Sunday, April 4, 2010

UFT Elections: The Anti-Randi Factor

I was at dinner recently. "I didn't vote for ICE," said one of my friends. "I voted for Mulgrew. They say he's a nice guy. He should get a chance. He's a teacher. At least he's not a lawyer," she said with a sneer - an indication that the move from Randi to Mulgrew may give Unity some breathing room. Coming from a rank and file teacher who does not often show much union consciousness, the hostility directed at our former leader is another iteration of how deep RandiWear runs in the UFT.

The anti-Randi comments emanating from throughout the union - the rank and file and internally - I truly have not heard one positive comment said about her from within and without Unity Caucus- are an indication of the total sense of defeat people in the schools feel. When you talk about UFT policy errors to union officials, you get "Randi's not here anymore." You hear things like "Mulgrew doesn't take things personally like Randi did." A good thing. Who needs the angst? Randi seemed to read everything that people on the blogs said. What a waste of time. Mulgrew doesn't seem to give much of a crap what is said. Another good thing.

From the perspective of someone who is not involved in the daily machinations of the UFT as many of us are, the logic of my friend is not off the chart because she views Mulgrew as an individual and is not aware of the Unity machine and how Mulgrew is a product of that machine - a machine that endorsed and promoted and defended every single policy Randi espoused -and still espouses. Just watch all 800 Unity Caucus members traipse to Seattle to the AFT convention in July and cheer every word and awful policy she puts forth. We'll ask observers who are present to check the votes and watch 100% support for Randi from the NYC Unity crew.

The consciousness of Unity Caucus as an entity has not penetrated too deeply into the schools. Surprising you might think considering they have run the union for 50 years. That is part of the Unity strategy. Ask people in the schools if their chapter leader is in Unity and they often don't know. My sense is they are told not to tell their members. Or make much of a deal that many of them are going to Seattle this July to the AFT convention with our dues paying the freight.

It is the job of the opposition to make these connections and disseminate them far and wide and one of the failures has been to do this only every three years at election time, when there is easier access into schools. Now, if every UFT member read Ed Notes diligently, they would be fully aware of Unity and would see clearly that Mulgrew as a product of the machine will turn out to show cosmetic changes only.

So with the UFT election count just days away, the watch will be on to see whether Mulgrew is really more popular than Randi and if he is, does he have coattails for Unity as a caucus, which may take some hits for the conditions in the schools. Some people might show their dissatisfaction with Unity but vote for Mulgrew by choosing New Action. One chapter leader even told me some people in his school were voting for Mulgrew and the rest for ICE-TJC. That seemed pretty strange.

The drop in Unity votes over the last few election cycles is worth noting. I looked at the Ed Notes election report issues from 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2007 and will do some follow-ups over the next few days. The figures are fascinating to wonks like me.


Anonymous said...

Norm, you made a comment about if everyone read Ed Notes that they'd be aware of the so-called Unity machine.

Ed Notes is your blog, not an official ICE blog but none the less an extension of ICE.

However, I find it funny that you selectively choose how you portray ICE as solely a grassroots, draw a line in the sand movement. I think that if more people were aware of some of he more extreme viewpoints in ICE you'd be straight up out of luck. There's never a mention of the extreme socialists, the sparticis people, and the extreme revolutionary views that many who comprise ICE hold.

Also, I find it funny that whenever you've featured a piece by someone else running on the ICE ticket you enable comment moderation for it to control how others can respond. For instance, I really wanted to call BS on Peter Lamphere when he wrote about Unity loyalists being rewarded with after school jobs. You and I both know that some ICE members work these jobs too. I know that if I responded there about it and waited for moderator approval that comment would have never seen the light of day.

ed notes online said...

Ok. I'll actually give you a serious response for a change.

You clearly don't have a clue as to what ICE is all about. Ed Notes is not an extension of ICE but my own thing. ICE is a democratic group that does not endorse Ed Notes positions, which some in ICE consider extreme. Believe me, I am often in the minority in ICE on a number of issues. In fact, I have wanted to write a lot more about the UFT election realities but people in ICE asked me to hold back until after the elections. I have plenty of internal criticisms of ICE but choose to share them internally. However, since the goal is building an alternative to Unity that goes beyond ICE, I will share some of them soon.

As to extreme positions in ICE, there is quite a range in ICE. You'll notice the word "independent" in ICE. There is a reason for that. Independent of organized left or right wing groups, which when they try to penetrate ICE are rebuffed. But that is an internal thing.

Peter is TJC and ISO and one of the reasons ICE exists is because there were people who don't agree with some of the analysis they have had over the years. Peter doesn't hide his political leanings. I don't agree with some of them and some others in ICE don't agree either. Some others might. We are not Unity - thank God - and are able to express our opinions openly.

As to comment moderation, it has been turned on so I can filter the unbelievable amount of rediculous ads that are posted as comments, not to censure your just as rediculous comments. Unless you get really stupid, all your comments will appear. I just don't get to them for a day or 2.

One more thing. Any opposition in any union will have leftists and socialists involved. I do not classify myself as either but welcome them to be part of the movement even if some of the stuff that is out there and the way some people go about things is almost funny to watch. Get over it.

By the way, one ICE person has a one day after school job at the UFT for 2 hours a week. She was invited to apply. Not an accident so you can make a comment that not ALL jobs are Unity. But all full time and Distr rep jobs are Unity so Whooppee! By the way, she applied and didn't get the DR job. I dare you to compare her to the one who did get it as to how the members would be better served.

Anonymous said...

Hey Norm, Anon above has a point. You have never come clean about the history and make-up of ICE and TJC. Why? How "democratic" is TJC? Tell the truth Norm. How many people who vote for ICE/TJC have ever attended their meetings? And jeez, how can ICE and TJC even call themselves opposition caucuses when they refuse to engage in the long, arduous, and necessary organizing needed to unseat Unity? Every three years is an exercise in futility. It’s masturbatory political posturing. Better yet, it’s empty moralizing. Here's a prediction: things are going to get real bad in our country. What's happening to public education cannot be beaten back without addressing the wedge that finance capital is using to divide Americans from their government. The right is insane and "full of passionate intensity," the liberals are wusses and incapable of mounting any kind of defense of the people of our country, and the left, the crazy, fragmented, moralizing, self-righteous left, are like children playing in sand boxes fighting over toy soldiers and cupcakes. We are fucked unless there is a united groundswell of action amongst people that centers not on "identity politics" but fights for an economic program that puts the government in control of finance and not the other way around. Until this is done, there is little hope that our educational scene will change. And forget about the unions leading the way (at least initially), because they are still fighting for what small crumbs are left on the table.

ed notes online said...

I don't know if you are an activist or not. By activist I mean someone who throws part of their life into organizing efforts. That is a serious commitment yet it will take a horde of these people to make changes. For what it's worth Unity has these hordes and not all are just in it for money or jobs and perks. Some are real union loyalists in a good sense and often it is the opposition and they who have certain understandings and a grudging respect for the work.

You are touching on some of the points we make in ICE about organizing. We don't "refuse" as much as don't have the capability or the right people to do it at this time. GEM seems more promising in some ways but hasn't jumped into union work in depth yet. I can't speak for TJC but ICE for what it is bends over backwards to try to be democratic - talking everything to the ultimate limit and thus hasn't been able to get a lot done.
Yet, every activist in the union that wants to take some action came to ICE and we were always supportive. It was the democratic structure of ICE that was open enough to set up a committee that became GEM and most ICEers have thrown themselves into the work of GEM.

Do consider that we are around for 6 years and New Action in all its incarnations began in the late 60's with lots of people and built infrastructure but not mass organizing. There is a long way to go for us and it has been disappointing - I myself often don't have a clue what to do. But as a retiree I am not in a position to address the long-term and am not willing to give up many things I like to do outside the union for this work. It is up to working teachers to take action and retirees will be there to support them.

JW said...

Opposition groups consist entirely of full-time teachers (some working second jobs) and retirees who don't have much of a stake in this particular game anymore but are being generous with their time, experience, and vision. Unity managers are full-time unionists. You can't compare the organizing capabilities of these two disparate groups.

(Not to mention funding, which is for the opposition out of pocket.)