Monday, September 21, 2015

Why I Am Voting YES on the MORE/New Action Election Alliance; MORE Strategy Vindicated

New Action has come to its senses and decided to align itself with tried and true activists in the MORE caucus. Opposition is finally coming together... NYC Educator, New Action Joins MORE.

Bernie Madoff could win a credibility contest against Mulgrew's Unity Caucus so I'm not too concerned. I have been vocal of my support for MORE and my disgust with New Action. My disgust with NA was rooted in their support of Mulgrew's presidency. Now that NA has removed that support, my disgust is waning. MORE still has credibility in my book. ....Roseanne McCosh - PS8X
MORE held an extensive discussion at the MORE general meeting on Saturday, which included push back from some people over various issues related to the arrangement and asking what are the differences between MORE and NA, etc. (I'll get into some of those another time).

Kit Wainer, whose roots were TJC, led the discussion - he was also one of our reps in discussions with NA - and when I think back to where TJC stood on NA 10 years ago -- well to me this was something.

MORE is in the process of a membership vote on the proposal to endorse the election 2016 working arrangement with New Action.

I am voting YES.

This may surprise readers of Ed Notes going back to its beginnings in 1997. I have been a severe critic of New Action, even when my pals James Eterno and Ellen Fox were elected to the UFT Exec Bd as New Action. Of course once NA made its deals with Unity as far back as 2002/3, we became allies in ICE.

ICE offered New Action a deal for 2007 election
That didn't stop us from contacting New Action before the election in 2007 - ICE/TJC had defeated NA in the 2004 election for the high school Ex Bd seats - the only time NA did not have people on the Exec Bd since 1994. That offer was turned down and ICE and TJC continued to work together - which culminated in a merger of sorts in 2012 to form MORE with others.

When MORE formed, individuals from New Action were invited in and some did join MORE while continuing to support New Action. That did cause some tension. After the 2013 election when MORE significantly outpolled New Action in every division other than retirees, things began to change.

MORE stood firm on refusal to work with New Action
At first New Action asked for some working arrangements with MORE. We refused  - why help promote another caucus that was partnering with Mulgrew?

At a meeting in October 2013 Julie Cavanagh and I made that point very clear to New Action. We are ready to work with you when you agree to break with Unity. That offer has been on the table since then. I also pointed out that MORE is open to New Action coming in and serving on steering and bringing their experience to MORE. I pointed to the demographics - that MORE was the first opposition in decades to attract a younger generation of teachers - making groups like ICE. TJC and New Action at risk of becoming retiree caucuses. (There is an audio tape of that meeting.)

There were one or two voices in MORE that insisted we not adhere to that position and instead work with New Action even while they officially supported Mulgrew.

MORE stood firm, believing that working with a group that supports Mulgrew would be a disaster for MORE - witness Roseanne's comment above. Only by not compromising would New Action eventually come to see that an alliance would help them and MORE - or else they might be threatened with losing more ground to MORE in the 2016 elections.

And I will say that the old ICE core was much less receptive to New Action than some of the new MOREs who did not live that history.

Personal contact helps
Over the last year at every DA I would tell the guy handing out NA lit: When are you guys rejoining the opposition? He would laugh and say - maybe sooner than you think.

I have to say, that since that Oct. 2013 meeting, I did get the NA point of view and lost a lot of my hostility towards them and to most (not all) of its leaders. I got to hang out with Jonathan Halabi at the AFT14 convention in LA and enjoyed some of our conversation. I realized what an important ally he could be in so many ways.

Another thing that happened was that as MORE chapter leaders began to have contact with New Action chapter leaders, there was a growing mutual respect. Really, that is where a lot of this stuff happens. At the grassroots level.

Now don't get me wrong. My dream of one caucus - branding a clear alternative to Unity - has not come to pass. The slate will look something like MORE/New Action. I think that over the long term that is harmful. People might ask - if you guys can't get together into one organization, how can you run the UFT? Well, coalitions running unions have worked in the past. But at this point of the process, I am not worried about that. In the key area of the high school executive board, MORE will get 4 and New Action will get 3 and MORE gets to choose the presidential candidate.  Pretty much everything else will be split - where there is an odd number - MORE due to its stronger position, will get the extra slot.

At Saturday's meeting, the strengths more than the weaknesses of New Action were brought out. A 25 year old distribution network, the fact that they have been putting out some pretty decent literature over the past year or two - taking very similar positions as MORE. So I won't get into the negatives and the differences at this point.

If we win the high school seats and contend in other divisions we will be working together over the next 3 years. I assume Halabi will be one of the NA Ex Bd members and while MORE hasn't chosen anyone yet, I expect our 4 will bring a lot to the table.

Let's see how well we work together and revisit the issue in April.

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