Thursday, July 21, 2016

#AFT100, #AFT16 Day 4: On Divorce and Succession Blues - Mulgrew, Ricker, Poulos, Randi

Mulgrew's next stop?
Excuse this rambling post but I'm sitting in the convention center with Randi running this for hours -- and watching her on the big screen. Like a 4 day UFT delegate Assembly nightmare from the year 2001.

Well, the final few hours of the AFT convention are at hand and Arthur Goldstein and I got here late after a hearty breakfast at the Normandy Inn  - I always try to frequent places with the name "Norman". Arthur forgot there was such a thing as a shower curtain this morning and I had to swim to the toilet. Arthur seems to love the hotel: NYC Educator, Happy Days Redux.


Getting a divorce: Mulgrew and Randi?

Liza North, Gladys Sotomayer and Gloria Brandman, my convention wife for the past 4 days, have a suite in the same hotel and I made my first visit there to pick up the extra MORE leaflets to drop off at the convention this morning. It is a like a real apartment and only for 40 bucks more a day -- Arthur and I could have gotten one of these and added a third person. Next time we are in Minneapolis for an AFT convention - maybe in 2034. 

Before I left I officially got a divorce from Gloria until we remarry for the next convention in 2 years. Arthur and I had another hearty breakfast and didn't get to the convention hall until almost 10.

They are hurrying to try and wrap up. I admire Randi for her ability to run these proceedings for almost 4 days - think of a 4 day delegate assembly. She does all this with amazing energy and enthusiasm. There are some of the usual games and Randi mannerisms but other than when she screeches and screams I don't find her offensive.

There are people from BAMN who are raising important points but also in a strident way that alienates even potential supporters. I can't pin down exactly what bothers me about them because I support much of what they say --  it must be the way they say it -- with a moral fervor bordering on hysteria -- as if just getting to say their stuff here is the most important thing in the world and saving civilization depends on them getting their full time at the mic.

They are treated as pariahs - much like I had been at times at the DA -- and one thing I learned to navigate at the DA was how I would present myself in ways that I could navigate through the maze. I often managed to keep Randi and the rest of the Unity horde at bay through some use of humor and charm - I might give Mulgrew lessons. I had some charm - Mulgrew thinks he has charm.

Randi just made a nice tribute to Karen Lewis whose birthday was yesterday - Mulgew in his speech had everyone sing happy
birthday to Karen but she was at a meeting. She came to the mic earlier to thank Mulgrew and the delegates. He tried to be charming but didn't pull it off.

Rather than deal with the convention today as it wraps up I want to touch on some the things that have been going through my mind while here, some of it based on observations and some based on conversations.

I always look for patterns in what might appear to be disparate events and seek to find connections - a grand unification theory.

I speculated yesterday about whether Randi and Mulgrew were on the verge of divorce: #AFT100, #AFT16 Day 3 Post 2: Palace Intrigues -

I wrote how Exec VP Mary Cathryn Ricker is an increasingly rising star in the AFT and is looking as a possible Randi successor and how Mulgrew was fairly invisible at this convention.

As I was about to hit SEND, Randi called Mulgrew to the stage to speak about teacher organizing. His comments were poorly prepared  - he said nothing of substance and when faced with running out of time after saying nothing about organizing he tried to save things by having the body sing happy birthday to Karen Lewis - who was not present - but I do know that one saving grace for Mulgrew is a really good relationship between him and Karen - they clearly have some affection for each other.

They were giving Mulgrew a big moment and on the whole he did not garner much respect for his performance. My instinct is that Mulgrew is being blamed for losing the high schools to MORE/NA because he didn't cultivate the carefully nurtured relationship Randi had brokered with New Action.

And is Mulgrew blamed for the Unity leaflet mocking the opt-out movement which alienated a major parent group in NY State - a group Randi has also worked to nurture a relationship with.
Leroy Barr - made great speech on black lives matter
Although Leroy Barr is in charge of Unity Caucus and some people tell me he also dropped the ball on New Action. I can't be mad at Leroy today because of his wonderful speech yesterday on black lives matter. If I see him before I leave I want to congratulate him

And how about that internal strife I was writing about with Unity people actually telling us how they voted for Jia Lee and some of them are mocking Mulgrew. Why is my post on the movement of Debbie Poulos out of the Brooklyn office getting so many hits (Mulgrew Removes Brooklyn Borough Rep Debbie Poulos)?

I speculated that Randi was behind the move through her NYC surrogate, Ellie Engler. I got this anon comment:
Of course Engler is her agent. She is not even a UFT member and was made one of the Direcor's of Staff because she was Randi's roomate in college. You can't imagine how hated she is by UFT staff.
I don't know it this is true. If this comes from Randi, why? Was Debbie really a threat to Mulgrew? One thing I would bet my pension on -- Randi will be part of any decisions on Mulgrew's successor. 

The AFT president is dependent on the UFT Unity Caucus as their power base. So don't forget what Al Shanker did to his former mentor Dave Selden by using the Unity machine to dump Selden in 1974 at the AFT convention (in Toronto and I was there). Shanker remained UFT president for another decade to cover his back and every supposed successor went by the wayside until Shanker finally decided on Feldman as a total loyalist who would never stray.

Sandy when she moved up and handed the UFT over to Randi did not maintain control of the UFT as Randi had years to take control even before Sandy took over the AFT when Shanker died. Someone told me the other day that Randi didn't want to see Mulgrew do to her what she did to Feldman - Randi worked as quickly as she could to move out Sandy loyalists and put her people in place. 

Mulgrew has been in power for 6 years and from what I see many of Randi's people are still in place - if people out there know more than I do leave comments. Through the grapevine I hear that Randi doesn't hesitate to intervene when she thinks things are not going right in the UFT.

If Mary Cathryn is Randi's successor if Randi should go to Hillary admin then what happens to Mulgrew - basically stay where he is in the UFT? If Randi doesn't move them everything is static. But could Mary Cathryn get the AFT  presidency without UnityNYC support? I don't think so. Thus if Mulgrew wants it if Randi leaves and Randi wanted Mary Cathryn - what reality TV that would be.

Let's say Mulgrew wins a power struggle and becomes AFT president -- I can see the cringe factor working ----- his skill set is so far behind Randi's and after his performance over the past few conventions - almost inconceivable - unless they send him to charm school. Again - I appreciate Randi for her incredible political skills at manipulating and co-opting. I can see Mary Cathryn Ricker as someone with her skillset.

Who would replace Mulgrew? Leroy Barr? 

Another obvious choice is HS VP Janella Hines - though we think James Eterno is the real HS VP since he got more high school teacher votes than Janella did and she was only elected because of the at-large votes -- yes retirees too. She is a woman of color and that would break new ground in the UFT.

People like Janella. I do. We had some great discussions at the vote count - one day I have to touch on those conversations. Out HS Exec Bd slate will work with Janella on issues related to high schools. Maybe we can push for some better discipline policy and to address principals who abuse teachers.

Did Janella see Debbie as a threat? Hard to believe Debbie had ambitions to be UFT president. Debbie began to develop a loyal following in Brooklyn but people beyond there really know her. In her new job she may make many more contacts so I don't see how moving her around makes much difference internally though Debbie does have some avid supporters in the hierarchy.

If I am off base on any of this blame it on my bar hopping over the past 4 days -- my knee is killing me because I actually did hop from bar to bar.

Well, it looks like we are coming to the end so Jonathan, Arthur and I will be heading back to our hotel to meet up with Lisa and Gladys and spend a few hours finding a way to stay out of the 100 degree heat until Arthur and I catch our train to the airport for our 7:30 flight.

Here are my previous posts on the AFT convention.
One more blast from the past - Allan Lubin -
 Of course Allen didn't do too badly as NYSUT Exec VP who in essence ran NYSUT for 20 years.


  1. Not to be the skunk at the convention but I came across some unsettling BLM-TFA entanglements that aren't going to bode well for teachers thinking they will have much community support.

    1. This has been around for a while - that guy who ran for Baltimore mayor was a TFA.
      The connections are not widespread from what i hear.
      We could have used you at the convention. Phil was up there more than once.

    2. Teaching summer school! Plus I didn't get an invitation. Plus Randi.

  2. So I have debated whether or not to reply under the cover of anonymity since I am retired. But I have friends who still work for UFT and they don't need to hear shit about this comment. Here goes. The reason you got 4,000 hits on the Debbie Poulos story is because the move was a Engler created political decision and UFT people are angry and disgusted with the dysfunctional leadership. Mulgrew may be president but Engler tells everyone and anyone that she really runs the UFT and will pick the next president. Poulos's mistake was not playing the internal UFT political game.

    1. How did Engler get her leadership position anyway? I do not remember seeing her name on the election ballot.

    2. According to Anon her position was a Randi placement. College Roommates. if true that is easy to fact check. I think Anon 9:05 got it right. Staff pretend to be an Ellie supporter because they know they need her if they are at all ambitious. I hear that the new Brooklyn Borough Rep will be an amiable person who follows orders without asking questions. We will see if this ends up being true.


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