Sunday, May 4, 2014

Advice to MORE on Contract Strategy

Norm, you strike me as a realist. What are your thoughts on getting this voted down?... Roseanne McCosh PS 8x
Roseanne asks a good question. Before trying to respond I want to lay down some historical points because being out of schools for a decade I don't have the best feel for the mood of the members, other than the fact that some old supporters of Ed Notes have been in touch about getting a NO vote. Are they realistic?

I can only go on my experiences over the 2005 contract battle where the ICE/TJC campaign attracted many formerly non-activist teachers to the struggle. With social media flying all over the place, Unity no longer controls the media or the message. But I still believe organizing doesn't take place on a keyboard but face to face.

Roseanne talks about her experience:
Asking questions of a DR is fine but unless we already know the answer we won't know if we are being lied to. When they send a unity shill to my school I usually ask questions when I already know the answers. My questions are usually designed so the other people in the room become informed of what I already know and if the answer is untruthful---I can call them on it. There are a couple of informed people in my school who always help spread the truth. That's how teachers can be effective in their schools. Pick some point people to attend each meeting over the lunch periods who can counter the bullshit thrown at us. Last time a contract was shoved down our throats I was able to rebut the bullshit for members to hear and I followed up with a letter with counterpoints to what said at the meeting. I'm not an optimist but it won't take much effort for me to do that again so I will and maybe---just maybe there's a spark of hope.  Roseanne McCosh PS 8x
My answer to Roseanne about the chances for a NO vote would boil down to: How many more Roseannes are there out there to do what she does to counter the Unity spin? For in every school with a strong MOREista we are getting sings of NO votes. But no one has seen the memorandum yet -- they will be available at the UFT Exec Bd meeting tomorrow night at 6PM. Perdido is seeing a modifying of the attitude -- go leave a comment as to where you stand.

UFT Contract - What Will The Rank And File Do? -
AFTER BURN: 2005 contract battle redux - did the opposition grow?

We were able to observe the vote count and a few youngish women showed up from Staten Island because they didn't trust the vote - they had taken the day off. In terms of organizing by getting them involved with the caucuses, people like them were basically interested in the contract issue and ICE and TJC did not grow all that much. We had expected that the 2007 election would show some gains based on the fact that almost 40% of the working teachers voted against (see Kit Wainer: Historical Reference to Previous Contract Struggles). But the 2007 election was a disappointment and the outcome began to lead me to start thinking about going down a different road - which 2 years later became the non-caucus GEM focused not on the union but on defending public ed.

So I see things longer range -- will this struggle activate more people to take on other issues or does it all end once the vote count is in? My experience is the latter. But those were the days before social media, so now anything goes.
Because even if we get a NO vote, what next? They will make enough tweaks and keep selling.
In most schools the battle is to come. Every dist rep will demand a meeting and access to the staff. Unless there is a debate they will convince many. Their biggest argument will be "what is the alternative?"

MORE needs to have an answer with some specifics - what do we want out, what do we want in - because if we should win a NO vote what next?

More will be attacked for posturing. Unity will pull the strike card - that is the only alternative to a NO Vote and scare people.

MORE should raise all the issues about no cost items - like some way to protect people from bully principals, the end to discontinue, a panel to investigate a principal who keeps extending tenure, not just another comm to deal with paperwork but specific paperwork that should be eliminated - add your own.

In fact with a chance to improve at least some daily working conditions Unity Caucus took a pass - how about some stronger class size loophole protections?

We should praise the parent aspect - but the assumption that teachers must be forced is obnoxious - will they try to  match the charter school claims that teachers must give parents their cell numbers?

A whole bunch of stuff is PR to counter charters - and really a joke.

So much more to cover - so look for MORE.


Mike said...

Folks in the past we had no idea how people have felt about the contract outside of their schools. Vote no campaigns were launched in 95 and 05 with very little info as to what other UFTers are actually taking about.

The above UFT Facebook link was sponsored by UFT- in other words they have paid for it to show up in people news feed.

Instead of us talking about what everyone cares about and what "MORE should be saying" I urge everyone to go there and read the comments. You will see educators of all genders, races, ethnicities, and grade level licenses discussing their feelings. This is what statisticians would call a good random sample.

We have spoken many times that caucuses of the past spoke over the people, this is our chance to speak to the people. This time is different because we can connect with those in non-activist or unity schools through social media. Our literature could be more populist because all we have to do is click on the above link.
We should not fall into a trap of telling people why this contract is wrong, without reading the comments from actual teachers and educators.
I was pleasantly surprised yesterday that two of the key leaders of the 05 contract fight both expressed similar sentiments in separate conversations. James Eterno and Kit Wainer were both extremely interested in the online reaction and how we can learn from it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Roseann from PS 8. We need to create a ground swell of support and information. So many of our members don't realize we do have a choice VOTE NO! Let's go back to the table we are going to be waiting till at least 2015 to see a small chump change why not take the time to fight for what is a good deal! We need to blitz all social media outlet to get the word out! Michael Mulgrew and this contract doesn't speak for the majority of the UFT! VOTE NO