Monday, March 25, 2013

Julie Strikes Back

What matters is leadership. What matters is vision. What matters is the philosophy by which one will govern and represent the membership. I believe in a union that is member led and member driven. When I, or a candidate from MORE caucus, become president of the union, you will not have to attend a DA and sit idly and listen. The DA will be yours. When we take over leadership of our union, we will organize, support and build fighting chapters at the school level with elected district representatives who are trained organizers.  When we run the union, leadership and staffers will make salaries equivalent to the teachers we represent — there will be no extra perks, no double pensions.  When we lead our union, you will not go more than three years without a contract, at least not without organized job actions and a fight.


When Unity’s stranglehold of the leadership of our union ends, the members will have representation that believes in solidarity with other unions and in the power of our collective action. You will have a union that educates, mobilizes, and organizes our members and the public and who organically partners with parents and young people. You will have a leadership that truly understands that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, that a harm to one is a harm to us all, and that we must stand side by side with deep roots in the communities we serve to fight for social, racial and economic justice in our schools, in our city and across the country.
 ----Julie Cavanagh responding to Unity Caucus attacks at MORE blog.
The attacks on Julie as being unqualified to run the UFT remind me of the Republican/Pallin attacks and derision of Obama for being a "community organizer" given Julie's work in the community around her school, the basics of grassroots organizing.---- ed notes
In the midst of dealing with a sick child and getting ready for a few days of breathing room from working as a full-time teacher, mother, chapter leader, presidential candidate, school and neighborhood organizer, best friend and supporter to too many people to count, Julie Cavanagh found the time to respond to the Unity hack/slug attacks while Mulgrew hides under the table.

Listen, I actually happen to like Mulgrew from what I see of him, but if he had to face a debate with Julie and answer tough questions about UFT policy he just wouldn't hold up. And she would. So it is funny how the Unity people claim she would cave while backing Mulgrew's refusal to debate.

Duck, Mulgrew, duck.

So I don't blame Mulgrew for ducking. That doesn't make him a bad person and maybe it means he is smart to not want to debate Julie, knowing full well her capabilities and his weaknesses. (Randi was willing to debate the late Michelle Malkin representing PAC, a tiny caucus, in 2001).

Mulgrew bears responsibility for Unity attacks

But then the Unity attacks on her qualifications in such a coordinated manner means he must bear responsibility for them and that means he is condoning them while the anonymity of the commentors provide cover for people who are clearly amongst the leadership, allowing Mulgrew to say, "who me?" It happened to Kit Wainer in the 2007 campaign when thousands of teachers received an mailing at home attacking Kit. Randi claimed she didn't know. Sure. Can we expect a similar mailing with the same type of attack on Julie this time?

I'm not speaking for MORE here but let's challenge any of the Unity hacks/slugs or anyone else in Unity to debate any people in MORE in a public arena. Watch them duck this one too. Let any of the commentors on the MORE, ICE, and Ed Notes blogs come forward and stand up for what you say you believe. How about Emil and Camen debating Gloria on what exactly happened with the UFT governance committee instead of using the DA to beat Gloria up? No guts, no glory.

New Action, inaction
And watch New Action in all this. They will probably issue some inane statement about keeping the election process clean. Then watch some of them go over and schmooze with Julie after the election and commiserate. I try to tell Julie and other MOREs that New Action is worse than Unity. They know they can never contend for power and have no intention of doing so but will do Unity's bidding in making sure a CORE-like caucus will not get traction in NYC. They really are despicable. Just look at their leaflet taking credit for the sun shining and making it look like they are criticizing Unity while burying the fact they are running Mulgrew at the top of their ticket -- and don't think Unity people are not helping them get their stuff into schools -- Leroy Barr killed a potential lower level debate between MORE and Unity over including New Action -- they like 2 against 1.

Attack on Julie will come back to bite Unity and New Action after the election

One of the major miscalculations on the part of Unity is their basic ignorance of Julie's stature in and beyond NYC. And all the people she has worked with. They live in their insular box. All they are worried about is the election results this time. As more teachers get to know Julie over the coming years, these attacks will resonate with them.

You know my interest is not in the election but in building a core group of activists with a wide reach and the election was seen as a way to do that. The very fact that Julie has chosen to work with MORE, given her wide range of options, is a sign of change that is a real threat to Unity. Thus these attacks.

That is the only way to challenge Unity and if MORE stops doing this after the election only to come back in 3 years it is wasting its time. The attacks on Julie and her response will go far and wide for a long time. If it were up to me I would put it out as a leaflet to stuff in the boxes. (I will put together a pdf for anyone who wants to share with their staff.)

You can read Julie's response at the MORE blog and at ICE where James Eterno, the ICE-TJC 2010 Presidential candidate and an avid Julie supporter along with his wife Camille (which given their long activism should mean something -- would they be willing to turn the UFT over to someone unqualified?) added this comment:
As John Kerry found out in the 2004 presidential campaign, mud sticks so you better fight back fast and that is what MORE Presidential candidate Julie Cavanagh is doing.  She will not be "swift-boated" by Unity. Here is her response on the ICEUFT blog to the viscous Unity attacks on her fitness to lead the UFT .  It will also be on the MORE blog.


Please read and comment but don't forget we still need to work hard on the ground game to get out the vote as ballots will be mailed as soon as we come back to school.

James
And a MUST READ is NYC Educator:

Is UFT's Delegate Assembly a Forum for Candidates' Debate?

Should Working Mothers With Sick Babies Attend the DA?


 If you don't get to MORE or ICE, Julie's entire statement is below:

Cavanagh Defends Her Record and Asks Mulgrew to Debate His

25 Mar
By Julie Cavanagh

Wow. While having breakfast with my husband and almost nine month old son (who is finally on the mend after more than a week of a fever ranging 102-104 every day, during the same time my best friend’s 18 month old daughter was in the hospital, who by the way, is also a teacher and a single mother of two young children), I picked up my phone to see a mention on Twitter from Arthur Goldstein (teacher and chapter leader in Queens). I frankly couldn’t believe what I was reading. Usually a mention from Arthur has me in stitches. Not this time.

Now instead of relaxing while my baby takes a nap, I am writing this in response to comments on the ICE and MORE blogs attacking my commitment as a unionist and chapter leader and questioning my worthiness as a candidate for UFT President. All of this because I, and the caucus I represent, had the nerve to insist that Michael Mulgrew engage in a forum or debate with me so that our members can be fully informed and engaged when it comes to their voting choices in the upcoming election.

First let me say that I do not feel I need to defend my role as a chapter leader. Nearly every UFT member in our school, signed my petition for UFT President, and many of my colleagues are actually running in this election with MORE.

Second, I certainly do not need to defend my attendance at Delegate Assemblies. While I do attend, often, DAs are not a democratic forum. As I am sure the commenters on the ICE and MORE blogs know, and as all Unity folks know, the room is not even large enough for all of the CLs and delegates to be seated and when you do go and sit, you listen to Mulgrew practice his stand up routine for an hour or so, after which you *might* have the chance to ask a question or bring a resolution to the floor if Mulgrew recognizes you. Regardless, it is an effort in futility because it really doesn’t matter what you say, ask or bring to the floor; the ruling Unity caucus will disagree with it or vote it down, since they control the DA. If the UFT leadership actually held Delegate Assemblies each month that were informative and provided fair and ample time for discourse and discussion, I would be there in a New York Minute. As this is not the case, I attend as many Delegate Assemblies as I can, but sometimes other events such as a childcare issue, my son being ill or an important meeting in my community to bring a new partner into Red Hook to service children and families with disabilities will take precedence. I do not need to go to the delegate assembly to prove who I am or that I am committed to my union; I act every day in a way that highlights why I should be president of the UFT.

I am a mother and a teacher. I have been a teacher for thirteen years, and have been working with children with special needs and their families for even longer. I have stayed in the same community and school since moving to NYC in 2001, because I am committed to the process of leading school change and improvement from the school level. I became chapter leader at the request of my colleagues a few years ago and have worked hard with them, our parents, and our principal to make sure our children and our teachers have the best learning and working conditions possible. I fought for my school during the dictatorship that my union handed to the mayor, during a co-location of a charter school in my building that my union didn’t adequately help fight (which is difficult since the UFT leadership chose to co-locate its own charter), while our class sizes rise steadily and our budgets are slashed, while teacher’s choice was eliminated and insultingly reinstated to cover no more than a few boxes of pencils, while ATR’s rotate in and out of my building- some of whom  have approached me on the brink of tears desperate for someone to listen to their struggle, during a time of a tidal wave of assaults on our children, our schools, and our profession.

Throughout this time, I not only worked in my own school community, I worked with parents and union members across the city and the country to fight back. You can find links to some of my work here, but I will list a few highlights: I co-wrote/edited/produced/and narrated a film that stood up to corporate education reform, a film that has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people in every state and on every continent (except Antarctica); I have appeared on several TV and radio programs and written several articles where I have spoken out forcefully against corporate education reform and for the schools our children deserve – and I was invited or asked in every single case to participate, so while those in Unity caucus pretend to not know who I am or what I have done (but yet ”know”, falsely, that I am not at DAs) apparently the national media does; I have also worked with other union members in the city and nationally  I helped organize a conference, and attended and facilitated, in Chicago in the summer of 2011 with other teacher union members; I helped lead the solidarity efforts with Verizon workers at the end of that same summer. I have sued, with a parent and a student, Mayor Bloomberg for the right to protest school closings and co-locations on his block and successfully organized and co-led that protest. I was the only teacher petitioner in the effort to stop and overturn the appointment of Cathy Black and also recently the only teacher on record to join with parents in sounding the alarm of student and teacher data privacy issues regarding SLC/inBloom data systems (Randi Weingarten, by the way, sits on inBloom’s advisory board). I say all of this not because I think anything that I am or that I do is so special, I share this information to highlight the outlandishness of the attacks from people whose usual line is there should be no attacks on union folks because we are under attack from outside forces and therefore need ‘unity’. I also share this because these are the things the president of a union should do.

Beyond of all of this, if Unity caucus can attack me for the number of times I went to the DA (this year I believe I have been to four DAs), the number of grievances I have filed (none), the number of UFT trainings or committees I have attended (none), then I wonder why they nominated Randi Weingarten as their presidential candidate, since she never attended a DA as a chapter leader, was never a chapter leader, and therefore never filed a grievance, attended the trainings, etc.

I personally do not think any of those things are what makes someone qualified to run our union. What matters is leadership. What matters is vision. What matters is the philosophy by which one will govern and represent the membership. I believe in a union that is member led and member driven. When I, or a candidate from MORE caucus, become president of the union, you will not have to attend a DA and sit idly and listen. The DA will be yours. When we take over leadership of our union, we will organize, support and build fighting chapters at the school level with elected district representatives who are trained organizers.  When we run the union, leadership and staffers will make salaries equivalent to the teachers we represent — there will be no extra perks, no double pensions.  When we lead our union, you will not go more than three years without a contract, at least not without organized job actions and a fight.

When Unity’s stranglehold of the leadership of our union ends, the members will have representation that believes in solidarity with other unions and in the power of our collective action. You will have a union that educates, mobilizes, and organizes our members and the public and who organically partners with parents and young people. You will have a leadership that truly understands that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, that a harm to one is a harm to us all, and that we must stand side by side with deep roots in the communities we serve to fight for social, racial and economic justice in our schools, in our city and across the country.

I am more than ready to share who I am with the members of the UFT and I am happy to answer their questions. In fact, that is precisely the reason I sent the email below to Michael Mulgrew. I believe a union membership with a less than 30% voter turnout needs to be engaged and exposed to open discourse and conversation between the two people who seek to represent them.

Mr. Mulgrew, I am still waiting for a response.
***
Sent: Mar 14, 2013 8:01 PM
Michael,
I hope this email finds you well.

While we have differences and disagreements concerning education policy and union democracy, we both are committed to our union and the children we serve. In that spirit, we should be able to engage in an open conversation during election season so we can ensure our fellow members are informed and engaged.

To this point you have ignored outreach regarding your participation in a debate or question and answer town hall with me. I would like to directly and formally ask you to participate in such an event.

I believe that our members deserve the opportunity to ask questions of their presidential candidates and I strongly believe this kind of open and honest discourse strengthens our union: an educated and engaged membership that is listened to and participates makes us stronger.

There is precedent for an event such as this between presidential candidates during election season.  As you know, Randi has participated in presidential debates in the past: one in 1999 and again in 2001.

I am open to a debate format with a third party moderator or a town hall question and answer event with the membership. My only specific asks are that the event be filmed and/or livestreamed so that we can maximize member participation, that the date, which I am open to any, be agreed to a few days in advance, so that I can secure child care and that the date be as close to April 3rd as possible, so that we provide a fair amount of time for members during the election timeframe.

I look forward to your response.
In solidarity,
Julie Cavanagh

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