Monday, December 21, 2015

UFT Politics: Activists and Organizers Are Not the Same Thing

If you notice the Ed Notes masthead, I use 3 key words: Educate, Organize,
Mobilize - in that specific order. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, mobilizing people to act is impossible without engaging in educating - or as I prefer - informing people on a regular basis of what the issues are.

That process leads to the very difficult organizing stage -- building structures that last. Look at recent articles on Trump and Ted Cruz in Iowa.
Donald Trump Campaign Lags in Mobilizing Iowa Caucus Voters
Cruz has a ground game while Trump skips directly to mobilizing and I believe Cruz will trump Trump.

But on to the UFT and attempts to build a ground game in opposition to Unity. Many people I meet consider themselves activists and I often find that many activists are poor as organizers. They often avoid the education and organizing aspects of the tripod on a regular basis.

What is needed is a small army of organizers to build that ground game. And to my mind that hasn't happened yet which is why I can predict that the very idea of defeating Unity is fiction. Unity has a ground game over the past 50 years. Even now they have started the election campaign by sending their full-timers into schools to ostensibly do "presentations". Of course having the advantage of using our dues to pay people to do that is quite an advantage.

One thing I learned from our colleagues in Chicago - they not only were activists but also organizers and built a ground game fairly quickly with contacts and supporters in the majority of schools. At times I feel there are too many activists and not enough organizers here.

I get to observe the actions of a lot of people in the UFT, on all sides of the fence. Many people in the opposition movement to the UFT leadership brand themselves as activists. They are ready to act on a number of issues. How do they "act"? They go to meetings and support rallies. They are often so busy they don't have time to be organizers.

Some confuse activism with organizing. They are not the same thing. 

I am always interested in how organizers and activists relate to their colleagues in different ways and how they are viewed by their colleagues. I'm especially interested in the people who become chapter leaders where they get to lead an entire school as a union leader.

Are they organizers or activists?

I deal with a lot of people who feel lost when they take on the role of chapter leader. The job is hard enough but especially hard for people who view themselves as activists who feel they have to use their role as chapter leader to bring their personal  political viewpoints or the viewpoints of other organizations they belong to to the people who elected them.

This is tricky ground when (and if) you declare to your colleagues where you stand and which groups you work with. I say "if" because the key is when one runs were they open and above board with the members or hide some of their affiliations for fear they would lose votes.

The key role for a chapter leader is as an organizer engaging in education and organizing - don't even think about mobilizing - and also building relationships with colleagues and especially in elementary schools, parents and even beyond to the community. This is not easy for overwhelmed teachers who take on the role of chapter leader.

The UFT leadership actually views CLs as their tools and employees to do their selling of the Unity line disguised as UFT policy. The monthly district rep meetings are loaded with "things to do" for them, often leading to little time to do the educating and organizing.

It is the rare CL who sees beyond the UFT crap while also defending the members and working politically to make sure they get the support of the UFT.

Next: How do activists and organizers differ in UFT caucuses?

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely agree with you. I am a CL and I see UFT/Unity party for what they are. I have been trying to put off letting a full time Unity Hack into my school for 3 months now. Neither he nor the DR will explain why this hack must come to my chapter meeting, but only needs 10 minutes??? Luckily I have spent a lot of time and effort trying to educate my staff. They will hopefully hear the BS for the poop it is once I finally can't deflect them any longer.


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