Sunday, August 30, 2015

UFT Organizing 101: Don't Hold A Rally for the Sake of Holding a Rally

If you hold a rally in a forest and no one came did you really hold a rally? A sparsely attended rally doesn't interest the press and in fact hurts the movement. I used to be an advocate of the theory of organizing that says, "Just hold a rally even if only a few people show up" to make your point. Experience has taught me that unless you can guarantee a large enough number to make an impact holding sparsely attended rallies exposes your weakness. And also - have real people at rallies, not fillers. (I have been to some events that were artificially inflated with ringers of sorts.)

I posted on August 12 about the awful Aimee Horowitz who Farina has given more responsibilites instead of giving her the boot:  Aiming at Aimee (Horowitz) (

There was this comment:Saturday, Aug. 22, 2:33 AM
There is a growing rally outside her office Wednesday August 26th.
Wishful thinking doesn't a movement make. Maybe at 2:33 AM it does.

One of the dividing points between Solidarity and MORE in my opinion was the "shoot from the hip" without thinking of consequences aspect of its leader. Slam any principal without investigating the details. I get it. Solidarity people are new to the opposition movement in the UFT and feel they must do something. Anything. I call it the "get your rocks off so I can feel better that I did something" school. I know this leads from experience: a dead end. But people do need to go through it themselves I guess.

People like me did come from that place at one point but after experiences of failed and inconsequential rallies I have learned.

South Bronx School has been mocking (If UFT Solidarity Has a Rally...Who Cares?) the recent well-advertised Solidarity rally against DOE slug/Supt Aimee Horowitz the other day, which when someone sent me a photo of the 7 people standing there, even surprised me  - in fact, most of these rallies have looked to be the same. That there was an attempt to make a big to do about the exact location of the rally, but that is a distraction.

That is why over the past few years, people have preferred holding a press conference - with a reps and supporters. But showing the ability to bring numbers of people out - and I'm talking in the double or triple digits here - is a demonstration of growing strength. If you are going to ask people give up their valuable time to attend an event they have to have some trust and faith in you and your organization.

Over the years I have been involved in some of these reasonably successful events.

The big rally at Bloomberg's home in January 2011 was major. And there we did make a big to-do when the great attorney Norman Siegel represented us in court trying get us to rally on his block instead of across the street. Julie Cavanagh and Sueng Ok signed the papers, incredibly gutsy for 2 teachers and I was in the room when Siegel looked them in the eyes and said that if the DOE tried to go after them in any way, they had his protection for life.

The GEM rally at City Hall a year later on a massive snow day that still turned out almost 300 people. The buzz on the rally was so great that the UFT paid us $50 for speaking time - Leo Casey was the speaker replacing Michael Mendel who got snowed in. Julie Cavanagh showed her chops in being a major force in making both these events happen, where she showed her ability to reach out to a broader audience beyond teachers - which was just one reason so many people trusted her as MORE's presidential candidate. (Yes, trust is major when putting your faith in someone you support for office.)

In the early days of GEM - roughly May 2009, Angel Gonzalez, myself and others organized a march from Battery Park to the UFT to Tweed. While numbers were disappointing -- probably in the 30s, for a new group it showed we could create and manage an event. GEM also held rallies at Eva Moskowitz invasions of schools in Harlem.

When it comes to abusive principals, while the issue is big for me and others, my feelings that unless a massive organizing campaign goes on in the neighborhood of the schools and there are hard-core commitments to attend, rallies distracts from other work that should be done. I used to target these principals on ed notes but unless I see an uprising from the school community - like there was at John Dewey HS - much of my info was coming from numerous inside people - nothing much gets done. But if the NY Post or Daily News does something, there is some action. So people have taken to working with the NY Post Sue Edelman who does expose these people. A sparsely attended rally doesn't interest Sue. A scandal, especially one exposing the follies of Farina/de Blasio, is preferred. But I am careful with using Sue and the Post because the Post has an agenda. The other day a teacher sent me some hot stuff on his school but is aiming higher than the Post - the NY Times - even though I told him the Times doesn't care even if it finds principals are eating children for lunch.

There is nothing like bombast and bragging and threatening the DOE (and everyone else) with rallies etc. and then showing just how weak you are. Better to stay home and get some sleep.


  1. Solidarity is a hot mess...and will always be a hot mess on the strength of who is leading them.

  2. I have read many good things on your blog and have learned a lot. I think this might be a low blow however. Constructive criticism could have been passed directly to solidarity and it's leadership privately. At the end of the day, even if your methods and views are different a similar goal has exists for both you and solidarity. Way to take an unnecessary shot at the new kid on the block. Everything starts somewhere.

    1. When you don't trust the leadership of Solidarity there is no way to hold private communications. After having private emails shared with Portelos I - and many other people so burned vowed not to hold any private communications or conversations again. I stick to that and will only communicate in the open and publicly using this blog.

  3. I have read many good things on your blog and have learned a lot. I think this might be a low blow however. Constructive criticism could have been passed directly to solidarity and it's leadership privately. At the end of the day, even if your methods and views are different a similar goal has exists for both you and solidarity. Way to take an unnecessary shot at the new kid on the block. Everything starts somewhere.

  4. It saddens me to see the various bloggers and caucuses not support each other. We all want the same things #fairness #transparency, etc. Some of us are from a different generation. We cut our teeth on Worker's Rights and Civil Rights movements. Allow this group to evolve.

    About the rallies, shame on the parents for not supporting school staff who are supporting their children. We are always giving up our time and money. The rally at Jamaica HS wasn't well attended, but I so enjoyed the video. I think it was a lesson for the youth who attended and spoke out. I think that rally was a success because it produced a good video. As an aside, 2 ppl showed up at my Hearings. I appreciated it so much and I will never forget how much those 2 strangers, a total of 4 ppl helped me manage one of the greatest fights of my life. So numbers may not mean everything to everybody. The next generation wages war differently and I feel like we have to get onboard or get left behind. As the generation who came before them, we do have a responsibility to share our pearls of wisdom.

    So you think the leader of Solidarity is the problem, do you??? I am sure this leader of Solidarity didn't wake up one day and decide to become an activist. He was forced into that position. Do we prefer the ppl who just lay down and take it??? Too many teachers are willing to open their pocketbooks to DOE, " Here, take my money in an enormous fine that I don't deserve. I just want my life back."

    1. Sorry to sadden you. I don't care how the leader of Solidarity woke up one day. I don't trust the leader of Solidarity and neither does most of the opposition over the years. He has burned his bridges -When you break trust with people there is no going back. Full well understand that in no way will any of the opposition accept him as the presidential candidate and with his declaration he divides the opposition in the interests of Unity - whether he is a conscious double agent or not. There are many people who have worked against Unity and are capable presidential candidates. MORE will choose its own candidate with the people from ICE involved in MORE - which is most of them - and ICE totally rejected them. I nor most of the people in MORE have problems with Solidarity and its leader running in the elections as another caucus since the election is not winnable under any circumstances. If there is an audience for that message I'm fine with that. MORE has to go out and organize and if it doesn't that would be too bad. I, unlike the leader of Solidarity, have chosen to build one opposition to Unity no matter what the issues in a democratic organization not dominated by any one voice may be. I agreed with some of the criticisms of mORE but told your leader that we can fix those and I think we are fixing them. Go ahead and evolve into anything you want - but leave the rest of us out of it.. I certainly have the right to be critical of the strategy - brag about 8 people some of whom come from the Bronx. If Solidarity is organizing for a year with a Staten Island base - where are the people who were nearby if Horowitz was so hated? Why hold an event in Staten Island if you have so few local people coming? Sorry - it demonstrates weakness in the organization - not strength. But go ahead all you want with that strategy - I get that the goal is to get Solidarity and its leader noticed. Enjoy!

    2. Twice in these comments you used the words "I think MORE..." instead of stating fact "MORE is doing..."

      NOrm the last time MORE rallied against an abusive administrator was , and correct me if I am wrong, July 2013. Two years??

      Two years and not one rally and you have the audacity to spend time writing a blog how 8 Solidarity members rallied against abusive Aimee Horowitz. This after we rallied outside Richmond Hill, William Bryant and Tweed in just the last several months. You have some nerve.

      I built a lot more bridges than you allege I burned.

  5. I agree with you Norm. But I still feel there are effective ways to picket, even with a small group of people or just one, that can not only make a point but get noticed.

    1. If you have effective ways to picket then share - I've been down that road before. I don't see that as productive without numbers. Noticed by whom? Let me ask you a question? Do any organizing in your borough or schools locally? I have moved from bit events or rallies to small local reach outs as a way of organizing and I think MORE is moving in that direction.

  6. NOrm and his lapdog at at it again.

    Yes, there were 8 people who showed up in the middle of Staten Island. Some traveled from the Bronx and they traveled for 2 hours. We may have only been 8 standing there, but it was 8 "standing for something." It was 8 who refuse to ignore members and school communities. It was 8 that stood against abusive administrators and more than MORE has put on a sidewalk in the last 2 years for the same issue. To sit there and blog how we have a small rally is sad NOrm. I cringe when I see your write "from my experience as an organizer" because the reality is you are cynical man who is actually a detriment to the movement. You have many more failures than you have success, but I respect that you keep trying. I write your name as "NOrm" because your cynicism continues to reach new lows.

    "NO, we shouldn't do rallies."
    "NO, we shouldn't have multiple political caucuses."
    "NO, we shouldn't go speak at the UFT Executive board."
    "NO, we should not have open discussion with other group."

    Like a baby... NO, NO, NOrm Scott.

    Do you know that since we have been turning up the heat on Aimee Horowitz, that they took away all her Staten Island schools?
    Do you know that we have initiated investigations on her and her principals?

    NEWS: Staten Island schools' superintendent to take on high schools ...
    Staten Island's District 31 Superintendent Anthony Lodico is going to become the superintendent of all K-12 schools on Staten Island this coming school year, ...
    Aug 20, 2015

    I loved last year's MORE Summer series titled "Lessons learned from Chicago." I walked in as Lauren Cohen explained how CORE sent someone to every school to listen and give support. Why has MORE ignored that essential lesson. Solidarity has not. We had 8 at the rally and 10 to support Bronx Chapter Leader Johnathan Hinesly. The day before there was no settlement offer for him. We showed up and they offered a one year suspension, then more of us came and they offered 7 months, then 4 and finally 3 months which the NYSUT attorney told us was the lowest she has seen offered.

    You speak a big game on your blog NOrm and when you are surrounded by your people, but don't think I forgot any of our one on one conversations where you and I agreed on everything that was, and is, wrong with MORE and their absolute lack of member support. Michele Hen stated that her propsal for MORE to send members to 3020- termination hears was turned down. Is this true?

    You want to really know the "key to organizing?"
    Listen to the members, talk the talk and finally walk the walk. (Don't just blog about it)

    I believe this is the point where anonymous cowards jump in with their jabs... OR you can call me at 347-564-7597 to talk like an adult.

  7. I too think you should stop criticizing solidarity. In particular neither you nor anyone should ever say a bad word about Portelos, who is wonderful, and who offered you the chance to join him after having nominated himself for president. Where's the gratitude and adulation? Like the last commenter, I'm disappointed you have just decided to lay down and take it, becuase to me, that is the only possible alternative to supporting Portelos. Also I'm disregarding all the things you mention in your blog because if Portelos wasn't there they didn't happen.

  8. NOrm, you and Peter Zucker are going to love Solidarity's "Rally of One" initiative then. We'll be sending as little as one person to leaflet outside a troubled school. We'll send you pictures to post.

  9. Thank you for "commenting" on the rally. Now imagine had you put your computer down and attended...what would have happened? But thank you for all the attention that you give UFT Solidarity. I thought you were going to write about all the other interesting things the other caucuses are doing. But instead you are watching our every move. You think you know what Solidarity's strategy is...? Lol.

  10. Big deal. So If Norm shows then they'll be 9 people. At least a ball teem could be fielded. But there would be no DH.

  11. Norm will love"Rally of One" initiative? I thought Norm was already promised to be called on from the podium on high.

    Norm, you luck SOB.

  12. Peter you wrong. Portelos can play all 9 positions at once.


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