Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New Action: No Action on Social Justice, But Lots of Talk

New Action claims that "action" is talking about something. They were the "first to call" and sometimes they "repeatedly call" for action, as if "calling" is action.  Hey, I call for world peace. I'll wait a few minutes to check if it worked. Maybe I should try doing it repeatedly.-- Ed Notes
I recall members of New Action enthusiastically supporting the creation of the UFT Charter School.  I was alone in my negative vote. I oppose charter schools and so does MORE because they take precious public resources away from the public schools. -- James Eterno, ICE blog
I can't tell you how much glee the MOREs are having with these New Action posts: The crew that actually MADE a movie defending public education and teacher unions. Or the crew that has not only "repeatedly called" for people to go to closing school and charter co-locos and PEP meetings, but ACTUALLY went and spoke and leafleted.

If you haven't read it yet see my post from yesterday with links to wonderful NYC Educator posts.

New Action Seeks Free Pass on Mulgrew Endorsement While Giving Cover to Unity on Lack of Democracy

The funniest is their claims on mayoral control when ICE took on that issue in the process of formation in 2003 because no other caucus even mentioned it. And I will point out that Ed Notes went after Randi for supporting it as far back as pre-ICE 2001, as James Eterno points out on the ICE blog today.

I was sitting behind James when Randi raised it at a May or June 2001 meeting and I watched NA dictator Mike Shulman run around to the NA Ex Bd members telling them not to oppose it (according to one NA EB member at the time) because Randi would be mad at them. I was yelling in the ear of James and NA's Bob Dehler, who turned around and told me how good mayoral control would be.

Here is James today on the ICE blog on mayoral control:
New Action states that they have opposed mayoral control from the start.  I remember it a little differently. While on the UFT Executive Board, I seem to recall the subject of mayoral control first came up around 2001.  The Unity majority brought forward a school governance recommendation that supported giving the mayor the majority control over the Board of Education.
Norm Scott showed up at the Executive Board and schooled me quickly on how it would be a disaster. Chicago was already ahead of New York on mayoral dictatorship; there were already horrible consequences for teachers and students.  I spoke up and voted against supporting mayoral control that night but I don't remember some of the other NAC members of the Executive Board voting with me. NAC had no position on the subject at the time. {James doesn't remember but NA member Bob Dehler turned to me at that point and said mayoral control is a good idea. --Norm
I also recall members of New Action enthusiastically supporting the creation of the UFT Charter School.  I was alone in my negative vote. I oppose charter schools and so does MORE because they take precious public resources away from the public schools.
I'm glad James brought up the enthusiastic support New Action gave to the UFT charter co-location of 2 public schools -- and note that issue is absent from their literature, probably because Mulgrew told them that was a no-no. ICE took a strong and immediate stand against the UFT Charter with Michael Fiorillo leading the way at the DA.

James and MORE and ICE members Lisa North, who left New Action to form ICE in 2003 after their dirty deal with Unity, and Gloria Brandman take apart the New Action claims at the ICE blog. James starts it off.

New Action is supporting Michael Mulgrew for President in the UFT election. Ballots will be mailed today so now it is up to members to decide who will lead our union. The only caucus running an opposing presidential candidate is the Movement for Rank and File Educators (MORE).  MORE is running Julie Cavanagh for UFT President as most readers of this blog already know. This blog endorses Cavanagh/MORE.
Unity and New action are the two longest running caucuses (political parties) in the UFT.  Unity has run the UFT for five decades.  New Action opposed Unity for years.  I was a member of New Action from 1995 to 2003.  I was elected to the UFT Executive Board three times while in NAC. 
In those days they were a genuine opposition group that actually ran a candidate for UFT President.

When I was a new Chapter Leader in 1996, NAC co-chair Michael Shulman spent a great deal of time teaching me about the job and was a valuable resource as was NAC's Ellen Fox.  Therefore, it was very painful to leave NAC in 2003 after they decided not to oppose Unity's Randi Weingarten for UFT President, but it was necessary. Camille Eterno, Ellen Fox, Lisa North, Chris Ash and others have not looked back since we defected although I do miss my New Action friends.

New Action in its current form basically exists to confuse members into thinking they are still the main opposition group within the UFT.  They put out literature that looks critical of the leadership but they do not run against President Mulgrew; instead they endorse him.  In exchange they are given ten candidates for the UFT Executive Board that the majority Unity Caucus is cross endorsing so they are pretty much assured of victory.  NAC maintains this arrangement gives them a voice inside the UFT much like the Unity leaders say they have a voice at the table with Bill Gates and others. What good does that do us?

NYC Educator correctly points out that supporting the other party's candidate for president would be akin to the Democrats in 2004 saying they are the main opposition party and then supporting Republican George W Bush for president.  You wouldn't think that is much of an opposition, would you?

NAC is running for these seats and others based on their record.  However, a look at that record shows that some of what New Action is taking credit for is a little far fetched.

Currently, New Action is making many claims in their literature where they take credit for their accomplishments within the  UFT. Former NAC member (now running with MORE) Lisa North comments on what they do.
I'll interrupt James for a second. Lisa and Gloria have worked with the UFT social justice committee and pushed for many of the issues NA is trying to take credit for. I always told them not to waste their time there because NA would take credit for all the work they did. And so it has come to pass. But they are so socially conscious that won't stop them.

On the disappearing black and Latino educator, every activist in the city knows that ICE founding member and current MORE member Sean Ahern has been the leading voice on this issue since the issue first emerged. As a matter of fact I'm not sure the issue would have emerged if not for the work of Sean.

Defense of the Puerto Rican teachers
Give me a break on this. Angel Gonzalez who is as close as anyone can be to Rafael Feliciano who led the PR teachers, came to ICE, not NA for help in putting the issue before the DA (that's how I met him). And we supported him on the blog and at the DA. See if NA was writing about this issue in 2007 and 2008. In fact, Ed Notes was writing about the Puerto Rico teacher story and their withdrawal from the AFT all along. (Angel then joined ICE and he and I and a few others founded what became GEM in Jan. 2009.)

Stop and frisk
ICE/MORE's Jeff Kaufman, a former cop and lawyer, has been an activist in opposing Stop and Frisk, along with James Eterno's brother John, also a former policeman. They speak all over the state on this issue. MORE took an early stand on this issue and MORE people have worked with and supported the amazing work Teachers Unite does on so many related issues.

On the anti-war issue
Gloria and Lisa were the key people in keeping this flame alive and ran the UFTers to Oppose the War listserve since its founding. 

Well, I'll let James, Lisa and Gloria continue (and my message to Gloria is: these guys are the enemies of union reform and prove it every day.)

"While it's true that NAC proposes some resolutions on important issues at Executive Board meetings, they do little or NO organizing!  It was MORE people who held meetings, sent emails, had rallies, circulated petitions, passed out fliers, contacted other community groups for support, etc. New Action is just like UNITY....pass a resolution and DO NO ACTION to organize to make a real change happen.  
Gloria Brandman sits on the UFT Social Justice Committee along with Lisa North.  Here is her critique (in italics) of New Action:

New Actions says they are: The only caucus to repeatedly call for action on the disappearing Black and Latino educators-   
Reality: This issue was originally brought to the Social and Economic Justice Committee (which is co chaired by a NAC and a UNITY person) by MORE's Sean Ahearn with support from Lisa and Gloria, Sean and other MORE people. Teachers Unite, and CPE worked on this issue even before it was brought to the UFT.
New Action says they initiated a resolution in Support of Puerto Rican Teachers Federation Leadership- 

Reality: Not sure if this is true but whenever Rafael Feliciano who was the President of the PRTF came to NYC, he spoke at many events in NYC, none of them organized by anyone in NAC.  It was GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) people who took leadership in supporting the PR Teachers and members of GEM who organized speaking engagements, forums  and fundraising events for  President Feliciano.
New Action says they called on UFT to support the April 9, 2011 anti-war demonstration. 
The Whole Story: This is positive but resolutions without actions do little to make change. It was members of ICE who are now MORE members that formed UFTers to Stop the War. UFTers to Stop the War brought anti-war resolutions to the DA as well as worked to make sure all high schools had information about opting out of military recruitment. NAC supported some of this work, but they did not do the organizing to bring any of it about. It was MORE people! And for the anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC on Jan 27, 2007 it was MORE members who requested and got the UFT to provide two buses, and Lisa and Gloria were the bus captains on the buses. One or two NACs may have attended as well. 

New Action says they achieved: 
Bipartisan Social and Economic Justice Committee passes rent control resolution
Bipartisan Social and Economic Justice Committee gets resolution passed  on Reducing the Environmental Footprint. Calls for an end to plastic bottles at UFT and for recycling bins.

Reality: Not Bipartisan- There were people from three different caucuses at these meetings. 

(Bipartisan =including members from two parties or factions) I will say that getting rid of the plastic bottles at the DA is probably the most concrete and successful  action that has come about due to this committee!  

New Action says they exposed SESIS as a “nightmare.” Called for help for our members. 

Exactly how did they expose this? Most of them have never even seen SESIS as they are retired.

New Action says they won bipartisan support in solidarity with Chicago teachers
The Whole Story: It was MORE that brought teachers from Chicago here, wrote and circulated petitions, organized and participated in meetings, rallies and a march that started in Union Square.

New Action asks the UFT to join NAACP suit on selective school entrance exams

MORE actually proposed a resolution at the DA which was combined with the Executive Board's resolution and approved

New Action called for support for Seattle teachers who refused to administer standardized tests.

The Whole story: It was a MORE member who brought a resolution to DA.  it was combined with the Executive Board's resolution and approved
Back to James.
One final point: New Action met with some people from MORE last fall and NAC says there was an agreement that MORE would not attack them.  Kit Wainer from MORE was at that meeting and says no such agreement was ever made.  I know Kit and I will stand up 100% for his integrity.  I will be diplomatic and say that apparently there was a misunderstanding.
I am not so kind. They are lying skunks, and I hate to insult skunks.

Now here is the New Action attack on MORE's claim to be the social justice caucus of the UFT.

The Social Justice Caucus? Action vs Words

MORE Coalition- The Social Justice Caucus?

The MORE group has highlighted their commitment to fight for social justice in recent election material. They call themselves the social justice caucus.

On the other hand it is noteworthy that New Action/UFT has been in the forefront of the struggle for a non-racist, just society. While focusing on all the issues affecting educators in the schools, from the attack on veteran teachers, the attack on probationary teachers, the insanity of SESIS, abusive administrators, the fixation on standardized tests, and blaming educators for all the problems of the education system–New Action has taken action on ALL of the following–

The first to call for disaster relief for Haiti
The first to call for justice for Trayvon Martin
The first to call for an end to Stop and Frisk
The first to call for the defeat of Mike Bloomberg and support for Bill Thompson
The first to call for the defense of the fired leadership of the Puerto Rican teachers
The only caucus to repeatedly call for action on the disappearing Black and Latino educators
The only caucus to petition to end mayoral control
The first caucus to pass a resolution against gun violence
And New Action spoke up for organizing home care providers

MORE would like to have a record to match New Action but it’s not there yet. 

When the MORE coalition matches its actions with its rhetoric–maybe then it can wear the mantle of the social justice caucus!
 Let me just add one more thing.

Among the lies and misdirection from New Action, there is purposely calling MORE a "coalition" instead of a "caucus", a word branded all over everything MORE does, from the blog to the email to every single leaflet.

Why? Because a coalition is a group of groups, a notably unstable and often temporary alliance, which is the impression New Action is trying to give. about MORE. MORE is a caucus where individuals but not all members from many groups have joined.

There is an important difference and New Action, which itself formed as a caucus, not as a coalition between Teachers Action Caucus and New Directions where both those groups disappeared as entities. (TJC has disappeared and while ICE continues as a discussion group most ICEers are working inside MORE.)

Note that TAC was formed out of  Teachers for Community Control after the 1968 strike --- and where has that idea gone with New Action? They want to end Mayoral control but say precious little about local control. Some social justice caucus. And a reason why Ira Goldfine in my post yesterday pointed to how the early leaders of TAC who opened up schools in 1968 must be turning over in their graves.

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