|Happy retirees - of course|
I've never met an unhappy UFT retiree
I also hear calls to go out to retirees and organize them to vote for the opposition. Here is why that is a bad idea and a wasteful endeavor. Groups running against Unity should focus on the roughly 108,000 active UFT members, 92% of which voted in the contract vote.
There are about 60,000, mostly happy, retirees who don't face the daily pressures and are given incentives and some perks. Other than the internal UFT politically conscious retirees and some of the recently angry pushouts, what is the incentive for voting against Unity - or even voting at all?
In the 2013 election around 21-22,000 retirees voted, with about 18-19000 going to Unity.
Think of it. Before the election begins, the opposition must make up a 10-1 deficit.
- 23,000 count for the election – Unity has upped number from 15000 to 18000 to 23000 to assure themselves a cushion.
- 85- 90% retirees vote Unity. Think of it - over the 60 years of the Unity machine, there are thousands - maybe as much as 10-20000 retirees who were in Unity Caucus and they make up a solid block of votes.
- Most opposition votes against come from long-time opposition – ICE/TJC/New Action voters in past plus some newly angered retirees. Maybe 2000 with a possibility of 3000 in a good year. They barely make a dent.
- Incentives to vote Unity – lower dues, SHIP benefits, low cost courses, trips. I hear the courses are fabulous - in every borough and for about 5 bucks - do working teacher dues supplement the retiree incentive?
- Unity networking chapters in other states, plus Westchester, Long Island, etc hold events.
- Regular events with Mulgrew and other Unity leaders as they make junkets to major pockets of retirees.
- Iron control of UFT retiree chapter where meetings are worse than the Delegate Assembly.
- Almost total inability for opposition to reach retirees. The major opportunity was the spring 2015 chapter election (every 3 years) where Retiree Advocate ran against Unity. Voting turnout in this election is much lower than in the general UFT elections. It is the one golden opportunity to get a piece of literature into the hands of every retiree but I feel RA blows it every time (I considered running a MORE slate but it wasn't worth the time). RA does not go after Unity and focuses on retiree issues instead of exposing the Unity machine. Because most people don't give a crap, RA does get their people out to vote and often get about 25-30% of those who do vote-- their own loyalists. This is pretty much a finite number of maybe 2000 at most.
I'll get into the weeds on the at-large (retirees vote) and the non-at large positions in a follow-up.
I was at the 2013 vote count with some Unity Caucus (and UFT) leaders and even if it was clear that Unity won, when the 52% retiree number came in they did not look happy. The low turnout of working UFT members was clearly an embarrassment, especially since they had made more of an effort to get out the vote with robocalls and reminders from their massive Unity Caucus machine in the schools - pizza parties, prizes, stuffing every mailbox in the city numerous times with glossy Unity literature. Clearly the low turnout was a rejection of Unity. But it was also a rejection of the opposition which could not really capitalize on the increasing loss of confidence in the union leadership.
I have lots of theories as to why this is so, including that until there is one caucus going head to head with Unity, some members will say - if they can't get together between elections into one group and only run together as separate groups, why should we trust them? At least Unity is homogeneous.
Well of course Unity is homogeneous - when you have all those perks to give out and a loyalty oath, it is easy. The hard thing for an opposition party is to figure out how to grow within the context of a democratic- non Unity type framework. Why replace Unity with another top-down loyalty oath caucus and fall into a "new boss same as the old boss" syndrome?
Thus, the push 3 years ago - really beginning in 2011- to create one umbrella caucus under the MORE brand - which has had some rough spots - but that is still the goal I am committed to.