Wednesday, July 22, 2015

UFT Election Musings: What Can Be Won and Is it Worth it to Try?

The Eternos and I at Tues Nite Yankee game
The other day I posted some thoughts based on the recent MORE retreat:
MORE Doesn't Retreat at Retreat Plus Some of My UFT Elections Thoughts - Don't Kvetch, Organize!

ICE, MORE, New Action get together at Yankee game: a precursor of things to come?

James and Camille, joined by Ellen Fox and Ed Beller talked about some of this election stuff at the Yankee victory-- NORM SCOTT, CAMILLE AND JAMES ETERNO PLOT ELECTION MOVES
- they were happy even though Camille, James and Ed are Mets fans because the Mets won too. Other than Ed, we are all UFT political junkies - we tried to talk between innings or during pitching changes.

All of them were in New Action until the 2003 sellout. Ellen and the Eternos left to help form ICE while Ed remained in New Action. Ed, James and Ellen were all elected and re-elected as high school executive board members repeatedly during the 90s through 2001, getting over 3000 votes each time.Ed is no longer active in union politics.

I pointed out in my blog piece that the 7 high school UFT exec bd seats were winnable by MORE in the upcoming election based on the 2013 numbers. They are winnable because retirees don't get to vote in that portion of the election. And neither do any of the high school non-teaching staff like secretaries, paras, guidance, social workers get to vote for these 7 positions. Classroom high school teachers only. This used to be the case for the HS VP position - until Unity lost in the mid-80s and changed the rules in 1994.

Unity is used to changing the rules when they lose. After New Action once again won the then 6 HS ex bd seats in 2001 - with over 3000 votes - Randi figured out a clever way to prevent this from happening by buying New Action and offering to hand them these seats by not running any Unity candidates against them. All they had to do was let Randi run unopposed. And so they did - except ICE and TJC threw a monkey wrench into the scheme by running and winning these 6 positions.

James and Jeff Kaufman for ICE did such a powerful job for 3 years, Unity - and New Action were mortified and thus made sure that no independent voice (non-Unity endorsed) representing classroom teachers without conditions would get on the Ex Bd. In 2007, for the first time, Unity put New Action people on the Unity slate so they could win -- and they split the HS Ex Bd seats between them. (When they raised it from 6 to 7, the split was 4-3, Unity.

New Action would ask some questions, maybe raise a reso or 2 and then make sure everyone got to go home on time. They are the loyal, well-behaved "opposition", so unlike the aggressive Jeff and James were. Everyone goes home happy - when James and Jeff were there, Unity did not go home happy.

New Action high school vote totals dropped from 3000 in 2001 to around 700 in 2004 - and 450 by 2014 - so how did that work out? Pretty good for them I guess since they are handed 10 ex bd seats and some jobs. Not so good for rank and file teachers.

So, let's get back to the 2016 elections.
To beat Unity + New Action + any other vagrant caucus running would take an extraordinary effort and require MORE to focus most of its resources on the high school election, probably ignoring other areas like elementary and middle schools and functionals - all areas where retirees don't vote.

To win 7 out of 100 Ex Bd seats - for what purpose? To make some noise? To take us to where New Action was 15 years ago? Their focus on these seats never led them to build much more of a base outside the high schools. And what do you do if you win? Go to meetings like ICE did every 2 weeks to support your people in a total Unity environment?

On the other hand, a win would show that Unity can still be beaten and it would restore an independent voice.

On the other hand, if MORE intends to go much beyond where New Action was before the dirty deal with Unity, it needs to reach deep into the schools. A focus on winning the high schools could distract MORE from that goal.

On the other hand, MORE could use the actions at the Ex Bd to raise issues of concern - it is easier to do there than at the DA since once you get 5 Ex bd people to sign on a reso must be dealt with.
And given that nothing else can really be won, why not go for this?

On the other hand, how exactly do you sell people on getting involved in an election that can win only such a small sliver of 7% of Ex bd and no officer or AFT/NYSUT delegate positions?


While touching on some of these issues at the retreat, MORE did not get into the discussion in depth and is still far from getting deep into election stuff, focused more on supporting people in the schools.

Should MORE go for these seats even if the other parts of the campaign suffer? Given that MORE got almost 5000 votes in the 2013 election, can even 5-10% of these people be activated in a way to take part in the campaign beyond just voting - like becoming a spokesperson for MORE In their school and making sure people vote?

As for me, I am still not committed to getting deeply involved in yet another election but would appreciate any of your thoughts either in the comments section or by email.

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