Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Is the UFT Leadership Insane, Incompetent, or Worse? Another View

There are some comments over at NYC Educator's post Michael Mulgrew Said "Thank You" for Longer Hours and No Seniority  discussing UFT/Unity Caucus leadership failures of policy and their persistence in pursing the same policies despite these failures. But from their point of view are they really failures or in fact successes?

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
"Insanity is knowing that what you're doing is completely idiotic, but still, somehow, you just can't stop it."― Elizabeth Wurtzel
Pretty much explains the leadership's m.o. of successful failures.
With Michael Mulgrew, as with the so-called reformers, nothing succeeds quite like failure...
I can argue until I am blue in the face that the UFT elections are not the main battle ground in the union, but to no avail. I am often termed a "defeatist" as if magical thinking will come true. In reality I am a realist and a student of teacher union opposition movements here in NYC and in other cities.

Teachers must face a calamity before they will wake up and right now, no matter how bad things are from certain people's perspective, we are no where close to what is going on in other cities. Right now we are in a building patter for when the shit hits the fan. The real battle must take place at the school level as a precursor to making a serious challenge to Unity. So far that has not happened in nearly enough schools to make enough of a dent. But anyone with a long-term perspective must be able to see through the weeds.

As the coming tsunami with the charter school privatization spear aiming at the NYC public school system gathers force - see Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Newark, Washington DC - and anything that hits other cities must eventually hit us here - there is speculation that the UFT leadership is blind. I don't think so.

Remember - the prime directive of Unity is to keep power at the city, state and national levels and do whatever that takes, including trying to buy off targeted individuals from opposition parties that are making headway or even trying to buy off entire parties by "partnering" with them, even behind the scenes.

They full well know what is coming and their best hope is to delay for as long as possible and thus, they will continue to operate the way they have -- by working with and cajoling politicians for any crumbs they can preserve while working to tamp down any militancy from below that may challenge their control of the UFT and through that NYSUT and the AFT.

If necessary they will just swap out leaders, like they replaced an increasingly unpopular Randi Weingarten in 2009 with Michael Mulgrew, who's own initially warm welcome is wearing thin.

Many predict that this is his last UFT election, especially if Hillary wins and Randi gets a position in her administration, leaving the AFT presidency open to Mulgrew.

Mulgrew's replacement would be a direct contrast and no matter how we paint that person as just a continuation, that would buy them time in the 2019 election with the usual "Let's give the new person a chance" gambit. And it will work for a bunch of people who just refuse to get that it is the Unity Caucus machine, not the individuals.

The historic trend since 1985 is for the incimbent to get elected adn then appoint a successor well before the following election to run the union. If things go according to plan, Mulgrew would serve a year or 2 at most while giving prominence to his heir -- remember -- the UFT has had only 4 presidents since 1964.

Who would that heir be? There is some speculation that Janella Hinds would be a candidate. Most people like her and she is a woman of color, thus making her the first non-white to head the UFT, which should dampen some criticisms from the left -- a win- win for Unity once again.

But that may not help at the school level if schools are being closed en masse under the next charter friendly mayor - like Hakeem Jeffries - and teachers are fired en masse - which would mean somehow getting rid of the ATR situation.

Also facing Unity post-2016 election is the health savings expected from the last contract and the coming heavy tax on Cadillac health care plans like we (supposedly) have.

I'll talk more about the elections and why I am not a defeatist when I tell the truth while pointing the way to win where it counts -- in the schools - which to me is what this election must be about -- gaining some traction in many more schools.


  1. IMHO, Hillary would never offer a post to Randi. She'd stab Randi in the back, or front, in a New York minute. I can't anticipate President Hillary wanting to take the heat for placing a teacher union prez in a position of power. I'm also skeptical, though a little less so, on a Mulgrew AFT Presidency. While I disagree a whole lot with Randi, and while she often devotes her mind to pursuits I find less than beneficial to working teachers, I think she's very smart. Mulgrew's different. Having heard him speak quite often, I read the stuff he signs and cannot conceive for one moment that he's written any of it. I mean not one word. Maybe AFT just doesn't give a crap and would place anyone in that position. Who knows?

    There's also his absolute unwillingness to engage at a grassroots level. Randi's on Facebook and Twitter and will talk to you almost no matter what. She answers email. While I don't often love her answers, at least she's there. Maybe Mulgrew is the new coming thing and the new union attitude is, "Screw you, we aren't even going to pretend to listen." But given the Friedrichs case, and the reformy MO of never giving up, ever, no matter how many times they lose, that's a very bad approach even for their side.

    1. You make some sense here but a couple of factors. Randi doesn't have to get a top-level position. I keep thinking that due to takeovers by opposition voices in urban centers as things fall apart, Randi is hearing footsteps. If WE wins in Philly it is a bad sign. Also - ST caucus in NY State is considered a threat to them. I think Randi might see the oppty to take a role working on policy might be for her at this time. All the things you say that she does well would also serve Hillary well. Randi is as loyal to Hillary as anyone - more than us certainly. Yes the stuff about Mulgrew is right - but when I raised that to people who might be in the know they said he is the guy no matter what -- The UFT has had the AFT presidency since 1974 except for that transition period between Feldman and Randi -- and that was mainly because Feldman got sick. There one AFT VP - head of Minneapolis union - who might be a contender but my source said no it will be Mulgrew - who maybe doesn't impress you and I but inside he does impress some people - he can always hire PR people to do what Randi does. Randi chose Mulgrew and still controls him -- and Mulgrew seems to want the AFT job according to my source.


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