Monday, January 28, 2019

School Scope: UFT Election Season Opens

School Scope: UFT Election Season Opens

By Norm Scott
The WAVE - published in print edition January 25, 2019 (originally submitted Jan. 19, 2019).

This week is the formal opening of the United Federation of Teachers three month election season with a month long petitioning campaign. Final vote count will be on April 17. With over 120,000 active members and 60,000 retirees, the UFT is the largest union local in the nation. Within the UFT are political parties – caucuses. Unity Caucus has dominated and controlled the UFT since its inception in the early 60s. Over that time a variety of caucuses have risen up to challenge Unity. Over the past three decades opposition groups have only made headway in the high schools, which one or a combination of caucuses have won.

In the 2016 election I was one of the organizers for the MORE/New Action slate and we won the seven high school executive board seats out of the 100 total. It was a dent. There are almost 20,000 high school teachers but less than 5,000 voted. In fact, the turnout for UFT elections is very low – maybe 30%. Retirees can vote and they turn out in greater numbers and vote over 85% for Unity – what do retirees have to be unhappy about? I am always in the 15% minority. The retiree bump assures Unity of winning by a landslide every time so most people don’t bother to vote. In 2016, the entire opposition vote came to about 12,000.

In the 2019 election none of the three caucuses, New Action, Solidarity and MORE could come together and so they will be all running separate slates of about 40-50 people each, thus making it impossible to win even the high schools. In 2016 we had 300 people run on the MORE/New Action slate. I think it makes little sense to run in an election with no chance to win anything with a divided vote. I’m going to urge people to protest by writing on the ballot something like “United Fightback” as a call to all groups to come together in the future.

I doubt that will happen and am considering ending my five decade long fight to challenge Unity control.

Norm takes no charter money, or prisoners, at his blog,


  1. Even as a retiree, I find it an affront to democracy and unionism that retirees are allowed to vote in UFT elections. Mulgrew has names and addresses of retirees that can be called and persuaded. This is withheld from the opposing caucuses. He'll be heading down to Boca soon to smooze with those of us waiting to die and may find the excitement of seeing Dr. Evil in person too much to handle. Norm, you know a lot more than me about unionism. I was always brought up thinking unionism was a direct result of democracy. If we did a DNA test for the UFT, we might find that democracy is not the father.

  2. Listen. I've been in the UFT for 52 years and its never been democratic other than school chapter elections. I don't agree that if the info was available to opposing caucuses they could do much with it. Do you think a flyer from the opposition would convince retirees to vote for them? We ran in the chapter elections last May and did have access to every retiree with our newsletter and we got the same type of vote as in elections. 15% of those who vote -- mostly old oppositionists -- vote for Retiree Advocate. In the last election 23,000 retirees voted. But let's also face facts. If we pulled retiree votes, Unity would still win the elementary schools which has 37,000 teachers. Opposition roughly splits the high schools but wins by a hair. Middle schools up for grabs. Functional chapters are a biggie for Unity -- 20,000 paras -- they are a lock for Unity. I will share my busted vision for the opposition in a coming post and why it now doesn't make a difference -- for the long run, game, set, match for Unity. That they have feasted on the oppposition by getting Arthur, Mike and Mindy and last time Michael Solo to run with Unity is a bad omen for future organizing.
    Nice to see you are in Florida. Wish I were there this week.


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