Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Whither MORE: Can We Talk About So Many Things? ICE Meeting Will Do Just That

There has been so much to comment on that I have been paralyzed in just making a decision.

I do want to celebrate the last day of school for all of you after what I am sure is a tough year. This day was always the happiest day - and in some ways the saddest day (when I was teaching my own class for 18 years) of the year. We would party and then I would wake up the next morning in the most relaxed state of the year - until I realized there was now only 67 days left before we had to go back.

ICE often meets on June 30 to tie up the year and discuss issues that don't get discussed in depth at the crowded MORE meetings.

There is an interesting discussion going on around the way forward for MORE. Some people think MORE should focus in social justice issues. Others think the primary role of a caucus is to focus on issues of concern to the rank and file while not neglecting social justice issues. I believe there are very few people in MORE who think MORE should not worry about SJ issues at all, but there are some. Related to these issues is who is the target audience?

Depends on the extent you think you can really contend for power. Do you want to win over the right wing anti-Unity people by diluting your politics?

Some people in MORE are concerned about dilution. I am not. What concerns me is the use of naked rhetoric about some issues without explanation. I try to put myself in the position of a rank and file person in the schools.

I believe, as the discussion below demonstrates, that as long as MORE takes care of day to day school issues it can also take strong SJ positions. Some anti-Unity people will never vote for MORE as being too left wing. To them I say - go form your own caucus and do the work. MORE has proven itself as a viable alternative to Unity. If you are an ATR and don't think MORE is doing enough MORE is perfectly open to anyone coming in and making that an important issue. You can't do it from an anon comment on blogs.

There are certainly points of intersection where some of these issues clash -- I would say school discipline is a potential dividing point. If MORE takes a strong position on discipline for the kids it must also address the very real issues facing teachers and other school staff. It is easy to call for more resources and a viable (not bullshit) restorative justice program. But when you have an awful principal and a school out of control MORE must address that issue.

Sometimes I see some people in MORE salivate over issues like supporting the teachers in Mexico but get a dull glaze in their eyes when it comes to supporting the teachers in NYC. I get it. Going to a rally for Mexican teachers or raising money is easy. Figuring out how to fight an abusive principal is hard if not impossible. But enough people in MORE are trying - see my upcoming videos of the PEP meeting last week were we stood up and supported people.

Some of my recent posts about Brexit have raised the issue of Trump voters and MORE with some snarky Unity comments about Roseanne's support for MORE and Trump. Actually Roseanne and other Trump people do not actually support Trump - they just despise the Democrats, Randi and Hillary and the ed deformers. But still a vote for Trump in essence endorses and gets counted as a vote for white supremacy and therein lies my attempt to convince these people to vote 3rd party. I do believe that Trump will take away people's rights and get away with it.

So in that context I present the upcoming ICE meeting on Thursday with the email I sent out to ICE and MORE members.

ICE meeting Thurs June 30 3:30 - whenever the rice pudding is served

Reminder for those interested - RSVP as space is limited.
Another open-ended ICE meeting to talk about whatever is on your mind.

For those new to MORE, ICE, founded in late 2003 and with TJC another founding group, won the high school exec bd seats in the 2004 election,  was one of the founding groups and still meets a few times a year to discuss issues in depth and maintain a blog run by James Eterno.

Send agenda items - indicating we may go till midnight.

1. Further analysis of the vote in the election. Where did those 11000 votes come from?
Make your best guess. How many due to SJ politics of MORE, how many due to knowing someone in MORE they trust, How many due to MORE support for teacher rights? Consider the 1400 votes for Solidarity in the equation.

2. ATRs - updates and proposals for solutions. Getting ATRS involved in their own battle.

3. Fair Student Funding discussion - won't be discussed until 4:30 since some people can't make it until then. Understanding Fair School Funding - the complexities of calling for an end.

4. Prep for MORE July 6 summer event -- supporting chapters, training etc.

5. MORE and New Action and other caucuses.
New Action has proposed MORE and they sit down and talk. In that context ----
History of UFT Caucus discussion - Election coalitions and the big tent caucus
   History shows that over time mere election coalitions don't work out and eventually lead to merger -- ie TAC and New Directions took 20 years to come together in 1995 into NAC and ICE and TJC took 10 years to morph into MORE.
What do we learn from those experiences? How can a big tent caucus operate with a wide disparity of views?

A MORE retiree committee - what would it do? -- can it work with New Action retirees?
6. MORE as a caucus -- has it shown it can compete for power in the UFT? Does MORE have to compromise fundamental principals to do so? Can people who support Trump also support MORE?
What exactly is a caucus in the UFT? Must you run in an election to be a caucus? Is ICE a caucus or a sub-group within MORE? Can a caucus be a lobby group in the UFT only? What is the future of the relationship between New Action and MORE? How is ICE different from New Action? Is there room in a left-leaning caucus for center right including Trump voters?

Is there is a non-left anti-Unity sentiment in the UFT and how does a left-caucus relate to it? Unity caucus comments on this issue - for 50 years they have branded the opposition as left wing fundamentalists - does Unity see the fact that non-leftists can support MORE as a threat?

Roseanne McCosh who signed up 30 MORE members in her school may vote for Trump out of her outrage at Hillary, Randi and the Democratic party - so are other teachers who are not right wing I meet. I think they are wrong and should vote 3rd party.

Unity people have jumped onto the comment section to chide  MORE for allowing people who are not left fundamentalists - as the Unity hack put it. I guess they want MORE to have loyalty oaths like they do.
(You can follow the debate in the comments: http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2016/06/does-brexit-shock-and-awe-forecast.html#comment-form

Roseanne response:
Let's take a look at what MORE is against. MORE is against teacher evaluations being tied to test scores. Against high class size. Against the persecution of teachers in the opt out movement. Against the 2nd tier status of ATR union members. Against a bullshit contract and delay in retro. Against abusive administrators who torment members. And---OMG! Against racism...how dare they? If knowing I support MORE gives you a chuckle then I guess you'll split your sides knowing I also send them a monthly donation. People like me support MORE because MORE supports working teachers---a foreign concept to you Unity shills.
Roseanne McCosh


  1. How can defending the interests of workers and giving them a voice on the job (especially in education, with its profound social multipliers) be construed as anything other than social justice work? I would argue that with few exceptions, trade unionism is the social justice struggle whose success puts all others - against racism,sexism and homophobia, for civil liberties, et. al - on the strongest possible foundation. It is also the social justice struggle whose failure, as we are witnessing daily, amplifies other injustices.

    Haven't independent, self-financed, working class organizations been the the target of every ruling class that has ever existed? And with good reason. From that perspective, the most reactionary, hidebound business union is arguably more progressive (and certainly potentially so)than the overwhelming majority of philanthropy-funded NGOs, or Left sects seeking to "build the party" and/or "save" the working class?

    Too many people who should know better, especially in this era of intensifying class conflict, use unions and working people as vehicles for their own preferred (usually/often worthy)causes, rather than as fragile institutions that rightfully must place the members and their issues first. Without that, calls for social justice ring hollow, are futile, and are recognized or intuited as such by the rank and file.

  2. You are right about the fundamentals of SJ being trade unionism. But I also think to be careful about generalizing trade unionism and not talking specifics - teaching as unionists and in particular teaching in the largest trade union local there is and in a local that is under absolute control and how that control leads to state, national and international controls over trade union movements and also is the elephant in the local room - ie when you try to work with community and parent groups they back off not wanting to offend. Also the Unity ability to coopt and jump in when they see a threat. They are good at cutting people off at the pass.
    The specific issues on SJ often lead to discussions of community and students and parents with teachers thrown in for good measure. Teaching for many is an engaging job where your products are living people, often in some difficulty. Interest in SJ for many people goes beyond labor issues and into the lives of their children. That is sort of how I got into this mess - thru SJ/community/kids -- I wasn't that interested in my rights as a teacher or the union - iniitially. I was dragged into union work by my colleagues in the caucus I was in.
    The left fundamentalists -- always look at the big picture and try to impress the analysis made by their organizations and affiliations onto the mass organization like MORE. SJ is their thing and they want MORE to sign on.

  3. Norm:

    Excellent analysis of the issues and contradictions facing the opposition. While I agree with most of your points, especially about the non-left anti-Unity people like me, I still have an issue about the social justice plank.

    If a caucus like MORE believes in affirmative action (quotas) like Jia Lee does, that is a real problem for a colorblind person like myself to support. To me social justice is giving old white veteran teachers the same rights and ability to be hired in vacancies that young teachers get. That's what MORE should be advocating as its teacher justice and that's social justiced..

    1. The problem is Chaz is that you see the tree not the forest. I don't pay much attention to what so-called "MORE" believes. I have one focus - what is the best chance to challenge Unity. Thus I can accept a wide variety of beliefs for the higher purpose. You on the other hand are like a fundamentalist - we have some of those from the left in MORE who in essence want loyalty oaths where you must believe. I happen to support affirmative action but if I didn't it would make do difference to me. I would still do what I do. In essence you doom yourself to not ever having a vote in a UFT election mean much because there will always be a left caucus like MORE in the UFT as there has been since 1968. ICE was a left caucus where I can't think of one person who did not believe in affirmative action. TJC too. New Action too. So where does that leave you? You will always have to split your ballot and have it mean nothing because no one pays attention to non slate votes. Also you have no voice in positions organizations take against Unity.
      You can rail about the ATR issue on your blog but nothing gets done. Only through an organized caucus that can show it can build enough power in the schools to become a threat to Unity is there a chance of forcing changes. That power cannot be diffused into multiple caucuses but must be focused. If you don't think Jia would make a better leader than Mulgrew what can you be thinking? Basically you may feel good about taking a hard line position on certain issues but the ball doesn't get pushed up the field. Nothing will change until the leadership is threatened by a growing force in the schools. As opposed to Roseanne McCosh, your position gives Unity hope they can keep the opposition divided forever. When I don't agree with where MORE is going I get up and say it outloud and try to get people to agree with me and if I lose I don't pick up my ball and go home. If it was democratic I accept that and move on to the next issue and keep my eye on the prize - taking down Unity.


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