Friday, November 16, 2018

UFT Caucus and Election History: 1962 - Present

Click on image to enlarge
UFT Election History - Updated*
Produced by Norm Scott, Education Notes

Early 60s – a few election campaigns between various Unity factions. Shanker takes power in 1964 election.
1969-1975 – TAC only caucus to run. (TAC descended from left-leaning Teacher Union). Gets roughly 25% of vote.

1975: Massive budget cuts come after election and strike in fall of '75--- All caucuses work to oppose the deal Unity makes with the city that leads to massive cuts. This is the opportunity to build a united opposition but instead---
1975-76: Coalition of School Workers (social justice oriented),
New Directions (bread and butter) emerges from split with CSW.

1977 election: TAC and Coalition of School Workers - United FightBack. (Note that hirsute guy 2nd from the top on the right.)
Two left-leaning caucuses combine bread and butter and social justice.
New Directions refused to join and runs own slate focused on bread and butter.
Outcome: 25-30% opposition vote split between two slates with ND getting a few % higher.

1979 – I don’t remember. I think my group - the Coalition of School Workers may have sat this out rather than have more than one caucus run against Unity. Or I might be getting 1977 confused with 1979.

1981: New Action Coalition - NAC
New Directions agrees to join election coalition between TAC and CSW only on condition that Marc Pessin be presidential candidate. Full slate of 800 people run. Focused on bread and butter in attempt to build opposition forces.

1983-1995: NAC runs as coalition of caucuses.
1985: Michael Shulman Wins HS VP but Unity refuses to seat him. (In 1994 Unity changes rules to prevent this from happening again by making VP elections at-large.)
1991: NAC wins 13 Ex Bd seats – HS and JHS - most ever.
1993: NAC wins no seats
1995: NAC wins 6 HS seats. TAC and New Directions merge to form New Action/UFT after election.
1995-2001: New Action wins HS seats in every election.*
1997: PAC caucus emerges to fight for those threatened with losing licenses – runs in election as a 2nd opposition slate to New Action. New Action puts two PAC high school Ex Bd people on its slate of 6 candidates. They win the HS seats.
*1999: NA and PAC run completely separately but PAC vote totals are 2% and NA wins HS Ex Bd in 3 way race - a very rare event.
*2001: PAC runs independent campaign but cross endorsed some NA candidates. Two NA Ex Bd candidates refuse PAC endorsement and do not appear on their slate but they win anyway in another 3 way race.

2001: UFT Elections changed to 3 years from 2 years.
2003: NA makes deal with Unity for HS EX Bd seats by not running against Randi for president. Emergence of TJC and ICE to push back against New Action deal with Unity.
2004: ICE and TJC – run independent campaigns and appear on ballot separately. There are 4 lines on ballot; Unity, NA, ICE, TJC. ICE and TJC cross endorse high schools and win 6 seats, leaving NA off EX Bd for first time since 1994.
2007, 2010: TJC and ICE run on one ballot line, leaving members with choice of NA and ICE/TJC --- NA candidates cross endorsed by Unity.

2013: MORE emerges from merger of ICE/TJC and others; Ballot line includes NA and MORE. Gets around 8500 votes.

2016: MORE and NA run on one line. Solidarity emerges but doesn’t get enough candidates to get a ballot line. Thus members see only Unity and one alternative for first time since 1995. But Solidarity running as individuals gets 1400 votes for president. MORE gets almost 11,000 votes.


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I have always believed history counts. It counts a lot and trying to make decisions without seeing what the road looks like behind you before venturing forward. Most younger people aren't that interested in looking backward but want to forge their own path - and end up making the same mistakes. I know I did.

With my generation of activists in the UFT leaving the field and a new group of people taking over the role, it will be interesting to see what happens. I and others who have been involved in the past may be sitting this election out unless there is an intriguing reason to get involved.

With UFT elections coming soon and MORE discussing the issue at the Nov. 17 meeting, I put together a history of UFT caucuses and a brief history of UFT elections. Mostly this is from memory so if there are errors let me know.

The lesson I see is that caucuses split, merge, dissolve, etc and Unity prevails, holding on to the same level of power or increasing it. Witness the 87% approval of the contract.

Since the formation of MORE I have believed that the membership is only confused by multiple opposition groups, even when they come together for elections and then go their separate ways. I had always hoped MORE would evolve into one big umbrella group. Instead the opposite seems to have occurred.

Look at the chart above over the 50 years that I have been active. All models seemed to have failed in building a force to challenge Unity. Even when New Action seemed to be the major opposition force from the mid-90s through 2003, they way they ran the caucus turned others off. Thus we had PAC, TJC with its own voice, Ed Notes which led to ICE and in the 2004 elections there was fragmentation once again. ICE and TJC which functioned form 2004-2010 elections barely worked together due to ideological differences. When ICE announced a new caucus there was a big reaction from people who left New Action and felt uncomfortable in TJC's rigid ideological jacket.

I supported the idea of MORE as a big tent and continue to believe in one opposition group under an umbrella that could hold diverse views -- sort of like the Democratic Party -- a place where ideas can be fought out but at the end of the day everyone is united in opposition to Unity. We seem far from that today -- the opposition may be more divided than it has been since the 70s.

My views have evolved - I lean to an uncaucus - don't make your own caucus the central issue but focus on the interests of the membership.

Let's face it -- Unity will never lose. Even the people in Solidarity who seemed to believe they could win in 2016 have faced reality.

MORE and New Action understand that the most that could be won are high school seats and if properly organized, middle school seats 12 seats out of 100. Is it all worth it? Even when you win Ex Bd seats, there is a tendency to make the activity of the opposition focus on the EB where you have only a tiny sliver of say. I think that happened to MORE and caused all sorts of problems. Some people seemed to become obsessed over what the EB people were doing instead of going forth and organizing.

A case for running
Though I have doubts even about this, it only makes sense to run as one opposition. Two slates on the ballot. Unity and the opposition. I've been promoting the idea of something called United FightBack where all those opposed to Unity could gather. (We used that in the 1977 campaign.)

A case for not running
Elections often become internally divisive. In the past few elections I've urged people not to run in the elections but to use the process to focus an issue-oriented campaign and even get Unity to take part. Focus on the issues, not on an election that most UFT members don't bother to vote in.

The opposition received over 12,000 votes in the last election but end up with 7 out of 100 seats on the Ex Bd and no delegates to the AFT and NYSUT conventions. There is a lot of work and effort for very little outcome.

The UFT election process is corrupt and a formal boycott with a campaign pointing out how corrupt it is and saying we won't participate in this process and calling for reforms is a legitimate position to take.

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