Tuesday, October 30, 2018

UFT Contract Vote Count Friday - I'm Going as an Observer, But Must Sign a Non-Disclosure

I intend to check out the vote count this Friday at the AAA before heading to the ICE meeting but won't be able to report results as they come in due to the UFT Ex Bd voting yesterday to embargo the results so they can be announced on Sunday as part of the UFT's annual celebration of its first strike in 1960.

I told Leroy Barr that I would withstand water torture before revealing the outcome. I will release my own analysis of the outcome on Sunday on this blog.

You know, hanging out at the Ex Bd with Unity people (along with some oppositionists) can lead to a stockholm syndrome effect where hostages begin to identify with their captors.

You can read Arthur's report on the meeting here:

UFT Executive Board October 29th--Contract Voting Results Will Be Released Sunday

Also check out Chaz' rebuke of the allies who are backing the contract.
Why ATRs Voted No On The Contract. 
Some people who have been critical of the union leadership, have decided to support the contract.  These well-respected bloggers are nyc educator, DOEnuts, and JD2715.  One thing all three have in common is that they are not ATRs.

By contrast, all bloggers who are ATRs.  South Bronx Schools, ATR Adventures, and ATR NYC have voted no.  Moreover, ICEUFT, run by a retired ATR recommended a no vote.  Finally, I, as an ATR also voted no.

It's a pity that our usually reliable allies, while giving lip service in support of the ATRs, still voted yes for the contract, despite the contract not making any significant changes to the ATR pool.
 I do not necessarily expect people to vote NO only on the basis of the ATR situation if they think there are benefits for the majority -- ie. -- two observations --- but I expect them to at least point out the negatives.

I don't get it. There is absolutely no need for ATRs given the situation in the schools. The continuance of their status allows all kinds of abuses, especially when teachers are excessed into the pool - principals can weaponize the ATR pool. It seems to me that the end of the ATR situation should have been a line in the sand. Now I know many ATRs who are perfectly happy in the pool but it is time to end this farce -- appoint people to schools like it was done in the old days until 2005. The NYC school system survived 80 years without ATRs and could do so again.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

UFT Contract: My commentary and Swerdlow on Contract Dangers

These committees will be, in effect, making contract.  If they cannot, these standards in most cases can be established by arbitration.  So, members are now voting on a TA that will have, in effect, many provisions they cannot possibly know.... Marian Swerdlow 

I’m going to the MORE contract meeting later where Marian Swerdlow will present on the contract. I’m reposting her analysis on the MORE blog which gets to some of the nitty gritty stuff. My pro-contract buddies tell me the leadership listened and responded. I guess they did given Janus. I think they are glossing over or outright ignoring some of the hidden dangers in the contract. I find many of the YES articles lacking analysis like Marian does here but in fact doing a sales pitch. I’m ok if you say her points are not enough to make you vote no. But at least recognize that there are pitfalls instead of blind adherence. I also say this about NO propaganda. Two evals and parental leave is moving in the right direction. My YES friends claim they had something to do with these changes because the leadership listened to them. The union didn’t listen to them because they were nice guys but because they were perceived as representing groups beyond themselves. After all some of them were not elected to the executive board as individuals but by the votes as a result of the efforts of Two  caucuses. If they had run as independents they would have gotten squat.

I wonder how the yes/no contract divide and some of the associated bitterness will play out in uft elections this spring where we may see as many as 3 groups running against Unity. Or no groups. The MORE internal meeting before the 1pm contract convention will take up the election issue today. I generally urges not to run but as conditions evolve so do my views. New Action will take no position on the contract. Eterno at ICE has cast the die but others in ICE are Split but probably leaning no. We’ll see at Friday’s ice meeting when the vote will be done. Solidarity is opposed. So we are seeing some strange bedfellows which might spill over into election coalitions.

Or not. Having just returned from a Road Scholar tour of Croatia in the former Yugoslavia where we had Balkan politics and all its complexities explained I find myself emersed in our own version of the balkans.
""Solidarity means fighting the boss"
The general thrust of this tentative agreement (TA)  is to move from enforcing members’ rights and toward greater collaboration with management.
Part of this is the large number of joint UFT – DOE committees it sets up.
Two of these joint UFT – DOE committees are being set up to formulate “standards,” which are very similar to contract provisions.  Like all the committees set up in this TA, they have the following characteristics: (1) an equal number of members appointed by the UFT president and the Chancellor.  (2) The UFT appointees are unelected, and not directly accountable to the membership. (3) Their meetings are not open to members. Only the Chancellor and UFT President have the power to approve or reject these standards, not the members or even the Delegate Assembly. If Chancellor and UFT President cannot agree, a neutral can be called as mediator. If that is unsuccessful, the TA calls for that neutral to “issue a binding decision,” i.e. binding arbitration.
One of these joint committees, the “Central Committee,” (CC)  will set standards governing “reduction and elimination of unnecessary paperwork, defining a curriculum and when it must be provided to teachers, professional development, the requirement to provide basic instructional supplies. [Item 6]  Furthermore, “Nothing precludes the parties from agreeing to the addition of new System Wide Standards with respect to operational issues.” [Item 6]. Another will set system-wide standards for school safety, positive school culture and climate. [Item 7]
These committees will be, in effect, making contract.  If they cannot, these standards in most cases can be established by arbitration.  So, members are now voting on a TA that will have, in effect, many provisions they cannot possibly know.
Just as alarming, members do not have the power to grieve violations of any of these standards.  Instead, the TA states: “Employees . . . may request that their Chapter Leader raise school-specific Operational Issues with the principal, the employee’s direct supervisor, and/or in a  . . . [consultation meeting]” But this is only a request: the Chapter Leader (CL) has no obligation to honor it. In place of the member filing a grievance, the CL can “raise” the issue. “If the issue is not resolved within five school days . . . the appropriate UFT District Representative (DR) may raise it before the District Committee.”(DC)    If the DC reaches a resolution, it is “subject to approval by the Chancellor.” It the DC cannot resolve it, it “shall refer the issue to the Central Committee for review.” There is no time limit for this last step. If the CC reaches a resolution, it too is “subject to approval by the Chancellor.”
An important difference from the current grievance process is that in the latter,  a neutral arbitrator whose award is not “subject to approval by the Chancellor” comes in at the “third step”   In this new process of committees, the chancellor has final say over even the third step. This delays the introduction of a neutral party. 
After the third step, “[f]or alleged violations of the System-wide Standards, the UFT [not the member] may file a grievance . . . [but] it is understood that, PRIOR TO [emphasis added] a grievance being filed, the issue must go through the committee process as described above.  Such grievances shall be filed directly with the DOE’s OLR [Office of Labor Relations] . . . ” So, even at the end of the process of committees, it is still not in the individual member’s power to initiate a grievance. 
The TA also specifies that the arbitrator’s written award will be “brief.”  Long awards have often established important rights for members. This would seem to discourage that.  It also says, “The parties shall negotiate pre-arbitration hearing procedures so each party is aware of the allegations and defenses being raised at the arbitration . . . ”  The current contract doesn’t seem to have a provision like this. If this is a new provision, it also signals additional cooperation between the union and the DOE. 
So, to summarize, these changes will (1) force members to vote on a TA whose provisions they do not know, because these provisions, called “standards” in the TA, are to be determined in the future by joint committees;  (2) delay arbitration by channeling the adjudication of complaints about violations of these standards through a hierarchy of joint committees before they can be grieved. (3) Completely deny members any right to grieve over these standards.
Other similarly structured joint committees that are not establishing standards but will have a bearing on working conditions and even salary include: a Joint Labor Management Committee “to review and discuss programming in the schools . . . ” [Item 19]; a “Professional Learning Team . . . charged with the planning of an annual training session schedule . . . regarding the implementation of the observation cycle,” [Item 10] a Joint Accreditation Committee (JAC) to take part in the revision of the criteria for courses that will count toward the second differential.  Even “[t]he posting for these deans positions shall be jointly created by the UFT and the Board (DOE)” The training of Deans “shall be jointly developed by the UFT and the Board (DOE) [Item 7]. Another joint committee will “design and implement” the Remote Teaching Pilot Program.” [Item 16] In this last example, if the committee cannot reach a consensus, “the UFT President and Chancellor shall jointly make the final decision,” rather than an arbitrator as with most of the committees. 
The TA’s way to handle class size violations likewise delays the grievance process, channeling complaints through a hierarchy of joint committees.  The UFT leaders call this an “expedited” process, but, as others have pointed out, it will actually take longer for grievances of over-sized classes to reach binding arbitration this new way.  
Under the current contract, school administrations have the first ten days of classes to get classes down to legal size.  The union can file for arbitration two days after that, and arbitration must begin no later than five days after that. So class size violations can begin to be arbitrated 17 school days after classes begin.  
In the TA’s so-called “Expedited Procedure for Class Size”  it isn’t until the 21st day that the violations go to yet another joint UFT – DOE committee, the Class Size Labor Management Committee (CLMC).    The CLMC will “attempt” to resolve the violations. (Only for schools “chronically out of compliance” does the CLMC start to attempt a resolution earlier, on the tenth day.  But even for those schools, the CLMC only “attempts” a resolution.)
Only when the CLMC fails to reach a resolution may the UFT, in 2 days, file for arbitration, and then arbitration must begin in 5 days.  So, this change actually delays for at least eleven school days the violations reaching a neutral party whose decision is binding. It appears that the grievance process, which already functioned poorly, will be increasingly delayed by a journey through a series of joint union-DOE committees, operating by consensus, whose decisions are non-binding and can, in almost all instances, be vetoed by the DOE.
These changes are part of a turn away from an adversarial model of labor management relations, which was based on enforcing the contract through grievance and arbitration, and toward management by consensus and joint-ness.  This was already the direction in practice and to some extent in the last contracts, but this new agreement codifies and consolidates it. 
The most glaring danger is that at some future date, a hostile city administration along the lines of a Giuliani, Bloomberg or Emanuel, comes to office, and this regime could use this collaborative model very powerfully against the union.  
But even with a “friendly” administration, this turn gives members less control over working conditions.  They cannot vote on the “standards” which will govern many of them. Their ability to protect their rights will be limited and delayed, making it more likely that school administrations will violate these rights.  This weakens the union at the chapter level at a time when the loss of the right to collect agency fees has made the union more vulnerable than ever. 
Its role in speeding up this ongoing shift in the general orientation of the union is another reason why this TA should be rejected.  
-Marian Swerdlow, retiredFormer Chapter Leader, FDR High School, Brooklyn

Friday, October 26, 2018

Jacobin: The Ford Foundation’s Reform From Above in Ocean Hill-Brownsville

.....behind the public rhetoric needed to create the consensus that it sought, there is evidence that the Foundation’s support for community control was rooted in a desire to take education out of the hands of the public system altogether, prefiguring the motivations of today’s champions of charter schools and school vouchers. The Foundation’s preferred, if unpublicized, decentralization plan would have created hundreds of small, competitive, independent school systems run by such entities as universities, corporations, teachers’ unions, and parents. The Foundation even worked with some of the community control activists to come up with a plan for an independent school in Harlem that would demonstrate this approach....... the Foundation was anything but an impartial player during the schools crisis. Instead, all of its meddling in New York’s schools was predicated on the liberal assumption that if only the schools and teachers were better, opportunity would flow, and poverty and inequality would end, without ever reckoning with the heart of black inequality and the very real material power that underlay the exploitation that created philanthropic fortunes. This mindset persists among today’s liberal philanthropist “disruptors,” who follow in Ford’s footsteps by pursuing top-down efforts to fix the schools based on contempt for the public system and its personnel, faith in private solutions, and hubristic conviction that they hold the answer to solving the crisis in education for poor children of color.
When I see commentary from the left on the '68 strike, the UFT is universally condemned. But the rhetoric then was so similar to today's neo-liberal ed deformers. Do we need to re-examine some of the UFT militant response in '68 as containing elements in defending some fundamental union won rights? I was an unthinking striker in '68 and my first activism in 1970 was with people who crossed the lines but I also heard some rethinking on their part -- that the Ford Foundation was pulling anti-union strings.
I also note the calls from the leftists in MORE for a militant UFT. Beware what you wish for as this may have been the highest level - and the last time the UFT was militant. Note that the contract following the strike in 1969 won major concessions on class size. The lessons of '68 for the UFT leaders was to never be that militant again.

This Jacobin assessment doesn't go that far but is worth reading.


The Ford Foundation’s Reform From Above in Ocean Hill-Brownsville

Black activists might have initiated the fight for community control in Ocean Hill-Brownsville in 1968. But the Ford Foundation not only played a key role in the idea’s conception; they shaped its execution according to elite, liberal aims.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

UFT Contract Vote Scorecard Update - Who's For and Who's Against?

There is Joy in Unityland as Opposition Splits on Contract Vote.

I'm back from a two week trip to the former Yugoslavia's Croatia where I learned a lot about the transition of a socialism to capitalism with some pros and cons for both. Tito was a more complex leader than I imagined.

I note some tensions locally as I attempt to break down where the different voices are coming from on the contract and possibly why. Verrrrry interesting.

New Action co-chair Jonathan Halabi, voting as an individual not a formal declaration from NA, says YES with reservations -
I wish I knew what Jonathan really means "But keep talking" other than a way out of giving unequivocal support, especially with possible talks with MORE and New Action over a joint UFT election campaign where the contract will be a major issue for MORE. How could MORE and New Action work together in an election if each group takes different positions on the contract? 

Jonathan ends with:  
And we must challenge Unity’s practice of making deals at the MLC without membership oversight. Overall, the good far outweighs these reservations. We should urge a yes vote.

Sorry Jonathan, but the only way to challenge Unity's practice is to vote NO as the bigger the YES vote the more brazen Unity will be.
There are people in New Action who agree with me.

Maybe New Action will also take a NO position - an equivocal NO position like they did in 2005 --- so they can work with MORE. Did I mention there is a split in opinion in NA over whether to work with MORE, Solidarity or both or not? Oy!

Leonie Haimson and class size matters say NO due to is not happy about class size issues at NYC Public School Parents:
Instead of addressing the need to lower the caps, the contract creates lots of new out-of-classroom positions, especially at the high-needs schools branded as “Bronx Collaborative Schools.”  These new positions will have questionable value to students, as I explained here:
More great contract stuff from Leonie:
In the old days, Randi would have rushed to Leonie to get her to tone down her criticism but Mulgrew doesn't seem to give a crap about Leonie's views.
Leonie sent this update:
Hey Norm – I have never told UFT members to vote no on the contract, nor would I.  I don’t think it’s my place.  
There are obviously good things in the contract that members have been asking for, like cutting down on the number of formal teacher observations etc.  Nor am I capable of judging issues re salary or benefits. All I have written about is that the contract is disappointing for me as an advocate primarily concerned with class size. I also think the comment Mulgrew made about supporting mayoral control in return for the contract was regrettable.
Please revise your blog accordingly.  And please forward this message to the ICE and MORE News groups to which I am not subscribed.
Thanks Leonie
Ed Notes' board of directors consisting of me, says NO:  UFT CONTRACT: Why Vote NO? It’s a matter of trust.
But more from me in coming days.

I don't follow much of what goes on in Solidarity caucus but from what I've seen is they are a solid NO.

Chaz's School Daze says NO -- The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of The Contract. - UFT members are voting for the new UFT contract and while I will vote no. I can understand some people voting for it. --- link.

Former MORE John Giambalvo of the Doenuts Blog says YES:
The Doenuts Blog Vote Yes - Something crazy happened on the way to the teacher contract negotiations: My union stopped acting like a monolith top-down structure and showed sincere...
Former MORE (sort of) and ICEUFT's James Eterno says NO - numerous times. His most recent piece also appeared on the Diane Ravitch Blog as a counter point to Arthur Goldstein's YES column.
James has loads of stuff on why the contract is not a good one.
James talks for himself but I would assume many active in ICEUFT would line up with him, though Mike Schirtzer and Giambalvo are also connected to ICE. I've suggested a meeting on Nov. 2 even if too late to address the contract.
Schirtzer wrote his Vote Yes on the NYC Educator blog and also distributed a VOTE YES Leaflet at his school, Leon Goldstein, where an interesting debate between his former mentor, CL Kit Wainer, and he took place at the chapter meeting. The school had been one of the strongest anti-Unity schools for 25 years and now the MORE splits as exemplified by the one between Schirtzer and Wainer have spilled into the school that can no longer be counted on to stand up to Unity with a strong voice. As a friend of Mike who supported him in his struggles in MORE, I don't view the loss of a strong anti-Unity schools as a good thing. (I have more to say on this issue as I keep sorting it out.) - 

Arthur Goldstein, also a YES on the contract, also was connected to ICE but no longer due to what he perceives as the blog supporting a climate of anti-unionism due to the comments promoting people leaving the union. Arthur has also broken with his support for MORE due to all the shit that has gone on there.

And YES I blame the ideologues in the faction that now runs MORE, not Mike or Arthur, for this split. I'm working on a piece: How did MORE lose two of its 4 elected seats to the Ex Bd as Unity woos them?
Arthur's pro-YES vote appeared on the Ravitch blog and his blog: Why I Support the 2018 UFT Contract and is running at City Limits.

MORE says NO with some strong pieces from former TJC Caucus leader Marian Swerdlow and Dan Lupkin.

Dan is is one of the reasons I remain with MORE. A great chapter leader -- one of the few elementary people in MORE -- and he nails Unity on class size in this piece:
Class Size Limits, Militancy, and the 2019 UFT Contract
Dan says:
The core issue here is conciliatory bargaining- it is taken as a given by UFT leadership and their very cozy counterparts in the NYCDOE that the slice of pie we got in the 60’s is all the pie we’re going to get, and contracts are just a question of how we want that slice of pie apportioned; in fact, we are frequently reminded that if we make a fuss, we’re liable to lose the slice of pie we already have. It’s rarely discussed at the Delegate Assembly, at district meetings, or in official UFT communications that militancy was how our slice of pie was achieved in the first place, and if we want more, that’s how we’re going to have to get it.
I wish he would avoid using the term "militancy" -- the old TJC line that the union leadership does not organize people for militancy - as if they are even capable of doing so when in fact the very structure of the UFT hinges on not being militant.

The left condemns the militant 1968 strike - the most militant the UFT has been -- so I would be careful.

Marian brings her strong powers of analysis in this piece:
A Contract for Collaboration with the DOE.
I have had political disagreements with Marian over the years and probably continue to do so. She represented the TJC caucus point of view and she chose not to participate in MORE but seems to have returned as MORE turns back to the ideology of TJC.  An ideology that over the 20 years of TJC's existence (1993-2012) did not exactly resonate with the UFT membership.

MORE is holding two meetings this Saturday -- one to talk about the contract battle and one internal to address the splits in MORE and with the faction that fomented the split in control, I expect there some to be some interesting explanations. I will attempt to avoid laughing out loud.

Can I stand 5 hours of MORE meeting? Well, they are serving lunch at noon. There's also a nor'easter coming Saturday, so why not go?

Monday, October 22, 2018

UFT CONTRACT: Why Vote NO? It’s a matter of trust

Despite splits in some opposition voices over the contract with some of my friends, I believe they are misguided in their support of a Unity Caucus controlled process. My colleagues at ICEUFT and MORE have dentailed their reasons in logical and detailed ways. I don’t need no stink’n facts and figures. I plain do not, not ever have, trusted Unity Caucus to negotiate a contract that I would have faith in. Not since, oh, maybe 1969. Thus I have voted against every single contract and would vote against this if I could (retirees can’t vote.) Fact is the current contract has not been enforced adequately and as Marion Swerdlow points out in detail on the MORE blog, much of the so-called protections are pure bullshit. James has been hitting them hard on the ICEUFT blog, with the latest raising questions on the health care givebacks.

The UFT leadership has been emboldened by the disarray in the opposition, much of it due to the faction currently running MORE. Unity has been on a recruiting binge and given that the opposition seems to have no real future, I can see how some people can be seduced by offers of influence as Unity sells a line of “we want to change in the age of Janus and want you to be part of the changes instead of wasting time in a dead-end opposition.”

You know what? As many former opposition people have discovered over the decades, Unity is also a dead end in terms of reforms.

I’m hoping that the rank and file sees through some of this stuff and votes NO but it is extremely unlikely. A 30% NO would be a victory. An 80-90% YES vote would be a disaster in terms of giving Unity a blank check and a very bleak outlook for anyone considering a run against Unity in the UFT elections in a few months.

Friday, October 19, 2018

ATR Update: Quotes From Eternos, Aixa, Leonie, Jeff Kaufman

City Limits has an excellent in depth piece on ATRs with quotes from a lot of people we know, which means they went to the right people. But he did get :Leonie Haimson’s name wrong.


Educators Linger in the Misunderstood ‘Teacher Reserve,’ a Byproduct of School Reforms

This past summer, most city teachers were prepping new lessons, revising curriculum and readying for the start of the new school year. However, many teachers on the city’s Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) were polishing their CVs. This included Aixa Rodriguez, an ESL teacher who has been with the DOE since 2005. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

MORE Emergency Meeting to Oppose Contract - Is it too little too late?

As the UFT leadership rushes through an undemocratic process to push through a contract before an effective opposition can be built, the MORE caucus is itself rushing though a process to build momentum to oppose the contract. Today they are holding an emergency meeting at Stuyvesant HS to try to organize a coordinated response. With ballots in the process of going out to schools and due November 2 to the AAA, there is not very much time for MORE to get information into the hands of UFT members. Did the UFT rush through the process to make sure groups like MORE would not have much time to respond?

The UFT called an emergency Del Ass on a Friday afternoon, possibly offending Jewish sabboth observers instead of waiting for the regularly scheduled Del Ass today. MORE had announced that it was holding a contract organizing convention on Oct. 27 which led some of old time hands at observing the way Unity Caucus operates scratching our heads, especially since there were rumors a contract was about to be announced. Thus MORE had to rush an emergency leaflet for the DA which many MORE people did not attend and seemed content to hold its planned contract meeting on Oct 27 — until it became clear that doing so would be too little too late. Then last Friday an emergency meeting was called for today to take action. It it very little very late to waste 5 more days when there are so precious little days left to fight the contract.

Add to this that some members of the opposition are actually supporting the contract, there will be even more confusion in the schools. The active people on blogs, etc like Eterno on the ICE blog are opposing the contract. MORE’s current leadership’s efforts that resulted in splits internally in MORE, especially with the alienation of some of its most experienced members, has had an impact.

At the September MORE meeting I heard one of the new leaders of MORE express being caught by surprise by the actions of the UFT leadership, causing me to laugh out  loud. I did say that MORE should switch from advocation  and organizing for a new contract to opposition mode immediately even if they didn’t know the details of the contract just yet. The leadership seemed fine with going along with its plans for the Oct. 27 meeting for a better contract, plans almost 6 months in the making, plans now up in smoke.

As someone who has never voted in favor of a UFT contract and having been part of the fight for NO votes in the past, this battle is a lost cause but still needs to be fought to make people aware of the UFT behavior. One thing I would avoid if I were running MORE — talk about how undemocratic the process in the UFT has been since that May open up too many skeletons in MORE’s own closet as related to a democratically run caucus.

Still to come —- how to judge an overwhelming YES vote on the contract in the context if upcoming UFT elections in the spring when the very people leading the NO vote will have to try to get people who voted YES on the contract to vote NO to Unity and YES to the opposition.

Cayden Betzig- Why I’m Voting No- from a Young, Untenured Teacher

Each of the proposed contract changes sells out new teachers.    - Cayden Betzig

Hi Norm,
Hope you've been well.  Below is a piece I wrote about the new proposed contract.  Would you be willing to share it on EdNotes?

Why I’m Voting No- from a Young, Untenured Teacher

Each of the proposed contract changes sells out new teachers.

First, and most obviously, the new two-tired healthcare system.  Obviously, any two-tired system flies in the face of solidarity.  It began with the pension, is now leaking into healthcare, what’s next?  Differing salary schedules based on start date? It’s deplorable that we could do the same work for different benefits.  Healthcare is a human right; we all deserve access to the same quality care.

Second, and also obvious.  Raises lower than the rate of inflation are no raises at all.  The cost of living in New York (rents have increased 3.9% annually). Givebacks now set us back for the rest of our career.

Third, less obvious and maybe more scary, the new ‘psychological fitness’ screening.  Instead of supporting new teachers through their first few years, we’re going to weed-out those deemed ‘unfit’?  I can’t imagine what it would be like to spend years in school training to be a teacher, take out tens of thousands in debt for this pursuit, and then be told I’m ‘psychology unfit’.  As a trauma survivor who takes medication I find this particularly frightening.  The trauma I experiences as a child is part of what inspired me to become a teacher, and helps me connect with and support my students with similar experiences.  The idea that the experiences that led me to teaching could also be the barrier that keeps out future generations is freighting.   As an educator of color, I know this criteria will continue the whitening of our teaching force.  Not to mention that the details of this criteria are not yet released, will be created by educorporations, and are unlikely to be scientifically backed (Sound familiar?  Reminds me of our value-added evaluation system).

And on evaluations- teachers rated developing and ineffective with have even more observations.  Many teachers are rated developing in their first years (which is logical, since we are still developing our craft); instead of supporting these teachers to become better teachers we are going to just add to the heat of admin fire.  That will push more people who have the potential to be great teachers out of the field- even if their paid a little more to teach in hard-to-staff schools in the Bronx.

On that note- did anyone ask teachers who are leaving hard-to-staff schools what would make them stay?  Maybe pay is part of the answer, but I’d guess that mentoring, class size, and support services for struggling students would be high on the list.  Where are those provisions in this new contract?

So this is the deal we’re selling to new teachers: Get your education degree, spend tens of thousands of dollars doing so, but if the system decides you’re psychologically unfit you won’t be able to get a teaching job.  If you do make it over this ambiguous hurdle, you will have crappy health care for at least the first few years, so make sure you don’t get sick while working 50+ hours a week in a room full of children.  If you’re not yet an effective teacher in your first years instead of supporting you, their going to increase the intensity of the scrutiny from your direct supervisors.  Oh, and plan keep searching for new roommates every year, because your pay won’t be keeping up with that of your peers.

So what would a contract that supports new teachers look like?  Quality healthcare for all and wages competitive with our peers in other fields.  Less admin scrutiny and more supportive, non-evaluative mentoring for established colleagues.  A clear path to tenure.  Debt forgiveness… the list goes on.

Don’t sell out new teachers.  We are the future of the profession.  We are the future of our union. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Can Democratic Party Be Reformed?

I've been thinking of shifting my political activity from the UFT to reform efforts in the Democratic Party. I just signed up with the New Queens Democrats. James Eterno and I have talked about getting involved, given the current situation with the opposition in the UFT, an opposition that has given up on the idea that Unity can be defeated.

Here is an article from September in the Daily News by Errol Lewis showing the embedded corruption in the Dem Party. The NY Times has also been covering the story in Queens and Brooklyn.

Memo from the RTC: Rockaway Takes to Serious Drama

Memo from the RTC:  Rockaway Takes to Serious Drama
By Norm Scott

“I just like to go to musicals but I heard this was so good I had to come and I’m so glad I did.” Overheard from a theater goer at the finale of “A View From the Bridge” at the Rockaway Theatre Company last Sunday. I did go back once again for the closing performance and was able to videotape it from up front in the orchestra pit --- lucky this wasn’t a musical or I would have had a problem. I  got to see the actors’ faces close up through the lens and this was ACTING. I must mention once again how amazing was the performance of Jodee Timpone, in her first drama.

I think this may have been one of the highest attended dramas, with some performances nearing sell-outs. Next year when Director Frank Ciaiti springs his October surprise for a drama, the theater will be overflowing.  (I sort of know what’s coming next year but as usual if I tell you I will have to kill you.)

As one of the RTC videographers and member of the construction crew I get to go to all the cast parties and this one was fun as I got a chance to chat with some of the actors (and their friends and significant others). I was looking forward to talking to Guido Corno, the native of Milan who so powerfully played the Italian illegal immigrant Marco who exacts revenge on Eddie, the main character who turns him and his brother in to the immigration authorities. Eddie (an amazing Robert Wilkinson) is driven by jealousy over the relationship between Marco’s brother Rodolpho, played masterfully by Mathew Barrera, and Eddie’s niece Catherine (a lovely Melanie Mahanna).

Well, I finally cornered Guido not just to chat about the play but about his other life outside acting (he studied at the famous Stella Adler Studio) as an environmental activist in support of the Paris climate change agreement (see my School Scope column on the subject. Guido holds a PhD in biological oceanography and has worked with the United Nations on climate change and given the just released report on the impending dangers of climate change, Guido’s work is important. Guido’s goals is to combine his twin passions in bridging art and science. I will continue to track him on his journey.

I left the party around 7PM and the entire cast was on stage – the tilted stage we built – dancing away. Later I heard they went to the beach to frolic and some didn’t leave until after 10 PM. The next morning I joined Tony Homsey’s demolition crew to take down the set and prepare the stage for the upcoming John Gilleace-directed Pippin, opening November 16 and running for 3 weekends. We had begun building the stage in early August over a two week period. It all came down in less than two hours as we had a very large crew working. Frank Ciaiti was there to take part in the deconstruction of his brain child.

We were joined by Robert Wilkinson fresh from his decompression of playing the lead role of Eddie Carbone. After seeing him in such a powerful role so many times I was having trouble getting used to Bob as a regular person. His performance was so awesome I had assumed he was a professional actor. So I was pretty surprised when he told me he has been reading my Ed Notes blog for years as a public school teacher and he thanked me for my advocacy for his school which had suffered under an abusive principal. Due to the policies of the Bloomberg-Klein years, Bob had faced some of the negative impacts of these policies. He now seems set in teaching drama to some very lucky high school kids. Bob had been with the RTC about 15 years ago and I think we will be seeing a lot more of him again for the lucky play-goers in Rockaway.

Let me just say a quick word about some of the supporting cast who had very small roles,. Michael Whelan who has had starring roles in musicals schlepped in from Staten Island just to be part of this production. He was joined in his trek by the always amazing Fred Grieco (he blew us away in last spring’s Lovers and Other Stangers.) And Brian Sadowski who has been in every play at the RTC since he first showed up a year and a half ago. And long-time Rockaway actress Ruth Graves. And other long-timers ensemble members Phyllis De Pierro, Cathy Murfitt and Krista Cederstrom. As always, kudos to behind the scenes essential superstar Adele Wendt. 

The cast takes their bows

Dancing up a storm at the cast party

Director Frank Ciaiti and Bob Wilkinson deconstructing the set


Monday, October 15, 2018

Climate Change -- Growing Right Wing Nationalism Spells Doom

With the election in Brazil going far right, one of the main bulwarks against climate change, the rain forest, becomes an endangered species.

The recent U.N. report has caused a stir. I've been writing that the political climate at a crucial junction is a tipping point on climate that will push us over the edge into runaway greenhouse territory.

Let's take the example of Australia where the crucial barrier reefs are disappearing based on two adjacent articles in the Oct. 9 NY Times:

New U.N. Climate Report Says Put a High Price on Carbon

Here is one interesting paragraph:
... a carbon tax that directly increases the price of gasoline at the pump or electricity rates brings more obvious pain, and hence is more likely to garner opposition.

A case in point: In 2012, the Australian government enacted a cap-and-trade program that effectively set a price on carbon of $23 per ton. Emissions fell nationwide under the program. Yet the policy faced a fierce political backlash from industry groups and voters, and when the nation’s more conservative Liberal Party swept into power in 2013, it quickly moved to repeal the program.
On the opposite page in that edition of the NY Times is this article which discusses the economic impact of the death of corals in Australia that will go far beyond the costs of a carbon tax:

Australia’s Other Great (and Threatened) Coral Reefs
MELBOURNE, Australia — The United Nations issued a dire alert on Monday, warning that many of the world’s coral reefs could die as soon as 2040 as a result of climate change.

Already, warming waters have bleached more than two-thirds of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, which covers more than 130,000 square miles and is visible from space.

But the Great Barrier Reef, despite its status, is not the only unique or threatened marine ecosystem in Australia.

Stretching 27,000 square miles along Australia’s southern coast, this life-sustaining seaweed forest could be decimated by the end of the century, according to a recent study. The researchers found that warming waters could kill up to 100 percent of the reef’s kelp species, which provide a habitat for sponges, crustaceans and fish. The reef also supports two of Australia’s most valuable commercial fishing products: abalone and rock lobster.

Together with tourism at the Great Southern Reef, these fisheries contribute roughly 10 billion Australian dollars, or about $7 billion, to the Australian economy per year. (By some estimates, this is more than the revenue generated annually by the Great Barrier Reef.) And though about 70 percent of Australians live within about 30 miles of the southern reef, many have never heard of it.

“The southern coastline is one of the most species-rich, temperate ecosystems in the world,” said Thomas Wernberg, a senior lecturer in marine science at the University of Western Australia in Perth, and the lead author of the recent paper. “It’s important to not forget these other ecosystems.”

Shark Bay

Shark Bay, on Australia’s west coast, is the largest and most diverse sea grass ecosystem in the world. These seagrasses provide habitat for fish, endangered green turtles and dugongs, the only vegetarian marine mammal, which rely on the sea grass for food. Shark Bay is also one of only two places in the world with living ancient deposits of algae, called stromatolites.

But in the summer of 2011, a huge ocean heat wave killed off roughly a quarter of Shark Bay’s seagrasses. Aside from the loss of a valuable ocean habitat, this die-off also meant the release of up to nine million tons of carbon dioxide, according to a paper published earlier this year. It was an “unprecedented event,” said Oscar Serrano, a postdoctoral research fellow in marine ecosystems at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, and one of the study’s lead authors.

“It’s a big loss, but the oceans are dynamic and sea grass meadows have the capacity to adapt,” he added. “What worries me the most is these heat waves are predicted to increase both in magnitude and length. If there is another big heat wave, this may have a more severe impact.”

Ningaloo Reef

Every year, hundreds of whale sharks congregate at Ningaloo Reef, off the country’s west coast. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo is a near-shore reef: “You can just snorkel off the beach and see coral in a few minutes,” said Verena Schoepf, a research fellow in marine science at the University of Western Australia.

So far, Ningaloo has escaped the kinds of bleaching events that have devastated the Great Barrier Reef and left the coral there weak and susceptible to attack by crown of thorns starfish. But global warming puts Ningaloo at risk of a die-off, according to the United Nations report, and rising sea levels may also reduce the reef’s capacity to protect coastal communities from waves and erosion.

Gulf of Carpentaria

The Gulf of Carpentaria, in Australia’s Far North, is a remote and sensitive ecosystem of mangroves, coral, sea grass beds, mud crabs, fish and shrimp. The mangrove trees — which grow in salty water — provide a nursery habitat for fish and wildlife and help prevent shoreline erosion.

But in the summer of 2016 — the same summer that the Great Barrier Reef experienced one of the worst bleaching events in history — extreme heat, drought and low sea levels led to an unprecedented die-off of mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in which about 6 percent of the forest was lost. Like seagrasses, mangroves also sequester carbon, and during the die-off, millions of tons of carbon were released into the atmosphere.

“The view has been that mangroves are tough and resilient and survive most things and indeed they can, but there are limits,” said Norman Duke, a professor and mangrove ecologist at James Cook University in Queensland. “It’s a wake-up call,” he said.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

George Schmidt – In Memoriam, Who Will Educate the Educators? By Sean Ahern, NYC teacher

A great piece by Sean.  See more tributes to George at Substance: http://www.http://www.substancenews.net/.

George Schmidt – In Memoriam, Who Will Educate the Educators?
 By Sean Ahern, NYC teacher
I met George only about 10 years ago but we were fellow travelers from the 1960’s/early 70’s movements, he in Chicago and I in the NY/NJ metro area.  He was from a working class family in Northern NJ who went to college in Chicago and merged into the anti-war, GI and working class resistance movements in that great City.  I from a working class family in NYC merged into the movement as a high school student, being some 7 years George’s junior.  We were shaped by the era and George notably bore witness to the struggles on the education front through his many years of reporting, rank and file organizing and editorship of Substance for over 30 years. 
I came late to teaching and George was one who early on opened my eyes to the true nature of the education reform and introduced me to the critical literature that was struggling to be heard through all the neo liberal and neo conservative chatter lauding “A Nation At Risk”, mayor control, high stakes testing, “value added” accountability schemes, charter schools and school closings in Black and Latino neighborhoods. I read Bracey (What You Should Know About The War Against America’s Public Schools), Berliner and Biddle (The Manufactured Crisis) and Emery and Ohanian (Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?) at George’s suggestion. I know from personal experience that George influenced rank and file initiatives in the UFT in New York City. George remained a staunch defender of teacher unionism even while the leadership of these unions were falling over themselves to maintain their “seat at the table” by accommodating themselves to the corporate education “reform.”

UFT Contract Update: Rush to Judgement - Why?

Contract voting to begin this week in schools, voting must be completed by October 31 - since it is Halloween you must wear a costume - preferably a Mulgrew mask - to make your ballot valid.  Ballots due at AAA by Nov. 2. I assume count will begin Nov. 3 or 4. In 2014 when MORE mounted a NO Vote campaign, I and others observed the count. With the MORE contract convention set for October 27 - a mystery to me why with all the news of an impending contract MORE and the obvious conclusion that what was needed was prep for a NO vote campaign rather than the original agenda established last April for a campaign for a “good” - or in the old parlance - a just Contract - MORE wasn’t better prepared. So there will be a 2 week window to organize something. Predict th usual about 75-80 percent YES.
The UFT/Unity Caucus leadership has gone to extra lengths to rush this through. Why?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

UFT Contract: Delegate Assembly Approves

The uft engaged in a bum’s rush to judgement. I’ll go into my speculations why the rush later. But here is a report from a ch ldr on the MORE listserve.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Ednotes Exclusive: What Psychological Screening in New Contract Will Look Like

As the UFT Delegate Assembly votes overwhelmingly in favor of the new contract after being given 5 minutes to read 50 pages after a 2 minute speed reading course, Ed Notes has learned what the DOE and UFT will be looking for from potential teachers in the psychological screening.

The most important factor will be the ability to follow orders without questioning them followed by showing a willingness to support UFT president Michael Mulgrew no matter what he says.

Recruits will listen to hours of Mulgrew reports to the Delegate Assembly and have to pass a multiple choice test and screened based on their level of agreement.

For the DOE section they will be given supplies and told to clean the toilets and graded on their abilities. Anyone questioning the order will be eliminated from job consideration as psychologically unfit to work for the DOE and sent to the nearest Saudi Arabian consulate for further testing.

School Scope: Trump and Kavanagh Takes Us Beyond the Tipping Point on Climate Change

Published in The WAVE October 12, 2018

School Scope: Trump and Kavanagh Takes Us Beyond the Tipping Point on Climate Change
By Norm Scott

My thesis in this column is that the election of Donald Trump and the control of all three branches of government by the Republican Party, the party of climate change deniers and the party of pro-business anything (even if the policies result in environmental disasters) is the “horse is out of the barn” moment when it comes to reversing the impact of climate change

The Guardian reported on October 8, 2018:  'Tipping points' could exacerbate climate crisis, scientists fear.  
The world is currently 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. Following devastating hurricanes in the US, record droughts in Cape Town and forest fires in the Arctic, the IPCC makes clear that climate change is already happening, upgraded its risk warning from previous reports, and warned that every fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact.... The world is currently 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. Following devastating hurricanes in the US, record droughts in Cape Town and forest fires in the Arctic, the IPCC makes clear that climate change is already happening, upgraded its risk warning from previous reports, and warned that every fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact.

The Republican Party is one of the tipping points and with the chaos massive flooding and other changes like the impact of the destruction of our food sources when farmland is turned into a dessert, will go down in history as major perpetrators. If there is a history, since the extreme outcome of a runaway greenhouse effect is turning the earth into a Venus-like atmosphere where no life can exist. Remember, Republicans before being captured by aliens who are scheming to take over the earth when we are gone, supported the idea of global warming due to human activity until about 30 years ago when climate change was weaponized politically.

The IPCC report says that we only have a little over a decade before it is too late. I laughed out loud over the idea that this train could be stopped, given that we are the biggest contributor to global warming. The major party in control of government mocks climate change. And even in the alternative Democratic Party, which accepts the climate change concept, there are internal squabbles over how pro-business to be. Remember, both major parties support a pretty loose system of capitalism and the driving force in capitalism is profit and growth, not concepts compatible with the ability to take on the massive worldwide attempts to control climate.

I've been reading a 10 year old book called Six Degrees (by Mark Lynas) making a bunch of predictions (including a scary Sandy storm 4 years before it took place) that have begun to come true since he wrote this in 2008 and the IPCC report issued last week did not surprise me at all. (Lynas talks about Cat 6 Hurricanes to come.)

Climate change deniers tell us climate has changed numerous times over millions of years but they miss the point of the speed with which climate has changed in the past. An ICE age doesn't just hit us one day but takes tens of thousands of years to take effect. And we may one day have another ICE age. The last one has been in the act of ending for about 12,000 years -- and the end of the ICE age coincided with the rise of civilization over 10 millennia, a very short time in the history of earth.

Under normal conditions, the glaciers might well melt anyway but would take thousands of years to do so and we would have time to adapt. But due to fossil fuels, we have compressed a thousand years into a century and now decades.

What deniers don't get is the feedback loop where carbon trapped in the oceans and in rocks and methane trapped in permafrost will be released due to even a rise of a degree or two, which will then further accelerate more carbon release. Just the shrinkage of the Brazilian rain forest, which has acted like a massive carbon sink removing CO2 from the atmosphere, is a tipping point.

The Paris climate accord, which Trump has withdrawn us from, was a somewhat feeble attempt to get this monster under control. An extreme pro-business anti-regulatory Supreme Court will guarantee that even if the Republicans lose power in 2020, the Court will put on brakes while even the Republicans as a minority will continue to obstruct.

Now excuse me, I’ve got to go catch that horse and hitch a ride to higher ground.

Norm will blog even while riding a horse at ednotesonline.com.

Lynas takes us through the climate changes we have had over the millenia based on each degree rise in temperature C. from One to Six and the impact of higher temperatures on creating desserts, drought, mass extinctions in the ocean, massive losses of land due to rising oceans, etc. Lynas calls a 6 degree rise The Sixth Circle of Hell since there are few comparisons in the earth's history.

Now there are the climate change deniers who tell us climate has changed numerous times over millions of years but they miss the point of the speed with which climate has changed in the past. An ICE age doesn't just hit us one day but takes tens of thousands of years to take effect. And we may one day have another ICE age. The last one has been in the act of ending for about 12,000 years -- and the end of the ICE age coincided with the rise of civilization.

Under normal conditions, the glaciers might well melt anyway but would take a thousand years to do so and we would have time to adapt. But due to fossil fuels, we have compressed a thousand years into a century.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Antonucci Still Predicting LA Teacher Strike Despite Getting Date Wrong

Posted: 10 Oct 2018 07:33 AM PDT
I’m happy to tell you when I’m right, so I should take my lumps when I’m wrong.
United Teachers Los Angeles won’t be going on strike this week, as I predicted it would back in August.
Head over to LA School Report for the details of where things stand now. 
Mike Antonucci | October 9, 2018

If you lost your ranch, I apologize.

Back on July 31, I predicted with confidence that United Teachers Los Angeles would strike in October — more specifically, the week of Oct. 8, this week. And while there are still a few days left in the week, and a few weeks left in October, it looks as though UTLA is committed to waiting out the entire impasse procedure before walking out.

“There is a legal process that we are respecting, meaning we don’t strike until after the fact-finding report,” wrote UTLA bargaining chair Arlene Inouye in response to a Facebook post.

UTLA and the district have had two mediation sessions so far, and a third is scheduled for Friday. There is no limit to how long mediation can last, but once the mediator decides it is fruitless to continue, and that fact-finding is appropriate, either side can request it, and then the clock starts.

Each side has a maximum of five days to select a representative to the fact-finding panel, and a maximum of five days after that the state Public Employment Relations Board selects a chairperson. The three-person panel then has a maximum of 30 days to submit a non-binding report. That completes the process. The district will then be free to impose its last offer, and the union will be free to strike.

Even if the fact-finding process commences immediately after Friday’s session, it might be Thanksgiving before a strike can be legally called. The latest rumors are that UTLA will wait until January before initiating the strike.

I thought I had accounted for the entire process when I made my prediction, but there were details of which I was ignorant.
State law says that after being appointed, the mediator “shall meet forthwith with the parties or their representatives.” If “forthwith” is a word you don’t use regularly, it is defined as “immediately; without delay.”

Clearly UTLA thought that’s what it means, because union officials have been complaining for weeks about the 56-day wait between the appointment of a mediator and the first mediation session. What I didn’t know, and still can’t find a basis for in state law or PERB regulations, is that the district was allowed to unilaterally choose the date of the first mediation session from a PERB list.

Mediation does not necessarily have to be a long, drawn-out process. In fact, the mediator is empowered to call for fact-finding as early as 15 days after his appointment, which would have been a date in mid-August.

But ignorance is no excuse. If I had checked, I would have noticed that PERB appointed a mediator in Oakland at the end of May, and the first mediation session didn’t occur until Aug. 31. The district and the Oakland Education Association are still in mediation, and have two more sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Oct. 23.
I am still confident that a Los Angeles teacher strike will occur, based on the obvious lack of positive movement toward a settlement. The district’s last “insulting” offer of a 3 percent increase and an additional 3 percent if financial conditions permit, is in line with the agreements it has made with its other unions. In January 2017, UTLA asked for a 7 percent raise retroactive to July 2016. Its last offer reduced that to 6.5 percent. That’s not much movement in almost two years, which suggests the union is not inclined to split the difference with the district.

I have examined 58 recently concluded teacher contract agreements in California, and in only six cases did the union receive a wage increase of 6.5 percent or more. Each of those covered a period of one to three years, and none was retroactive to 2016.

The bones of a deal are there. The district would have to remove the conditions on the second 3 percent, and punt on its three-year financial forecast, while the union would have to forget about raises retroactive prior to 2017. If the money issues are settled, the others will fall into place or be held over as fodder for the special school board election in March.

Short of a complete fold by LA Unified, the strike will come first. I won’t make a second prediction as to when, except to repeat that soon after payday, which is the fifth of each month, will maximize the amount of time teachers can remain out before feeling any financial pinch.

If a strike doesn’t happen, I’ll be as happy as anyone — happy enough to write another apology with a smile.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

UFT Opposition Update: Not All Peace and Harmony as 2019 Elections Approach

Representatives of MORE and New Action met recently to discuss running in the UFT election and from what we hear the coalition would not include Solidarity Caucus.
With the disagreements between some people in ICEUFT and MORE many ICEers do not want to work with MORE/NA in the election.
And there is a faction of New Action that will ONLY be involved in the election if Solidarity is included. A crucial vote in New Action will take place at the beginning of November. Some members of New Action are threatening to leave the caucus if the anti-Solidarity faction prevails.
MORE doesn't meet until October 27 and there are people in MORE supposedly who do not want to run in the election. And further, Unity has been doing some recruiting among the people they see as disaffected from all the caucuses.
Are you confused? It is time for me to do a series of blog posts (or maybe a book) about the history of the opposition and the current state of opposition politics in the UFT and why I and others have basically given up on the idea that we can affect much of a change in a UFT dominated by the too big to fail Unity Caucus. 

Is it worth the enormous amount of time and energy it takes to even run in a UFT election just to possibly win 7 high school seats on a 100 member Executive Board? Is it worth the time and energy to print up leaflets and go to a Delegate Assembly just to make a point in a sea of Unity? If I saw something bubbling up in the schools, maybe it would be worth it.

I had hopes for MORE -- until a year ago. I'll get into why I no longer have faith that MORE can ever challenge Unity in follow-up blogs over the next few months as I report on UFT internal politics.

I had envisioned MORE as a big tent caucus that everyone in an interest in beating Unity could coalesce in. That is no longer true as MORE has morphed into a group that knows it cannot win but instead wants to use its organizational initiatives to push certain ideological positions on the UFT leadership --- a lobby/pressure group of sorts.

After 6 years of life what I see are still very few schools with real activity based on MORE initiatives. In fact, I think MORE has less schools now than it did 6 years ago. And yes Virginia, size does matter in terms of ability to influence the direction of the union.

James Eterno has an optimistic report on last Friday's ICEUFT meeting attended by people connected to the various grouplings within the UFT that would be termed "the opposition."


James says:
.... the groups seem to have much more in common in wanting a powerful union than what divides us. The leaders of the various opposition groups might not always agree on the general direction for the movement but I learned at the ICEUFT meeting that there is plenty of common ground.
James is hoping there will be opportunities to work together in the upcoming contract ratification vote and in the UFT elections in 2019.

After almost 50 years of being part of opposition politics in the UFT, I'm not as hopeful. Being optimistic is not a bad thing - as long as we have a dose of reality tossed in.

James pointed out that
ICEUFT was joined by members from New Action UFT and Solidarity caucuses. Since some of the people in ICEUFT are still part of MORE (the Movement of Rank and File Educators, all of the opposition groups to Michael Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten's Unity Caucus within the UFT were represented at the ICEUFT meeting..... http://iceuftblog.blogspot.com/2018/10/iceuft-meeting-brings-together-members.html
Why are there so many grouplings and factions in the UFT?
In fact there was only a faction of New Action since there are some splits brewing over the UFT elections and who to run with. And there was only a faction of MORE present. I don't know enough about Solidarity.

When asked why the different caucuses and the non-aligned who oppose Unity Caucus in the UFT don't join together I answer with a question of my own:

Why is there a MORE, New Action, Solidarity, ICEUFT?
Given the relative small size of the number of activists, why is there more than one caucus? And not only that, why are there factions within caucuses? I guess the answer to the 2nd question explains the first. Unless a caucus - or any political group - understands that factions will exist and makes provisions for that, there will inevitably be splits and the formation of other caucuses. And when they are so weak they combine (see below for the 1995 NAC creation and the 2012 MORE creation as a result of mergers of sorts.)

And in the UFT where there is a dominant one party system of control under Unity, not having one opposition caucus under one tent spells ultimate doom for the opposition. That has proven true over the 50 years of opposition politics.

Since the first opposition caucus formed - Teachers Action Caucus (TAC) after the 1968 strike --- they were people who opposed the strike ---- there has never really been a time where there was just one big tent caucus in opposition to Unity. There were coalitions of caucuses that came together for UFT elections, but went their own way otherwise. In effect they were competing for the same few potential activists at the expense of the other caucuses.

New Directions merges with TAC
ND was a group that split off from the group I was in in the 70s -- Coalition of School Workers (CSW) which basically stopped functioning around 1981 but came back to life as ICE in 2003.

New Action came the closest to being the one opposition caucus in town when TAC merged with New Directions in 1995 after having had electoral success as a coalition of caucuses and independents in the 1991 election when they won 13 Ex Bd seats.

What is funny is that the current issues in NA run along the TAC people vs the ND people -- and ideology plays a role.  That's 23 years later and there are still latent issues.

NAC made their deal with Unity in 2003 in prep for the 2004 UFT election where they did not run a candidate for president against Randi Weingarten after she "guaranteed" them the 6 high school Ex Bd seats.

That led to the formation of two caucuses to fight against that deal --- Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) and Independent Community of Educators (ICE-UFT). TJC had already been around for a decade but not as a caucus. The 2004 election was their first foray. We formed ICE in late 2003 because many independents did not find TJC conducive to being a truly democratic caucus but under the control of a few sectarians with a definitive ideological position that left little room for dissenting opinions.

There was immediate friction between ICE and TJC that never went away even though we won the high school seats in 2004 and ran together in 2007 and 2010.

Both caucuses were withering away with no growth - actually they shrank. Some of us in ICE saw that and organized a non-caucus -- GEM in 2009 that was non-sectarian and looked beyond internal UFT politics. GEM attracted enough people who began to think that a non-sectarian open caucus was possible.

Thus was born MORE in 2011-12 where the members of TJC and ICE came together with others. But the political tensions that had existed between ICE and TJC since 2003 never went away. And the recent splits in MORE represent those tensions where the TJC faction over the past 6 months to a year gained ascendancy and has tried to push the ICE people out. Many have abandoned MORE over the ideological differences.

So when James points to MORE people being at the ICE meeting, it is actually the ICE people still involved in MORE but at as an inconsequential level of influence.

Factions in caucuses

Unity Caucus does not seem to have factions. It runs by democratic centralism -- where even if you disagree, you must support the will of the majority or be forced out. Now some people in Unity have been talking behind the scenes that there is a faction in Unity that wants changes as a way to recruit people aligned with the divided opposition. I heard that line from Randi and crew back in the late 90s. It is just blowing smoke.

I believe that recognizing factions and holding debates on where people are divided so as to forge some common agreements is a healthy thing for a caucus and a union.

At the organizing meetings for MORE In 2011, all factions were there and sent 2 reps to each meeting. I brought up numerous times that we should explore what divided ICE and TJC as a way to resolve future issues. I was told we should only focus on what unites us not divides us. I saw this as a way to fluff over and stifle opinions.

At the very first large MORE organizing meeting in February 2012 I warned about the factions among the founders of MORE and said they must be taken into account --- ie.  make sure there is diversity of opinions and have the factions represented. But whenever you have sectarians in an organization, they will move to control the group and shut out or purge dissident voices.

Sadly, MORE has moved in that direction. The direction Unity follows, where those who disagree with policies set by the dominant faction are invited to leave the caucus - there is no longer a steering committee or any clear lines as to who are making decisions in MORE -- top down leadership so eschewed by social justice caucuses ----

As one former MORE member who left in disgust said: If MORE is going to have Unity Caucus like loyalty oaths why not just go to Unity which at least has all the toys?

Is there a way forward for the opposition and more historical context coming in future posts.