Friday, December 11, 2015
UFT Election Update: Take the Long March
They are so wrong to focus on Mulgrew rather than the Unity machine, which has been around for 55 years with only 4 leaders. But the important thing to note is that the machine endures while leaders don't - both Al and Sandy died way too young which seems to be the reason leadership changes - Sandy followed Al to the AFT and Randi followed Sandy when she died and the assumption is that when Randi leaves for greener pastures (we do wish her good health) Mulgew will move up to her place and someone is now sitting at the UFT who will be the next Mulgrew - and after a short honeymoon where things don't change, there will be desperate calls to get rid of Mr./Ms. X. I mean, who ever heard of Mulgrew until Randi chose him as her successor when it became clear that she would be leaving the UFT for the AFT -- only Shanker tried to do both jobs as president for a decade from 1974-1985 -- and no one else can get away with that today. So there will be a new UFT president at some point in the future. Just not this year.
The point is - focus on the machine, not the person at the top. And to beat the machine you cannot use drones from the air - or the internet/social media/blogs etc. Ground troops are needed to root out the rot at the school and district levels. That is a long view and teachers nearer to retirement don't have the time or patience to fight that ground game. So they often scream and rant and call for shortcuts - like let's sue them - over anything.
Hopefully, the 20, 30 and 40 something activists and organizers are willing to build a ground game and endure the trials and tribulations of doing so.
UFT elections are just temperature checks of where the ground game is at. And over the past 25 years, the ground game has been a zero-sum game with slight ebbs and flows, even as caucuses come and go.
The UFT Election Committee
Each election a committee is formed and each caucus is invited to send a rep. Not much is decided by the committee, other than setting election time tables and rules. But if there is a dispute, the committee decides and since Unity stacks it, we know how they will decide - like let's say every retiree vote is lost in the mail and MORE wins - Unity will go to the committee to protest the election - that procedures they set up themselves were somehow violated. If stacked courts must decide, so be it.
Amy Arundell chairs the UFT election committee and overall I would say that most people in the opposition find her one of the positive forces in Unity to deal with. I reported on who is on the committee (How Many Unity Slugs Does it Take to Run an election) and that in my estimation the election process would begin at the January DA based on the historic timetable before the last election, which was pushed back to February in 2013 due to the effects of hurricane Sandy. If the early Jan. scenario is followed ballots will go go out in March, if the latter February timetable, in April - which will include one week off for the holidays, thereby taking away some important campaigning time for the opposition to Unity Caucus. Ballots should be counted in late April-early May or mid-late May depending on when petitions are officially released.
What is important about the time frame is that from the day petitions are made available until the day ballots are counted, sometime in April or May, is that any UFT member can go into any school and put election materials in the mailboxes.
The standard campaign tactic is for every slate to race around to as many schools as possible stuffing 40 or 50 thousand leaflets into boxes, which apparently few bother to read - based on the election turnout. Some say the reason is these leaflets sucked - I don't agree - they may have sucked but I think people just dump stuff out of their boxes and even if they read the leaflets the election is irrelevant to most.
Unity will stuff 4 different glossy ads into every mailbox in the city, using their Unity Caucus machine and their full-time employees like District reps where they don't have people. Yet their vote totals are also abysmal.
MORE cannot reach every school and I contend that if it could stuff every box it wouldn't change very much.
The key is having people in the schools on the ground. But wait, you say. Unity has that and still can't get out the vote. And that is an interesting point.
Given the votes the opposition has gotten in the past, I estimate that a lot of them are coming from schools with MORE/ICE/GEM (and New Action from 1991-2001) people who are respected and work hard to tell people about the election. There just aren't enough of them - yet.
This time Unity will put lots of money into getting votes that they deem favorable to them out. They will send people into schools where MORE has strength to try to siphon off what they can and Unity CLs will be adopting some of E4E tactics - treating the staff to pizza parties for those who bring in the ballots for a mass vote.
By the way, each slate running does get a 2-page spread in the NY Teacher, which apparently few bother to read.
Next time I will tell you why much of this effort is a waste of time - unless it fits into a long-term strategy - which hopefully is a framework MORE is operating within - though there are times I am not so sure.
The key is for a caucus to establish a regular communication network reaching out to hundreds of schools, not just for the elections, but on a regular basis at the very least every 2 months throughout the year.