(By the way, Julie and Seku are like finding diamonds and that they cast their lot with MORE is a sign of the potential MORE has to attract amazing people.)
Julie Cavanagh and Seku Brathwaite on wbai
Brooklyn Rail: A Groundswell of Teachers Wants More
Cavanagh is the cheery face of dissident militancy. Unlike her running mate, long-time International Socialist Organization activist Brian Jones, she’s fairly new to rabble-rousing, going to her first protest in 2009 to demonstrate against school closings. Between taping a campaign video and entertaining her 7-month-old son on a Saturday afternoon in January, she explains that MORE is the consolidation of two dissident factions, Teachers for a Just Contract and the Independent Community of Educators, and includes members of the New York Community of Radical Educators, the Grassroots Education Movement and Teachers Unite. Cavanagh admits that the campaign against Mulgrew will be an uphill battle. “We’re trying to get into other schools, into mail boxes,” she said. “We have a team of bloggers, and the traditional boots on the ground.”Hmm. First time I've heard Julie described as "the cheery face" but not bad.
The Indypendent - Ready to Resist (excerpts)
Late on the Thursday afternoon before spring break 15 teachers gathered around a long table in the back corner of a tapas bar in Chelsea. Faced with a daily grind of standardized test prep, performance metrics, data management and pervasive job insecurity that increasingly defines their existence as teachers, they were looking forward to a week’s respite. But, they were also discussing this April’s elections in the United Federation of Teachers and how they might be able to rejuvenate a union that they say has failed to effectively resist the corporate-style education reforms that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has implemented over the past 12 years.
“Resistance is not futile if we join forces with the people in the communities we serve,” said Sean Ahern, a teacher who works with troubled youth at Rikers Island, as the group went around the table introducing themselves and describing the teaching work they do.
The happy hour gathering was organized by the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), an opposition caucus that is battling the UFT’s entrenched leadership. MORE was formed last year by members of several left-leaning teacher groups. Many MORE members have joined protests in recent years against school closings and charter school co-locations inside existing public schools carried out by the NYC Department of Education. In the 170,000-member UFT, they see an institution with the resources and the citywide reach into school communities to lead a powerful fightback against Bloomberg’s policies — including mayoral control of schools — which have proven increasingly unpopular with parents. But first, they say, the UFT must transform itself and become an organization that fully encourages member participation and forges strong ties with the communities it serves.
“The membership is not educated, organized and mobilized, and that has hurt us,” said Julie Cavanagh, an elementary school special education teacher who is MORE’s candidate for president against UFT chief Michael Mulgrew.I had a frank talk with the writer of this piece John Tarleton who has been following things closely for years. I asked for it to be off the record because I wanted to lay out the challenges MORE has ahead. John did include this quote:
Cavanagh’s candidacy is a by-product of New York’s school wars. She first became politicized several years ago when she led a community struggle in Red Hook against a politically-connected charter school that was looking to take over much of the school where she teaches.
Campaigning with minimal resources, MORE has held happy hour gatherings like the one in Chelsea, organized public forums to discuss issues of importance to educators, set up social media sites and email lists, and distributed tens of thousands of flyers to members at school campuses. It’s this kind of patient, bottom-up organizing that MORE activists hope will enable them to make inroads this year against the Unity Caucus, which has controlled the UFT since shortly after its founding in 1960.
“There is a mass machine that has to be battled at the school level and the district level,” said Norm Scott, a retired teacher and education blogger who is active in MORE.I'm one of the pessimists regarding this and any election and never expect us to do well -- and people always accuse me of being a defeatist. I am a realist and don't believe in magical thinking. I believe in building a movement and a UFT election is just a piece of it. For instance, at last night's Change the Stakes meeting which was attended by mostly parents, the number of them supporting MORE to the extent that they were taking leaflets to distribute in their children's schools was encouraging. That MORE has attracted the support of these activist parents means we are doing something right, though I always think it was the amazing work of GEM that got us going and sometimes I fear that a focus on the UFT gets us away from that movement building we did in GEM.
John caught the drift of some of the stuff I was saying in that MORE has to balance the left within and attract a broader base beyond that.
Despite all its top-down power, the UFT has little impact in the daily life of many of the city’s 1,700 public schools. With MORE’s chances of victory in this election almost nil, organizers see this year’s campaign as an opportunity to build a school-level network of supporters that can continue to grow and win more chapter elections in 2015 and pose a stronger challenge in the next union-wide elections in 2016. Their success will be determined to a large extent by their ability to connect with and move union members who do not already self-identify as leftists.I agree but also think that we need to activate the left-leaning people in the UFT in addition to attracting the center and I just don't mean people who will vote for us but will become active core members in MORE and help shape the future of a member-driven caucus which can morph into a member-driven union. Examine both Unity and New Action and you will see they are not member-driven and never have been. New Action is just an executive board and has given up any idea of actually building a force that could challenge Unity. Believe me, MORE could easily be that alone and one of the dissatisfactions with ICE was that was what we had become -- a narrow group -- a great group -- but narrow.
More from John:
MORE was formed last year by members of several left-leaning teacher groups. Many MORE members have joined protests in recent years against school closings and charter school co-locations inside existing public schools carried out by the NYC Department of Education. In the 170,000-member UFT, they see an institution with the resources and the citywide reach into school communities to lead a powerful fightback against Bloomberg’s policies — including mayoral control of schools — which have proven increasingly unpopular with parents. But first, they say, the UFT must transform itself and become an organization that fully encourages member participation and forges strong ties with the communities it serves.
“The membership is not educated, organized and mobilized, and that has hurt us,” said Julie Cavanagh, an elementary school special education teacher who is MORE’s candidate for president against UFT chief Michael Mulgrew.
MORE, of course has a long way to go to match CORE and I don't just mean in terms of winning power, but as an organization. After the election I do want to go into the details of the good, the bad and the ugly of organizational issues, what we think we learned from CORE and what we have applied and have not applied. There are things I am happy with and things I am not but who listens to the old fart anyway? In fact, when someone recently told me that some Unity types are saying that I am behind MORE I find that laughable. I have mush less influence in MORE and I am happy about that -- less guilt when things don't go the way I want.
I will say that we've done all we've done without any formal structure or steering committee -- everything is "show up and volunteer" -- which by the way a group of MOREs are doing tomorrow in Brooklyn to do phone banking for the election. But we won't go very far without getting things in order very soon. We can't get too ICEish which was totally free form.
James did a great piece at ICE:
And Peter Lamphere did this for his staff: