Monday, January 14, 2019

Lessons: UTLA History - Union Power Organized a Coalition and Ran to Win

I've been real impressed with the work the team leading UTLA have done in getting ready for the strike, preparations which began when they won power in 2014. I think they have learned some of the lessons from the Chicago strike - positive and negative.

I'm working on some comparisons between the Los Angeles, Chicago and NYC unions and how progressive groups managed to take power in two cities but have gone nowhere here in NYC.

Unity Caucus is the difference.

In both Chicago and LA, there have been changes in power a few times over the past 20 years - or shared power. In NYC Unity has been in control for 60 years. That is due to the fundamental difference in union structure. Here it is impossible to make much of a dent in the Unity machine without having an efficient and canny opposition. So far we haven't had that. If the people from Chicago and LA were here, they would be marginalized or absorbed by Unity.

But there are some lessons to learn from those cities. I met many of the activists in both cities in 2009 and even invited myself to a breakfast at Alex Caputo-Pearl's house one Sunday morning along with a car load of CORE people headed by Jackson Potter who was the key to organizing CORE.

I dredged up some articles from 2014, just before the Union Power slate won the election in LA. Some of the history is worth checking out.

What seems to be interesting is that Union Power is not a caucus like CORE in Chicago but a coalition of activists, which is what needed to happen here in NYC. In fact I proposed a United Front non-caucus slate for this election where anyone who wanted to run against Unity could do so, a way to extend outreach into numerous schools. It didn't happen.
PEAC [LA] and CORE [Chicago] have, in fact, worked together since a 2008 [should be 9] national gathering of reform teachers’ caucuses. And as they prepared for their new roles in 2010, the newly elected CTU leaders visited L.A. to meet with PEAC activists. Back then a PEAC-backed reform slate was represented in UTLA leadership, though it did not have a majority. Caputo-Pearl and other Union Power leaders attended a 2013 teachers’ social justice conference hosted by CORE. .... Labor Notes, Feb. 2014
I was at both the 2009 [See my reports -LA Deamin', LA Confidential)  and 2013 conferences - Alex Caputo-Pearl, Sally Lee of Teachers Unite and Jackson Potter of CORE met at a 2008 conference and then organized the 2009 conference in LA - I flew out with Sally who was 8 months pregnant.

It was quite an intense few days with so many LA activists who were so impressive. I think there were 5 cities present in 2009. There was no such thing as MORE then but there was the early days of GEM and ICE was still active and getting ready to run in the 2010 UFT elections.

CORE talked about the possibility of running in the 2010 election but said they would first check their influence by running a candidate for the pension board, which they ended up winning. They then ran in the May 2010 election with 4 other caucuses. The Unity-like UPC had split into 2 and since Chicago has a runoff, and CORE's intent was to finish 2nd and then win the support of the other caucuses that finished behind them. They got less than a third of the vote but that still put them in 2nd place and everyone else climbed on board for round 2 and they won over 60%.

That was about 10 days before the AFT convention in Seattle - see the July 2010 reports in Ed Notes for details of that wild ride -- we spent a lot of time with the new leadership in Chicago.

Here are a few segments from the articles in Labor Notes and Socialist Worker.
The UP slate is headed by Caputo-Pearl, but draws together a number of veteran UTLA activists. The team includes several current members of UTLA's board of directors, rank-and-file members running for union office for the first time, and even three current officers who've broken with Fletcher.
Solomon and Caputo-Pearl were among the founders of PEAC, which now backs Union Power. That group formed in the 1990s, after No Child Left Behind increased the emphasis on tests and on punishing “failing” schools. Members worked with parents to fight against closings and for better schools... Labor Notes

While he was teaching at South Los Angeles’ Crenshaw High, Caputo-Pearl fought the district’s “reconstitution” efforts there. A partnership of teachers, parents, and students sought to improve the school from within.
Caputo-Pearl has a two decade-long history of union and community organizing as a teacher in South Los Angeles schools, working with groups like Labor/Community Strategy Center, the Coalition for Educational Justice and Progressive Educators for Action (PEAC), a militant union caucus. Caputo-Pearl also serves as his school's UTLA chapter chair--the elected union representative for the school--and as a member of the union's House of Representatives and Board of Directors, UTLA's term for its executive board.
the Union Power slate is using its campaign to build a coalition that unites elected leaders of UTLA who are frustrated with Fletcher's stonewalling with rank-and-file members who are tired of their union seeming inactive and irrelevant to their lives. If they win, UP and Caputo-Pearl pledge to continue that organizing effort with the resources of UTLA. They aim to create a fighting union in alliance with parents, community organizations and the wider labor movement.... Socialist Worker,

L.A. Teachers Run on a Bigger Vision

The Union Power slate of activists say the teachers will win community support when they fight for better schools, not just a raise. Photo: Beth Blecherman.
For Los Angeles teacher Alex Caputo-Pearl, if there was ever an example of how his union needed to change direction, it was November’s “Rally for a Raise.”

LA Strike: Charters are on the table

So far the press and public seem to be on the side of the union - though I wish they would make it very clear that the Supt, Austin Beutner, has no background in education, is a hedge hog, and was installed by the Eli Broad forces on the LA school board. The hedge hogs in the battle for that school board put a lot of money on the table to win a narrow majority.

This article in the NYT points out:
Unlike other states where teachers struck last year, California is firmly controlled by Democrats, for whom organized labor is a key ally. And the California teachers unions are among the most powerful lobbying force in Sacramento..... NYT
Yes, the Democrats are up against a wall.

The article also focuses on the charter issue - this is the NY Times after all --- who expected this?

What’s Really at Stake in the Los Angeles Teachers’ Strike

Can California provide sufficient resources to support an effective public education system? Or will charter schools cripple it?
Miriam Pawel
By Miriam Pawel
Ms. Pawel, a contributing opinion writer, is the author of “The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation.”

NYT - Jan. 14, 2019

Unlike other states where teachers struck last year, California is firmly controlled by Democrats, for whom organized labor is a key ally. And the California teachers unions are among the most powerful lobbying force in Sacramento.
On paper, negotiations between the 31,000-member United Teachers of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District center on traditional issues: salaries that have not kept pace, classes of more than 40 students, counselors and nurses with staggering caseloads. But the most potent and divisive issue is not directly on the bargaining table: the future of charter schools, which now enroll more than 112,000 students, almost one-fifth of all K-through-12 students in the district. They take their state aid with them, siphoning off $600 million a year from the district. The 224 independent charters operate free from many regulations, and all but a few are nonunion.
When California authorized the first charter schools in 1992 as a small experiment, no one envisioned that they would grow into an industry, now educating 10 percent of public school students in the state. To counter demands for greater regulation and transparency, charter advocates have in recent years poured millions into political campaigns. Last year, charter school lobbies spent $54 million on losing candidates for governor and state superintendent of education.

In Los Angeles, they have had more success. After his plan to move half of the Los Angeles district students into charter schools failed to get traction, the billionaire and charter school supporter Eli Broad and a group of allies spent almost $10 million in 2017 to win a majority on the school board. The board rammed through the appointment of a superintendent, Austin Beutner, with no educational background. Mr. Beutner, a former investment banker, is the seventh in 10 years and has proposed dividing the district into 32 “networks,” a so-called portfolio plan designed in part by the consultant who engineered the radical restructuring of Newark schools.
“In my 17 years working with labor unions, I have been called on to help settle countless bargaining disputes in mediation,” wrote Vern Gates, the union-appointed member of the fact-finding panel called in to help mediate the Los Angeles stalemate last month. “I have never seen an employer that was intent on its own demise.”
It’s a vicious cycle: The more overcrowded and burdened the regular schools, the easier for charters to recruit students. The more students the district loses, the less money, and the worse its finances. The more the district gives charters space in traditional schools, the more overcrowded the regular classrooms.

Read the entire article here.

UTLA on Strike: Litmus test for Dem 2020 Pres Candidates - Show up on picket line

The UTLA strike puts the hordes running for the Dem nomination in 2020, a number of them charter school supporters, in a delicate position. Given that a reason for the Dem losses around formerly strong union areas has been their abandonment of union workers, this one is a biggie. UTLA has put charters in their sights in this strike and while unlikely to win much in the way of redress, that they put it on the table at all is a win of sorts. In Chicago, there were also efforts to put charters on the table and the unionization efforts have worked out.

Here in NYC, the UFT often acts like charters are a figment of the imagination and has an awful record of organizing charters. Then there are the ties between our local, state and national union to the Dem party - watch Randi waffle as she gives support to the strike but makes no demands that politicians running for president join her.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Unity Caucus to Independents: We'll Waive Loyalty Oath and Joining Unity

With UFT elections upon us, Unity Caucus leaders, well aware of UFT activists alienated by the ideologically restricted environment of the MORE Caucus, have been actively recruiting people who have a history of being critics of UFT policy.

One of the carrots they are offering is not having to sign the Unity loyalty oath which forces members of the caucus to support all policies, even if they disagree.

They are even offering deals where there is no requirement to even join the caucus. This is unprecedented and shows the influence of the Janus decision.

Why would Unity, faced with the weakest opposition in decades - meaning they will have no voice of opposition on the Ex Bd and barely one in the delegate assembly - take this step?

Unity attempts to create its own opposition
Word filtered back at the concerns within the top levels of union leadership over what happened in MORE, which was seen at the main opposition.

My analysis is that Unity has taken this step because they are nervous about the repercussions in the age of Janus in having an entire union Ex Bd with no political diversity would open them up to attacks from the anti-union forces as a sign of a one party non-democratic system.

Populism in the UFT?
I also feel that with MORE moving to the fringe, they fear the growth of a populist movement inside the UFT that may not operate under the usual opposition "rules of engagement" -sort of an old-boys and girls network of well behaved oppositionists.

Think of wild cat strike in red states and in Oakland (The Wildcat Underground: Oakland Teachers Pull Wildcat). Imagine a rogue school going off the rails! Just as Unity controls the membership, the opposition caucuses control the spigot of activism, channeling it into traditional lanes. Or even worse, an opposition movement urging people to leave the UFT and find another bargaining agent. They know MORE would never go in that direction.

You are free to speak openly
The story I am told is that Unity/UFT officials have offered a guarantee of freedom to speak openly. Maybe. I would bet that no matter what they say, not being opposed to the recent contract is a requirement.

There is no little irony that Unity on the surface is appearing to be more open than MORE. As one former MORE said to me, "If MORE is less democratic than Unity and throws people out who disagree, why not go with Unity, which at least has the toys?"

I don't necessarily agree but I can understand the thinking which was expressed to me this way:
"MORE blew up the opposition"
I see MORE having no future and none of the other caucuses either, especially in this divided election. If everyone ran together, we would have had a chance to win some positions. But now running with any of them is a losing proposition and faced with having no chance to impact union policy, why not let Unity endorse me? As long as I don't have to sign a loyalty oath and can maintain my freedom to be critical of union policy with the aim of pushing it in a progressive direction- why not?
I pushed back, feeling Unity was just using opposition people to give themselves cover as being "democratic."
"So what? MORE's blowing up the idea of a serious opposition in this election is a game changer. Point, set, match to Unity."
Probably right but I can still believe that out of the ashes of the opposition in this election, something may rise post-election, though not very likely.

I have urged people considering taking this step to run on an independent line in the UFT elections or form a mini-caucus so people who can't bear voting for Unity but who want to vote for them would have that option.

I myself am ambivalent. I have urged a boycott of what is even in the best of times for the opposition, a rigged election. I actually wanted to see Unity have all the seats and no opposition as a way to make a point.

I may write in some names or vote for all 3 caucuses, even if that invalidates the ballot, as a "vote" for a united front.

But maybe I will vote for my friends on an independent line anyway because as good old Ricky once said to Lisa, "the problems associated with a UFT election doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Leonie Haimson/Valerie Strauss - Why 30,000 Los Angeles teachers are ready to strike over huge class sizes - WAPO

The main issue under contention is not salary, where the two sides are close together; Superintendent Austin Beutner has offered a 6 percent increase, with the union demanding 6.5 percent.
Even more contentious now is the excessive class sizes suffered by too many Los Angeles public school students and teachers. The district claims it cannot afford to reduce class size, while the union says there is a budget surplus of over $1.8 billion. 
... Leonie Haimson
In our wildest imagination, could we see the UFT here in NYC strike over class size? Leonie is on the case.

Answer Sheet

Why 30,000 Los Angeles teachers are ready to strike over huge class sizes

Friday, January 11, 2019

Los Angeles Teachers Reject Latest LAUSD Offer

The press focuses on the salary issue. While always crucial it is not the main issue. There is already a critique from the world socialist web site attacking Alex Caputo-Pearl for selling out because of the strike postponement. I must publish that as a follow up and parse what they are saying.

There seems to be some new money on the table and the UTLA to keep public support must address the issue and not automatically reject. With the entire teacher nation supporting wearing red yesterday, the change to Monday cost some momentum. Here is today's report from LA.

Los Angeles Teachers Reject Latest LAUSD Offer

Los Angeles Teachers Reject Latest LAUSD Offer
The Los Angeles teachers' union rejects an offer by the LAUSD in ongoing labor negotiations on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

AOC Meets Mainstream Press - Krugman, Dowd, Friedman, 60 Minutes, Meet the Press

Over the past weekend, AOC was featured in all of the above with some of the most progressive ideas put on the table in decades. Yet the far left trashes her just as much as the right. I'll get to that another time.

Remember Krugman trashing Bernie economics two years ago?

The Economics of Soaking the Rich

What does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know about tax policy? A lot.
Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Whither/Wither The Opposition -- Past, Present and Future Tense - Part 1

Whither: to what place or state. --- old Eng.
Wither: become dry and shriveled.

What will be the state of the opposition in the UFT at the end of this election cycle in April? One of my multiple New Years resolutions is to tell the story of the on-going history of the opposition inside the UFT over the 5 decades of my own involvement. Given I am sitting out the UFT elections, I have plenty of time on my hands. The problem is, where to start?

We are a few days away from the official opening of another UFT election period and all three caucuses running on their own against Unity have been issuing calls for people to run with them and to get ready for the petition campaign which begins at the Jan. 16 Delegate Assembly. In normal times, I would be spending all my time getting ready for a 5 week long petition campaign.

For me, what a relief to be an observer and reporter in the upcoming UFT elections after having been intensely involved in five elections since the 2004 campaign.

But these are not normal times. I saw Ellen Fox the other day at the UFT Ex Bd meeting and she said for her this was the first time in 40 years she will not be involved in an election.
Are there so many fractures, will there be no hope for the future growth of the opposition to become an effective force to counter the 60 year old Unity Caucus machine?

It's very disappointing so see what has happened over the past 5 years after the promise of MORE when it began in 2011-12 with the support of almost all the leading voices in the opposition to Unity over the years. New Action was still aligned with Unity but over time I expected that that aging caucus would eventually join with MORE in coalition (it did in 2016) and hopefully merge. A disappointment was the defection of Portelos in 2014 when he formed his own caucus -- there were reasons he will argue. I would argue if he has remained in MORE and brought his supporters in, it would have strengthened the hands of the faction in MORE that was eventually pushed out -- the ICEUFT people. We would have had a stronger opposition to push back against the faction that gained total control of MORE with an boutique agenda aimed at a small segment of the UFT rather than the broader rank and file. That's boiling down the essential disagreements that took place in MORE over the years.

With the Los Angeles teachers in the UTLA about to strike Monday (changed from today - an unfortunate snafu due to a UTLA miscalculation) under the leadership of a progressive, left-leaning social justice caucus and with Chicago TU in the hands of a similar caucus - two of the three largest cities --- proof that such social justice like groups can succeed in winning and maintaining power -- here in NYC we find ourselves in possibly the worst situation we have faced since the New Action defection to Unity in 2003.

There is no clearer difference in the opposition in the 3 cities than to look at union elections. The NYC version of the progressive caucus - MORE - doesn't want to win anything in the election while citing the work of the groups running LA and Chi -- but never seeming to realize that those groups actually did run to win - and they did win. Which is why they can talk about striking.

If MORE had real power school level power through influence in many schools so as to raise its issues with a broad rank and file then a discussion of strike feasibility can be opened. For MORE, which weakened itself to a point where it has less influence than it has had in 5 years, to talk about strikes here in NYC, is sort of ludicrous. Instead the MORE campaigns to get the union leadership it so vilifies to do take up the MORE campaign. In Chicago and LA the caucuses themselves had enough widespread support as to take on bigger issues without relying on the union leadership. Here MORE tries to be a lobby caucus.
A fractured opposition

Now we know we can't win the whole ball of wax here but we could chip away at Unity power in the schools which is where the battle will take place. An election campaign could help build power through gathering of votes. The ballot box does count. MORE/NA getting almost 11,000 votes last time was the largest total in a long time and an opportunity. An opportunity lost.

There are consequences for this gap between the 3 big cities. Chicago and LA, have pushed back against the ed deform movement, while here in NYC we have seen the UFT be complicit with so much of ed deform, from testing to charters to teachers being held accountable based on test scores. And of course the willingness to stand by as abusive principals chop up our members. Our own union has partnered with the ed deformers all along the way. And as far as I am concerned, MORE itself has dropped the ball in many areas of push back against deformers. That there is no caucus strong enough to become a bulwark leaves us in a precarious position.

It is a sad situation where each of the three caucuses will be running their own independent campaigns with the clear outcome that none of them can win anything on their own.

In what place or state will we find the caucuses post election? Whither or just plain withered?

I see little point in running in an election where the 3 groups end up competing as much as with each other than Unity for votes and candidates and support. There is a lot of blame to go around but let's not get into those weeds at this time.

What a waste of time and energy. I urged MORE to either unite with everyone or don't run and use the opportunity to engage in their campaign outside the election process.

The leadership of MORE, which includes a bunch of people who used to run Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC), a caucus that had shrunk significantly and merged into MORE, opposed me. They argued we would miss a chance to get 2 pages in the NY Teacher - which I had pointed out are barely read by anyone. And they also said they would gain access to all the schools by running -- I pointed out they could gain access to all the schools, even by not running.

When the vote was taken, we could see a lot of doubt about running coming from the newer, younger and untenured people in MORE, which seemed to surprise the old TJC crowd. So they scaled back -- you don't have to run around the city putting stuff in the mail boxes - the very opposite of the argument they used against my position for not running.

Then came the news that even 2 people can get pages in the NY Teacher if they run -- countering their other argument for running a slate.

The only way forward post-election is some kind of united front - a big tent opposition, even if the purists have to retreat somewhat. The Unity machine is the problem and why NYC is different from Chicago and LA. I looked back to the past.

The United Front of the 80s and 90s
In recent posts I've been exploring the historical record as recorded by me over the past 22 years in Ed Notes, but especially the early hard copy publications from 1997-2005. I am reminding myself of all the issues we faced back then, with a lot to echo today's issues.
These had wider distribution I believe than the Ed Notes blog -- the Del Ass and into the schools directly in the latter years of 2002-5 after I retired.

After the 2001 election, which despite New Action winning the high school seats, showed them declining, I tried to play the role of peacemaker between all the groups (NAC, PAC, TJC) and independents by calling for meetings to form a coalition for the next election in 2004. That effort fell apart very quickly and I saw first hand the level of hostility and infighting that existed - to the extent that I, for the first time began to think that a new caucus was necessary to take on issues being ignored and thus was born ICE a few years later. The 2004 election had 3 opposition groups running, the only time other than the present.

I was reminded of the impact the mass campaigns against Unity by all elements of the opposition had in the 80s and 90s when a coalition of groups and individuals under the New Action Coalition (NAC) began to come together in the late 70-early 80s and found a united front was able to recruit a full slate of 800 people to run. And they began to chip a way at Unity power for the first time.

Now we are back to the beginning where we stood in the mid-70s.  The only way forward is for people to get some sense after the election and sit down and find a way to move toward a united front.

I made a chart with the historical links between caucuses over the decades. One day I would like to see them all culminate into one box.

Here are links to recent Ed Notes posts on this topic:

Monday, January 7, 2019

UFT Elections: The Caucus of Goldstein and Schirtzer - Will They Throw Their Hat into the Ring?

Here is an astounding idea. Get yourself a pal and form a caucus and even though you need 40 to get a slate on the ballot, you can still get 2 pages in the NY Teacher in two separate issues to promote your ideas. That seems to be the outcome of rulings by the election committee, endorsed by the UFT Ex Bd at the Jan. 7 meeting.

As reported by Arthur in his Ex Bd Notes:
UFT Executive Board January 7, 2018--We Support LA Teachers and Discuss Election
LeRoy Barr— All caucuses will get ads regardless of whether they have enough candidates to form a slate. 

NOTE: In the 2016 elections, Solidarity did not get a slate but did get the 2 pages in the NY Teacher, which we thought was Unity's way of trying to siphon votes from us. 

 Arthur Goldstein—If Mike Schirtzer and I decide that we want to run as a caucus, can we get 2 pages in the NY teacher for Schirtzer Goldstein caucus-The two of us could run and get two pages in NY Teacher to promote our duo--is that what Im hearing?
Barr—Those who don’t meet requirement want to have representation in NY Teacher. If you are saying you have two, will assume that is correct.
Washington Sanchez—In essence, what Arthur said is correct. The committee did not want to prevent this. We didn’t think that would happen. Committee reserved right to come back and revisit the issue. Was lengthy discussion, many different views. Because of Janus we did not want anyone to feel slighted.
Michael Shulman—Basically, what LeRoy laid out was essence of discussion. Was not unanimous. Some raised same concern Arthur did. Decision was any caucus would be allowed two pages. We will follow the practice of allowing space. Independents were given space in NY teacher. Perhaps individuals will get space allotted in line with what has taken place in past. 
And thus was born the caucus of Goldstein/Schirtzer. Will they toss their hat in the UFT Election ring? Will others join the caucus? Since they will not get the required 40 people in time to get on the ballot, they can run as independents and invite any of the other caucuses to endorse them.

Hey James! The caucus of Eterno/Scott? Nahhh! We have golf games to play.

Of course we know the game Unity is playing - divide and conquer.
The more the merrier and the more they can fragment the opposition. But speaking of MORE, guess who did the fragmenting of the opposition?

Petitions become available at the Jan. 16 Delegate Assembly. Come on down and become a caucus.

UFT Caucus Roundup: Rallies Galore - Ed Notes, Dec. 2000

I'm running a series from the Ed Notes archives on UFT Elections Past, where the ghost of ed notes makes an appearance to haunt the modern Scrooges in the UFT and use the past to show the opposition parties in the UFT the future - unless they change their ways.

That very same ghost of Ed Notes past also haunts me as I see how my views have changed over the years.
Ed Notes published in hard copy from 1998-2005. Revisiting this history might be of some use for activists in the UFT. Or maybe not.

I offered Ed Notes as a vehicle for all the opposition groups in the UFT to get the word out. I some ways I regret having abandoned that model for getting involved in caucus politics with the founding of ICE.

Reprinted from Ed Notes, Dec. 2000, we can see a much higher level of activity on the part of the opposition in the UFT and by the Unity Caucus leadership itself. Wha' Happened?

Caucus Roundup: Rallies Galore
Caucus activity focused on a series of demonstrations: Progressive Action Caucus (PAC) and New Action Caucus (NAC) held a rally at the Board of Education on Oct. 19. Teachers for a Just Contract rallied at UFT headquarters on Nov. 9 and the Unity led UFT leadership held it’s big rally outside City Hall on Nov. 16 (see p.1). Ed. Notes was not present at the Oct. 19 rally as it was raining and we don’t like to get wet, but did cover the Nov. 9 event as there was some food available at a meeting on the 2nd floor of the UFT. Here are reports from the field. 

Oct. 20: The demonstration on Wednesday at the Board of Education was a tremendous suc- cess. I would like to thank everyone who came out in the rain. Your efforts were much appre- ciated.
We called for 11%,11%, 11% increases in sal- ary and demanded that the Union and the Board of Education not agree to a longer school day, year or merit pay. We also de- manded reductions in class size and a revision of the unfair licensing and certification pro- cess. In addition we called for major reforms of the schools for the benefit of the students. To our suprise as we called for Chancellor Levy to come down and talk to us, he actually came down and talked to us for about 15 minutes. In all it was a tremedous success. New Ac- tion/UFT and P.A.C. were united and both groups had an excellent showing. We look for- ward to more actions together.
On November 16th we will support our union by coming out and marching together in the U.F.T. demonstration, but we will do it as a united alternative to the Unity Caucus' pos- sible sellout.
Mark Pessin, Chairperson of PAC 

Nov. 16: It's November 2000! Do you know where your con- tract is? The UFT leaders wanted a contract by last June, but could not get the City to the table. This fall, they waited im- potently over a month for the City even to make an answer to our bargaining position. Moral sua- sion won't do it. Television ads won't do it. The teaching short- age won't do it: the Board will merely water down the require- ments again. We have no clout in collective bargaining, because our leadership has neglected the source of all union power: an organized, mobilized rank and file. 


Teachers for a Just Contract 

Randi Weingarten doesn’t agree with Mark Pessin. At Exec. Bd. & DA meetings, she criticized the Oct. 19 demo, claiming that a low turnout made the UFT look bad and requested that if people have demos, they do not do so under the UFT banner. 

A number of people in the opposition accused her of demagoguery, saying they could certainly could demonstrate as UFT’ers as they are dues paying UFT members. But no one challenged Weingarten’s statement at either meeting. 

Weingarten had no comment on the Nov. 16 demo. Though not opposed to demos at UFT headquarters (the very first demo I attended, May 1, 1971, was at the UFT protesting support for the Vietnam War) I raised questions with the demonstra- tors about the timing of the demo (a week before the big rally) and some of the slogans being used. 

Since then, TJC and Ed. Notes have been engaged in a spirited email debate on a number of issues, which I hope to summarize in the future. I counted about 60 people and was told there had been 100 there, pretty much all from HS. (The majority of HS teachers have voted NO to Unity for years.)

Despite reservations, the opposition groups did support each other’s demonstrations and have continued to promise unity against Unity in the upcoming UFT elections in the spring. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Breaking UFT Election News: A Gaggle of Caucuses Throw Their Wings Into the Race

Ed. Notes has learned exclusively that even more caucuses will be running in the UFT elections [in addition to the current ones, New Action, Solidarity and MORE.] The more caucuses the merrier. I may join every caucus - and vote for all of them too.

Ed. Notes reprint from Spring ‘99.

Here are the names of the groups and their basic platforms: 

SERIOUSLY INACTIVE CAUCUS (SIC): Will do nothing after announcing they are going to run.

TELEPATHIC INDEPENDENT CAUCUS (TIC): Will put out no leaflets, but will reach out by projecting their thoughts. 

PULL-OUT INDEPENDENT PARTY (PIP): Proposes that every teacher should be a pull-out teacher.

PUSH IN CAUCUS (PIC): Split from PIP. Wants every teacher to be a push-in teacher. 

PARTY OF ENERGY CAUCUS (PEC): Wants a health club in every school.

New Inaction Caucus (NIC): Self-explanatory.

POLITICAL ACTION for TEACHERS (PAT): Every teacher should run for office in UFT elections.  

PAY EVERY TEACHER A LOT (PETAL): Advocates accelerated payments for teachers. 

CAUCUS in OPPOSITION TO POLITICAL ENTITIES (COPE): Union shouldn’t engage in political activity.

Rumor has it that
PIC, PAC and PEC will merge and be known as: PIC ‘A PAC ‘O PEC 'O.

Logo got Pic 'o pac 'o

There are reports of a merger of Unity Caucus and Progressive Action Caucus. 

This new caucus will tentatively be known as:  

Federal Court throws out LAUSD’s request for strike injunction against special ed teachers

Desperate measure aimed at union fails. January 10 is strike date.
Today, less than 24 hours after it was filed, a federal court denied LAUSD’s request to stop special education teachers from joining their colleagues on strike.

“The court’s swift and decisive action shows just how desperate a move this was,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. “Austin Beutner knew he didn’t have a legal leg to stand on but he went ahead anyway, spreading fear and confusion among the public, our members, special education students and families. The scare tactics must end now.”

On Thursday, LAUSD filed a claim in federal court to prevent UTLA special education teachers from striking. The threatened teachers immediately took to social media to vent their anger at LAUSD’s attempt to prevent them from exercising their right. This sneaky maneuver —especially coming from a district that has repeatedly ignored UTLA’s contract demands for special education class-size caps to relieve the burden of overcrowded special education classrooms – is beyond cynical and counterproductive.

(Read the conversations on numerous posts on our Facebook page here. <>)

In two days, Beutner has used his high-priced lawyers to initiate two frivolous legal actions against UTLA and is now threatening a third. These tactics smack of disdain for the very school district he is meant to serve and protect.

On Wednesday, LAUSD officials went to PERB to seek an injunction based on unsubstantiated claims that UTLA has been preparing for a strike since 2016. Then today, the district threatened another lawsuit claiming UTLA did not give sufficient notice of our intent to strike, despite multiple notifications, including a Jan. 10 strike date announced on Dec. 19.

“Beutner is using his background as a corporate profiteer and downsizer. He has hired well-known privatizers and anti-union lawyers in an attempt to dismantle the school district as well as the solidarity of our union brothers and sisters. But we see right through this, and we will fight it every step of the way,” said Caputo-Pearl. “Rich people don’t like to lose, and having money allows you to shift the playing field. But public education belongs to the people of Los Angeles, not the super rich.”

It’s clear Beutner fears the collective power of educators, parents, students and the community coming together. We must stay united and focused on the goal: a contract that reinvests in our schools and improves our working and learning conditions.

We can expect to see more desperate actions by Beutner as our strike date nears. We are disappointed, but after 20 months of bad faith bargaining and disrespect, it is what we have come to expect from Beutner and LAUSD officials.

Regardless of this, we will sit down with LAUSD officials on Monday and expect them to provide a clear and legitimate proposal for us to consider, and that we can move toward an agreement.

UFT ELECTIONS ARE COMING! - 2001 edition --- If an opposition party runs in a union election and no one notices, did it really run?

I'm running a series from the Ed Notes archives on UFT Elections Past, where the ghost of ed notes makes an appearance to haunt the modern Scrooges in the UFT and use the past to show the opposition parties in the UFT the future - unless they change their ways.

That very same ghost of Ed Notes past also haunts me as I see how my views have changed over the years.
Ed Notes published in hard copy from 1998-2005. Revisiting this history might be of some use for activists in the UFT. Or maybe not.

Reprinted from Ed Notes, Feb. 2001, Volume 4, No. 3

NOTE: New Action (NAC) was the dominant opposition group after the merger of two caucuses (TAC and New Directions) in 1995. 

The marginal Progressive Action Caucus (PAC) was formed in 1997/8 by a former leader of New Directions, Marc Pessin, to focus mostly in defense of teachers under attack over their licenses. Their vote totals were around 2-3%.

Teachers for a Just Contract (TJC) was not an election caucus until 2004 the same year ICEUFT formed as an outcome of the organizing efforts of Ed Notes.

[UFT] ELECTIONS ARE COMING! - 2001 edition
There’s an old joke about some political groups: Put 2 of them in a room and they’ll split into 3 groups. That seems to have happened to the opposition parties in the upcoming elections.  

New Action/UFT (NAC) and Progressive Action Caucus (PAC) are both running against Unity Caucus. It is not clear what role Teachers for a Just Contract will play

An email from Marc Pessin explains PAC’s position:  
“We will be running our own slate in order to project a radical education program. However we will run NAC candidates on our slate so as not to divide the opposition in areas like the JHS and HS where we have a chance of winning if NAC agrees. We will back their candidates. Others in our group also might want to run on the NAC slate as well.” 

This is a significant change from the ‘99 election where PAC ran a slate that almost prevented NAC from winning the HS Exec. Bd. seats. PAC now takes a rational approach to the UFT elections: run to make people aware of your point of view and don’t compromise your point of view to pander to the voters. Unity has so stacked the deck that it is impossible to win other than in certain select areas (See accompanying article “How Unity Stacks the Deck”). 

NAC has taken a different tack, attempting to find a broader base of support. But NAC often seems to appeal to the least common denominator, at times seeming to base its positions on the common bond of merely being anti-Unity. NAC has had a fairly low profile so far, considering the importance with which they view elections. (ie. No literature at the Jan. DA and a lack of coherance at Exec. Bd. meetings.) 

Ed. Notes will have an article in a future issue titled “The NAC Election Campaign: The Sounds of Silence” which poses the age-old philisophical question: If an opposition party runs in a union election and no one notices, did it really run? It will deal with the promises and failures of NAC

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Teachers Came Together to Strike. What Will Happen Next? - Ed Week

...experts say social media is a tenuous connector for long-term organizing, and now that the strikes are over and the midterm elections have passed, organizers will have to find new ways to sustain the energy of fired-up teachers. For the most part, experts say, this is uncharted territory....
While protests have been organized on social media before—most notably in the Arab Spring—it's still a relatively new tactic. There's no blueprint for sustaining a movement on Facebook, experts say.
"There's a question about if the social-media [based] organizations are capable of keeping people connected over a long period of time as opposed to face-to-face relationships," said Warren, who studies community organizing and education reform.

Already, teacher organizers in North Carolina have learned that "likes" on Facebook and Twitter do not necessarily translate into a commitment to doing the time-intensive work of lobbying for political change, said Angie Scioli, a social studies teacher and the founder of the grassroots group Red4EdNC.
"If teachers really want systemic change to happen, they're going to have to commit to traditional organizing," she said. "Wearing red for ed. is not going to change a law."..... Ed Week
Activist teacher groups are so excited about the red4ed movement and with the LA strike about to hit there will be a fever pitch. The faction in control of MORE is particularly excited and making the connection to the movement will be a strong factor in the upcoming UFT election campaign. I have my doubts about making these connections here in NYC when teachers can make almost 100G by their 8th year. In LA they are making the defense of public education a big issue but I would bet that salary is an issue. I read somewhere that the top salary is far below that in NYC. Teacher willingness to go on strike must factor in just how much they will lose if they do.

So here is a prequel to this morning's post from Ed Week about future teacher actions: The Teacher Strikes and Protests Planned for 2019 - Ed Week.

It casts questions about the level of continuing organizing.

Teachers Came Together to Strike. What Will Happen Next?

About 40 protesters were cheered as they arrived in Oklahoma City last April in the final leg of a 110-mile trip from Tulsa to protest school funding.
About 40 protesters were cheered as they arrived in Oklahoma City last April in the final leg of a 110-mile trip from Tulsa to protest school funding.
—Sue Ogrocki/AP
| Corrected: December 18, 2018
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The Teacher Strikes and Protests Planned for 2019 - Ed Week

The Teacher Strikes and Protests Planned for 2019

While 2018 was a pivotal year for teacher activism, with large-scale strikes in six states and more protests around the country, there's been some question as to whether momentum would continue into the new year.
So far, though, we know at least a few places where labor actions are likely to happen:
  • Los Angeles teachers plan to go on strike Jan. 10. After 20 months of contract disputes with the district, the union—which was seeking a 6.5 percent pay raise retroactive to July 2016, class-size reductions, fewer required tests, and more support staff—announced teachers would stop work a few days after students return from winter break. The district's final offer included a smaller raise and class-size reductions in some schools, which the union called "insulting." This will be the first strike in the district in 30 years. 
  • Teachers in Oakland, Calif., are also preparing for a possible strike. On Dec. 19, the union's executive board gave the president the power to call a strike-authorization vote, which is the first step in the process. Oakland teachers have been working without a contract since July 2017 and are asking for a 12 percent salary increase over three years and class-size reductions, reports EdSource. The district offered a 5 percent increase and some class-size reductions. Negotiations are ongoing, but according to the Oakland Education Association website, the union is planning a rally for Jan. 12 (a Saturday) and has collected more than $11,000 for a strike fund. And dozens of teachers at Oakland High School already held a wildcat strike, not sanctioned by the union, several weeks ago, KQED reported. Oakland has just 2,300 teachers, compared to Los Angeles' approximately 25,000.
  • In Virginia, teachers across the state are planning a one-day rally for Jan. 28The grassroots group "Virginia Educators United" is organizing the gathering, and if enough teachers participate it could shut down schools. Educators there are asking for pay to increase to the national average and for better pay for support professionals. Virginia is home to about 90,000 teachers. 
  We'll keep an eye on other places the #RedforEd movement may be spreading in the early months of 2019 as well, so check back here for updates.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Oysters in Croatia

Getting high on oysters
The Jan. 2 edition of the NYT had a fascinating story about oysters and Croatia, focusing on a place we had visited on our 2 week Roads Scholar tour of Croatia in October. We visited the town featured and had the same boat ride featured in the Times article. I always like a map so here is the one from the Times. I'm fascinated by the map of the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans, the source of so many issues over the past century and a half. The Times article makes that point.

Here are some of my photos, with the NY Times story and pics below.

The story mentions the famous wall. A useless wall if you look at it. A folly of a wall. Tell Trump.
The wall to nowhere.

Croatia Dispatch

Oysters Lead Lives of Excitement and Danger. Especially in the Balkans.