Friday, August 7, 2015

UFT Election Question: Why Focus on HS Seats to Exclusion of Elementary?

I have always wondered about the focus on HS seats ... what is up with that? So unfair to the elementary schools... Question on FB in response to Ed Notes, Talking About UFT Elections - Double Oy Vey! - 
I wouldn't say exclusion - but there are 700 or more elem schools and no opposition has had enough outreach to them. There used to be about 100 high schools - now there are around 450 - but still a reachable number. 
If you are an elementary school teacher and want to become a point person in your school in the election campaign we will connect you up to others in your district. Email
My initial reaction was to recall the famous bank robber Willie Sutton's response to the  question of why he robbed banks: It's where the money is.

Organizing in Elem Schools Must be District Based
The opposition activists over most of UFT history came from the ranks of high school teachers. Only groups I have been involved in - CSW in the 70s, ICE in the aughts and MORE now, have had some elementary activists but never enough critical mass at the district levels to have much impact -- and elem schools are very much district based and under the control of Unity through its district reps.

Voting outcomes in elem school divisions over the many election cycles show about a 20-25% vote for the opposition while totals in the HS have ranged from 35-55% for the opposition - the only seats ever won against Unity. If in next year's election, the elem school opposition vote cracks 33% that would be a sign of change. But most elem schools are just not reachable by the opposition.

Here was the response I gave on FB.
On the whole, the focus on HS is because the most active people have been in HS over the 60 year history of the UFT. They organized the first strikes. HS teachers are not in a position to organize elem school teachers - I was one by the way for 30 years - and it is up to elem school teachers to take more control. We don't need votes only but active people in the schools to challenge the Unity line. Look at the votes in just the last election. There were 36,000 elem school ballots sent out and MORE got 1100 votes, New Action around 700 and Unity around 5200. Whereas in HS - out of 19000 votes sent out, Unity got 1575, MORE 1440 and New Action around 450 - but the New Action votes went to Unity due to their alliance. If MORE and New Action votes were together Unity would have lost in the HS. But even if New Action and MORE were together in the elem schools Unity still would have won 2-1. Fact is the opposition has never been able to establish a toehold in most elem because Unity has such a base there - and uses its district reps to keep control - the elem school environment is much more conducive to repression for a number of reasons and people generally are not as militant or willing to get involved. But some progress is being made where MORE has a base in elem schools in certain districts with a bunch of Chapter leaders who are independent or in MORE.



  1. I got my whole elementary school staff to vote for Julie in the last UFT election. We will see who puts up the best candidate to oppose Mulgrew in the next election. In all honesty, the vast majority of the teachers at my elementary school do not know a thing about UFT politics. As the sole veteran teacher, they always come to me for advice. However, I do think we will be seeing s surge of union activism at the elementary level as we face a whole distinct set of unique problems.

    1. I think you think you got them to vote for Julie -- Julie had her entire school vote for her. You know how many people have told me that? If true the vote total would not have been so low as 1100 elem school votes. You have to see them come to school with the ballot and put it in the mail with them - that is the groundgame needed.

    2. I meant I got my entire school of people who actually sent in their ballots to vote for Julie. Yes, not every single teacher voted at my school but the ones who did asked me who to vote for and I said Julie and they said they sent their ballots in with her vote. If they lied to me, I will never know. I only know what they told me.

  2. Norm-rumors persist that the UFT leadership is quite concerned with the upcoming Supreme Court decision regarding dues check-off. Right now the court appears to reflect 4 v4 with the swing vote vital. Question?? If the union lost the dues check-off in your opinion would that perhaps allow the UFT to strike when a future impasse happens?? Leadership has been quite hesitant to even consider a strike with the dues check-off a vital concern......

  3. The "union" only worries when its pocketbook may be affected. I, for one, have had a lot to worry about for quite some time. Randi is not losing any sleep as my career crashes and burns.

    Abigail Shure


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