Friday, July 22, 2016

#AFT100, #AFT16 - the Social Justice Convention - Some Reflections

At the AFT convention, as usual, I learned a lot about a lot of different things and a lot about different people.  In my follow-up I will address the 4 days of social justice mixed with a lot of defense of teacher rights -- so there was some real balance. But more of that later.

The convention was over by noon and we all scattered. I haven't done a very good job of following the details. Look to Jonathan Halabi and Arthur Goldstein for better reporting. I posted links to all their reports so far below in the Afterburn.

I'm not sure I can cover all my thoughts in one post without putting every reader to sleep but I am going to try and expand on some items in the future. I'll touch on some things in no particular order. As usual I am more interested in social interactions than what actually went on at the convention.
My problem is within a few days most of what I learned will be gone -- so I better get what I can down even if I have to free associate.

Friday Morning - July 22, 2016 - Home at last

Got home close to 1AM last night - thanks to wonderful wife who picked me up at airport. Plane was loaded with Unity people and - most of whom were black - which is of no little consequence when we talk local and national social justice -- Leroy Barr's amazing speech is still reverberating - I never ran into him to congratulate him. (Halabi also writes about the speech).

Arthur and I got to hang out with other MOREs -- Lisa North, Gloria Brandman -- my usual travel mates to AFT - and Gladys Sotomayer - a 4-year ATR - so we got a lot of that point of view this week. This has been the 4th AFT convention for us. One Unity upper echelon person who hung with us one afternoon asked my what I got out of shlepping to these events at my own expense. Gloria and Lisa are 2 of the major reasons. In 2 years it's Pittsburg and Arthur and I are already thinking of a caravan of cars. So here are some thoughts, in no particular logical order.

Jia Lee, rock star 

Jia Lee was also there but she was staying with the Chicago crew and since Jia is becoming a nationally known figure, she had many political interactions with people from all over the nation who wanted to talk to her. Needless to say, they were impressed. So I didn't get to hang out with Jia very much. (Mike and I are being joined by Arthur and his daughter at Peter Luger's this Monday when I pay off my bet to Mike re: the high school elections and we are hoping Jia will join us.)

I learned something about Jia this week. She has the political chops and skill to do this work --  and the drive. Everywhere I looked Jia was huddling - with BATS, with Chicago people, with teachers from around the nation who follow union politics.
Within many quarters of the AFT and teacher movement, Jia has become a star and has come up BIG.

Arthur Goldstein, my roomie
Arthur and I roomed together and even though I know Arthur for a decade we have never traveled together. I often room alone on these trips or try to get a suite when we room with the ladies.  Arthur didn't snore (a major plus) though I can't guarantee I didn't snore. Arthur didn't care if I had the light or TV on when he went to sleep - another major plus. Arthur gets up early. So do I - the first morning I awoke to the tapping of the keyboard - Arthur was up and blogging shortly after 5AM. Arthur likes to eat breakfast early - and the hotel restaurant opened at 6:30AM. What's not to like? So we had a very compatible trip as roomies and travel mates generally and I think we are even closer as friends than before -- and you can't always say that after traveling.

Adding cement to the MORE/NEW ACTION Alliance
We spent a lot of time with New Action's Jonathan Halabi, someone both Arthur and I had not always had a good relationship with, particularly me - we probably didn't talk for years. At AFT14 in LA Jonathan and I had a bit of a thaw and chatted somewhat but I was never comfortable. In the recent election, after a rough start Jonathan and I worked very well together - mostly from a distance. He has been coming to some MORE events but always makes it clear he is not MORE but New Action.

Arthur and Jonathan had established a good relationship before the convention and there was even talk of him rooming with us. Over the past few days I probably learned more about Jonathan than anyone else. He knows a hell of a lot of stuff about everything - in his own words, a good deal of it useless information. He is very funny and very smart - as is Arthur - so hanging with 2 very funny and very smart guys is not a bad way to spend a few days. He loves to eat like we do. And he wanted to meet everyone -- I realized that being part of New Action he had not interacted with our colleagues from around the nation and I think he may have enjoyed these interactions with like-minded people the most. One of my main reasons for going to AFT is to hang with the local1 Chi gang - at parties and bars --- I think he also found the Chicago people amazing.And we all hung out at UCORE in the bar the other night and he connected up with the Minneapolis REACH people who he went to Cuba with. They are also among my favorite people.

I was proud to introduce Arthur and Jonathan as 2 of the magnificent 7 elected UFT Exec Bd members - people from around the nation who want to see the Unity monopoly broken practically broke into cheers. I think the two of them joined by the other 5 will make for an effective team at EB meetings. So, yes, I believe the alliance between MORE and New Action emerged from the convention stronger.

OK. I think it is time to stop for now and continue later with some deeper reflections on The Genius of Randi, MORE and Unity, and more.

Here are my reports so far and below that Halabi and Goldstein - all in reverse order of posting dates.



  1. I have been reading the Ednotes posts about the convention with great interest. In light of past posts there are certain questions that need to be raised. Very often you criticize the members of Unity as being "slugs" because you say they signed a "loyalty oath" (your roommate Arthur says "blood oath"), because they vote for the interests of the Union as a block and they do not vote as individuals. But in reading your coverage of the election the caucus you venerate; the UCORE people from Chicago did the following: they are part of the Progressive caucus with Unity. They nominated and voted for Mulgrew and other Unity members for officer positions. According to your coverage they voted as a block for every Unity resolution, amendment, and officer. They aligned themselves with Unity and advanced the same agenda. I was surprised not to read about any questions you had about why they abandoned their principles that they ostensibly share with MORE. I was also surprised that you did not question why not a single CORE-CTU member did not break with their caucus to vote their conscience. They voted as a block every time. So does MORE criticize Unity for voting as a block but actually expect their own members to emulate the discipline that the Unity-CORE alliance shows. When the MORE-New Action alliance gets to exec board will each of those seven members be allowed to vote their conscience or will they be expected to hold the line and vote as a block? Did MORE extract an agreement from New Action to support every one of the MORE positions even if they disagree? Has UCORe become the "establishment caucus" in Chicago? Finally, I want to know when the members of UCORE-MORE signed their loyalty oath did they get to use a pen, or as your convention roommate says did they have to sign in blood?

    1. George Schmidt is a ctu delegate as is his wife. Do you think they agree to loyalty oaths? Sure they may vote as a block but decisions in the caucus are made democratically not like unity where Randi decides how you vote.
      I know a lot more than I can say about both unity and core. Which group do you think is more open? And yes ctu in chi and the latu crew are establishment now and Randi has catered to their needs so they have no reason to oppose her at this point. As for progressive caucus it is open. I was a member. Only a min number of ctu are in the caucus. Most don't join. They don't try to pack the caucus like unity does Karen joined because Randi and chi people wanted chi to have Ex bd vp.
      As for more new action on ex bd individuals are free but if more has an initiative they will support it - and they as a group of 7 will make certain decisions. If one of them has an idea they will try to get others to support them. This way of operation is alien to a top down group like unity. I was asked to join a few times and would have if I thought it had room for an interchange of diversified ideas. Look at the Debbie poulos removal from the top. In my world the people in the Bklyn office would have been part of such a decision as they would in her replacement. It's funny how much this sounds like Leo Casey. Is he whispering in your ear?

  2. Norm the Unity person makes good points. Score big this week for Randi. She New Actionized the whole country. You are left with the bamns. Don't worry it will change after Hillary is elected and little changes.

  3. I do not say "blood oath." I say loyalty oath. I have seen and read it and have linked to it hundreds of times. And however CTU voted, I have seen no evidence they signed an oath. If you wish to suggest they did, prove it.

  4. Every caucus member votes the same. That's why they are partof a caucus. Otherwise it's chaotic and then what's the point? Democracy means voting. To win a vote and get your way you need most of the voters on your side. MORE knows this and their members always vote EXACTLY the same. You're just frustrated that most voters just don't agree with you. At exec board you'll do that too. The MORE exec board members will vote identically regardless of their own points of view. And according to Norm they'll let New Action known how they want them to vote as well.

    1. Absolutely untrue. New action has 2 members. Hardcore more meaning someone who has been active in more has 1 person - Mike. Marcus has been to only one more meeting I know if. Ashraya has become active in more only in last 6 months. Da he comes more from nycore. David Garcia Rosen has little to do with more. Arthur is on edge of more and do you think he accepts loyalty oaths? David He was part of teachers unite and has his own agenda. If anyone wants to take action with a reso they need to win 5 people. This is a diverse group with differing interests. The very essence of what unity is not. But the 5 more people did say if more had an initiative they would support it unless they had fundamental disagreement. New action is free to support or not. One thing you will see at ex bd meetings is diversity of opinion not unity go along get along.

    2. Wow. That is an absolute strawman fallacy. To tell us what we think, and what we'll do, as though you were The Amazing Kreskin. And clearly you are unable to provide any evidence for your ridiculous assertion that CTU has a loyalaty oath, so you change the subject.

    3. CTU voted on every vote every time the same way and they are in the same national caucus as UNITY and voted for Randi and Michael. Sure sounds like "free thinking".
      In terms of the exec board pretty sure 5 out of the 7 seats are MORE seats unless you let people run under that slate that aren't part of the caucus which would be ridiculous.

    4. You guys set up the national caucus that way. There is no real alternative anyway so why not vote that way. You mean they should have voted for BAMN? Even I would have voted for Randi over BAMN. As I said not everyone is a core MORE - Arthur is certainly a member but owes no loyalty oath. Why would be ridiculous to include people on our slate who are not part of the caucus but are likeminded? In your world it is ridiculous which is why you have made so many mistakes in decision making. George Schmidt is in CTU and voted. Trust me - he is as independent as they come. He could have voted any way he wanted to. In your narrow way of thinking you have a need to try to justify yourself by trying to paint everyone like you guys.


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