It has long been known how the UFT/Unity machine uses paid personnel in union elections. As most schools have Unity chapter leaders, they have a ready means of keeping control of the schools. But when they are faced with an independent chapter leader they use the district reps to try to intimidate them into not putting material in the boxes. And of course, we have constant reports of Dist. Reps going into these schools on union time to stuff Unity material in the boxes. If they see ICE-TJC lit, they even pull them out themselves.
For people who are not committed ICE or TJC activists (who they don't dare bother), these actions by the Dist Reps can be intimidating because in the union hierarchy the DR is the single most important person the CL, especially newer ones who feel very insecure in their knowledge, must deal with for help.
Now the use of this personnel has been standard operating procedure for the Unity machine.
What people don't realize is that the elections every three years for union officers are not as important as the elections for chapter leaders which occur the year before (next elections are spring 2012, which is where serious battles will take place when it becomes clear that Mulgrew will be as big a sellout as Weingarten). This is not an accident. Unity pulls in all new chapter leaders into training and uses those sessions to recruit them into Unity just in time for the big election the year after, which in most cases shuts down the ability of the opposition to reach those schools without schlepping physically into those buildings. Since ICE-TJC are working teachers, the ability to impact the vast majority of schools is minimal.
But even if they could get a leaflet into all the schools, that is minimal compared to having a thousand Unity people in the buildings actively bombarding people with pro-Unity material and intimidating people who are sympathetic to the opposition. In fact, Unity chapter leaders often just pull out the leaflets from the boxes after the ICE-TJC rep leaves. One ICE chapter leader who stuffed boxes throughout her district sent me this email:
Three years ago, in my district, many school chapter leaders who are Unity pulled out ICE-TJC literature and thrown them away. I have had teachers that I know call to tell me and even a security guard. Who knows what will happen this year?
Well, we know what is already happening this year. Yesterday I received this email from a non-ICE chapter leader who is an independent critic of the UFT leadership. It got ugly.
My district rep gave me an argument about putting ICE flyers in mailboxes. She said that everything gets back to her. I said that I have the right to do this, just as the New Action person had the right to come to my school and distribute, and that she had the right to come to do this.
She said that she doesn't see how I can think that a chapter leader could run the union. I pointed out that Mulgrew was a chapter leader, and so was she.
She was disgusting. Told me I am a member of Ice (you and I know that I'm not). I pointed out that Weingarten laid the groundwork for many of the problems that we are dealing with now. She said Weingarten isn't there anymore. I said that RW handpicked Mulgrew.
I mentioned Diane Ravitch. She said that Ravitch is mentoring Mulgrew. !!!!!!
Are they very threatened?
Now this District Rep (I am protecting the CL from retaliation of giving no support) is notoriously incompetent. When we blitzed her district in 2004 we were stopped at every single school by the Unity chapter leader, who told the principals we didn't have the right. Or they created so many delays on purpose that it just wasn't worth the time. So they win that battle. For now.
As I said, the opposition must have a critical mass of chapter leaders who will stand up to the Unity goons to make a dent. To all those who talk about the need for more ICE literature and advertising they are missing this essential point. I hear some say, "look at how Obama won!" Again they miss the point. Obama had a massive machine to support him. Over the past few years ICE and TJC have understood that and have focused on building this machine, which they had to start building from scratch when New Action, which had 40 years to build a machine, abandoned the fight and joined Unity. Much of the New Action vote, which was less than ICE-TJC last time, comes from this machine. Now that many NA people are retired, they have about 40 people going around schools pushing their stuff. And some people are not aware that they have sold out and just check the NA box thinking they are still the opposition - just this weekend a retired friend asked me if he should vote NA to vote for me. I gagged.
I can't tell you how many independent or ICE-leaning people are frightened to come out of the closet. We get anonymous pleas to put out lit but they don't send us their names and schools so we can get it to them.
Since I am available during the day, some people have asked me to come to their schools during lunch or come to a union meeting to give our point of view. Their Unity CL throws up all sorts of road blocks - like that's not allowed - but every Unity slug can come into the building at any time.
With ballots going out tomorrow (March 12) and must be returned by April 6 (the count is on Apr 7 and open to any UFT member), the consciousness about the election should rise. Since only 22% of the working teachers voted in the last election (the drop in Unity votes (and New Action too) was palpable while there was a rise in ICE-TJC votes, but still fairly negligible.
This year, we have focused on getting out the vote in the buildings we have people. For the first time we have attracted some newer teachers, including even a former Teach for America, to run with us. Still just a small group but a beginning of building that machine into the newer teacher crowd.
Teachers Unite and NYCORE have gotten involved by reaching out to their younger teacher constituency. They held a fabulous candidate forum last Friday with all 4 caucuses represented by Michael Fiorillo, Megan Behrent, Leo Casey and Michael Shulman (see a 10 minute slice:
ICE, TJC, Unity, New Action at TU/NYCORE Candidate Forum).
Today they are holding a Get Out the Vote training session (see side bar but you must rsvp as there is little space). I will be there to explain the process and take some video.