Friday, April 8, 2016

#MORE2016: UFT Elections and Leaflet Distribution

The main reason I've been working for years to see a caucus built with enough of a level of organizational integrity and reach is so I can do less. One of the positive signs coming out of the #MORE2016 UFT election campaign is how much less work I have to do compared to the 2004, 07, 10, 13 campaigns.

When I think back to the work I did in GEM and ICE and with Ed Notes before that, and even the work over the past 4 years in seeing these groups morph into MORE I am on vacation now. In past elections a relatively few people in all the caucuses raced around the city stuffing mailboxes. In 2013 I did all 50 schools in District 27 among many others around the city - even venturing into the Bronx.  Crazy. And doing this once every 3 years is really counterproductive.

This year I am doing more drop-offs and stuff boxes in relatively few schools. That is part of a strategy not to go off half-cocked all over the place given the poor outcomes of doing this in the past.

For 3 years I've been badgering people in MORE to focus on setting up a smooth distribution network with the goal of reaching as many schools as possible through a direct contact in the school so we don't have to go in and stuff mailboxes on our own, something that we pretty much have seen yields few results. In addition, I've argued for some kind of regular production on an ongoing basis between elections.

So if you asked me what my main goal in this election has been - it is exactly that - trying to get lots of people to sign on to being a regular distributor in their own and if possible nearby schools -- both of hard copy and sending things out electronically to colleagues.

Call it a "stay local" campaign by focusing on your school and district and in the case of high schools the borough or one area of the borough. George Schmidt from Chicago told me how much harder organizing in NYC is compared to them - Chicago is the size of Brooklyn. So MORE has been evolving a more local strategy where local pockets are built and are free from centralized control to do their thing without centralized management - a sort of entrepreneurial spirit - and to use the central contact lists to reach out in addition to developing a local contact list.

The election though has to be centrally managed and since in the past ICE elections I was involved in every single aspect, I've been out of that loop this time with no role in writing and laying out leaflets and ads or a lot of other things. Like planning and running meetings. Various committees have been doing all this work and it is like a breath of fresh air. (Tomorrow's MORE meeting has been totally planned and organized by people new to MORE, including a first year teacher who is now on steering committee. People in their 20s. What a pleasure.)

Will this work translate into votes in the election? I never can tell. It might not. But I do know an organization is being built. Requests for leaflets from people we don't know in schools around the city is a sign at least that a distribution network is being formed with people taking responsibility for dropping off leaflets to their contacts. As one ICE veteran recently told me "there's a buzz in the air."

But if this network stops operating until the next election then MORE will be doing what all the other opposition groups have been doing - the Einstein def of insanity - the same thing over and expecting different results.

I have narrowed my efforts in MORE towards maintaining this network and urging MORE to produce hard copy that goes out to this network at least 4 times a year. After the election I'd like to make distribution trees so everyone has an idea of their own network responsibilities.

If MORE builds up its capacity in hundreds of schools election results will reflect that work. I view this election as a test of that capacity. If the results match 2013 that would indicate the network has been stagnant over the past 3 years and MORE would have to ask itself how it can address that issue.

The longtime goal is for MORE to be able to reach every working UFT member just as Unity does with the NY Teacher and through its district reps.That is the only way to ever contend for power. If the schools shift away from Unity, the pressure to curb the retiree impact on the UFT will intensify. But first things first.

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