Wednesday, March 16, 2016

UFT Elections and #MORE2016: What is to be learned?

MORE is getting requests for election literature from people we don't know. I made a bunch of drops at schools yesterday (and stuffed some boxes in schools where we don't have a contact.) Is that a good sign? Maybe.

When some of my young colleagues in MORE get overly excited I play the role of Debby Downer. I've seen this movie too often in the past. As my old pal Jeff Kaufman told me this past weekend: things must change drastically externally before the union will change. While the loudest anti-Unity voices seem to think things have changed drastically over the last 15 years - and in some ways they certainly have changed - I think they ain't seen nothin' yet. We have seen a  slow-drip of losses coming out of an alliance of the UFT, DOE and CSA. The UFT control of communications has kept most UFT members from hearing all the stories. Most are not blog readers.

The major role I see UFT elections playing is offering an opposition an opportunity to extend and build their own communication network. But if that network only operates during the brief election period every 3 years, that is just marking time.
My major goal in this election is to extend whatever network MORE has and get it to operate on a permanent basis to bring information and goad people towards being more active in the union.

Ed Notes readers should know what I think of UFT elections - they are a distraction. But they are also a way to galvanize people, at least for a time. I'm not sure why some people get excited for an election that is pre-determined but I guess hope springs eternal. Dozens of people you talk to say they don't like the union leadership and in your mind it becomes hundreds. And then you find that even the those people forgot to vote.

Remember how much opposition there was to the last contract? Well, pretty much the same 75% that matches the rough Unity vote voted for the contract. The major difference between the contract vote and the UFT election vote was that 92% of UFT members voted while 20% vote in the UFT elections. And don't forget that retirees vote in the latter. Yet the percentages voting for the Unity line were similar. What I did see was a batch people who were so turned off by the contract that they came to MORE and are now key people and also, encouraged by MORE, have taken on the job of chapter leader.

Some people have surmised that the 20,000 NO contract voters might be pissed enough to vote opposition to Unity which would definitely raise the opposition totals this time. I am not getting my hopes up. I don't measure things by votes but by the people who jump into the water and sign on to help build an opposition to Unity. We have a new MORE steering committee with such people.

Each of those people bring their schools and their social network along by sharing information on what the union leadership is doing. And that can translate into votes. I'd have to see hundreds of people doing this before I become an optimist.

I know that in each election in the past, even for a hardened realist like me, my expectations exceeded the outcomes. This time I think I have finally lowered my expectations to a point where they match reality. But surprise me, please!

I am most interested in helping build a long-term infrastructure for an opposition caucus that can one day challenge the Unity Caucus machine. I constantly look within MORE for signs of that happening and I can see how the election process offers hope for  progress as more people get involved. Given past history, many election activists are just that -- active during elections. Makes sense because there are concrete things to do. The problem for a group like MORE has been the interregnum between elections when the level of activity and commitment drops.

I can see MORE already thinking beyond the election - to the summer series of educational workshops, a regular newsletter using the distribution network, advocacy for the groups in the UFT not being dealt with fairly -- untenured, senior teachers being pushed out, schools threatened with receivership, ATRs, rubber roomers, paperwork overload -- I would love to push for a job action on this -- extending the opt out movement -- freeing teachers from threats if they talk to parents. (I think there may be some surprises brewing in the NYC opt out numbers this year.) But MORE can't just complain about these situations. It has to actively go out and try to organize these people into a force for their own interests. MORE people have to think more like organizers than just activists. Organizers don't pontificate or run to every rally. They get names and numbers and do follow-up calls and go out and meet with people where they are at and build networks. There are precious few of those.

For me, the election period can't end too soon - and it will at the end of May -- so MORE can get on with the intense work that has to be done by a fairly small group of dedicated people who will continue to stand up for what is right.


  1. I am heartened by your careful optimism even in the face of a "slow-drip" of losses. Your have exactly articulated the years-long pain I have experienced in my own district: so many losses but eternal hope for a sudden return to REALITY. :)

  2. Interesting post. Misused word interregnum I think, but thats ok. Point understood. No mention of third caucus. I'm wondering if they take the non ideological naysayers. If SC beats MORE/NA #s that would at least continue your record of hopes dashed. I think ur analysis is incomplete without a mention of that wild card.

    1. Agree but don't have enough info yet to do 3rd party analysis. Need to know how many candidates, where located etc to get a clearer idea. But in actuality it doesn't make much difference as long as there are no runoffs. Do you see either one vastly out pointing the other?

  3. When UFT Solidarity caucus members met to discuss running in the elections, we promised ourselves we would not be distracted from our work. That's why we are having a rally today against the abusive administrator at PS 89 x. That's why we continue to support members while simultaneously campaigning. Our goal was and is to win.

    Norm, what is MORE doing? Not fighting hard for members. Not going after abusive administrators. Not debating us. Not fighting special ed complaints.

    I can't figure out if it's disappointment or disgust that I feel about MORE and their lack of action.

    What's the point of empty organizing? Using elections to network for what goal? To what end? You have basically the same people on steering year after year.

    (BTW, this is the point where the "anonymous" posts come in with their cowardly responses.)

    Try answering here

    1. Seven people, none of them teachers from 89, make a rally? Don't think it even constitutes a gathering.

    2. I don't think there's anything "empty" about MORE's organizing efforts which is why I joined MORE this year and signed up other teachers in my school. You need an infrastructure and trained troops before you go to war otherwise you're just leading an angry mob into a slaughter. I'm all for a good fight and would have probably supported Solidarity in my youth but at age 50 I realize that going off half cocked, unprepared without that infrastructure will not win us that war. When less than 20% of teachers vote in UFT elections, we should all take note that that much needed infrastructure is sorely lacking and the troops we need do not yet have the will to fight. I get your anger, Mr. Portelos. Had I had to go through what you went through I would be mad as hell too. I just think your anger is misdirected at MORE. If Jia Lee were to be handed the presidency tomorrow I have no doubt that she would take immediate steps to help protect ATRs. If I had any doubt I would not be supporting her and MORE. There is more than one kind of effective war leader. Jia need not act like William "Braveheart" Wallace wielding a broad sword and screaming her way into battle in order to be one. Roseanne McCosh (not an "anonymous coward").

    3. Roseanne, who says I'm angry? It's disappointed and disgust that I feel. Have you ever been to a MORE meeting? Been on a phone conference call? Empty echoes of chatter that will not amount to actual action. Kinda like taking out all the ingredients to make a cake and then just leaving everything out on the counter.

      My William "Braveheart" Wallace approach, as you call it, has helped and is doing more than a teacher voice that keeps repeating "Students are more than a score." Ask ATR Noe who was hit with U rating after U rating from September to April of 2015. In the middle of another fake post observation he turns to his field supervisor and says "Portelos told me you would do this..." That very observation, right then and there became Satisfactory. As did the next and the one after that.
      Parents at PS 89x and staff have been ignored until UFT Solidarity emails the principal and superintendent that we are planning a rally. All of a sudden investigators want to talk and over 30 (thirty) changes in the school were made to get them in compliance. We don't yell, but we carry a big stick Roseanne. It's too bad you never responded to my requests to really talk.

      You can see some of what we are really planning to do here: UFT Solidarity Town Hall

      Wasn't well attended, but that wasn't the point. It was to have a backdrop and expose MORE and Unity's hypocrisy.

    4. The major difference between your(Portelos)thinking and mine(McCosh)comes back to the point I made in my original response to your comment. It aint about winning a battle or 2. It's about building the membership so we can win the war. MORE's hypocrisy? I don't see it. I see a group of dedicated people committed to real change in our union. Change that won't happen overnight or with one election. They're in it for the long haul. Trying to paint MORE as people not willing to fight for ATRs is disingenuous. When post election Unity no longer needs the "big stick" of Solidarity to divide the opposition, how much weight will that big stick carry? Only time will will prove one of us wrong. Roseanne McCosh

    5. Well said Roseanne!!

      From what I've heard about you, you have set the bar high!!

      Say hi to the gym teacher at your school.

  4. I am very proud to be running with MORE. I'm proud to be affiliated with such great activists. No one has been more inspiring to me as a unionist than former Jamaica CL James Eterno. I've never seen anyone quite speak to Unity as Lauren Cohen and Mike Schirtzer did at the Hilton a few years back. The MORE slate is full of activist chapter leaders and delegates, a diverse group of thinkers and doers all inspired to better the lives and careers of educators and those we serve, and willing to sacrifice the easy perks of union gigs to do the right thing. One the other hand, the overwhelming majority of the Unity leadership appear primarily motivated by free trips and jobs, and would vote for a ham sandwich if so instructed. People are beginning to notice. Let them run the election the same month we finally get a small raise. This is our year.

    1. For some reason you don't sound sincere Arthur. I don't know if it's because you didn't fight to have MORE run with Stronger Together in NYSUT or because what you've written about MORE before.

      In any case, can you, or anyone from MORE, help explain what it is that MORE diss except randomly yell and jump on the coat tails of other groups?

      Perhaps answer some questions here

      Anything.. something..a pulse...

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Norm, what's with this guy? He can't seem to get MORE off his mind. He is distracted enough to come here and comment. If MORE is so inept why are so many people supporting them? Is it true they have hundreds of people running with them? How can they be doing nothing and attract that many people? How many people are running with this guy? Isn't the ability to get people to put their names out there in an election mean something? How many people attend rallies like this? Do people in the school join in? If they do this is not an unworthy thing to do but why attack another group that doesn't agree that this is the thing to do? I guess I'm a coward but I don't want this guy to know my name because I hear he retaliates against people who criticize him.


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