Thursday, May 7, 2015

Will NYSUT ST Caucus Impact AFT? - Welcome to Stronger Together Caucus - MORE Gets Seat on Steering

NYSUT has 600,000 members and is by far the largest component of the AFT's 1.5 million membership. NYSUT has always been a reliable Unity Caucus rubber stamp for NYC Unity Caucus, which has used its control of NYSUT Unity caucus to control the AFT and its Progressive Caucus version of Unity.

Thus the shakeup in NYSUT since Randi and Mulgrew pulled their Revile Slate knockdown of their former allies, Iannucci and crew. Their boy, Andy Pallotta has been like a bull in the chinashop, managing to alienate everyone he comes in contact with beyond the usual sycophants. And there is always good old Alan Lubin around to pull the strings.

The rocket rise of Stronger Together and Beth Dimino to the leadership of the first opposition to NYSUT Unity/Revile has the potential to be cataclysmic for the national teacher union - or not. I know ST first got together a year ago, I was still disappointed that it had zero presence at the AFT14 convention in LA. But after last week's RA, things are really looking up.

First - Beth and Brian St. Pierre reached out to MORE in the fall of 2013 and it was lucky for all of us that Mike Schirtzer was astute enough to get on the case and build a strong relationship with them. There were a whole bunch of MORE people who actually argued against getting involved -- I don't even know how to categorize their views - some kind of supposed analysis on organizing based on studying ancient, dusty tomes, which somehow haven't actually resulted in very successful organizing. But I'll leave that for another day.

Luckily, there are some rational MORE people like Lauren Cohen (see her video) and Jia Lee and Julie Cavanagh and James Eterno who jumped into the pool with Mike and Beth and Brian. They were joined by non-MORE Arthur Goldstein and shook up the NYSUT RA at the Hilton last year. James has a piece up on ICE today: JOIN STRONGER TOGETHER
It's only 10 bucks and sends a message to Unity if lots of NYC teachers join.

There is a reason ST reached out to MORE and elected Schirtzer to the steering committee. They want to build alliances between the state and NYC  opposition to Unity. But they are not stopping there. They are also getting involved with the national groups MORE has been working with - United Caucuses of Rank and File Educators (UCORE). I have been attending various versions of UCORE meetings since 2009 and I'm still waiting for something to happen -- they will meet in Newark in July.

But if ST and UCORE actually do make an effort at the AFT`16 convention in Minneapolis, we may see some shaking of the tree when Unity tries its bully tactics. I'm basing my continued support for UCORE based on their willingness to organize for AFT16. (There are sticky issues here since CTU president Karen Lewis must be in Randi's Progressive Caucus in order to hold onto an AFT Exec Bd seat and that puts CORE Caucus, Karen's caucus in Chicago, and also a key component of UCORE, in somewhat of a bind as to how active they can be in opposing Progressive Caucus. Some even say that these kinds of entanglements make UCORE into a discussion group only. UCORE (still unnamed) was non-existent at AFT14 and in fact I believe there was some kow-towing to Unity at times.

See my AFT14 reports:
Brian St. Pierre has written a wonderful must-read guest piece at NYC Educator.

ST Caucus Brings Real Grassroots Unionism to NYSUT

I'm not going to parse Brian's piece right now as I have to run to Botanic Gardens for the final day of the plant sale. But there is so much meat there and lessons on how Unity functions on the local, state and national levels I will do a follow up examining how they will try to buy out and coopt ST to try to turn them into New Action, light.  Like jobs or a stool at the table, anyone?
And here is the ST call to join:
Dear ST Caucus Members,
We were thrilled with the support the caucus received at the NYSUT RA in Buffalo.  Over 500 delegates joined, 145 of which were local presidents.  Our inaugural caucus meeting was standing room only with incredible enthusiasm and support for our resolutions and democratic reform within NYSUT.  Our bylaws and a slate of caucus officers were approved.

While our constitutional amendment proposals were defeated, we were able to get the RA House of Delegates to pass three resolutions that address the flawed nature of the standardized tests in New York State.  The resounding voices of the Delegates at the NYSUT RA in favor of these issues will now compel NYSUT leadership to do the right thing for New York's students and teachers by supporting the opt out movement!

As we move forward, we will be revising the voting amendments dealing with democratic reform within NYSUT for the RA next year. Please feel free to reach out to caucus officers regarding any concerns you might have as the year progresses. We truly want rank and file members to utilize this avenue because it will help focus our positions and determine our resolutions for the next RA. 

ST Caucus is open to any NYSUT Member in good standing, delegates and non delegates alike.  Please encourage every member in your local to join--a membership form can be found here.  T-Shirts in sizes M,L,XL,2X and 3X are still available for a $20 donation here.  We will continue to keep you informed of new developments.  In the meantime, please share information about the caucus with your local and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

In Solidarity,

Chair: Beth Dimino—President Port Jefferson Station Teachers' Association
Treasurer: Beth Chetney—President Baldwinsville Teachers’ Association
Secretary: Laura Spencer—President Smithtown Teachers’ Association
Membership Chair: Michele Bushey—PAC, Saranac Teachers’ Association 

Vice-Chairs representing NYS by region 
1)   Central NY/Southern Tier: Angelee Hargreaves—President Port Byron Teachers’ Association
2)   Capital District: Megan DeLaRosa—President Shenendehowa Teachers’ Association
3)   North Country: Nate Hathaway—President Malone Federation of Teachers
4)   Tarrytown/Mid-Hudson: Mike Lillis—President Lakeland Federation of Teachers
5)   Nassau/Suffolk: Kevin Coyne—President Brentwood Teachers’ Association
6)   NYC:  Mike Schirtzer—UFT Delegate; MORE CAUCUS
7)   Western NY (Buffalo):  Joe Karb—President Springville Faculty Association
8)   Western NY (Rochester): Orlando Benzan—President Brockport Teachers’ Association

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