Friday, May 24, 2019

Baltimore Election Committee Orders New Election for but only for seats leadership lost - Antonucci

Don't expect this Baltimore outcome to be accepted by the caucus in power - Unity-like caucuses do not give up power easily.... Reminds me of when Mike Shulman won the high school VP position in 1985 and Unity protested the election they ran and actually got a new election - which they then lost.... Ed Notes, May 17, 2019 - Social Justice Activist Ousts Randi Ally, 21-Year ...
By a strange coincidence, the members of the election committee were appointed by the current BTU officers, and only the election for president and the teacher seats will be rerun.... Antonucci
So what else is new? I reported that something like this would happen - I should have put "ousts" in quotes. If the opposition were ever to win here in NYC, Unity just wouldn't give up power but go to the mattresses.

Mike Antonucci has a follow-up where he compares this case to the Baltimore-based "The Wire." (McNulty just played Jean Valjean in Les Mis on PBS - and maybe Randi can show up as Javert to save her pal and AFT VP Marietta English.

New Case for McNulty and Bunk

The Nominations and Elections Committee of the Baltimore Teachers Union has decided a new election for union officers is necessary.

The election was noteworthy for the defeat of 21-year incumbent president Marietta English and her Progressive Caucus slate for the teacher seats on the union’s executive committee. English’s slate won all the support employee seats. By a strange coincidence, the members of the election committee were appointed by the current BTU officers, and only the election for president and the teacher seats will be rerun.

It’s possible that the opposition caucus violated the union’s election rules. Weigh that possibility against the ballot set-up approved by the election committee.
To vote for English and her entire slate, a BTU member had to punch a single button on the first touchscreen. This image depicts what a member had to do to vote for the opposition slate:

It seems clear this contest isn’t so much an election as a street fight. English’s opposition should look to Omar Little for advice.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Ed Notes at the DA: UFT Election Results: Unity the BIG Winner, MORE the Biggest Loser drops by 75%, Solidarity Beats MORE for Second Place and Stays Alive, Whither New Action

On Wednesday I was going into Manhattan for a 3020a hearing (what a trip that has been) and a meeting later that night so I might as well go to the Delegate Assembly. But can I disappoint my many fans and not hand something out? No way.

So I cobbled this quicky together in the morning and beat my printer with a whip to wheeze out 300 copies. And since MORE seems to have been in the witness protection program since the election and just in case some attendees still take MORE seriously, why not beat a dead horse? They were snapping this up.

UFT Election Results: Unity the BIG Winner, MORE the Biggest Loser drops by 75%, Solidarity Beats MORE for Second Place and Stays Alive, Whither New Action

These results make me think Unity came in second – and those with an interest in promoting distance between the members and the union – our enemies – came in first… Jonathan Halabi, New Action, member of UFT Ex Bd.

The triennial UFT election ended with the usual victory for Unity Caucus, which has been in control of the UFT since its inception in 1962. Mulgrew received over 85% of the vote, with retirees being the largest voting block by far with 24,000 out of the 47,000 votes returned, with 89% going to Unity – yes, retirees are the happiest people in the UFT, maybe in the world. Over 197,000 ballots were sent out – about 25% returned overall. But the return from working UFT members was dismal.

Other than retirees, the turnout from working UFT members bordered on embarrassing. In the 20,000 member high school division, 3260 teachers voted. Without an effective opposition, the high schools, the only division where Unity has been weak, went for Unity by 67%, one of the few times Unity won a majority of high school votes over the past three decades. Unity got around 2100 high school votes, the same as in 2016 when they lost to MORE/New Action – and MORE’s insistence on running alone this time turned into a disaster as MORE received 550 high school votes and New Action 250, and Solidarity 375. In 2016 MORE/NA had over 2300. A lesson on divisiveness.

Unity won 75% of the middle school vote with 1200 votes out of 11,000 middle school teachers. They did even better in the elementary schools with 85% - 6,000 votes out of about 37,000 elementary school teachers. But the returns from the 3 teaching divisions is a sad commentary on how little UFT elections matter to working teachers. Jonathan’s point is right on.

Between the almost 70,000 teachers in elem, middle and high schools, Unity gets 10,000 votes. In the non-teaching functionals Unity received over 7,000 votes out of the 10,000 cast. 20,000 retirees voted for Unity. Is the UFT stronger or weaker when retirees are the most interested segment of the union? Read a detailed election analysis on ednotesonline:

A decimated opposition, with the sectarians in MORE being responsible
One of the reasons for the dismal results for the three opposition caucuses was their inability to form a united opposition. The rough order of total votes were Solidarity (7%), MORE (5%) and New Action (3%). As a longtime activist in the opposition, I shudder and question whether it is even worth participating in UFT elections, a waste of resources and time. In my final days in MORE I urged them to either take the election seriously and run with everyone in a united front or don’t run at all. I feel they have made a mockery of UFT elections and now a very weak Solidarity can claim the mantle of the only caucus that shows signs of growth, even if minimal. They finished second by outpolling MORE by a thousand votes a surprise since they have such a small base in the schools as was the poor showing of MORE Caucus with a bigger base. They bear the major responsibility for the debacle through divisive tactics internally and externally. Three key former MOREs ran on the Unity line for Ex Bd but maintain they will act independently of Unity. They no longer felt welcome in MORE. This puts Solidarity in the titular position of the opposition with the most support but it is a hollow "victory." Sadly, it seems that New Action has faded into possible oblivion. New Action was founded in 1995 as a merger of two caucuses and had initial success but as their leadership aged out into retirement they lost their base in the schools – plus the disaster of the alliance they made with Randi Weingarten and Unity Caucus in 2003.

In 2016 MORE/New Action had almost 10,600 votes and Solidarity had 1400. That’ was 12,000 votes against Unity. The total opposition vote this time was less than 7,000.

Solidarity beating out MORE is a big thing in the tiny world of the opposition inside the UFT. Showing some growth is essential but it was clear they didn't have enough of a base to make much bigger gains. The real race was to beat MORE and claim the mantle of the leading opposition - and Shockingly they did. I expected MORE to lose thousands of votes - but MORE dropped so drastically by 8000 votes. Think of it - in 3 years MORE, founded in 2012 as a merger of ICE and TJC, lost 8000 votes. from 10,600 to 2,600. The MORE leadership purged the ICE faction and some of their supporters voted for Solidarity.

MORE declares victory for not finishing last.
The MORE spin: One leader of MORE posted that they finished third, not last. The spin is that they didn't really try and purposely ran not to win and that the drop from almost 11,000 votes to 2600 shows that they still have a base to organize for their platform – sure, just like they organized the 10,600 last time. All the years of building the opposition and it all went crashing against the rocks of sectarianism. At the end of the day, the opposition in the UFT is decimated and Unity Caucus is more empowered than ever. Nice work. The faction in control of MORE ought to write book - how to destroy a union opposition and empower the ruling power. MORE missed an essential point. In the UFT the goal is to battle the Unity machine which controls the UFT, NYSUT and AFT with all forces at hand, not use elections to push an ideology. MORE has become a boutique caucus or a members only club.

Norm has been a UFT member for 52 years. He helped found ICE in 2003 and MORE in 2012. He is now a free agent. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Skinny Awards - Wednesday June 19 - Support the important work

Last year I was joined by Fred Smith and Danny Dromm as winners of the award.  I'm a Skinny: Honored to be honored by Leonie...The year has gone by very fast. I expect to attend this year's event - I haven't missed one since Leonie began giving out Skinny's as an antidote to the Broad Awards.

Save the date! On Wednesday June 19 we will hold our annual Skinny award dinner at Casa La Femme on 140 Charles St. The honorees will be Attorney General Tish James for her steadfast and courageous leadership in supporting public school students and parents over many years; and NYC Kids PAC, the only political action committee that rates candidates on their positions on public education. Please reserve your ticket now — for a delicious three course dinner with wine and great company besides!

NYC Educator Asks: Why Is Ben Sherman Still Principal?

When people ask me what is the major problem with the NYC school system I answer "the principals". I've always maintained that teachers should play a major role in choosing the principal and that should be a core demand by the UFT even if it is pie in the sky.
A year ago I and other bloggers issued our first reports on Forest Hills HS Ben Sherman with this post:

Monday, June 4, 2018
Incompetent Principal Ben Sherman: Forest Hills HS Teachers Issue Declaration of Independence

Arthur has a follow-up today:
I can't ever recall 90% of a teacher's students filing a complaint. That would be extraordinary. Of course I'm not a principal. Mike Bloomberg decided that principals could do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted, and established a Leadership Academy to teach that principle (to principals). Evidently, Ben Sherman learned well.... Arthur Goldstein

Why Is Ben Sherman Still Principal?

Bronx ATR left this comment which contains some truth:
 It’s been years since I’ve seen the UFT Publicly challenge an administrator. There used to a section in the UFT monthly rag that profiled these demi-gods in a rouge’s gallery of shame. There used to be many pickets against these characters. Teachers are afraid and see the UFT doing very little to help them, creating more passivity and emboldening even more abusive behavior.
The UFT claims it has been working behind the scenes. I believe that. But that is not enough. Teachers need the UFT to go public as a lesson to administrators and the CSA which covers for them.

I do get that there are limits to the UFT ability to get rid of a principal.

There was a time when we practically became the Ben Sherman blog. Here are a few more of our posts:

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

CORE Wins in Chicago, Supporters Express Concerns

I wrote about the Chicago union election last week -- Chicago Teachers Union CORE Caucus challenged by Members First.
CORE won the election but internally there are some serious concerns, as this excerpt signed by some key CORE people indicates:
...we recognize that many members are concerned about the direction of our union under the current CORE leadership team. We share many of those concerns. We are deeply sympathetic to members who feel that their working conditions, which are our students’ learning conditions, have been getting worse for years. As active rank-and-file teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, and school workers, we have experienced the bullying, the disrespect, the micromanaging, and the intense pressures and workloads personally.... it’s our contention the current leadership has made a series of mistakes that have deepened the defeats and taken us off the road to fighting back. One of the most concerning was the top-down decision of this leadership to call off a strike in 2016 accepting what we consider a weak contract. We also believe our union has not done a sufficient job defending members and our contract in the buildings and that leadership has become too far removed from the everyday abuses we experience. In addition, we are in deep disagreement with our leadership’s turn towards funding Democratic establishment politicians.... letter from CORE Supporters, including some founders
Sound familiar? The above, printed in full below, comes from a dissident faction internally within the CORE caucus - some of whom I have spoken to over the years and when they expressed some of their frustrations within the CTU. I spent a couple of days hanging out with some signees and other CORE people in Los Angeles back in July 2009, a year before CORE won. I heard from some of them as far back as 2012 and 2014 at AFT conventions. Some of them were among the top leadership but have left the leadership to go back in the classroom.

You won't read about these concerns from leftist social justice activists within CORE in the often fawning leftist press over CORE.

These dissidents are somewhat similar to the former dissidents within MORE - mostly people associated with the ICEUFT wing of MORE who have been pushed out by people with similar ideologies to the leadership of the CTU --- many of the people in ICEUFT do not cede the SJ interpretation to the ideologues. What is clear, it that since similar issues are being raised in other caucuses, this is a fundamental political disagreement and not personal --- which is often raised by people who want to hide the politics. I think what happened in MORE is happening in other places too.

So there is lots going on with teacher union elections. I reported on the Baltimore election where a coalition of two opposition caucuses defeated a 21 year incumbent and Randi ally - a VP of the AFT.
The Chicago Teacher Union story is always fascinating to watch as there have been distortions as to the origin story of CORE and the outcomes of some of the subsequent actions. First an announcement from Jesse Sharkey, who was elected for the first time as president after having served as Karen Lewis' VP since they were elected in 2010:
CTU President Jesse Sharkey on FB
CORE wins 66-34. Congrats to everyone who worked so hard on this campaign. I just had a very gracious conversation with Therese Boyle, and I offered her a place in CTUs Bargaining Team—we will unite this union and fight for a great contract!

CORE won the election over Members First on May 17 with 66% of the vote. I was watching for the outcome to see the level of push back from those who agree with Members First that the union should emphasize the needs of its members. I agree with SJ caucuses like CORE when they say that the union must also consider the living conditions of the students since they also influence working conditions and by its very name, Members First doesn't send that message. In the first challenge to CORE since they were elected in 2010, 34% is not an insignificant push back and unless CORE meets their needs, they have room for growth -- though I would change the name and broaden the focus --- along the lines with the demands the dissidents inside of CORE make below. I can see a joint push for changes coming from the 34% who support MF with the internal push from the dissidents. If the leadership doesn't show itself capable of responding, things will get interesting.

Social Justice ideologues often let their SJ get ahead of the members - as you will read below posted by Fred Klonsky, the statement of left wing SJ/CORE backers who wrote the lead to above -- many members are concerned about the direction of our union under the current CORE leadership team.

I know some of them and while they could never back Members First and are loyal CORE people - even founders -- some have told me they agreed with the late George Schmidt's criticisms of CORE and the way they were leading the CTU with an "ideology first" agenda. George told me that the CTU leadership had not focused on organizing the membership through in-school work but had been using rallies as organizing tools and they weren't effective.

George told me some of the signees below backed him when CORE ideologues tried to purge George from CORE --- CORE Attempted Purge of One of Founders George Schmidt Failed in Chicago - Eight Women of Color Speak on George's Behalf. Though I see at least one signee who voted against George. The very idea of the purge is indicative of the problems internally.

George wrote at the time:  
the majority of the CORE "Steering Committee" tried to lead the caucus into what amounted to a Purge Trial (or, as one speaker said, to turn CORE into something out of Orwell's Animal Farm)......the claims (by a handful of CORE people now hiding out) that I was a "racist" and a "sexist" (among other things) had to be proved by citing certain specific actions, not by "feelings."
Sound familiar to current and ex-MORE members? George's views were very aligned with ICEUFT --- call us the rational left.

Jacobin's Micah Uetricht  has been writing uncritically about CORE and the CTU and George used to mock some of his conclusions. Here is Uetricht's  pre-election article in Jacobin, which included little hint of the internal dissidents within CORE who did not go to Members First (which is composed of former CORE supporters too) but feel the CTU under CORE leadership has suffered a  defeats, something the leftist press often papers over or ignores as it tries to sell a pristine version of SJ unionism.

Chicago Teacher Militancy Is Up for Reelection--

It is worth reading Uetricht's piece (which I will address in a follow-up) and contrast the call for CORE supporters for changes in the approach of the leadership as posted by Fred Klonsky. A key is that they have tried every internal mechanism but frustration led them to going public.

We the undersigned are union members, members of CORE, and activists in our schools. Some of us are currently serving on leadership bodies of the CTU and are running for elected positions with the CORE slate. We have decades of combined experience fighting for better schools and a stronger union, and some of us are co-founders of CORE. We are endorsing the CORE slate in the 2019 leadership election and urge all members to vote for the slate in order to register their support for organizing a strike-ready union that’s fighting for a strong contract.We think a Members’ First victory would set the union back in negotiations and represent a move away from a fighting approach. While we respect many of the individuals in MF, and intend to continue working alongside all our union brothers and sisters, we do not believe they have the vision or the commitment to stand up to the bosses and win the schools our students deserve. However, we recognize that many members are concerned about the direction of our union under the current CORE leadership team. We share many of those concerns. We are deeply sympathetic to members who feel that their working conditions, which are our students’ learning conditions, have been getting worse for years. As active rank-and-file teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, and school workers, we have experienced the bullying, the disrespect, the micromanaging, and the intense pressures and workloads personally.

We are not content with the state of our workplaces or the past contracts won. To be frank, our union has suffered a number of defeats in the past years. We know how damaging the REACH evaluation system is. We understand how Student-Based Budgeting and the School Rating System hurts members and students alike. We have labored under the longest school day and school year. We suffered through furloughs, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and the loss of raises.

We fully recognize that the author of our worsening conditions is the 1% and the political establishment of both major parties, who have rained down attack after attack on public education and unions everywhere. We are members of CORE precisely because of the major role CORE had pushing back against this neoliberal assault. We are proud of the organizing for the 2012 strike, for the resistance to testing, school closures, punitive evaluation systems, and the call to join our union fight with the broader needs of the communities where we live and work.
However, it’s our contention the current leadership has made a series of mistakes that have deepened the defeats and taken us off the road to fighting back. One of the most concerning was the top-down decision of this leadership to call off a strike in 2016 accepting what we consider a weak contract. We also believe our union has not done a sufficient job defending members and our contract in the buildings and that leadership has become too far removed from the everyday abuses we experience. In addition, we are in deep disagreement with our leadership’s turn towards funding Democratic establishment politicians, like our endorsement of Toni Preckwinkle, with the aim of buying influence and cutting deals. We believe that we need an electoral strategy that challenges the status quo, but to win gains we need to rely primarily on the power of our members and the broader communities we work in.

Alongside these errors, this leadership has seriously mismanaged the internal finances of our union.

As CORE activists and in our capacity on union leadership bodies, we have been raising these concerns for some time inside CORE, on Executive Board, within the Trustees, and among fellow union members. The drafting of this letter was not our first recourse and was not taken lightly.

Before now, we’ve taken practical action to correct course. Undersigned Trustees were those that brought financial mismanagement to light. We’ve also called for Open Bargaining, so our rank-and-file can directly observe and participate in this round of negotiations. Undersigned Executive Board members have made motions to stop some of the political spending in order to focus union time and resources on the building-level fights we must win. We led the fight to stop the dismantling of special education services. Through these actions and more, we have called for a return to the CORE’s founding principles: Member Driven Union, Transparency & Accountability, Education for All, Defense of Publicly Funded Public Education, and a Strong Contract.

However, now we feel that it is necessary to bring these concerns openly to the whole of the membership. After fighting to be heard inside CORE and within leadership bodies, we have been met with opposition, and in some cases vilification and isolation. We feel that this letter stating our current reality is a necessary first step to turn the tide from recent defeats to gains for our members and students.
The undersigned stand against the very real pressure under 1% attacks towards top-down union bureaucracy, insider political dealings, and the call for secrecy. We are fighting to be strike-ready this fall and to build a union that is truly led by the rank-and-file. We believe that we must rebuild trust with membership around a way forward that can win victories. We’ve advocated for the need to coordinate more strongly with other unions in our buildings, like SEIU 73 for instance, whose members are also in a contract struggle and building to be strike ready. The power of the West Virginia education strikes were based on all-building unity and we need to organize towards the same. We know we must also base ourselves on wider solidarity with local school communities and working people. We must win smaller classes, more clinicians, nurses, case managers, and the time and resources to do our jobs well. We can no longer settle for smaller, symbolic wins. Our students and communities depend on it.

We hope that CORE is reelected and plan to support the new CORE leadership with words and deeds whenever they take positive action. However, we the undersigned intend to take steps starting immediately to fight for the type of union that we think is necessary. Union members who support these ideas should reach out to us to get involved.

Email: and be sure to join the #CTUFAIRCONTRACTNOW facebook page (
We can win. And we will win. Together

In Solidarity,
Kenzo Shibata
HS English and Civics Teacher
CORE Founding Member
President, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance- Illinois
Past CORE steering member
CFL Delegate
Past CTU Delegate
Past Media Director, IFT
Past Digital Communications Director, CTU

Erin Young
SpEd Teacher, CORE Steering Member
CTU Delegate

Tammie Vinson
SpEd Teacher
CTU Trustee
CORE Steering

Nick Wozniak
SECA, SEIU 73 Steward

Emily Penn
School Social Worker, EBoard Clinician FVP

Katie Osgood
SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elementary Functional VP

Kristine Mayle
CTU Financial Secretary, 2010-2016

Drew Heiserman
HS Math Teacher
CTU Trustee

Kimberly Goldbaum
CTU Elem. Functional VP, 2011-2018
Middle School Teacher

Alison Eichhorn
HS History Teacher
CTU Trustee
CTU Delegate

Natasha Leigh Carlsen
K-4 SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elementary Functional VP, CORE Steering

Xian Franzinger Barrett
4th-6th Grade SpEd Teacher, EBoard Elem Functional VP
CORE Founding Member

Monday, May 20, 2019

Former ISO member: Stay the revolutionary course

Leadership of the wrong kind — but what were the causes?

After four years or so, I had a lot of unresolved questions about ISO’s program. In addition, it turned out that some of the people in leadership could be downright nasty, and I didn’t like that at all.

In a personal example, I was called a dilettante by one of the prominent NYC organizers because I occasionally volunteered in a soup kitchen.

At an East Coast conference, a national leader once berated a comrade who was studying law. She did it from the podium, in a room with more than a hundred people. It was shocking to hear her say, “You want to be a lawyer? Go ahead and be a fucking lawyer!”

Only years after leaving the ISO in 2002 did I understand that the lack of democracy, the unaccountability of leadership, and the rejection of feminism were fundamental flaws which led to such abhorrent behavior.
I'm publishing articles about ISO due to the influence ISO has had in MORE and still has. The non-ISO leftists in MORE - independents from DSA should take a hard look at how these people operated and still operate. The critiques of ISO as a sort of cult and undemocratic and issues related to race and feminism seemed to infiltrate in MORE. Like the people in control are mostly white males. (Which is funny since they used surrogates to attack people like Mike and I as being white and male- at least I think we are.)

Here's a former ISOer who is now in another Party and reveals his point of view. I don't know enough to agree or disagree other than what I saw in MORE. He ends with: Some former ISOers will no doubt regroup and form yet another organization.
MORE is not yet free from the plague.
May 16, 2019

Stay the revolutionary course: a former member’s thoughts on the collapse of the International Socialist Organization

As a former member of the International Socialist Organization who is now a member of the Freedom Socialist Party, I take ISO’s recent implosion seriously. As a revolutionary, my biggest concern is whether those comrades who invested some part of their political lives in the ISO will remain radicals or instead be lost to cynicism, despair, or … the Democrats.
ISO’s extraordinarily rapid decision to close up shop came about through a somewhat dubious process — an online poll and then a phone call involving several hundred of its members. This course was precipitated by revelations about ISO leaders’ mishandling and cover-up of a 2013 rape charge against a member who, six years later, had just been elected to ISO’s highest leadership body. Members heard about the suppression of the case on March 11 of this year; by the end of the month, the ISO was no more.
Of course this is hardly the whole story of why the ISO fell apart. There are lessons to be learned by examining its politics, structure and leadership, all of which were fatally flawed.
At the same time it is necessary to defend the work that ordinary comrades did, based on an earnest desire to build an organization that they saw as instrumental to winning a better world.
The high of having all the answers
I was in the ISO from about 1997 to 2002. That is to say, from the time of Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright’s murderous sanctions and bombings against Iraq, until shortly after some of my closest comrades split from the ISO to form a now-dissolved group called Left Turn.
I participated wholeheartedly in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, went to summer school in Chicago (which later became the annual “Socialism” conference), and eagerly sold the Socialist Worker newspaper. I gave an educational for the Harlem branch on the life of Che Guevara. It was a privilege to read the newly reincarnated International Socialist Review magazine, and to be responsible for its distribution in New York City. It was exciting to think of being part of a group of young, smart people who wanted to change the world.
There is a euphoria that comes from being so confidently busy and knowing that you’re so right about everything you do, about every opinion you have, and about every political statement you make. It leaves you with very little time to question or understand the possibility that not everything might be so perfect.
But certain things came to bother me. One was the tendency of my branch to drop one area of unfinished political work to pick up something else. Another was an avoidable level of organizational sloppiness — for example, frequent running around at the last minute to secure a venue for a regular weekly meeting.
I began to wonder about the correctness of ISO supporting Ralph Nader for president in 2000. Why did we vote for a pro-capitalist “left” celebrity? Why not for other socialists?
And could it be true that white privilege really does not exist, as ISO claimed in those days? And what was up with the ISO’s longstanding, explicit hostility to feminism? Was feminism really by nature “bourgeois”?
My comprehension of the bigger historical issues was limited. For example, the slogan “neither Moscow nor Washington” went along with ISO’s stance that the Soviet Union was “state capitalist” — but what did that really mean? Much later I came to understand that this position (like the endorsement of Nader) was opportunist — that is, convenient rather than principled. The roots of the ISO are in a political grouping that was unwilling at the beginning of World War II to take the “unpopular” stand of defending the USSR against U.S. aggression.
Leadership of the wrong kind — but what were the causes?
After four years or so, I had a lot of unresolved questions about ISO’s program. In addition, it turned out that some of the people in leadership could be downright nasty, and I didn’t like that at all.
In a personal example, I was called a dilettante by one of the prominent NYC organizers because I occasionally volunteered in a soup kitchen.
At an East Coast conference, a national leader once berated a comrade who was studying law. She did it from the podium, in a room with more than a hundred people. It was shocking to hear her say, “You want to be a lawyer? Go ahead and be a fucking lawyer!”
Only years after leaving the ISO in 2002 did I understand that the lack of democracy, the unaccountability of leadership, and the rejection of feminism were fundamental flaws which led to such abhorrent behavior.
Even more recently, I learned that some members were increasingly questioning the official antagonism of ISO leadership toward autonomous organizing by female comrades and comrades of color. It makes sense that it would be the women and people of color who were ultimately going to expose the internal contradictions which had existed for decades, and which eventually unraveled the fabric of the organization in late March of this year.
From these political deficiencies arose problems of the organizational culture.
A longtime West Coast leader, Steve Leigh, had this to say in a written contribution about the crisis: “From the beginning, modesty and a sense of humility was part of the DNA of the ISO.”
This is a most telling example of how the lSO as an organization had long insulated itself from reality.
What really existed was the opposite: a general hubris prevailed. ISO members were taught never to back down from an argument. This meant that members knew everything, that nobody in the organization would ever say to a non-member, “You know, I never thought of that. You might be right.” This arrogant mindset also bears responsibility for the fact that ISO was rarely involved in coalition work unless it, as the “largest socialist group on the Left in the U.S.,” could call the shots.
At a Trotsky Conference in the Bronx, the same national leader who publicly berated the comrade studying law offhandedly responded to a lunchtime conversation about sexism and the necessity for a socialist feminist program by saying, “We don’t have those problems in the ISO.”
What had developed was an organization whose leadership, and until recently much of the membership, actually believed themselves immune to the social prejudices in capitalist society in general. In other words, sexism, racism, heterosexism and so on were not problems inside the ISO. Therefore only theory was needed, and then only for the world outside of the organization, because the body itself had already been purged of these problems.
Pressured by the resurgence of women’s activism via the MeToo movement and the matter-of-fact acceptance of feminism of many of its newer and younger members, the ISO of late began to head in the direction of socialist feminism. It is ironic that people who joined in the last year or two were largely unaware of its traditional rejection of it.
Feminism: not the problem but the solution
After leaving the ISO, I wanted to avoid three things above all: to drop out of revolutionary political activity altogether, to go back to the Democratic Party, or to become bitter and even hostile toward serious party-building. I saw at least two former comrades eventually reject the need for a vanguard party along with the ISO’s distorted, bureaucratic organizational norms.
As I shopped around for another political center of gravity, I found that only the Freedom Socialist Party had a program and practice that was both proudly feminist and truly revolutionary.
Socialist feminist theory is as simple, profound and obvious as the theory of surplus value: that for the emancipation of women to become a reality, women have to be in the leadership of the revolutionary process. Same for the leadership of Blacks, other people of color, and all the specially oppressed who have suffered the worst that the capitalist system delivers.
Simply stated, feminism is not the problem, it is the answer. Only socialist feminism can correct what Frederick Engels called “the world historic defeat of the female sex.” It is not feminism but sexism which is divisive. ISO had this tragically and fatally wrong.
One of the most satisfying episodes of my ISO experience was promoting and attending several productions of Howard Zinn’s play “Marx in Soho.” Marx comes into the present for an hour or so, to clear his name and explain why his ideas are still relevant.
In one section he mentions the collapse of the Soviet Union, and explains why it’s wrong to equate Stalinism with communism. He says: “Socialism is not supposed to reproduce the stupidities of capitalism!”
The ISO would have done well to consider this statement as it reproduced yet another top-down, undemocratic, macho structure which was bound sooner or later to collapse.
In retrospect, it seems that it would have been so easy for ISO to consider programmatic feminism as necessary political fabric, instead of issuing reams of tortured and twisted arguments against it! But bureaucratic leadership insulated the group from correction until it was too late.
Anyone who wants to see a human society based on cooperation rather than competition, where people get what they need and can finally live lives that are their own, needs a revolutionary political home. There is no antidote to pessimism more powerful than organizing along with people with whom you passionately agree! That’s why people joined the ISO. That it turned out not to be what it appeared is no individual’s fault, but a result of something deeper.
Some former ISOers will no doubt regroup and form yet another organization. I hope that others might at least find my journey from the ISO to the FSP interesting enough to inquire more about what I consider the original socialist feminist party.
Email the author at

Friday, May 17, 2019

Social Justice Activist Ousts Randi Ally, 21-Year Incumbent as Baltimore Teachers Union President - Antonucci

The Union We Deserve slate, which is an alliance of two opposition caucuses within BTU – the Baltimore Movement of Rank-and-File Educators and the Baltimore Caucus of Educators for Democracy and Equity. Both caucuses have a social justice focus....
Brown is the latest in a string of candidates who have managed to defeat established union incumbents with a social justice platform. Though not strong everywhere, such candidates have had their greatest success by forming coalitions to present a united opposition..... Intercepts, Mike Antonucci
How much irony that the Baltimore MORE united with the other opposition groups while our own MORE divided the opposition here in NYC.

Let me point out that I and others called for a similar alliance of all forces here under the banner of a united front to confront the Unity monster in the recent election disaster in the UFT where MORE finished behind a ghost caucus. Maybe studying the Baltimore situation will be a lesson, though I doubt the wounds can be healed, especially as long as the ISO faction that took control of MORE is still dominant - which I expect they are despite the dismemberment of ISO - expect former ISOers to regroup somewhere else.

In Los Angeles a similar coalition of groups united under Union Power to win in 2014. Pay attention to the lessons of history which I tried to point out up to my final moments in MORE.

The Union We Deserve
The Baltimore coalition of two caucuses combined to run against the long-entrenched Unity Caucus-like leadership in Baltimore (it's called the Progressive Caucus - the same name as the Unity version in the AFT), defeating a 21 year incumbent and Randi ally who is a VP of the AFT. More lessons for us here in the UFT.
a preliminary tally shows a 901-839 margin for Brown. BTU has approximately 7,000 members.
Looks like the turnout might be less than here in NYC.

Antonucci has an interesting point:
The opposition slate appears to have won almost all of the teacher seats on the union’s executive committee, while the incumbent Progressive slate seems to have captured all the education support employee seats.
Interesting -- the opposition won the schools while the incumbents won what we would call the Functionals.

The strategy here in NYC has always been to go after the school divisional seats where retirees don't vote -- and I bet retirees don't vote in Baltimore - or anywhere else most probably -- and my point has been to win the 3 divisions and then go to court to fight the retiree vote - but that will never happen here as long as the opposition is divided and inept.

Don't expect this Baltimore outcome to be accepted by the caucus in power - Unity-like caucuses do not give up power easily. They will probably go to the AFT to adjudicate -- and Antonucci makes this point:
Whatever the ultimate outcome in Baltimore, English remains the president of AFT Maryland and one of the many vice presidents of AFT national.
"English, in a statement, pledged to challenge the preliminary results. “Throughout this campaign, there were egregious violations of the elections process,” she wrote. “I can’t in good faith concede this election.”"

Right - Her caucus ran the election. Reminds me of when Mike Shulman won the high school VP position in 1985 and Unity protested the election they ran and actually got a new election - which they then lost.

The opposition protested too:
Teachers who supported Brown’s slate of candidates said the union election was not conducted fairly. They have accused the elections committee of attempting to suppress the vote by having limited voting hours and locations, and denying the majority of absentee ballot requests. They also say educators had to use a confusing ballot that favored English’s team.... Only by the third page did he get the option to vote for people on the Union We Deserve ticket. Daniels was frustrated and upset — just imagine, he said, if the Democratic party tried to get away with that style of ballot during a citywide election.
Union We Deserve was not able to fill an entire slate, because some of its candidates for the executive board were rejected by the elections committee.
We know the AFT has a history of goon takeovers of locals, so this may be a big mess. Watch carefully - a new election wouldn't surprise me.

By the way -- our local conspiracy theorists always complain about the mail ballot we use here but look at the issues related to in-school voting which would take place on one day -- and in fact today's Chicago election is also taking place in schools.

That there are two caucuses coming together for the election should be interesting. Why are there two social justice caucuses? Hit the links to see where they stand - and will this alliance break down under differences?

Baltimore Movement of Rank-and-File Educators and the Baltimore Caucus of Educators for Democracy and Equity.

BMORE seems very similar to MORE in focus and is probably part of UCORE. CEDE is a facebook page and seems to be a less ideological group -- so it is possible to combine a heavy duty SJ caucus with others in a united front.

Today is the election in Chicago where CORE, the granddaddy of social justice teacher caucuses, to win as the incumbent against Members First (Chicago Teachers Union CORE Caucus challenged). There are attempts to brand Members First as right wing in the left wing press -- as if people calling for more attention to be paid to basic working conditions is right wing.

When CORE won in 2010 it was the most broad-based caucus and did not unite with other caucuses running against the Unity style leadership - but that was a special case - there were 5 caucuses running, 2 of them a split leadership and one pretty irrelevant -- and there was a run-off --- so the CORE strategy was based on finishing 2nd and gaining the support of the other key opposition. It was like the Democratic primaries coming up -- the more the merrier as long as you finish 2nd and then unite the rest.

Funny how a long-time voice in the opposition used the example of CORE as an excuse for MORE to run alone --- a specious argument that ignores what really happened in Chicago.

Mike Antonucci has the short report based on a Baltimore Sun article and both are published in full below the break.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Is Randi After Trumpka's Job? Would that make Mulgrew AFT President? No Way I say

If she wants to be AFL-CIO president, she's going to have to break Trumka's kneecaps.... A source
Mike Antonucci reports on a piece in Bloomberg Law
that Randi Weingarten is considering challenging Richard Trumpka for leadership of the AFL-CIO, a position I have always believed Randi had her eye on and back when people speculated she was after Secty of Education I pointed out that she had more power as head of the AFT. And in fact she still has more power now than she might as AFL-CIO head. But I always believed Al Shanker coveted this position but in those days the idea of a public service union head, especially a teacher, would lead the heavier industrialized AFL-CIO was not a reality.

My sense has always been that Randi wanted to go further than Shanker did and the AFL-CIO is a place that would accomplish that.

Things have clearly changed as industrial unions declined and the public service unions have risen to the top in the union movement. So Randi making a move is feasible. (Remember how Al Shanker made a move on his former mentor Dave Selden at the 1974 convention in Toronto (I was there)).  Shanker's move was partially inspired by then AFL-CIO head George Meany who was very pro-VietNam war, as was Shanker, and Selden was opposed to the war.

Selden did not go quietly and wrote a book with some heavy criticism of Shanker.

Maybe a lesson for Randi. But if Trumpka doesn't want to go it won't be as easy for Randi as it was for Shanker, who had Unity Caucus domination of the AFT to rely on. There is no Unity Caucus in the AFL-CIO.

And then there's this point from Antonucci:
I can think of at least one good reason she wouldn’t want the job. She made $405,793 last year as AFT president. Trumka made $261,779. 
Well, maybe the AFT/UFT Unity Caucus machine can supplement her salary to make up the difference.

If Randi should make the move and be successful, that leaves the AFT presidency open and since 1974 UFT presidents have occupied the position since then except for the 4 years between Sandy Feldman and Randi.

From what I saw of Mulgew at AFT conventions he didn't distinguish himself and Randi didn't give him much of a role while elevating former St. Paul teacher union head Mary Cathryn Ricker who I would put my money on as her successor.

There is some danger in not having a loyal base in NYC from the Unity Caucus people and that might be a factor.

But this is all fun speculation, and with the 2020 AFT convention coming to Houston where an endorsement of Joe Biden will take place, Randi may just stay put and wait for Trumpka to retire. But they are the same age so all balls are in the air. My money is on the status quo- Randi makes too much money and has a lot of power over her fiefdom.

Posted: 14 May 2019 09:43 AM PDT
Bloomberg Law runs a column called the Daily Labor Report, and this week the lead item is about who is waiting in the wings to challenge AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.

The timing of the piece is curious, to say the least. Trumka has more than two years remaining in his current term, and the AFL-CIO doesn’t practice term limits. Trumka has been president for 10 years and, leaving out the short tenure of one interim president, previous presidents have served for 14, 16 and 24 years.
But, okay, let’s roll with it:
Trumka still has more than two years left in his third term at the helm, but that’s not stopping some of his possible successors from sniffing out potential support for a run if and when the seat opens. Three names are swirling as likely candidates to eventually replace Trumka, and at least two of them are making calls behind the scenes to try to build a backing, according to sources.
…Randi Weingarten: The American Federation of Teachers president flirted with challenging Trumka in the last AFL-CIO election and has since been a prominent voice in highly publicized school house strikes. Weingarten is taking a page from the Paul Ryan for Speaker of the House playbook: She will publicly say she’s not interested in the job, while remaining open to the option behind the scenes if sufficiently urged to do so by others.
Weingarten’s name has been floated in the past as a U.S. Senator and a Secretary of Education. I have no idea if she is interested in being president of the AFL-CIO. Clearly, neither does Bloomberg Law, but it didn’t stop them from posting a column about it.
I can think of at least one good reason she wouldn’t want the job. She made $405,793 last year as AFT president. Trumka made $261,779.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Chicago Teachers Union CORE Caucus challenged by Members First - Election May 17 - Substance

While I have little direct knowledge of what is going on in Chicago since George Schmidt's death, I expect CORE, the ultimate example for progressive teacher union members who want change in union leaderships, to win. But here Members First is challenging a SJ oriented leadership and if it gets a significant vote total, that may indicate a sign of things to come for social justice caucuses that overreach on SJ and under reach on focusing on the needs of their membership, especially given the disastrous outcome for MORE in the recent UFT election.

The last time an election was held in Chicago TU was in 2010 when CORE won. I remember George telling me that he had security of some sort in every school to prevent the caucus in power from stealing the election --- they vote in the schools, not like here, by mail.

Some of the charges against CORE are that it has not been able to get a number of schools organized effectively like it did for the 2012 strike, that the contracts they have won, even in 2012, have been deficient but that the left press has overhyped their victories and downplayed the defeats, and that they have often played the political game poorly. I can't vouch for any of these charges but suspect some germs of truth. (See Jim Vail on the upcoming elec
[Read a report of the CTU recent delegate meeting and the caucuses debated afterward at Substance: May Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates report includes election forum information].
The politics of the May 17 Chicago Teacher Union election are always interesting and relate to issues we see here in NYC with MORE trying to emulate CORE in its political stance but being  unsuccessful in its 7 years in existence compared to CORE which won leadership less than two years after being founded (CORE is less than 4 years older than MORE).

Contrast CORE and MORE, which got significantly lower vote totals even than in its first election campaign in 2013. But the faction, or fraction, leading MORE has been more divisive than CORE has been, though some of their leadership engaged in similar actions with the attempted failed purge of George Schmidt --CORE Attempted Purge of One of Founders George Schmidt Failed in Chicago - Eight Women of Color Speak on George's Behalf.
CORE maintained some semblance of internal democracy while MORE proved itself more adept at its goal of purging by just tossing democracy and due process out the window. 

Upon its founding in 2008, CORE offered a broad based social justice agenda but with a focus on the schools, as was originally intended with MORE before going off the tracks.

Members First came into existence as a reaction by some that the CTU/CORE union leadership was not paying enough attention to the issues in the schools. The George Schmidt often made the same charge -- that the leadership was more interested in holding rallies as an organizing tool than going into the schools to organize. And some in CORE agreed with him and some former CORE supporters helped form Membership First.

Some in NYC view Solidarity Caucus, formed by former MORE members, as the Members First equivalent. I don't think there is an exact parallel but I've been predicting over the years that if a caucus or leadership tips too far one way there will be a counter reaction the other way.

I understand what has driven the people organizing Members First but to me the name is a net negative and a narrowing of the agenda and by their name they have come under criticism as sending a message that the students are not important. Of course member needs should be a priority but the name is exclusive. They needed to be more subtle - like calling themselves Solidarity.

Content in [] added after publication based on some input:
[It is important for me to note that educators who feel the primary mission of a teacher union and caucuses within the union is to focus on union members, not students and other issues related to what they view as outside social justice issues should not shunned or mocked or call them right wing or racists. The fact is many teachers of color are in agreement. While we may disagree and feel that a union must address the conditions of students, we also feel a union cannot let issues related to SJ run ahead of taking care of the members. These are issues worth debating and when ICEUFT was active we did engage in that debate and as a consensus group often came to a meeting point. No debates like this took place in MORE -- it was somewhat of a shaming issue and people with those views either left or were silent so as not to be called a racist. Thus my point that we can't let how you feel about a leader prevent dialogue from taking place in groups like Solidarity and Members First - and I bet this may be going on in other places.]
Here in NYC MORE's former more inclusive message has been narrowed to aim at only a certain segment of the union -- I need to blog further about exactly what constitutes this segment but if the recent UFT election has some lessons, the drop from 10,700 to 2,700 votes may be some indication. A clue -- the MORE leadership views these 2700 as potential cadre and thus of a higher priority than the 8000 missing votes.

In NYC Solidarity Caucus arose in 2014 partly due to similar concerns about MORE but the leaders have come up with a more clever name. Some of us tried to keep Portelos inside MORE to raise his issues there instead of leaving. Despite being invisible for the years between elections and having few outposts in the schools, Solidarity with its mainstream message got a thousand votes more than MORE.

Yet Solidarity too has come under attack behind the scenes by both New Action and MORE leaders as being driven by forces that might attract the anti-student crowd and  turn to the right. Sometimes I think the criticisms directed at Portelos are a coverup for the underlying politics.

This is the first real challenge CORE Caucus is facing since its election in 2010 when it didn't start out as being favored to win. And in fact, with 5 caucuses running it finished 2nd to the caucus in power. But that Unity-like caucus had split in two (it had also lost in 2001 to PACT Caucus before winning back power in 2004 in a very close election - PACT had around 49% in the first round, just short of winning outright but lost in the runoff).

Chicago has a more democratic system with a runoff if no caucus gets 50%. A weakened PACT was running in 2010 again with a former CTU president at the top of the ticket - but CORE was formed by some former PACTers. The very idea of having more groups run was why the CORE leaders, with a caucus only about a year and a half old, felt they had a chance if only they could finish 2nd.

Here's an article about the election from Substance.

Chicago Teachers Union officers challenged by Members First

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Notes on a Staggering ISO - Louis Poyect - 2014

I want to address the question of the “right” of a Leninist organization to keep its discussions shielded from public view at the end of this article... Louis Proyect

This article from 2014 is important to understand what happened to MORE which was taken over by the ISO faction in a sort of coup d'etat that included so many features Louis Proyect, who bills himself as an unrepentant Marxist.

His comment opening the article is relevant to my banishment from MORE for posting some comments made at a MORE meeting. The ISO faction brought into MORE the precepts their own organization operated under -- and worse than anything, the so-called newbie Democratic Socialists ate it all up without a whisper of dissent. I will be publishing the internal memos from MORE members to the ISO leadership on how they won the battle for MORE which will be illuminating. The entire process makes me cautious about the direction DSA will end up going due to the influences of the former ISO faction and their allies. Don't think the recent election debacle and the dumb December 23 petition are not relevant. (See James placing blame at the ICEUFT Blog : WHO IS THE MOST CULPABLE FOR SCHOOL BEING OPEN MONDAY, ON DECEMBER 23? - And let me point out that the majority of people who started ICE and are still involved would classify themselves as Marxists and they have been among the most critical of ISO from the very beginning.

UPDATE - I added this to my facebook post:
From 2014 - a precursor from a long-time left activist with lots of signposts for teacher caucuses as former ISO teacher factions jump into DSA, a danger to attempts to build broad based inclusive progressive movements inside teacher unions instead of narrow ideologies dominated by a few voices and aimed at a narrow audience with only acceptable ideologies. We will be discussing the ideologies involved in small meetings and will have lots more to say about these issues over the next few months. Current and future activists may find the analysis useful. I can live in a system of democratic centralism and controlled output from an organization  - like Unity Caucus operates -  if it is not sneaked into the back door but discussed openly and honestly. That did not happen in MORE/UFT. 

Notes on a Staggering ISO - Louis Poyect

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

December 23, 2019: A Day of Infamy - Reports from the field and FB Outrage, including MORE Follies

MORE, the caucus that wants a militant UFT won't be militant by, say, calling for a sickout on Dec. 23. Instead they want to add a day at the end of the school year - June 29, a Saturday --   How much do you want to bet that if the UFT had done that in the first place MORE would have opposed? As of last count almost 15,000 people have signed. There's militancy for you.
....the UFT was negligent in not covering the calendar issue in contract negotiations. Those talks culminated in a contract in October even though the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) put out a Fact Sheet in September telling local unions that the State Education Department expects new collective bargaining agreements to comply with new minimum instructional days (180) and hours (900/990) regulations.... James Eterno

I brought this to UFT Executive Board last week, and you can see what leadership said a little further down the blog. This is one of the stupidest things I've seen in over three decades of teaching in NYC, and that's saying a lot. Asking for another useless June day is hardly a solution, and asking for it on a Saturday pushes the absurdity even further.... Arthur Goldstein 
Oh the angst and anger over next year's school calendar which lists Monday Dec. 23, 2019 as a work day. At times it seems a bit much considering all the other issues out there to be outraged about. But I do get it - many people go away or prepare for Xmas and having Monday off allows people to travel with plenty of time to spare. Plus consider how many teachers are from other places and probably go home for the holidays.

One retired friend with a son who teaches and grandchildren who go to the public schools was surprisingly outraged - she says it just shows the level of disrespect and almost mocking of a working staff that is abused in so many ways. And she also blames the UFT for making excuses - she absolutely believes they could have stopped this if they were bothering to pay attention.

James Eterno has led the battle at the ICEUFT blog and fundamentally agrees and heaps scorn on the UFT--- he goes into the reasons -- the UFT was negligent.  James was one of the first out of the box at the ICEUFT blog and at last count had over 7,000 hits. And look at those comments. And all the math people are doing to add up the school days and minutes. And the research into what other districts have school on that day. 

NY1 did a story on James leading the fight.
And we can see his kids too video of the news report.

James has posted extensively on the issue and has put a lot of time into doing the research -- OK- I can think of better things to do but here are the links:
While James blames the UFT, Arthur Goldstein heaps scorn on the State Ed Dept and the DOE. Arthur asked the question at the Ex Bd and has written about the entire folly of working Monday Dec. 23
NYSED, December 23rd, and Wasting Time and Money

Arthur and his pal Mike Schirtzer have come under attack for not attacking the UFT leadership over issues like this. I find myself in the middle of this argument.

I see both points of view - the UFT leadership need to be criticized but Arthur and Mike have chosen a different path -- try to get them to act not by criticizing but by trying to build alliances with people in the union who might be willing to act. And you don't do that by calling them slugs - which has been pointed out to me numerous times. I've been on both sides of this issue -- Ed Notes in its earliest years did not attack the leadership and I attempted to build alliances - ultimately I failed and then went on the attack. But Arthur and Mike feel the times have changed and more can be won by not attacking. Time will tell whether James' approach has a better outcome than Arthur's and Mikes.

In the meantime, Arthur has been having fun at MORE's expense.

More in Bad Ideas from MORE--Opening School Saturday, June 27th 2020 - After MORE dumped all my friends in an effort to achieve ideological purity and cleanse itself, it managed to go from winning the high schools to winning ...

And a follow up: MORE Alters Petition After People Signed It
Arthur mocks MORE for coming up with an idea that is as bad as working Dec. 23.

As usual, the opportunists in MORE, desperately seeking issues to raise jumped on the bandwagon Eterno created and created a petition on the Dec. 23 issue. And people were signing it in droves. Except they didn't read the fine print that MORE was calling for Dec. 23 to be replaced by adding June 27 to the school year, even dumber than the UFT plan. And even worse, June 27 is a Saturday. MORE has come under attack on FB by rank and filers. MORE then changed the petition to call for school on Monday June 29.

This petition indicates how democracy has fallen apart in MORE. In the days we were there we would have called for a full vetting of the idea on the listserve and fought it out. But when no dissent is allowed you fall into the world of stupid.

Well, if you want my theory on why MORE would call for adding a day to replace Dec. 23 here it is. Can the social justice caucus of the UFT call for taking away a day of instruction? Just sayin'.