Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Giving up on the UFT Delegate Assembly

The following was distributed at the UFT citywide chapter leader meeting on Sept. 25.

Education Notes has been distributed at almost every Delegate Assembly since 1996. Roughly 100 editions of the paper, in various formats from mimeographs to full newsprint tabloids.

The last regular print edition of Education Notes will be distributed at the October Delegate Assembly and will only publish in print when there are special issues on the table.

Why stop now?

Ed Notes began when I was a chapter leader and delegate as a means of establishing a regular communication with the members of the Delegate Assembly to counter the Unity Caucus spin.

The initial purpose of Ed Notes was to inform delegates of motions I was going to present in advance to meet the “has to be printed if 3 lines or more” rule. I would inform Randi Weingarten before the meeting where I was sitting. Initially, things worked out, with Randi even declaring to the DA “I love reading Ed Notes.” But then again, I wasn’t overly critical of her and Unity Caucus at that point, thinking that as a new President, she would bring a breath of fresh air to a union that was in much need of reform. I also felt that with New Action being such a weak (and pathetic opposition even then) that only by getting Unity people to back reforms would we see the kind of democratic changes that would prepare for the coming attacks. New Action even began spreading rumors that Randi was funding Ed Notes. Ironic in the light of New Action’s total sell out in years to come.

At some point it became clear that I was being avoided when Weingarten wasn’t happy with my motion, even canceling the new motion period (the only opportunity for rank & file delegates) at one point. I angrily told her that in all my years at the DA (since 1971) neither Shanker nor Feldman had ever gone that far. The final straw came in 2001 when I spent 4 months trying to get a motion calling for the UFT to reject all schemes that hint at merit pay. That was followed soon after by Weingarten’s endorsement of mayoral control, a clear disaster for members of the UFT. (I had been in touch with George Schmidt in Chicago.)

It was clear there would not only be no reform under Weingarten but she would take the control and manipulation of the membership to new heights. And so she has. At that point Ed Notes went into opposition mode which led to the formation of ICE by supporters of the paper after the New Action sell-out left a void.

I won’t go into the history of the past 5 years. Just look at your schools and the state of the union at the school level where pre-UFT conditions prevail in so many places. From Kahlenberg’s new Shanker bio: “Shanker was assaulted by a student, but when he asked for help from the principal he was told, ‘This would not have happened if you had motivated your students.’” That was 1952. “Administrators were in a position to play favorites, assigning some teachers to ‘administrative assignments’ and others to the most violent classes. At long drawn out faculty conferences “teachers sat there seething.”

Back to the future.

So, why stop publishing the print edition of Ed Notes now? Ed Notes continues to be more active than ever on the ednotesonline blog. But with Unity Caucus more tightly in control than ever and a DA that reminds me of the Roman Senate in the declining years of the Republic, the idea of reaching out to people at the Delegate Assembly seems fruitless.

Weingarten has turned the DA into a farce. Why not just put up a video of her hour long report on the web and save everyone the trip?

The past few months of last school year took things to a new level. With 10 items waiting on the agenda, a deputy mayor and DOE reps from the reorganization are brought to the April DA and a meeting gets extended until after 6:30. One blogger, a member of New Action, actually complained about this on his blog. Where was he at the meeting raising a protest at the outrage? Only silence. And silence from most of the opposition, including some of my colleagues in ICE. They seem to have given up on the DA too.

The outrage continued at the next DA when Manhattan chapter leaders, who voted 19-1 to call for discussion at the June DA on a rally against the reorganization, had their resolution overwhelmingly defeated. Nothing better illustrates the disconnect between the schools and the Unity Caucus leadership when nineteen chapter leaders representing probably a thousand to fifteen hundred members are turned down in the attempt to discuss - I repeat “Discuss” - the idea of a rally. (By the way, are you still happy with the cancellation of the May 9th rally?)

But it went further. When Kit Wainer rose to defend himself against Jeff Zahler’s red-baiting attacks, Weingarten had the nerve to suggest that the body read all 10 resolutions while he spoke so they could be voted on en masse. When someone objected, she incredulously said, “Well, people have been waiting for these for so long, it is not fair to obstruct them.”

No one called a point of information to remind the delegates about the deputy mayor and all the DOE people at the previous DA. Farce, indeed!

At that point I said “Enough.”

It seems the overwhelming majority of delegates and CL have accepted the rationale of the Unity spinmeisters that the UFT leadership bears absolutely no responsibility for the events of the last 5 years. They are coated with Teflon. Similar to the way BloomKlein have become the heros of the nation for basically destroying the union at the ground level. It confirms a new insight - that the most important job in the world – one I would urge any young person to go into – is public relations.

In fact, the UFT leadership have been enablers of BloomKlein. And all too many members of the DA have been enablers of the leadership. If they won’t look at themselves in the mirror and see that the conditions for most rank and file teachers resemble those that existed before the birth of the UFT, there is no point in Ed Notes trying to convince them otherwise.

I pity the rank and file. To survive they have to fight a 2 front war – against a horrendous assault on them by BloomKlein and with a collaborationist leadership that has shown a masterful ability to coopt and deflect any hint of militancy that might arise. I can go into numerous examples but you will have to read them on the ednotesonline blog, where daily I post the outrages of the BloomWeinKlein team.

Have I given up? Not at all. Not with the loads of emails coming in from teachers in schools all over the city that have been decimated by BloomKlein who are screaming for a union that will truly stand up for them. Increasingly, teachers are beginning to take action on their own, in small groups. The U-rated, rubber rooms, ATR’s are beginning to make their voices known. The biggest threat they face to this movement is from a union that will leap in to gain control of them by promising action with words, not deeds. They will get high level meetings which will impress them no end. But in the end the most vocal might get a behind the scenes transfer or some special deal that will separate them from the rest of the group.

Deflection, cooptation, delay. Or form a committee.

I will continue to work with ICE and support TJC. But from now on I will only attend Delegate Assemblies purely for the entertainment value – and for the post DA visit to a local pub with the regular DA gang. Join us. If you are an independent delegate, skip the meeting and go directly to the pub where the real delegate assembly will take place.



  2. Thanks for being the voice of dissent for so long. If only the rest of us had realized what was going on. Teaching takes so much time and energy...that's my excuse, anyway. What do I have to show for all my effort and dedication now? A big fat "U"! I will never forget what they have done to me, and I will never trust the Union or the Department of Education to do the right thing. It's time to fight back. I'm glad that abused teachers are forming organizations outside the Union. We are very talented,intelligent people. When we put down our chalk and join together, Watch out!

  3. Maybe with the money you save from publishing ed notes, you can pay for a really good psychiatrist.

  4. I responded to an earlier post, and will do it again for anon. 6:26: "Why is it when you get a comment like 6.26 pm you know it's a Unity hack?
    Lack of substance, inane personalization, red herrings. Just pass over these."

    Last time I ended with "They're so irrelevant," which needs qualification. They're irrelevant only in that they are puerile.

    But as signposts to the complete absence of REAL Unity response to any of these posts - they're not of insignificant value. You can use these bits of idiocy to remind yourself of:

    -- The $$$,$$$ salaries that feed these mouths

    -- The censorship of oppositional posts on its own blog (which they don't recognize as ours, too, by the way), and

    -- The obsolescence of this union.

    Because one thing is for sure: Unity has no intention of building this membership into a political labor force of any strength.

  5. Thank you for your years of insight and union activism. Of course, I will continue to follow you electronically. Unfortunately, you are like the experienced teachers in my school, now a thing of the past.
    Why not combine your robotics activity with your union activities and have all the smart kids you work with come up with a robotic UFT president whose mission is to save the teaching profession in New York City? Even the losing teams would produce something more substantial then what we have now. See you on the screen. Thanks again.

  6. Norm,
    Thanks for all the good work--and the explanation on line....

  7. Norm,

    Saw your post about no longer handing our Ednotes at DA meetings. I hope it doesn't mean you also plan to wind down the website.

    I also thought you might be interested in this piece from Union Democracy Review. We comment on the role of Edwize. I'd be interested in your feedback.

    Take care, Matt Noyes

    Surrendering to the internet: Democrats in spite of themselves?
    By Herman Benson and Matt Noyes

    "The independent internet, uncontrolled, poses an outside democratic challenge to any union establishment. If to mitigate that challenge, they establish their own forum where members can speak freely, they must accept the dangers of internal union democracy. We find them confronting that dilemma in the experiences of several of our most important unions..."--
    Do you support a strong, democratic labor movement? Consider signing up as a member of AUD, or making a donation. AUD relies on the individual contributions of union members to carry out our mission to promote a strong, democratic, and honest labor movement. Join or contribute online at

    Association for Union Democracy
    From the July-August 2007 issue of Union Democracy Review #169 Surrendering to the internet:
    Democrats in spite of themselves?

  8. Thanks for for all the years of ed notes. I always considered myself a somewhat political person and with the help of ed note it made me more aware on how our union operates. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  9. Thanks 9:53. I'm not going anywhere and will be as active as ever. I just will not distribute at the Delegate Assembly but will attend, take notes and provide you all with some laughs about what goes on.

  10. Norm,

    I can't say thank you enough for all your years of being the voice of not only dissent, but wisdom, information and rationality. It was when I first began receiving Ed Notes at my school that I began to be educated about those who were leading the Union and how they operated.. Throughout the years your voice has continued to educate and encourage activism. Yes, the day to day work in classrooms is very draining and stressful, but talking with colleagues, helping to educate them and encouraging them to vote wisely has been very satisfying . I know that the literature you have made available through Ed Notes and ICE (and that of TJC) has affected the way UFT members at my school look at our union and vote. Thank you. Please continue to keep us informed and aware through the cyberspace connection. It does reach far and wide.


  11. "DITTO", your insight has been very powerful for me.

  12. I will still be at the Delegate Assembly, as a delegate I think tha't s my responsiblilty. But, I understand your feelings, and I've begun to feel almost as cynical and disgusted. However, my stubbornness is winning, I will keep on pluggin away. One of the problems I had in the spring--which made me sit on my hands when I should not have, is my cynicism about Weingarten and the Unity loyalists. I didn't challenge Doctoroff in a fundamental way, and kicked myself after the DA for not having done so. When Weingarten wasted our time at that DA, and the one where she paraded the LSO idiots, I and others should have challenged her. I hope to do better.

    See you around,

  13. I'm going to miss Ed Notes and trust your wit will continue on the blog. It was a great run.

  14. You're not going to be distributing Ed Notes anymore? mean I'm going to have to buy my toilet paper now?

  15. Why not start a new publication dedicated to Ed-Notes. Call it DEAD-NOTES. Dedicated to a small group of DEAD-BEATS.

  16. "Why not start a new publication dedicated to Ed-Notes. Call it DEAD-NOTES. Dedicated to a small group of DEAD-BEATS."

    Bwah-hah-hah! It's funny cause it's true.

    Allow me to correct you though. Norm is not a dead beat, he is very his own mind!

  17. As a recently elected CL, I'm getting an eyeful. I was pressured into attending the new CL training in Princeton this past weekend. My DR said, "There will be ABUNDANT FOOD", as though that would be a valid and important reason to attend. I called to get my reservation number and learned that all of the UFT DR's and other non-CL's would be lodged in suites, while the lowly CL's would just get rooms.
    AND I have also learned from a relative teaching in Westchester that the building reps for NYSUT receive a $3000. per year stipend for all of their work. What do UFT CL's get? $5. a head, yep, $5. for each staff member. AND the UFT tells you to use it for, GUess what, FOOD for meetings in your school. Their motto is Feed them and they will come.
    I'm revolted by what I've seen in the past few weeks as a new CL. The former CL of my school said, "They're (the Unity caucus) very good to themselves. Wait, you haven't seen nothing yet".

  18. No other force or combination of powers will be able to keep alive Norman's ignorance, mean-spiritedness, anti-unionism, and duplicity. Norman: you were/are a one-man clown troop.

  19. The comment above was logged from an official UFT computer - which by the way visits this blog at least 5 times a day during supposed working hours. One would think Unity hacks actually had some work to do at the UFT offices. Next time you want to talk about duplicity why not do it on your own time and your own computer?

  20. And by the way, I even know which Unity hack you are. Want me to whisper it in your ear?

  21. It's against all the laws of math and human nature, but nonetheless you have shown by example how a person can spend tens of thousands of hours and burn trillions of calories of negative energy in an effort to make friends by organizing disgruntled people against this union's leadership and amount to just a big fat zero. Bravo, Mr. Dilettante and F-Status maven!

  22. And there's so little to be disgruntled about the leadership so I must be crazy. I know. I should have used those thousands of hours to suck up to the union leadership to scam me a job at 60 grand. Bet I could have even gotten a better deal than you did.

  23. Keep on preaching your UFT conspiracy theory Un-Norm-al. You must really miss tv's "The X Files". Maybe some day you'll find the smoking man.

    Then again, maybe some day you'll actually do something instead of just whining here in your little internet cavern.

    The joy and satisfaction you feel with your delusional sense of makes me laugh!

    Please, say something so that I may laugh again.


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