Sunday, August 8, 2010

Caucuses and Unions: Part 1 - Unity, NYC

Why the need for a caucus?
I'm not opposed to the concept of a caucus – a political party – inside a union. I think it is important for people to get together over ideas they agree on and whether in power or not fight for those ideas to be union policy. When there are two or more caucuses in a democratically run union with open discussion, the result would be better decision making and better policies.

But when you have a one party system with a caucus that has no interest in a debate on policy - even within the caucus itself - whose major focus is on maintaining itself in power - then you get distorted policies. Policies that are not decided upon in the cauldron of debate but from the very top that are then forced down on the members of the caucus in power to be further forced down on the rank and file they reach in the schools.

Of course I am describing Unity Caucus. Now things are not as simple as this. Most Unity Caucus members come to agree with the policies - they are convinced through selective arguments that don't give the kind of full picture they would get through an open debate. Those who don't agree - and these often come from the school level Unity people - mostly remain quiet due to a bunch of reasons: selfish (no jobs, no trips to conventions, no protection if attacked by supervisors) or in fear that they won't be able to service their members by being shut off.

It is important to point out right here that the people running the UFT have always paid the most attention to maintaining and building Unity caucus, even at the expense of the larger entity - the UFT. This is a true legacy of Albert Shanker (he is given too much credit for the wrong things) who was a genius at managing power.

One of Randi's real impacts was on how she changed Unity Caucus from a narrow invitation only to one where they invite everyone (even me at one point). That was her genius. Open it up to all, especially potential dissidents and coopt them into the caucus. We've actually been meeting some great, smart people who are in Unity - people who might have been part of an effective opposition. In fact, if there was a serious opposition that had a real chance of challenging for power, some of the people not happy with the direction of the union might go in that direction.

Randi's other genius was in making a deal with the leading opposition, New Action.  While not in Unity, they might as well be. Eight Unity endorsed New Action members are on the Ex Bd. She gave New Action leader Michael Shulman his own little empire where he controls a batch of jobs - where a Unity person and a New Action person go into schools supposedly to help them organize. These jobs are coveted by retirees.

Unity tries to make sure they have top people running the caucus. And no matter what you read about the attacks on Jeff Zahler from within the moles at Unity, he was/is extremely competent at doing this. (I don't know his exact status now - Randi sent him to Wash DC as AFT staff director while she was still UFT Pres but he got sick and came back. But I bet he is involved in some way.)

Building caucus vs. building union?
Since we have been under the yoke of Unity - if you're not Swedish you might pronounce "yoke" a different way - we don't often think of what would happen to a caucus that actually won power. You now run a union. How does your caucus relate to the larger entity, especially if you don't want to be another Unity?

Events in Chicago over the last decade provide serious food for thought. I'll address that in Part 2, which I'll publish later tonight.

Caucuses and Unions: Part 2 - The Chicago Experience

13 comments:

  1. For those of you reading this, simply take it with a grain of salt.

    Having Norm describe Unity is akin to having Pepsi describe Coke...or more like RC Cola describing Coke.

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  2. Man do the Unity people get nervous when Norm talks about them. He must be hitting some nerve. If Norm is wrong why don't you tell us how democratic Unity is? How they don't hold meetings to tell you how to vote. How they don't have a speakers bureau meeting the day before the Delegate Assembly to instruct you how to control the meeting.

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  3. He who has not attended an Executive Committee meeting cannot appreciate the Orwellian brainlock of the Unity gang. Last year after I gave the leadership serial hell for various breaches of solidarity during open mike, Mendel closed the mike for all members after one appearance. The Unity boys exact the same censorship at NEW YORK TEACHER. Go Norm.

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  4. Question, when did "giving hell" become equated to being a wordy blowhard?

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  5. I love when the Unity insiders attack Norm and then hide behind Anonymous. Identify yourself you cowards and not just attack active and vocal members from behind the rock you crawled out from under.

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  6. A wordy blowhard that you apparently can't stop reading.

    Why not share some words of wisdom of exactly where Norm is wrong if you are so concerned that the many readers of this blog are being given misinformation? Your comments only help Norm make the case for why Unity is an organization where people with your level of mindlessness can operate.

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  7. Does "ICE" stand for Incomplete Comprehension of English?

    Nobile is the blowhard. Norm is just cranky. ;)

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  8. Strange, or I guess not, that while Unity always attacks Norm and ICE for their negativity, the Unity commenters here cannot muster a single factual refutation of anything written.

    Hey guys, Bill Gates is calling: hop to it!

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  9. Hey Fiorillo Laguardia, weren't you supposed to make a lewd sexual comment in your last sentence so you could go apologize later on

    Norm, you lied. Where's Part 2? You said later in the night...liar!

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  10. You're like a little girl with a crush - waiting for Norm that wordy windbag so you can go sleepy sleep with your Norm fix. How cute.

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  11. New lows for the slugs, puerile and revealing.

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  12. Loudmouth "Four Pension" Zahler got "sick" of handling so many grievances against Randi from the AFT "professionals."
    anyone who thinks it was a health issue has only to look at his behavior since he got back from D.C.
    same ole' Loudmouth with the UFT nitwit lawyer-HIS NEPHEW!
    who fired Betsy?
    any news from Long Beach?
    did she keep copies of all her tape recordings, especially the ones when she got hired by the nitwit lawyer and Weingarten within weeks of when she was probing -with copies to Klein- a top UFT official?
    what was Klein investigating in Randi's private life?
    is she lying or is Nobile lying?
    Will the three union witnesses tell the truth?
    Who is placing bets on who will be true to their union roots and tell the truth?
    Mendel, Callagy or Callaghan?
    Most folks at 52 Broadway think they WILL ALL TELL THE TRUTH.
    where does that leave Weingaerten?

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  13. Loudmouth "Four Pension" Zahler got "sick" of handling so many grievances against Randi from the AFT "professionals."
    anyone who thinks it was a health issue has only to look at his behavior since he got back from D.C.
    same ole' Loudmouth with the UFT nitwit lawyer-HIS NEPHEW!
    who fired Betsy?
    any news from Long Beach?
    did she keep copies of all her tape recordings, especially the ones when she got hired by the nitwit lawyer and Weingarten within weeks of when she was probing -with copies to Klein- a top UFT official?
    what was Klein investigating in Randi's private life?
    is she lying or is Nobile lying?
    Will the three union witnesses tell the truth?
    Who is placing bets on who will be true to their union roots and tell the truth?
    Mendel, Callagy or Callaghan?
    Most folks at 52 Broadway think they WILL ALL TELL THE TRUTH.
    where does that leave Weingaerten?

    ReplyDelete

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