Saturday, May 20, 2017

What We Talked About at the Independent Community of Educators (ICE) Meeting Yesterday

Some people may be asking what exactly is the status of ICE - the caucus not the anti-immigrant feds -- at this point. It is not a caucus in the sense of running in UFT elections. There are no real rules in ICE in terms of taking action. ICE is out there mostly as the  ICEUFT Blog run by James Eterno.

Almost every ICE person is part of MORE, of which ICE was a founding organization. ICE was also the founder of GEM which morphed into MORE, so I'm pretty proud of the history of ICE. As poitned out at yesterday's ICE gathering, we were the most social justicy group when we were founded in late 2003 and proud of it.

Today, ICE doesn't really do much of anything but blog -- 3  blogs read by many in the UFT are from ICEers -- James, Arthur Goldstein and myself.

We also talk - endlessly about anything - and freely. Every so often there is a feeling that we have things to talk about and so we put out an open invitation to join us at a diner where everyone gets to hash out issues of concern, something that doesn't happen at MORE meetings, which often get divided into smaller discussion groups, something that most ICEers are not comfortable with.  Since our numbers are small we can do that more easily than MORE.

ICE met yesterday, the day before MORE is holding a meeting/conference today regarding its Save the Union Campaign,
CUNY Graduate Center (5th and 34th) Room 5414 (Bring ID) Date: Saturday, May 20 Time: 3:30 to 6:00, with socializing to follow.
MORE's position is to get teachers in the school to sign pledge cards saying they will remain in the UFT.
The major subject on the agenda was a discussion about the position MORE seems to be taking -- that after a negative decision on agency shops, we urge everyone to pay dues and stay in the union. There was some push back among ICEers, me included, on this issue - a feeling that alternative views were not given sufficient airing within MORE -- or people were not just paying attention. I did raise alternatives at one MORE meeting -- which as usual had broken into smaller groups - so my points were heard and I guess they passed into the ether.

So what are the alternatives to telling people to stay in the UFT, an undemocratic and  locked hierarchy that offers little prospect for change? There are alternatives, like forming an organization to ask people who won't pay dues to instead put the money in an escrow account to be used to organize and possibly recruit another bargaining agent - not something I support at this time but certainly an idea that should be vetted.

Other ideas have been to separate the high school teachers -- which vote opposition -- from the rest of the union into a separate bargaining agent -- there might be legal ways to accomplish that -- by getting a certain % of high school teachers to call for a bargaining election. After all, it was pointed out that James Eterno is the de facto HS VP since he got the most HS votes, but due to Unity's changing the constitution in 1994 to make the divisional VP at-large - where elementary teachers and retirees vote.

I'm not for that either at this point.

But I'm also not for giving Unity unqualified support without conditions. Imagine going around your school asking people to sign the pledge to stay. "Why are you in an opposition group and what do you oppose," someone might ask? "Well, they don't really offer a defense of the members, etc, etc, etc" - and your prospective signee says - "And you want me to keep paying dues to that?" and you have to say the truth -- it is still better than no union. But of course they can counter -- the union will still be there in some form.

Well, all of this was on the table, in addition to lots of food, as 8 of us met for I think about 4 hours.

We also talked about the issues below and about MORE in general and how some issues don't get aired - the sense that one can't be critical about things that don't work without being charged with being negative - which I have been charged with -- so I basically don't bother -- a form of subtle suppression of sorts which in an organization that is critical of the UFT leadership on democracy, is ironic. (Some feel that at times MORE feels like a manipulated democracy.)

We talked about the things we don't talk about in MORE. What is not working and what can be done about it. What is working and why -- right now the great work being done by the Ex Bd people in pushing the UFT/Unity to do more.

We didn't get to everything on the agenda below -- and I never did get my rice pudding -- I only had a 3-course meal.
Janus and the UFT. Are there alternatives to urging people to stay in the union?
Dissecting the Central park east story in depth -- what do we learn and can it be applied to other schools or is this an outlier?
Chicago and social justice unionism -- we see a dearth of info on Chicago after years of "lessons we can learn". Are the CTU and CORE morphing into the UFT and Unity? Tales of democracy and not democracy -- is the SJ model people are using failing or are there other considerations?
LA confidential -- the loss to charters in school board elections -- is that a good model as an alt to mayoral control? Union leadership in LA -- Alex' grand plan and was it disrupted by the election?


Harris L. said...

Thanks for the great report, Norm. I'm sorry that I couldn't make the meeting yesterday.

bronx northeast throgg native said...

get rid of the Danielson Rubric, random drive-by observations and I'll stay in the union

John Giambalvo said...

We never even got around to the chickens coming home to roost aspect of Janus! Then again, I only stayed for two (teerific) hours so I could be wrong.

ed notes online said...

I don't think the diner serves roosting chickens but we did touch on not giving them a free pass.

Anonymous said...

As a proud third generation union member (NTU/AFT), I would be hard pressed to come up with arguments to convince my colleagues to stay in the union. On most days, I have difficulty affirming my own union support. What keeps me holding on is the thought that it could always get worse.

Abigail Shure