Monday, October 1, 2018

UFT Update: Three Meetings and a Rally - Why Do I Go?

I wish I had an easy answer for the title question, Why Did I Go?

Over a 5 day period I attended a UFT Chapter Leader, an UFT Ex Bd, and a MORE, with a rally at Union Square for Puerto Rico on the anniversary of the hurricane thrown in (I don't do rallies anymore but since it was right after the CL meeting this one was easy.)

Why did I shlep into the city on beautiful days in Rockaway? 

The other day I saw on FB a comment from a long-time ed activist  who wrote:
"If I'm honest, I'm not really interested in fighting anymore. At least not for a while. Disillusionment is real. I think movements need to think long & hard about what builds us up and what knocks us down. I'm knocked down."
I know some of the sources of her disillusionment through private communications, which I won't share. She is disillusioned by people who are supposedly on our side. I responded that I'm having similar feelings. In my case I'm no longer sure who we're fighting when we end up fighting with people who we thought were on the same side.

I still have to sort everything out given the battles we've been in with --- the UFT/Unity Caucus, the DOE, ed deform privateers who want to destroy public education.

Wait-- let me hit pause -- I'm fighting the DOE -- a public ed institution and the people who want to destroy it -  the UFT leadership  and conflicts within the supposed opposition to the UFT --- I mean at some point you have to ask exactly what is the point? Even my enthusiasm for doing this blog is running down, though the other day someone I didn't know approached me on the subway platform, asking, "Ed Notes?"

But then I have examples like Leonie Haimson who never stops fighting. And so many others too.

So while I figure all of this stuff out I still go to meetings so I don't lose touch completely and for the social interaction with people I feel I can work with.

Last Monday I was working on building a walk-way in my backyard and was not going to go to the Ex Bd meeting unless I finished what I was doing. Then I happened to see a post from a para in a teacher group on Facebook about the conditions teachers work under in she has seen in so many schools.

I thought about how all we hear when UFT officials report are happy stories and my blood began to boil. It's like they are blind to reality or if they are aware they just cover their eyes and ears and act like this is not going on.

So I finished up quickly and went in to meet with the crew from New Action, MORE and beyond before the meeting. I called Howie Schoor's office at around 5:15 when I got there to ask for speaking time even though I know it is a waste of energy. I've spoken numerous times over the past decade at open mic and it is always about abusive principals and the power the union has allowed principals to accrue without push back from the union. I had no notes but did read the comment from the para ---

Luckily, Arthur Goldstein reported on UFT Ex Bd meeting, Sept. 24): Open mic before meeting began -where since no other speakers were present I was given 5 minutes.
Norm Scott—Thanks God he’s retired. Was first speaker when Randi instituted process. Always about school conditions. Likes reports from districts, which are always positive. Good to know people are doing great stuff. Also things not going right. Please tell us, seems that’s avoided.

Facebook—para on chat list married to teacher, current environment teachers treated poorly, micromanagement, ludicrous demands, spiteful admin, teachers in fear. Not all schools this way. In Detroit they said UFT was strongest in country. Is it not that way anymore?

I feel these comments, coming from many places, are danger to union. You have to make show of force that you are there for teachers. You have to go into the schools and principals need to know someone is opposing them. Principals call lawyers, teachers don’t have that kind of support. Must inundate and counter this.
I tried to emphasize in my final point, that unlike my previous appearances where I attacked the shit out of them, this time I was there as kindly, friendly Uncle Norm urging the union to show more force -- to battle back against those 300 DOE lawyers the principals consult. The idea I was trying to put forth was that they are committing suicide of they remain tone death.

They looked at me blankly. Tone deaf. And Howie Schoor topped it off with this comment:
Schoor—Agree reports from districts have gotten better since 2016.
No Howie, they have not gotten better --- not when I hear district reps doing happy talk when I know full well there is mayhem going on in their districts. When I spoke last year I was hostile -- they need to hold themselves accountable just as they want teachers held accountable. The outcome then was that Leroy Barr defended the wonderful work of the district reps. So I tried nice this time. I should have stayed in Rockaway.

I guess that after almost 50 years it's in my DNA. (I just "celebrated" by 51st year as a UFT member). I just need to find more hobbies and alternate volunteer options.

I like the pre-meetings in the UFT lobby with New Action people, Mike S, Jonathan, Arthur, Ashraya from MORE and anyone else who shows up.

I no longer feel I have much to offer in terms of building an opposition to Unity Caucus -- in fact I no longer believe an effective opposition can be built. And in my many discussions with other long-time opposition activists in the UFT I see them beginning to come around to that point of view too.

Especially since the breaks within MORE over the past year shunned and shut down the point of view of many long-term UFT activists who were pushed out or left on their own volition because they did not think the MORE blueprint had long-term sustainability.

Yet we all keep clinging to the cliff with our fingertips because it is in our DNA.

Last Thursday (Sept. 20) I went to the CL meeting to hand out the ANOTHER VIEW leaflet I helped write because I felt it important to share that message with people even if they are not listening.

After the meeting my pals Gloria and Lisa were going to Union Square for the rally for Puerto Rico a year after the hurricane. I had a lot of fun talking to people seeing some heavy political celebrities rousing the crowd. After a group of about 10 of us went out to eat, including the first guy I met in the UFT who was an activist -- we were close for 5 years from 1970-75 until there was a political break -- it was good to reminisce again but also be reminded that there will always be political breaks among people who are passionate about their politics --- but also an endemic weakness on the left.

In fact I had a conversation at the rally with a well-known activist who told me he felt that the Democratic Socialists would suffer a split at some point due to a group of sectarians -- the same old song that has played out over 150 years of left politics.

Then on Saturday, Sept. 22,  I had mixed feelings about going to the MORE meeting since I play an inconsequential role in MORE -- (and yes there are sectarians in MORE). I'm much more of an observer now. The dislocations based on last spring's events and the push outs of people from ICEUFT wing of MORE has cemented MORE's morphing back to the programs pushed by the old Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) caucus which ICEUFT merged with, along with others, to form MORE. We in ICE always used to view TJC as a sectarian caucus. In fact that was one reason we formed and used the word Independent as a sign we would not be taken over by sectarians.

Seeing some old-time TJC people at the MORE meeting was a sign of that. TJC was barely functioning as a caucus and when MORE formed and it went defunct. Now MORE is under the control of people who were involved in TJC and pushing a similar message - I guess because they think that the teacher revolts make the time ripe -- my push back is that this is the world of the UFT/Unity, not West Virginia or even Los Angeles or Chicago where there is no Unity Caucus in power for 60 years.

In MORE I don't feel people would listen to me any more than UFT/Unity people do so I am trying not to try to offer views that make them uncomfortable ---- I have learned that even in so-called opposition caucus, just as in Unity/UFT, dissenting opinions are not welcome.

But who knows what is in store for us in the age of Janus? I'm keeping my toe in the water with an open mind. In fact at Friday's ICEUFT meeting we expect some people from New Action and Solidarity. Maybe there is something bigger out there than narrow viewed caucuses.

Arthur has reports of the UFT meetings
James Eterno comments

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