Monday, December 17, 2018

UFT Election Update: I'm a Petition Consultant

I am the self-proclaimed UFT election petition czar. Along with Ellen Fox. We ran the MORE 2013 petition campaign and the 2016 MORE/New Action campaign. We also ran the 2010 ICE petitioning. So along the way I've learned a lot of lessons. By 2016 I had the process nailed down. I'm so happy to be sitting this election out. The pressure was intense and took 6 weeks out of my life. We ran 300 candidates and a lot of trees died for us.

It is no surprise that I am getting requests for advice and despite urging a boycott of the election, I am maintaining friendly relations with all caucuses and non-caucuses associated with the UFT. So if asked I offer advice. Petitions will be available at the January 16 Delegate Assembly.

With 3 caucuses running this time, each will be running a more limited campaign with less candidates --- probably aiming for the 40 minimum needed with a bumper of 10 extra in case people get bumped. (Last time we had some people bumped - ie - not a UFT member.) If you come in with 40 and one gets bumped you don't have a slate.

Here are a few basics:
You can run all 11 officers on one petition, which needs 900 signatures. In 2013 I made the mistake of only giving this petition to the people in large schools and was pressed at the end. In 2016 I gave everyone a copy (you can make copies after you fill in all the info for the candidates). I made 100 copies and ended up with almost 3000 signatures. Any UFT member can sign. By the way -- there is only room for 60 sigs on one petition, so give people in big schools two copies.

At-large:
These are positions where any UFT can sign. That includes 48 Ex Bd and the 750-800 AFT/NYSUT delegates. You need 100 sigs for each candidate. Everyone who runs should carry their own petition and the officer petition.

Divisions - Ex Bd: These are where things get complicated. Each division can only be signed by people in the division. Which means if you are working your school you cannot have a functional sign for a teacher and vice versa. So it gets complicated.

There are 4 divisions: elementary (11), middle (5), high school (7) and functional (19), which includes retirees. Each needs 100 sigs.

I set up packets for people to carry around in their schools where they could get people to sign for all the candidates running in their division. Some found that people balked at signing for people they didn't know. It is tough to get 100 sigs in your own school, so the packets was a way around by getting a lot of people to try to get 20 - 30. Our elem people carried 11 petitions plus the officer and it took a lot of time. In 2016 MORE's Dan Lupkin was the champ, not only getting 15 colleagues to run, but also coming up with about 70 signatures on all 11 petitions. And he did it in a week. That took the pressure off on the elem schools.

Middle schools are always tough because there are not as many pure middle schools. K-8 counts as elem and 6-12 as high schools. So technically  MS are 6-8 only. Only 5 petitions to carry around. In 2016 MORE's Kevin Prossen was the champ with almost 90 sigs and for New Action Greg Di Stefano came through with the Staten Island MS.

High school is easy - in big schools. Arthur Goldstein alone covered them all for all 7 candidates. I went there to help him organize the signing. We also had a packet of 19 for functionals -- this is the toughest one. Finding only non-teachers in a school. I remember we got about 20-25 in Arthur's school. Ellen Fox did major work with this packet.

Depending on the number of candidates, you will still need to hold signing parties where you invite people for pizza and petitioning.

In 2007 and 2010 ICEUFT ran massive signing parties at Murry Bergtraum HS hosted by John Elfrank. We had 50 or more people show up to sign hundreds of blank petitions. These are tricky to organize, so be careful here. Ira Goldfine had the brilliant idea to get people to agree to sign in advance and we printed their name, school and file # on a master and then made hundreds of copies. All they had to do at the signing parties was sign their names 2-300 times next to their printed name. Took very little time - considering.

Well, good luck everyone. Have fun. I know I am.


School Scope: Red State Teacher Rebellion Spreads to Blue State Cities- Norm in The Wave

50,000 marched in Los Angeles to support teacher union


Here is my column for the Dec. 28 edition of The WAVE:


School Scope: Red State Teacher Rebellion Spreads to Blue State Cities
By Norm Scott

One of the major events in education over the past year were the teacher revolts in heavy duty Trump states: West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and the increasingly purple Arizona. These were state-wide revolts, all in places with relatively weak state teacher unions, which did not lead or even support some of the early actions by the rank and file, but jumped on board when they saw which way the wind is blowing. Many of the teachers were Trump supporters.

Now we are poised to see the first big city in the bluest of states join the fray with the successful Chicago charter school teacher strike and the upcoming Los Angeles Teachers Union (UTLA) strike in January. And in Oakland, teachers are increasingly restive, with one group going on a wildcat (no official union leadership support) sick out. While the Oakland wildcats came from the rank and file, Chicago and LA actions are union led.

A report from Capital and Main, a California newsletter:
“Two California teachers unions, which are currently deadlocked in separate contract talks with their respective school districts, are on the verge of launching the West Coast’s biggest teacher walkout since 1989. What happens next will decide far more than fair wages for career educators. At stake are broader principles of equity, expressed as contract demands for smaller class sizes and less testing, the addition of sufficient health and social services staff, and an investment in community schooling and fair funding — aimed at restoring public education as a public good for all Californians, rather than as a private interest granted to the lucky few…” -- https://capitalandmain.com/learning-curves-los-angeles-and-oakland-teachers-rally-amid-deadlocked-contract-talks-1214

The Los Angeles teacher union is led by a very progressive group with Alex Caputo-Pearl as the leader. He has a very firm vision of a teacher union being focused on issues beyond the membership but also inclusive of the students, their families and their communities. Any teacher knows that the conditions their students live in has an enormous impact on their working conditions. And the reverse is also true. Satisfied and happy teachers have a positive impact on the learning conditions of students.

Chicago Teacher Union rank and file at 15 charter schools vote overwhelmingly to approve contract in wake of first strike of charter operator in U.S. history… Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).
Educational historian Diane Ravitch comments: The billionaire backers of charter schools must be furious. The teachers at one of Chicago’s biggest charter chains organized a union and negotiated successfully for higher pay, smaller classes, and protection of their students from ICE. The main reason the billionaires support charter schools is to snuff out unions and their demands.

And speaking of wealthy charter backers, this headline caught my eye: U.S. “Working” to Extradite Cleric to Turkey. The cleric is the reclusive Fethullah Gullen, who has established the largest network of charter schools in the this nation, though they hide their connections to Gullen. He is the major enemy of thuggish Turkey President Erdogan, equally despicable. Hmmm, who to root for? If Gullen is sent back to Turkey, the fate of his charters, all non-union, may hang in the balance.

Michael Moore film and education
Last week, Rockaway Women for Progress sponsored the latest Moore film, Where to Invade Next. Moore “invades” a variety of  nations to “steal” their best ideas to bring back to us. He examines the education system in Finland, which is often considered a model and is in many ways diametrically opposite to the system we have here in the states. Testing is minimal, neighborhood schools are supreme, there are no competitive charters, and 100% of the teachers, who have a major role in educational policy, are in the union.

I’ll close with this: Examine the history of nationalism over the past 150 years and the ensuing wars before jumping on board that train.

See Norm hop off that train at ednotesonline.com.

-->

Saturday, December 15, 2018

UTLA - Blue State Teacher Rebellion - 50,000 March

“If we are forced to strike, it will be to defend our schools; but it will also be because we think our kids deserve more and we deserve more, because we dare to have high expectations,” Caputo-Pearl said to the cheering crowd. “If we strike, it is all of our strike. When we win, it is all of our victory. Are we going to win for our schools? Are we going to win for our kids?” 
This is the way to do strike prep with an inclusive message for all. I've been very impressed by the strategy being followed by the leadership of the UTLA. They have not talked about teachers only. Calling for similar actions here in NYC will be mocked. One difference between LA and NYC: The opposition actually ran to win and did.

Diane Ravitch reports:
More than 50,000 March for Public Education in LA

LOS ANGELES — In a historic march, tens of thousands of students, parents, educators and community members marched through the streets of Los Angeles today to demand a reinvestment in public education and that the Los Angeles Unified School District stop hoarding the record-shattering $1.9 billion in reserves and use it immediately on our students, our schools and our classrooms.
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told the massive, picket-holding and banner-waving crowd that if there is no settlement by next month, “we will strike in January.”
“If we are forced to strike, it will be to defend our schools; but it will also be because we think our kids deserve more and we deserve more, because we dare to have high expectations,” Caputo-Pearl said to the cheering crowd. “If we strike, it is all of our strike. When we win, it is all of our victory. Are we going to win for our schools? Are we going to win for our kids?”
Then tens of thousands people began the march, chanting throughout the streets of downtown, bringing the momentum and energy of the national teacher rebellion to the doorstep of the nation’s second-largest school district.
The massive demonstration then walked from City Hall, chanting as they marched side by side to demand Supt. Austin Beutner and LAUSD fulfill the promise and hope of a quality public education for all, not just some. The march ended in front of the Broad Museum tohighlight the destructive role billionaires like Eli Broad play in draining money from our public schools and funding privatization schemes like the portfolio model.
“Eli Broad fought against school funding measures and he has funded the charter industry to undermine neighborhood public schools,” Caputo-Pearl said. “Broad has made LA a national experiment in privatization. Who’s ready to turn the tables on that? Who’s ready to fight for the nurses our students need? Who’s ready to fight for the counselors our students need? Who’s ready to fight for the class sizes our students need?”
United Teachers Los Angeles has been in contract negotiations with LAUSD for more than 18 months. In August, 98 percent of union members voted to authorize a strike. Negotiations are near the end of the fact-finding stage, after which the school district can impose its last, best, and final proposal and UTLA members can strike.
With class sizes that are too high and not enough resources in their classrooms and attacks to their profession, teachers are fighting for a profound reinvestment in Los Angeles schools. LAUSD has yet to make any meaningful progress on UTLA’s contract demands, including the ones that don’t cost money or would even save money, such as stopping overtesting and giving parents and educators a voice in school budgets.


https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-teachers-march-20181215-story.html

Thousands of LAUSD teachers march in downtown Los Angeles as union moves closer to calling first strike in nearly 30 years

https://ktla.com/2018/12/15/l-a-teachers-supporters-march-in-downtown-demanding-more-funding-for-schools/

LAUSD Teachers March in DTLA as Union Moves Closer to Calling First Strike in Nearly 30 Years


Defying Predictions, Union Membership Isn't Dropping Post-Janus - Governing.com

The UFT expects a right wing blitz to get people to leave the union in June when the window opens up. That was the reason they say they wanted the elections out of the way early. I guess Unity can sell the fact that they own every single seat on the Ex Bd as a sign that they are so popular and doing such a good job for the members. Or it can be taken that there is squeeze in the UFT on democracy and voices are stifled.

Below is not a pro-union perspective but some interesting points. Thanks to Mike Antonucci for publishing the link.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was expected to diminish union membership. But so far, many unions have actually increased their numbers since the verdict. Conservative groups are working to reverse that trend in the long run.
December 10, 2018

Union activists and supporters rally against the Supreme Court's ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case. (AP/Karla Ann Cote)

Friday, December 14, 2018

State of the Union (UFT): Elections and the Opposition Caucuses - A Continuing Saga - Part 1

Introduction

Over the next 4 months I will be doing a series of posts on the state of the union in the UFT, tapping into information about all the caucuses.

I can only hope that the folly of 3 opposition caucuses comes to an end and a strong force to stand up to Unity Caucus emerges to penetrate deeply enough into the schools to reach the 99.9% of the rank and file who don't give a crap about the caucuses.

That is what I will fight for -- bringing people, even with different political tendencies, under one banner to force change in the UFT. I am getting as much of this information on record before I lose all my faculties as a possible lesson for future activists in the UFT. Untangling this mess will take more than one blog.

Having been an active participant in the UFT opposition politics since 1970, I would say this is the weakest state of the opposition for decades, if not ever. With the opening of the UFT election season, it is time to review the disastrous state of the opposition to Unity Caucus as Unity is set to win every single seat on the Executive Board for the first time since the 1993 elections.

The opposition of three caucuses under the NAC label (since the 1981 election) had won 13 Ex Bd seats in 1991 and also won the high school VP in 1985. Now we have regressed to having 3 opposition caucuses running on their own and splitting the usual 10-12,000 opposition votes in the UFT.

So in this, and upcoming posts, let me survey the state of the UFT opposition from an historical and current perspective and why things look so dismal for the growth of the opposition in the future as we live deja vu all over again.

While I remain involved in the periphery of MORE I am non-sectarian in terms of other caucuses. I like the people in New Action and the work they do and I have tried to make peace with the people in Solidarity. I continue to organize ICEUFT meetings once a month and invite people from all caucuses to come. I think we are the one place where all groups can sit down and talk.

For the first time since the 2004 elections, there will be 3 opposition slates to choose from in the UFT elections.
  • New Action
  • MORE
  • Solidarity 
  • ICEUFT remains in operation but as a non-participant in elections.
This is the most confusion since 2004 when there were actually 4 opposition caucuses, with ICE being the newest. But At least in 2004 ICE and TJC were on the ballot in separate lines but ran a joint cross-endorsed slate for the high schools against New Action and won them (ICE ran with PAC as ICE-PAC). The last time before 2004 I can remember where there were 3 opposition slates on the ballot was - well, never. So we are in unprecedented territory here.

I've written a few blogs about the current situation with the opposition in the UFT:
UFT Election Season Opens, Does Anybody Care?
UFT Election Update: It's Beat Up MORE Time as it ...
UFT Caucus and Election History: 1962 - Present

Let me point out that none of the caucuses have more than 20-50 real members - actually less -  and in fact each are run by a small coterie of people numbering single digits who make the real decisions. Imagine -- the truly active core of all the opposition groups total 30 at most.

The saddest is MORE, which had so much promise when it was founded in 2012 and now seem proud to have shrunk in the name of unity under a single political line which it thinks will resonate with the membership. (More on MORE isolationism in future posts.)

Election petitions go out at the January 16, 2019 Del Ass and are due in mid-February. Ballots go out in mid March and are due back by April 16, with the count April 17. As a non-participant in the elections for the first time since 2001, the outcome will provide some lessons and will be fascinating to watch.

I'm urging a boycott for the election process - not only a boycott against Unity but also against an opposition that cannot come together, with each group trying to convince people that their position is best.

Why would people choose any of them? How could any of them claim they could run the union when they can't even agree with each other?

The number of non-voters will be a vote and send a message to the opposition to get their houses in order before the 2022 election.


Monday, December 10, 2018

The Wildcat Underground: Oakland Teachers Pull Wildcat


We are teachers who have waited long enough

We are teachers, counselors, and other school workers at Oakland High School in Oakland, California. We have worked without a contract for more than a year.
We are prepared to strike if and when our union makes that choice.
Until then, we will carry out our own wildcat actions to spur the Oakland Unified School District to negotiate in good faith with our union.
Our first action is an Educators' Day Out work stoppage on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018.
Although we are all, individually, members of the Oakland Education Association, our Wildcat Underground actions are not sanctioned by the OEA. ......
The Wildcat Underground

This is beyond red state rebellion. I have had contacts in Oakland and will touch base. Meanwhile--

Mike Antonucci reports:
Unlike LA, however, rifts have developed between the leaders of the Oakland Education Association and factions of the rank-and-file. Today teachers at Oakland High School organized a sickout that was not sanctioned by the union. One source reports at least four other schools are involved.

“People were sick of the very slow moving and uninspiring actions being proposed by the union itself,” teacher Miles Murray told the Bay City News Service.

Posted: 10 Dec 2018 09:43 AM PST
While our attention has been focused on the impending teacher strike in Los Angeles, public school employees in Oakland are also in the fact-finding stage of collective bargaining and could hit the picket lines in January as well.

Unlike LA, however, rifts have developed between the leaders of the Oakland Education Association and factions of the rank-and-file.

Today teachers at Oakland High School organized a sickout that was not sanctioned by the union. One source reports at least four other schools are involved.

“People were sick of the very slow moving and uninspiring actions being proposed by the union itself,” teacher Miles Murray told the Bay City News Service.

“Now is the time for this movement to happen, and the union is moving too slow,” teacher Alex Webster-Guiney told KQED. “They need to be supporting the grassroots movement of their members.”
OEA has issued no statement about the sickout.

Although the union’s contract demands are similar to those in Los Angeles, the district has always been a cautionary tale of financial mismanagement. The state took over Oakland Unified in 2003 and didn’t return local control until 2009.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

French Revolution 2.0? Neither left nor right with touches of both

The demands of the so-called Yellow Vests in France are similar to those of other populist movements, but the uprising is not tied to any political party, let alone to a right-wing one --- NYT
The Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) movement in France is at a turning point. .... While it is true that there were lumpen and far-right elements in the demonstrations over the weekend, these were marginal. From the beginning, the yellow vests movement has penetrated into very deep layers of society, with Front National voters and middle-class elements taking part alongside the working class and trade unionists.... Marxist. com
Left, right and center. Unity. Class unity and class struggle,  the dream of Marxists. Except that along the way, there will be intervention from left and right which will undermine and destroy the movement. And never forget infiltration from the government to sow seeds of distrust.

What is going on in France requires some analysis especially to seek any relevance for us here or even on the broader stage. I'm hoping we can do some of this analysis at next Friday's ICEUFT meeting.


I was impressed with some aspects of Thursday's NYT article
 How France’s ‘Yellow Vests’ Differ From Populist Movements Elsewhere

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/world/europe/yellow-vests-france.html

Definitely worth a read - see below the fold.

Then today I came across this analysis from Marxist.com:

France in a “state of insurrection” as the yellow vests advance

https://www.marxist.com/france-in-a-state-of-insurrection-as-the-yellow-vests-advance.htm?fbclid=IwAR1ZQMbPUDob-bdV05n7ntMonIgeOGdQG5hyDzyaEYYbQyIwqJJUXPyarDE

For those - like me --  with a critical perspective of the Marxist left it is always fun to see the wishful thinking - you know, the usual chaos, mayhem and massive overturning of institutions and society. Marxists of course believe all this is inevitable and see signs of crack all over the place in capitalism. And the inevitable move to a perfect socialist system where everybody loves each other.

The article points out that the standard left and right in France have been caught tailing behind the movement, which seems to be un-led. Left annalists are not very comfortable with these kinds of spontaneous movements. They look like anarchy and the traditional left is very uncomfortable with anarchistic movements. Eventually leaders on the left and/or right or even from the center try to take over, which created dilution  and splits.
The organised working class has begun to enter the struggle (although the labour union leaders have dragged their feet), as have students, who are occupying their institutions in solidarity and raising their own demands. But despite Macron’s attempt to defuse the situation, the explosion of anger and frustration at years of austerity and inequality has acquired a logic of its own, and it will not be easy to put the genie back in the bottle.
Reminds me of the red state teacher revolts which caught the union leaders by surprise and of course they are always tailing the classroom-based teachers.

Class hatred

The yellow vest movement initially started in peripheral towns, cities and rural areas across France (residents of wich rely on personal vehicles to get to work, and thus will be hit severely by a higher fuel tax) and it includes many women and single mothers. Most are low-income workers, including secretaries, IT workers, factory workers, delivery workers and care workers – in short, people who are most affected by rising costs and wage stagnation. These working class and poor middle-class layers are resentful of years of being squeezed through austerity and increasing living costs, and are now expressing a deep hatred of the rich and the Macron government that represents them....
The class character of the yellow vests, and their loathing for the rich, became clear during the demonstration in Paris on Saturday. Acts of vandalism hit the wealthy west and centre of the city, with storefronts smashed and looted, dozens of expensive cars burnt and the Arc de Triomphe covered in anti-government graffiti, along with the slogan: “The yellow vests will triumph.” The protestors smashed the windows of a newly opened Apple Store (AAPL.O) and luxury boutiques of Chanel and Dior, scrawling “Merry Mayhem” on a wooden board and pinning it to the facade. Of course, there were also some lumpen and criminal elements taking advantage of this situation, but that is not the main character of the movement.
And the police over react. The article points out that the French revolution came out of protests against taxes.
Unsurprisingly, the capitalist class are horrified at the protests. Not just because it is bad for business around the Christmas period or because of rising fuel shortages due to spontaneous blockades at depots, but because of the fear that this movement could develop into a threat towards the regime as a whole.
 as the movement has begun to radicalise and the working class imprint on it increase, a lot of the rubbish on the right is being thrown out and the class contradictions within it have become clearer. For example, another viral video shows Yvan Benedetti, former president of the ultranationalist group L'Œuvre française (himself dressed in a high-visibility jacket), being attacked and driven off by anti-fascists within the yellow vests.

There is a paradox in the current French standoff, as Mr. Macron’s rise was itself predicated on sweeping away existing political parties, and on a rejection of traditional intermediaries like labor unions.
There's a lot of meat in this article, so check it out here. And look for the wishful thinking aspects.
And here is the NYT article below:

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

First Charter Chain Strike Today in Chicago - 500 at 15 UNO/Acero

Chicago educators at Acero charter schools go on strike, a first for the independently operated campuses - Chicago Tribune

The leadership of the CTU came under some criticism for organizing charter school teachers into the CTU because it was viewed as helping keep charters alive rather than trying to drive a stake in the heart of the movement. They certainly seem to be having more succcess than the UFT has been having.

Here is this morning's report from the CTU:

Monday, December 3, 2018

UFT Election Season Opens, Does Anybody Care?

Well, apparently some people care. Just not enough to make much of a difference. Today, the UFT Ex Bd will set up the election timetable. There is an election committee chaired by Amy Arundell. They met last week with one rep from each of three caucuses plus a dozen Unity Caucus members. Why shouldn't Unity get a 12-1 advantage?

Below is the column I submitted to The WAVE for publication Dec 7.

I'm still holding to my boycott the election position.

School Scope: UFT Election Season Opens, Does Anybody Care?
By Norm Scott

The UFT has announced its timetable for the upcoming UFT elections. Petitioning will take place from mid-January to mid-February and ballots will go out late March, to be returned by mid-April. I already know the results not because I can read the future but because I can read the past.

Every three years the 200,000 member United Federation of Teachers, elects its leadership. Actually, it re-elects its leadership, as it has done since the union was founded in 1962. Many UFT members are not aware that there are political parties – caucuses - in the UFT. There are a number of them. Currently they are MORE, New Action and Solidarity. ICE-UFT was an election caucus through 2010, but currently exists to meet in a diner once a month to gossip about the other caucuses and eat rice pudding.

Unity Caucus has won every election and has set up rules to assure its election in perpetuity. Sort of like those Republican controlled states which have gerrymandered their way to victory. At least there is a chance every10 years to make changes. Not so in the UFT, which is fundamentally a monarchy.

The only area of weakness shown by Unity has been in the high schools, where Unity has lost by a small margin in almost every election since the early 90s. There are about 20,000 high school UFT members, of which about 4500 voted in the last election. The opposition, if they can agree to unite for the elections without scratching each others’ eyes out, can win the seven (out of 101) Executive Board seats. In 2013 Unity garnered a paltry 1580 high school votes. The opposition did even worse but smartened up by coming together in 2016 and won with 2350 votes. Not exactly a mandate but it was still 150 more than Unity got. Actually, Unity increased its vote by about 500 from 2013. But still, embarrassing. The Unity Caucus union leadership, with all its advantages, can garner the support of only 2200 out of potential 20,000 votes. Sad.

As for the rest of the UFT, there is fundamentally one big yawn among the 70% of the membership which doesn’t vote.

One would think you’d have to be nuts to get involved in an election you have no chance to win. But lo and behold, in every election cycle, one or more non-Unity caucuses decide to throw their chalk into the ring. I, for instance, have been a very active participant in every election cycle with a variety of caucuses since the 2004 election. That’s five elections where I ended up putting in months of work. For the record, I am nuts.

In the 2016 election my goal was to win the seven high school Executive Board seats and we accomplished that. This time none of the three caucuses could come together, so there will be three opposition groups competing for those 2300 votes. Which means, Unity will win the high schools in addition to every other position. Yes, I’ve been nuts when it comes to UFT elections over the past 15 years. Not this time.

Norm’s nuts at ednotesonline.com

UFT Contract Vote: Comparing 2014 and 2018

Someone in MORE put this together. Do your own interpretation of the data. In 2018 More people voted yes. Less people voted. Note the total number drop in NO votes by teachers from 16k+ to 8k+.
I was speaking to a band member last night at the cast party at the RTC and he is a MS science teacher -- looked to be around 30. Non-political in terms of UFT. Not unhappy with school or principal. While recognizing the pay compared to inflation issue, he said the key to him was the less observations and he supported the contract as moving in the right direction. He didn't talk about health care.










Saturday, December 1, 2018

School Scope: I Don’t Get It - Norm in The WAVE


Submitted for publication, November 30, 2018, www.rockawave.com


School Scope: I Don’t Get It
By Norm Scott

I don’t get it: That the opposition caucuses in the UFT can’t seem to come together to run against the ruling party of the UFT – Unity Caucus – which as controlled the union since its inception almost 60-years ago. So unless there’ s a change, three groups will be competing for the roughly one quarter of those who bother to vote against Unity in almost every election, though in the high schools the opposition vote is generally over 50%, which has allowed the opposition to win the seven high school executive board seats. UFT elections every three years are stacked in favor of Unity, especially due to the potential votes of retirees, who are happy campers who have left their classroom concerns far behind. They might as well not waste their time running at all, which perfectly suits me. The UFT is fundamentally a one-party system and we should treat it that way.  I say boycott the elections, which by the way, 70% of the members do anyway by not bothering to vote in the first place. Hmmm, maybe they figured it all out way before I did.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Memo from the RTC: Doubling Up on Pippin By Norm Scott

Last weekend to see the show.

Memo from the RTC:  Doubling Up on Pippin
By Norm Scott

Substance: News analysis: Is CORE founder Jackson Potter's power starting to fade?

His eloquence and brilliant mind on display during the board meetings resulted in former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Arne Duncan, who later became Obama's education secretary, to remark that he wanted Potter to work for him. Nobody worked harder than Potter to make CORE the leader of the CTU today. He began passing out flyers, organizing meetings and perhaps most importantly, understanding the role politics would play to inspire teachers to fight for a new union.
Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey were put into power courtesy of Potter. He invited Lewis to join his caucus and made sure she got elected to the steering committee to run it. He gave his blessing for Sharkey to serve as Karen's running mate, and eventually replace her as CTU president. .... Jim Vail, Substance
Jim Vail, who I've met a few times, dissects the role Jackson Potter has payed. Jackson has had enormous influence over the past decade as the key organizer of CORE. He always seemed like a political genius and at one time was a close associate of the late George Schmidt. CORE won the election to run the CTU in 2010 and we all got to hang out together at the AFT convention in Seattle a few weeks later, where the CTU delegates pushed back against Randi and Unity on certain issues. By 2012 when there were about to strike, they had pulled back from challenging Randi because they bigger enemy was local. By 2014 they were totally in Randi's fold.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

UFT Election Update: It's Beat Up MORE Time as it Pulls a Garbo

I had advocated for MORE to either run with everyone or not to run. I made the case for not running but for using the election to run an educational campaign on some crucial issues, including why the election is bogus since Unity will always win. It is no accident that 70% of UFT members don't vote - because the election is meaningless to most people. I can predict the outcome right now -- 25% anti-Unity votes split 3 ways. What surprised me at the meeting last week was how many people in MORE were reluctant to run and wanted to spend the time building up the organization and their own chapters. These were mostly the new people who have not been involved in elections before and seemed to want to do more interesting things. A few more votes and MORE would not be running. So I am hopeful for the future. ..... Norm on the UFT elections

Well, the bloggers are out (see links below) with some brutal attacks on the MORE Caucus for "vanting to be alone" in the UFT elections.
For the record, my position in MORE was to run with everyone in a full-fledged, full slate election to challenge Unity everywhere or to not run at all. (More on this below).

We all know we can't win a bogus election so why try? 7 seats out of 102 on the UFT Ex Bd is a toehold but that is all it is.

Opposition Caucii have run in tandem over the past 40 years and the results are pretty much the same - at most win the high school seats.

What's wrong with 3 running on their own programs and seeing it they have support? I assume about 10-12000 people will vote anti-Unity.

MORE doesn't want to waste its time in an unwinnable election and doesn't want to waste time negotiating with other caucuses on platform and other election issues when it can run its own campaign with its own line. No one is winning, so why not get your own 2 pages in the NY Teacher?

I have my own reasons to beat up some people in MORE - like the 17 who signed an email asking me and others from ICE to leave -- but I won't go there at this point. We refused to leave because we had helped found and build the caucus and weren't going to walk away even when we witnessed some ugly stuff.

There are some really good young teachers in MORE and people are attacking them for being too left. I am somewhat left politically myself, though I have to say that some of my experiences with sectarian leftists have somewhat soured me on the left.

There are a bunch of newbies --  Democratic Socialists -- maybe some Bernie people -- so I'm fine with MORE being a left caucus. As long as they pay attention to what's going on in the schools and not go off on tangent after tangent. I liked that they took a stand against the contract. I feel every contract should be opposed until we have 20 in a class.

ICE was/is a fairly left group but independent and open left -- a big tent. The difference is the level of sectarianism in MORE where one line is the accepted one and there was a dangerous and undemocratic move to purge people who voted against that line.

That the line is fundamentally the same one we saw coming out of Teachers for a Just Contract for 20 years before they went defunct upon the founding of MORE is sort of amusing. I mean, one reason we founded ICE was to counter the TJC line. The ICE/TJC tensions never went away and I would pin the recent splits in MORE went along those lines. Maybe it wasn't possible to put these two caucuses into one group. We were warned by some ICE people who would not join MORE, claiming it would be taken over by ISO sectarians. And so it has come to pass. (Many on the left avoided TJC because it was known to be controlled by ISO and an organization called Solidarity (not the caucus) which is behind Labor Notes. The Labor Notes line has come to dominate MORE.

What is that old TJC line? That the contract is the focal point -- remember we joked that it was Teachers for Just a Contract (and nothing much else). The other angle used to be to talk strike prep - this time with a new twist -- look at the red state teacher revolts as a model. I don't believe it will work here but if it works on people the more power to them. What makes the current version of MORE different from TJC is the heavy social justice rhetoric.

Depending on outcomes, these positions don't last forever so we never know what will happen.

ICE is a free for all. And as long as ICE keeps meeting over the rice pudding I am fine. And Gloria, Lisa and I am working with New Action people in the Retiree Advocate. And though I get hot in the collar at times I'm trying to find common ground with Solidarity Caucus.

In fact I'm having fun trying to be the Jolly Old Fellow.
A little election background: I had advocated for MORE to either run with everyone or not to run. I made the case for not running but for using the election to run an educational campaign on some crucial issues, including why the election is bogus since Unity will always win. It is no accident that 70% of UFT members don't vote - because the election is meaningless to most people. I can predict the outcome right now -- 25% anti-Unity votes split 3 ways. What surprised me at the meeting last week was how many people in MORE were reluctant to run and wanted to spend the time building up the organization and their own chapters. These were mostly the new people who have not been involved in elections before and seemed to want to do more interesting things.

A few more votes and MORE would not be running. So I am hopeful for the future. Not running in the election but engaging in a campaign for a better union was the very position I took when MORE first formed for the 2013 election and I was one of the few people to support this.

Since MORE didn't grow - and even shrank by the 2016 election, I began a year earlier in 2015 by again urging MORE not to run. But then Arthur, Mike S and James Eterno convinced me how bad they wanted to beat Unity for the high school seats and I changed my mind and put my energy into that election.

It was we who suggested in the summer of 2015 that MORE reach out to New Action to run a joint campaign. They were sort of slow moving and we actually didn't get their candidates until pretty late - and even had to draft someone at the last minute when one of theirs dropped out.

There were some people even then who were not happy with running with New Action, but the enthusiastic response to the news dampened them. Now the anti- New Action people seem to have prevailed. In the meantime, in June 2015 Portelos declared he was running for president with Solidarity and they insisted we all should run together with him as the presidential candidate.

I won't go into the ugly details of why none of the other groups wanted to run with him. I'm trying to be in a peaceful mode and when I see him I have a nice time talking about union stuff. When it was announced that MORE and New Action had gotten together for the 2016 elections, there was joy in Mudville over the alliance of the old and the new -- really the 3 active caucuses of the early 2000s -- NAC, ICE and TJC. We knew we could win the high school seats.

I disagree with MORE's decision to run alone but understand MORE has very limited resources to put into an election. Thus the better option was to not run. I will continue to call for people to boycott Yet Another Bogus Election - YABE. Here are the links to the blogs: