Sunday, February 11, 2018

Mike Schirtzer on BLM Reso: A Plea for More Unity in Our Union

I also call on both groups to work together to achieve a common goal: Because Black Lives Do Matter to all of us. Now is not the time for blame or is it the time to scream how things *should* be. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get stuff done.... Mike Schirtzer
I asked Mike if this was his official application to join Unity Caucus. I don't agree with some of it but do agree that the black members of Unity are not racist - duh! or mere sellouts. More of my commentary after Mike's piece.
A Plea for More Unity in Our Union

By Mike Schirtzer

UFT Delegate Goldstein HS-Brooklyn

UFT Executive Board member

“We want a union that believes Black Lives Matter”. That is the statement that was published by the MORE caucus of UFT, which I am a member, to be circulated online.

It is also a false statement, one that is unnecessarily inflammatory and unfair.

On January 27 of this year, the Delegate Assembly of the UFT, which is predominantly Unity caucus and is comprised of many women and people of color, voted against a resolution entitled “Resolution for Black Lives Matter Week of Action on February 5th through 9th”

The first resolved clause of that resolution said that the “UFT will join with participating grassroots organizations and cultural institutions, for a Black Lives Matter Week of Action, beginning February 5, 2018”

This is what the Delegate Assembly of the UFT voted against.

They did not say, nor ever insinuate, that Black Lives do not matter, as has been stated in social media, on NY1 and, recently, in an editorial in the New York Daily News.

An editorial in the NY Daily News asked the union to "“to join us in doing the hard and courageous work to eradicate racism in the educational system.” It was written by parents who have been supportive of the UFT and of teachers. It is problematic because the explicit claim that UFT is not doing enough to fight racism is simply not true.

I am not in the business of supporting the Unity Caucus. They too, have acted immature, recently distributing a flier with its own false accusations and encouraging its members to repeat those accusations on their Facebook page. The leaders of Unity have a history of calling those in the opposition “anti-union” and "extreme". That is a great insult and one that is not easily forgiven.

To be clear, Unity members have promised to work together several times and have failed to follow-up. They have often voted against resolutions at Executive Board and Delegate Assemblies that we all know would push our union forward, because it came from a member of the “loyal opposition.” We in MORE are chapter leaders, delegates and activists who fight everyday in order to advance the rights of educators, people in our city and beyond. These false accusations must end as well.

But we must be honest, even when that honesty requires strength: The UFT leadership has been active in the fight against racism. They have worked closely with the NAACP. They proudly marched with Eric Garner’s family. They work to support immigrants. They develop culturally relevant curriculum. They worked with DOE to integrate our schools and continue to advocate for a more diverse teacher force. The assessment that UFT does not stand against racism dismisses our close relationship with the NAACP and the inclusion of African-Americans in high positions of the decision making wing of the UFT leadership. This has existed for nearly a decade without notice and without credit from the press and or from the opposition.

As for the January Delegate Assembly, my comrades from MORE have called out the lack of democracy, pointing to the lack of debate and the fact that Unity votes as a bloc. Yet, in the New Jersey teacher union, "there was 6 hours of debate” before their resolution was passed. Such debate has been routinely discouraged at MORE meetings and through emails. We have organizations within MORE which operate exactly as Unity does. How can we be bold enough to cast stones? When we call on Unity to hold debates and be transparent we ought to hold ourselves to that same standard.

There is only one reason there is any transparency at all at UFT public forums, such as Executive Board meetings or Delegate Assemblies. It is because of the relentless work of Arthur Goldstein. His meticulous, accurate notes is what allowed us to offer this analysis on the BLM week of action resolution. It should be pointed out that the same people of MORE who have used his notes to expose Unity are the same people who have sought to restrict him and his work on the Executive Board. The same leaders of MORE who challenged Arthur's priorities for raising a resolution on fighting the proliferation of class-size violations, rely on the work that Arthur devotes dozens of hours of his own personal time to produce.

Rather than issue statements on websites and social media posts, I would like to see the leaders of MORE that believe these accusations directly address the union leadership and say with their own mouths that “Black Lives don't matter to our union" because of you. If that is not the case, then still show up and clarify how our position and that of Unity is different.

I also call on both groups to work together to achieve a common goal: Because Black Lives Do Matter to all of us. Now is not the time for blame or is it the time to scream how things *should* be. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get stuff done. Now is the time we all pull together as one union and advance this necessary cause. Because Black Lives Do Matter.. Because nothing short of actual improvement is worth our time.

Norm Commentary
Mike has some beefs with MORE - Me too but I am still there. And so is he --

I thought Leroy Barr did not do a good job but he was in a pickle (and did know this was coming for a month.) I feel for Leroy, the son of a teacher and a cop whose parents had "that conversation" with him as a kid about black boys being safe on the street when confronted by police. I ended up on the NY1 story being critical of Leroy's position on Vietnam (accidentally because I ran into the reporter but did not feel a white guy should be talking about BLM and suggested they try to reach some black spokespeople but one I suggested did not want to be on camera.) My friend on 
The Doenuts Blog: BEWARE of those who start fires  blames MORE for going to the press and publicizing the issue and there has been some blow back within MORE over his position, but it has sparked some important debate. 

I do think the way BLM has been perceived has led to divisions and that the makers of the motion are in denial if they think it is folly for he leadership to say there are divisions  -- but also the UFT leaders should have joined with MORE in countering the misconceptions of BLM week and the divisions it can cause.

Some believe the major reason for the UFT position is due to the police union objections. I know my radical friends go all into a tizzy when people say anything good about cops, but as one who lives on a block with a bunch of current and retired cops I am not in that place. I can get where the UFT is coming from but also think they have to do more to break down those walls instead of hiding behind them.


  1. Hard to see this. Painful actually. Black Lives Matter as a movement has galvanized activism around the country. It has had an impact on the lives of many and shaken us out of complacency. Many of our bread and butter issues overlap with the issues identified in the National BLM in schools week campaign.School closures, gentrification, excessing, evaluations, high stakes testing, scripted curriculum, national standards, teacher diversity and charter invasion by colocation and targetted privacy violating recruitment can all overlap. We can add school safety, resources, funding, staffing, and class size to that list. What does it mean in the time of Janus to confront our union on stances that are decidely unbold with language that is blunt and direct? It means that we want them to see how we see them. We want them to know that this is a time for bold stances, for being on the right side of history. The UFT could have taken solace in that they would have been in a group of 20. They could have chosen to focus on one angle. But they sent the message they were unwilling to do so. What they left us with was the message loud and clear that they would chose the path of self preservation. They dont have our back as much as we would wish. But it stung to be called out on it. They then revealed themselves with the response to Arthur, who is a personal hero of mine, by wanting to turn uft mtgs into vegas and let everything that happens there stay there.The only glimmer of hope is that a great big fire has been lit under their ass as they have begun to show up at mtgs to defend schools up for closure. Is poking the bear good policy? Who knows? But after a week of no less than 4 racially offensive incidents in schools, I think our point has been made. We want them in the fight along with us. But will they?

  2. I agree that uft didn't handle this well. Mike is uncomfortable with attempts to brand a diverse leadership as somehow racist or anti Blm. I don't think they are but they may be entering panic mode due to Janus. In some ways I don't give a crap as they've been either on the fence or on the other side of the fence on so many issues. Don't expect bold action from the uft or aft. It is not in their DNA. They could have handled this by addressing Blm and what they think makes it divisive and providing info on why it shouldn't be. Like if after the holocaust Jews said Jewish lives matter many non Jews would not blink but others might. The creation of Israel is jlm. So when we see black people getting murdered it is part of the 400 year black holocaust. Blm is no less a response than jlm. my problem is around how the Blm reso was formulated, promoted - without backing of chapters and even at this point signs that some or most of its avid supporters did not appear to raise it in their school chapters where they could have addressed concerns of colleagues. An argument that there are too many trump supporters is a school is no different than Leroy's argument that it coukf be divisive. If you think you would get push back in your school and create s divisive issue that would divert everyone from fighting an abusive principal then does Leroy have a point? I think the entire discussion that we didn't have around this is fascinating and illuminates how our union operates but also how an opposition could be more effective.


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