Saturday, October 19, 2013

Advice to MORE on Today's Delegate Assembly Discussion

I've been pushing for a serious discussion about how an opposition caucus like MORE should/could relate to the UFT Delegate Assembly given the overwhelming control Unity holds over those meetings. That discussion will take place at today's meeting (see agenda below).

I fear that MORE may fall into the fatal trap of other opposition caucuses over the years (including ICE) that the DA becomes a focal point of the work as a perceived organizing tool and as a result the key school to school organizing work that no other opposition caucus has ever done will be neglected. And honestly, given the attention of MOREistas to the evaluation issue (which IS important) there has not been the resources available to focus on the massive -co-location and charter school invasion issues. MORE has also not addressed the Common Bore -- which I believe it intends to do.

I always point out the Albert Einstein definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and expecting different results.

As part of the resistance to Unity since 1970 I do have some perspective. I was a delegate from the early 70s through the early 80s during the Shanker years and came back in 1994 as a chapter leader for 4 years and then as a delegate from the Teachers Assigned unit (I had a district job at the end of my career) from 2000-2002 when I retired.

Of course I can never be a retiree delegate because of the winner take all retiree chapter election which puts 300 Unity retirees into the DA. (In a democratic system, if MORE got say 20% of the vote it would get 60 delegates which would create some balance in the DA). And of course my distribution of Ed Notes to delegates from 1998-2010 and other lit since then has given me a feel for "who is in the room."

I finally gave up wasting money on printing Ed Notes for this DA crowd. Given the responses as a ratio to the mostly Unity crew attending -- many of whom absolutely refuse to take a handout, some with a hostile attitude, what was the point?

Is it worth going at all given that Mulgrew talks for an hour and the entire meeting is orchestrated (with planted speakers to call the question and speak to specific items)?

What actions can MORE as a group take at these meetings?

Are you going to take part in the meeting? And if so are you doing so as part of a caucus where you take concerted as opposed to individual action?

I certainly believe it worth going if you are an activist in the opposition - if you have the time and energy. But I want to distinguish the inside  – taking part in the meeting from the outside game  – handing out lit to delegates and engaging them in conversation, rallying, signing them up to be a MORE contact, etc.

I view the outside game as more important than the inside game -- for the purposes of organizing and building a caucus. Not that there are a lot of people relative to the Unity crowd to reach. But there are some.

This year with the new MORE Stuff in Your Mailbox newsletter we have use the outside game to build distribution capacity by asking people to fill out a form for future delivery to their schools. The idea is to use the DA as a way to build a regular network of outreach so more and more schools get to know about MORE and the work it is doing.

Pushing this idea inside MORE has not always been easy as people often seem more preoccupied with the inside game. I urge people to sat downstairs and miss most of Mulgrew's one hour speech and engage with delegates going in -- though that is not easy as they are in rush. I also tell people to leave the meeting to get downstairs as the delegates leave when it is easier to talk to people. Non-Unity people will come over sometimes to find out about MORE, especially if you have some info for them. Not many, mind you, but some.

At the last meeting, as James Eterno has pointed out (MORE COMES OF AGE AT DA WITH PROTEST AND STRONG SHOWING AS UNITY-NEW ACTION PASS MEANINGLESS RESOLUTION ON TESTING), MORE made a bit of a splash with a rally outside and inside when Vincent Wojsnis got the floor to oppose the Unity moratorium reso designed to try to counter MORE's call for a moratorium. (See James' advice to MORE below).

The problem from my perspective was that MORE did not have a plan. On his way in Vincent asked me what was MORE going to to: amend or oppose the Unity reso, which has just been sprung on people a day and a half before. On the listserve there had been mixed messages but they were trending to "oppose". I informed Vincent of that he was happy his instinct to oppose was validated. And oppose he did -- from the 19th floor where he got called on when Mulgrew tried to avoid calling on someone from the section where MORE delegates were sitting. Basically, a lucky accident.
"By the way," Vincent asked, "are we sitting together?" I said the plan seemed to be so sit together -- in the past people had sat with their districts and whatever opposition there seemed looked very scattered. Vincent said he was going to go up to the 19th floor anyway -- and that turned out to be a good choice for this particular DA.

And that is my point. If MORE is to participate in the DA is must do so with a plan. Otherwise the lack of coordination can do more harm than good.

Some tactical issues are also in play. How do you react when there are blatant violations of democracy by Unity? It is very frustrating to people to have to sit on their hands but disruption can also turn off the few delegates who might be willing to listen.

One independent delegate on the way out, noticing that MORE has sat together, said, "You guys should scatter yourselves. You'd have more impact." I disagreed. Seeing the excitement of MOREistas emerging convinced me that there is greater impact from a block of 50-100 votes than if they were scattered around the room. Even if they don't get called on because Mugrew will avoid looking at the section, there are opportunities to work together as a group if there is a chance to use parliamentary tactics etc.

Given the above, I will recommend that if MORE is to take part in the DA it do so only at select meetings so it has the energy to devote resources to what will ultimately work to build an opposition: go to the local schools and organize. Hold local MORE meeting in your districts. If the DA takes you away from doing that then you are meeting Einstein's definition of insanity.
Eterno Advice to MORE
Please note the first two stories [in the UFT Chapter Leader Update].  The UFT gets it that the members aren't happy with Advance.  Read Mulgrew's letter to King which is linked to the news.

A petition for a moratorium on Advance is not enough right now nor are feel good actions that John King will ignore.  We have already won the battle with the UFT leadership on a moratorium. Let's take it further. 

We should be calling for the repeal of education law 3012c and an end to UFT support for Common Core and Race to the Top. Let's educate, organize and mobilize around all of that. I believe the parents are on our side.

We must be a step or two ahead of Unity and their latest attempt to have it both ways: be for ed deform but show they are doing something for the membership.

MORE Agenda today - 12-3pm
  1. Welcome and Shout Outs/on the ground in our schools (12:00 - 12:40) - Congratulating the work of Sean and others (brunch), Michele/Paul (petition signatures), Newsletter committee
    1. Allow people to shout out their own victories
    2. October 9th (vincent at DA)
  2. Membership Structure (12:40 - 1:30) - Kit and Gloria
    1. What does membership meeting?
    2. What does serious fundraising look like?
      c. propose and pass a new structure
  3. DA Strategy (1:30 -2:30) - MIke and Megan
    1. What is a DA (DA 101, what it is, what it should be, how it is undemocratic)
    2. Should MORE activists be concerned with it?
      c. Moratorium and November DA strategy
  4. Committee BreakoutsMeeting Time (2:30 - 3:00) -
    1. MORE 101 - Rosie/Nicole Reily
    2. Media - Lauren Cohen/Megan
    3. Contract - Pat and Dave
    4. Chapter Building - Peter Lamphere
    5. Newsletter (distribution and next issue) - Brian Jones
    6. High Stakes Testing (planning an upcoming forum/continued emphasis on opt-out movement with CTS)- Jia
    7. Whistleblower Committee - Francesco -
      h. UFT diversity committee- Sean- 


  1. The problem, and we discussed this many times, is that MORE is not relating to the "average" teacher. They put social concerns over teacher concerns. Hence, low turnout during the last elections. MORE's agenda should be driven by teachers the same way staff development should, but isn't. MORE may become like UNITY with it's "top down" agenda. MORE members should take a survey of teachers in their school asking them to write the top 3-5 issues they would like to see the union address. After all, if we vote MORE in they are supposed to represent the rank and file's needs and concerns first!! Just sayin ")

    1. I hate to be rude but did you actually read the agenda for today's MORE meeting? Where are all those social concerns? Did you notice all the actions by MORE related to the eval system and have you looked at the MORE blog? Go do your homework and come back and show us where social concerns take priority over the average teacher in MORE? There has been low turnout in UFT elections in every election. Interesting that MORE is the only caucus to hold its own and raise it's profile in the election after only a year of existence. And by the way -- it is the people who decide to join MORE who decide in a democratic way to shape the views of the organization. And those who voted MORE I imagine are not objecting to the MORE agenda all that much. Just sayin'

  2. Eterno is right.
    Common Core is the issue.
    Evaluations, collocations and closings are all tied together.
    RttT is the control mechanism.


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