Saturday, July 28, 2012

@AFT: Stephen Sawchuck on Unity Caucus and Leo Casey Response

You can't have strong unions without democratically run unions. --- Ed Notes.
Leo Casey explains "democracy", AFT/UFT style to Stephen Sawchuck. I call it Dictatorship. 

Randi said yesterday, "You can't have a democracy in a capitalist society without strong unions as check and balance."  Randi left out: you can't have strong unions without democratically run unions.

Think you miss the role of union history, and how the traditions the AFT comes out of understands democracy. 

For AFT, democracy is organized, with political parties that advocate ideas & platform. Caucuses are our political parties. 

AFT always a union & as such comes out of social democratic tradition, with focus on collective voice. 

NEA has a much more individualist notion of democracy --anyone can command the attention of all 6000 delegates on any topic.
I'm not saying one is superior to the other, just that they are different, and explain some of how the conventions work 

I am just saying your explanation was not complete. This is poorly understood topic, with lots of uninformed commentary.

Of course in the world of Leo, social democratic "tradition" and "collective voice" means undemocratically shut out all voices of disagreement. 

We, and the Stalinists, call Leo's version of democracy "Dictatorship." A poor excuse to justify having all 800 Unity caucus people here represent the view of the leadership while shutting out views like ours ---- ICE/TJC got thousands of votes of people who have no voice here. Read NYC Educator for more.

Stephen should ask how it is possible that every single elected position in the UFT is controlled by Unity Caucus, 100% unlike even Russia and Burma and more like North Korea.

Stephen followed up with:

@TeacherBeat NEA has a much more individualist notion of democracy --anyone can command the attention of all 6000 delegates on any topic.

@TeacherBeat I am just saying your explanation was not complete. This is poorly understood topic, with lots of uninformed commentary.
 Stephen's piece At Edweek.

And some more links on AFT from Gotham.
  • Randi Weingarten opened the AFT convention by calling for community-oriented unions. (Answer Sheet)
  • The new brand of unionism she’s proposing will be “solutions-oriented,” Weingarten said. (Teacher Beat) (this idea of "solution-driven unionism" appears to be a further gloss on the idea of labor-management collaboration., Hmm, "new unionism" 2.0?"

Understanding the Unions' Internal Politics

From Detroit
The American Federation of Teachers' convention begins this morning, and it's as good a time as any to review how the teachers' unions' internal politics govern what those of us attending these policymaking sessions see.
Each local AFT affiliate gets to send a number of delegates to the national convention, allocated proportionally based on the size of its membership.
Here's where it gets complicated. The locals get to choose how the delegate elections run, a process that is shaped by each local's internal political system. This matters most in the case of the United Federation of Teachers, AFT's New York City affiliate and the largest by far. It is heavily dominated by individuals belonging to one particular "caucus," or internal political party, called Unity. Nearly all, if not all, the UFT delegates belong to Unity.
Essentially, the combination of having lots of delegates, coupled with "caucus discipline"—toeing the party line in public is a condition of membership in Unity—means that much of the convention's direction is shaped largely by this constituency. In addition, many, though not all, AFT executive council members belong to the national version of Unity, known as Progressive.
The bottom line for our purposes is that Unity/Progressive folks are often at the microphones during debate, and have a lot of pull in the resolutions committees that decide which resolutions will be put to the delegates.
Compare and contrast this to the National Education Association. NEA politics are primarily state-based, with the larger, more populous state delegations obviously carrying the most weight. In practice, state affiliates also often team up on particular issues that arise at the conventions. Steve Owens, a Vermont local union leader, has a good description on his blog of how some state leaders successfully united to defeat a new business item at this year's NEA convention.
In addition, the NEA has a few powerful internal interest groups, like the National Council of Urban Education Locals, a group representing urban NEA affiliates. NCUEA often has a hand in shaping policies, as they did in 2011 in introducing qualifications on testing into the NEA's teacher evaluations statement.
Still, it takes only 50 delegates to put a new business item to the entire delegation, a process that doesn't have a parallel for the AFT.
These differences help explain why the NEA has a somewhat more boisterous, spontaneous feel, while the AFT convention tends to come across as more businesslike and orchestrated.

The opinions expressed on EdNotesOnline are solely those of Norm Scott and are not to be taken as official positions (though Unity Caucus/New Action slugs will try to paint them that way) of any of the groups or organizations Norm works with: ICE, GEM, MORE, Change the Stakes, NYCORE, FIRST Lego League NYC, Rockaway Theatre Co., Active Aging, The Wave, Aliens on Earth, etc.


  1. Whatever "teacher effectiveness" does or doesn't signify, there is more variance in the educational "results" in high-poverty populations than low-poverty. Value-added measures are a random-numbers-driven shooting gallery for teachers in low-wealth communities.Teaching Statements

  2. Leo can rationalize anything given enough time. The UFT should be ashamed of itself. HOWEVER, the biggest irony that exists with many ed activists who are leftists with socialist affiliations, is that they run their own parties in a "Stalinist" manner. Some are more overt while others are covert. The lefty groups with a democratic centralist ideology run their parties no differently than the Unity Caucus (no surprise as that is where Shanker's roots were). Other groups who consider themselves "democratic" and anti-Lenin/Trot/Mao, upon closer inspection usually have a small "cadre" of people who persuade the larger group to adopt their thoughts. It's all very messy and quite frankly I am not sure that you can run any caucus or group without falling prey to some of the negatives listed here. Would anything get done or move forward? Just saying...I hate Unity and at the same time know that if given the chance certain UFT lefties would destroy the union in a manner of months.

    This is rarely if ever discussed. And those who have not themselves seen or experienced first hand what is described can in no way truly understand it.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating).