people not taking lit gives you a sense of just how many Unity Caucus people there are. The old gang all want to read what we write but the newer ones are more revved up to ignore the opposition.
I stay downstairs giving out stuff till the crowd turns to a trickle. I mosey on up the stairs. Damn, no bananas or any fruit left. Not even ice coffee. The only entrance for non-delegates is the rear-right corner where there are seats for the few crazy non-delegates that come to these things -- Randi will go down in UFT lore for this major innovation.
Of course Randi is talking. And talking. And talking. Non-stop. Every single detail- minute by minute. And it's all about what she did, when she did it, why she did it. Well, she says "we" but "we" know what she means.
It is already about 5:15. People are restless. One woman says, "Does she every stop?"
Only after they bring out the Kool-aid.
Randi is saying some stuff about Klein and Bloomberg and their attempts to create a racial divide by going to black churches and calling their reorganization a civil rights struggle -- the new right-wing mantra -- and the union efforts as regressive. Hey, we know they are swine - one more reason we should have held the May 9th demo and run these guys out of town. But here Randi has done some good work in putting together a coalition to counter that, for the first time since the '68 strike.
Josh Heisler from Vanguard HS comes over and we dissect what Randi is saying. Peter Lamphere from TJC is also hanging out in the back. We find ourselves laughing. A lot. Some of this stuff is better than a comedy club. But the best is still to come.
Randi is explaining that some of the parent groups who were against the deal felt that the more chaos there was in the schools, the better it would be to fight BloomKlein and mayoral control. Then comes the kicker. "... the same idea that is echoed in the ICE and TJC leaflets."
HUH? I finished writing the ICE leaflet at 10am and must have written that point about chaos in invisible ink. There are hoots and shouts from ICE and TJC people: "Where does it say that?" At this point Nick Licari has had it. "Stop talking already," he shouts out. "It's an hour and 15 minutes already. We want to go home. Some of us worked all day, not like some of you." People start to laugh. Others pick up on Nick and the place begins to get rowdy.
But that doesn't stop Randi. Sometimes I wonder. She could say nothing and take a vote and it will be the same no matter what she says. But she thinks she has to rouse the troops. Or ego rules. She tries a few moves to turn the crowd against the opposition. "The election is over," she says. Moans and groans. She's trying to use that shit again. "I tried to reach out to the opposition," she sniffs. Her voice is rising and she looks like she might pull a crying fit. The place is getting rowdier." She practically screams, "I have never been treated so rudely."
Hey, at least Nick didn't call her a piece of shit.
That is the signal to the Unity troops. They begin to rise and applaud. Someone in Unity must be taking attendance. No one wants to lose their gig or free trip to the convention. Now you see the power of Unity as 3/4 of the room is up. Later I heard someone was going up and down the aisles drumming up business. One gets the feeling that love for Randi has to be squeezed out of her own gang like an almost empty toothepaste tube.
Randi is getting wild. Suddenly she starts to talk about St. Louis and New Orleans. Huh? Oh yes. ICE and Ed Notes has been talking about the national attack on public schools and our leaflet accused her of ignoring the national attack on public education. Her answer is the has actually heard of New Orleans and St. Louis and the role Alvarez and Marsal have played there - and New York, of course- which she apparently found out from reading the Ed Notes blog.) God forbid the UFT ever tried to do anything serious to fight against the travesty of the the corporate giveaway BloomKlein are engaging in.
Randi says she talks to AFT and NEA people all the time (aha, getting ready to move on to AFT pres in July 2008).
Now, she is practically ranting, looking to be on the verge of hysteria. Someone get oxygen. She finishes by invoking the ghost of Al Shanker and in the funniest line of the night, says, "Al Shanker told me on his death bed ....." What, not to hold the demo May 9th?
Okay, so that wasn't what he told her. That Randi was there to hear Shanker's last words is enough for the Unity faithful to begin to rise again. "He told me that he told people not to vote to strike in 1975 at the delegate assembly because the city had no money," (Oh boy, have we heard this one before - she did learn this from Al -- always use the "no money" argument as an excuse for not winning in contract negotiations) "and they didn't listen. And that was the only strike this union every lost," she screeches. The Unity faithful rises to cheer her. The Kool-aid has been served.
Of course, Randi got even this wrong. I was at that vote and also didn't listen to Al. And I was there when we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge Al said, "We won't go back 'till we all go back." But we went back with 15,000 less people, fewer preps, a shorter school day, etc. I'm proud to have been opposed to going back at that time. And did Randi really think we "won" the '68 strike when she has actually received accolades for putting together a coalition that for the first time actually heals some of the wounds that still exist from '68?
The rant is over. She is spent. She calms herself down and opens the debate. The great democrat will call on a speaker for each side. The Unity faithful from the speakers' bureau who have been prepped with their speaker points are ready.
(I may have the order of the speakers wrong.)
ICE's Lisa North starts out by talking about how the momentum for holding the May 9th demo has been built and holding it would hold the parent coalition together. Randi's answer is we can hold the demo another time (I suggest August 1st.) Unity's Dave Pecoraro CL from Beach Channel HS responds. "How come he always gets to speak," asks a woman. " "He's one of their trained parrots," I answer.
Carolyn Eubanks from ICE and PL takes the floor and as usual gets emotional about how the kids are being hurt by all this. I love Carolyn and understand where she is going but most people there don't and she doesn't help her cause with this type of presentation, especially with this crowd. There are hoots and hollers for her to sit down. Randi magnanimously quiets the crowd to let Carolyn speak. What can I say? I'm queasy about it. Some think Randi loves to call on PL people to paint the opposition a certain way.
She calls on a pro-speaker, Mark Egan, a district rep from the Bronx, who speaks with an Irish lilt and makes an excellent presentation (from Unity's point of view) comparing this to a 15 round boxing match and claims the UFT has won rounds one, two and three. Has he been in a school lately and seen the carnage?
Then comes ICE's Michael Fiorillo, CL of Newcomer's HS, who makes a similar case for the May 9th demo as Lisa did. He praises the coalition put together by the UFT and Randi takes the opportunity to thank him for the compliment. Jeez.
Now, Steve Quester, CL of PS 372K, an independent and one of my favorite DA people, makes the single strongest presentation of the day when he takes apart the funding plan compromise for what it was. He points out the funding formula we agreed to still has the incentive for principals to not hire higher salaried teachers after senior teachers leave or transfer because they can use the money any way they want to - -ie. hire 2 new teachers. Randi responds that the old formula that existed in Dec is dead and we were left with the new formula from Jan. She obviously begs the question that one of the goals of the entire movement/May 9th rally was to keep the old formula but she has given this idea up for the deal.
Her goal was to keep the funding for the school intact to "keep good schools working." Translation: to satisfy the white middle class parents. Senior teachers (anyone over 3 years in today's world) are dead. UFT complicity with the DOE all along on the attacks on higher salaried teachers will doom all those making over 60 grand to purgatory. Remember how private industry shakes out its workers when they reach a certain age and salary? We got it now. In spades.
Unity ideologue Leo Casey, (one of the major authors of red-baiting Unity lit and great Nazi hunter who sees United Farm Worker eagles as Nazi paraphernalia) rises, the only time I have seen him speak at the DA. Casey has been described as one of the most intellectually dishonest people around and he certainly fulfills his promise here. He makes a rousing speech, his voice almost reaching Randi's level of hysteria at times, about how we don't demonstrate for catharsis but to win politically. He was present at all stages of the deal and watched how Randi worked with each groups of the coalition and they all got something out of the deal. Hmmm. Maybe a pitch to be the next HS VP when Volpicella retires. But then he may not have the time to spend his days reading what the opposition blogs are saying or writing long-winded pieces for Edwize.
Phew! Unity's Greg Lundahl, CL of Washington Irving HS who is one of the Unity people who replaced the ICE-TJC reps on the Ex Bd., rises and in his deep mellifluous tones says, "I call the question." Greg has found his calling.
I know how this drama ends and exit left to go find a banana.