In 1977 and 1979 we ran together with TAC and we called ourselves UNITED FIGHTBACK - in 1981 we formed NAC (the N for New Directions, A for Teachers Action Caucus and C for the Coalition of NYC Schoolworkers) and ran a full slate of 675 people with Pessin as the presidential candidate. We took nearly 30% of the total vote and over 35% excluding the functional chapter.You won't see these facts stated anywhere in New Action literature as they play their
decade-old assigned role of trying to confuse UFT members into voting for them and dividing the forces opposed to Unity. It always wasn't this way.
From 1990-2001, New Action which formed as a result of the merger of two caucuses (Teachers Action Caucus and New Directions*), was the major voice of the opposition, not always the strongest voice (as Ed Notes began pointing out when I started publishing in 1997) but the major place people opposed to Unity were able to go. They were able to garner over 10,000 votes and win the 6 or 7 (depending on the year) high school executive board seats in every election except one during those years. In 1991 they also won 6 middle school seats, thus giving them 13 EB seats, the most an opposition in the UFT has ever had.
It was directly due to this challenge that Unity, after beating back NA in 1993 when Unity regained 100% of the EB, took the opportunity to remove the divisional vice presidents from being voted on by the members of the division to make sure the opposition never gets to be one of the 11 officers (now known as the AdCom). In other words, if the high school teachers voted NA the HS VEEP would still be Unity. Which is exactly what happened in the 1995, 97, 99 and 2001 elections.
Then Randi, in what is perhaps her most brilliant move, made an offer to New Action which was worried about losing the high school seats in the 2004 elections (Unity pushed through a change from 2 to 3 year terms). She would not run ANY Unity candidates for those seats if NA wouldn't run anyone for president against her.
New Action bit and thus was born a collaboration that has turned NA into a shell of what it once was (check the vote totals as they dropped to an afterthought over the past decade.)
But proving the old adage that lemonade can be made out of lemons, the actions of NA spurred 2 other groups into action. Readers and supporters of Ed Notes, which had been critical of New Action for its tepid role as an opposition even before they did the dirty deal, formed the Independent Community of Educators (ICE-- one of the major forces behind MORE today). They were joined by key defectors from New Action: James and Camille Eterno, Ellen Fox and Lisa North. ICE, founded in late 2003 and just a month old, decided to run a slate in the 2004 elections.
Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC), a decade old advocacy group in the UFT, also decided to run for the first time in the 2004 elections. Both groups ran a joint slate for the high schools directly opposing the New Action slate, which without Unity running at all for these 6 seats, assumed they would win. New Action didn't, which pissed Randi off to no end.
The ICE-TJC slate won those seats and put people like James Eterno and Jeff Kaufman on the Ex Bd. For James it was a continuation of his years as the NA rep but now combined with Kaufman, the two of them raised hell with the Unity agenda, challenging them in a way they had not been before. One can imagine how people like NA dictator Mike Shulman felt sitting and stewing at EB meetings watching James and Jeff do their thing. And plotting with Unity how they could remove these thorns in both their sides.
And remove them they did in the 2007 and 2010 elections when they made sure a mix of New Action and Unity controlled the high school seats by running 3 from each caucus on both the Unity and New Action slates. In addition, New Action was given 5 more EB seats at large, including Shulman, who as a retiree finally made it on to the board.
In both elections, ICE-TJC almost doubled the NA high school vote but when their totals were added to the Unity total that shut out ICE-TJC which got no seats on the board.
A look at the 2010 HS slate voting totals: Unity 2600, ICE-TJC 1350, NA 750. A total of roughly 5000 votes out of a potential of almost 20,000.
In the 2013 elections with the rise of MORE, Unity needed New Action more than ever and has rewarded them with 10 EB seats. Thus if you look at the ballot you will see 10 New Action (and 4 Unity, including Mulgrew) running on both slates.
When you see your ballot you will notice that there are only 2 presidential candidates. Julie Cavanagh for MORE and Mulgrew with Unity/New Action next to his name. Thus there are only 2 real choices in this election, not 3.
And if you are a high school teacher you will see an interesting mix of EB candidates for your division. 7 MORE people and 7 mixed New Action and Unity. These are winnable seats if high school teachers come out to vote and vote for MORE, thus giving a real opposition a beach head in the exec bd. Thus it is crucial to get out the vote from the 25-27% in the last election which would give MORE a chance to defeat the NA/Unity combo.
In an upcoming post I will tell you about these 7 MORE people.
*A history of the roots of New Action: Teachers Action Caucus (TAC) and New Directions (ND)
In 1990 the 2 major caucuses in the UFT merged into one caucus with a lot of promise.
TAC was founded in 1968 as an outgrowth of Teachers for Community Control (TCC), which consisted of people who had been associated with the old left Teachers Union which had disbanded in 1964 after suffering from years of persecution from the Board of Education over their ties to the Communist Party. (The very founding of the UFT was part of this anti-left push, but that's for another time.) TCC supported the community against the 1968 UFT strike and when they formed TAC they were branded scabs for many years by the UFT. Despite that they ran campaigns in UFT elections and found a following among teachers on the left, many of whom entered the system in the late 60s. Some were with what was termed the "New Left" and internally there were struggles between what was termed the "Stalinist pro-Soviet" old left and the mostly Trotskyist New Left.
As a non-leftist I entered into this world in the fall of 1970 in my 4th year of teaching. I was associated with a group of left-oriented people who were in neither camp but willing to build alliances. We tried initially with TAC but found that organization locked in its own narrow frame of politics and could make no headway moving policy changes. So we left and formed not another caucus but an advocacy group called the Coalition of NYC School Workers. We had no intention of running in elections but spent a lot of time analyzing and writing on policy and we attracted a large group of followers, including many from the New Left/Trotskyist groups who had no where else to go even if they were unhappy with some of the direction we were heading in.
Sometime in late 1975/early 1976 they split the CSW in half and formed New Directions which was aimed at running a slate in the 1977 UFT elections directly against Unity and TAC. We were adamantly opposed to doing that and formed an alliance with TAC to run together in the 77 elections. I believe we called ourselves New Action Caucus. ND ran its own course, but in some irony they threw out the Trotskyists that had fomented the split from us. (The trots formed a new group that never was a caucus that was called "Chalk Dust" and it lasted until the late 80s.)
It wasn't until around 1980 that New Directions began to join with us to run in elections throughout the 80s, even winning the high school vice president seat for Mike Shulman in 1985, an event that shook Unity. (Some irony here and an entire story how Unity sued themselves that the election was unfairly run and forcing another election, thus keeping Shulman from being seated for almost a year).
Sometime after that, ND had another purge, tossing out their leader Marc Pessin (I could write a book on him) who was apparently obstructing a move to merge with TAC, which had been a bitter enemy and would never have joined with ND as long as he was involved. ND had moved steadily to the right in a sense in that it ignored almost all social issues. Which was interesting and seemed to pave the way for a merger between the old left TAC which had been branded as scabs for breaking the 68 strike and more right ND.
The idea of Unity making a deal with anything to do with TAC was inconceivable until both Shanker and Feldman were out of the picture given their history of ani-communism. Even people like me were preferable and I had quite a few conversations with some of the upper echelon Unity people who loved my critiques of New Action, who they considered spineless. And so they turned out to be.
When Randi made the deal with New Action in 2003 there was just a bit of churning and turning in the graves of the old UFT right wing social democrats. The old guard was not happy, but there was such turnover in Unity, there was no real resistance.