Monday, July 20, 2015

MORE Doesn't Retreat at Retreat Plus Some of My UFT Elections Thoughts - Don't Kvetch, Organize!

After last week's MORE retreat where UFT elections were discussed for the first time this cycle, it looks like I have lost my battle to keep MORE out of the UFT elections -- though I will not concede I lost my debate with Schirtzer (The Great Scott-Schirtzer Debate: Boycott UFT Elections) until I see a slate put together. I'm sitting on the fence as to my level of involvement if such a slate is put together.

My vision of an election is that it must be part of the long-time work a caucus does, not an end all and be all where the focus shifts from that work into "election year" mode. I would have to believe that MORE won't fall into the election trap where it takes short term shortcuts. In the past that approach has never helped a caucus grow and in fact I've seen the outcome of elections help shrink groups as people who actually believed they could win drop out after the election.

That is why I am trying to impress on MORE that they must be honest with people and tell them what can be won in an election and what cannot be won - like the presidency and other officers, 80% of the Executive Board and all 750 delegates to the AFT/NYSUT Representative Assemblies. Anyone telling you Unity can be beaten in these areas is either lying or deranged.

I will admit I am intrigued at the challenge of helping MORE get enough high school votes to defeat Unity and New Action and any other caucus. On the surface it looks impossible but the numbers in 2013 put the 7 high school exec bd seats in play (more details in the future). MORE finished within 150 votes of Unity but the 450 or so New Action votes went to Unity. If New Action were to team up with MORE I have no doubt they would beat Unity in the high schools and elect people not endorsed by Unity for the first time since ICE-TJC won those seats in 2004.

What astounded me last time in 2013 is that Unity only got 1575 votes out of 19,000 sent out - and despite a massive and expensive campaign. Imagine that - Unity couldn't even get 10% of the high school teachers to vote for them. They have put some effort into outreach since then so it wouldn't surprise me to see their votes go up. The wild card is still New Action - despite some of their members telling us there is some disagreement over continuing to support Mulgrew I don't believe they will give up their 10 guaranteed Ex Bd seats and the jobs. But I believe that if MORE matched the 3000 votes New Action without Unity support got in 2001, MORE would win those seats. In essence it needs to double the high school numbers from 2013. Not easy but possible.

Could MORE win the 11 elementary school and 5 middle school Ex bd seats? They weren't even in the ballpark last time -with about 20% of the vote so I don't expect that to happen. But once again the Unity totals in elementary school were in the 5500 range out of 36,000 elem ballots sent out - around 15% of elementary UFT members. MORE would have to quadruple its totals from last time to have a shot. And with other groups out there splitting the vote, it is very unlikely.

MORE addresses 2016 election for first time

Last week MORE met in what was termed a "retreat," a term I dislike because it is used in such a phony manner by so many in the NYCDOE. A retreat is basically a very long meeting focused on the long and short range goals of an organization. At my age long range is about 10 minutes, so I am not always at my best at these meetings - er - retreats.

This was MORE's first retreat since last July - 2014 - when things in MORE were somewhat different. Since then there has been a degree if reorganizing and shifting priorities internally and externally. I won't go into the weeds on this but people who have been active know there was some struggling over a bunch of political stuff in MORE - messaging, what audience to appeal to, etc. MORE pretty much marked time last fall cutting back on activity until some of the issues could be resolved. In December there was some stirring and in the winter and spring, MORE began to perk up by focusing in issues related to the chapter leader elections and chapter leader training, work in the opt-out movement and in support of ATRs - despite some sturm and drang from people who have been activists for about 2 weeks, MORE/ICE people have been in the battle for ATRs for over a decade but do a lot of the work behind scenes so as not to use the ATRs as a political football.

About half the time at the retreat was spent discussing regular MORE organizing and half the UFT elections. There does not seem to be the same urgency I saw in 2013 - a good thing - MORE will take its time and let things work organically. Normal local organizing will go on. I imagine choosing candidates will take place in November.

I liked what I heard - A less intense and more relaxed view of UFT elections. There is no concern as to how many caucuses are running -- MORE just has to do its stuff - don't kvetch, organize.

People recognize that the recent chapter leader elections have more impact on the union than the 2016 elections - a good sign was the 60 plus turnout at the CL training -- and look for a Unity response by intensifying its recruitment efforts and disparagement of MORE.

MORE, recognizing that the battles are not just local, is also involved with Stronger Together on the state level and UCORE on the national level.

So people are busy bees - the MORE summer series continues this Thursday with building the opt out movement. The astute among you understand that a parent led opt out movement is the biggest threat to ed deform - which is why the deformers are trying every dirty trick to derail it - and having the UFT/AFT working to undermine the opt out movement doesn't help us.

THURSDAY, July 23rd How To Build an Opt‐Out Movement in Your School
The Dark Horse, 17 Murray St. NYC, Near City Hall, Chambers St, WTC
Drink specials: $4 drafts, $6 well drinks & $7 wine

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