Wednesday, January 16, 2019
UFT Election Petition Day at Delegate Assembly - I will sign all petitions
There will be a lot of activity at the Delegate Assembly today as 4 caucuses begin circulating petitions for the upcoming UFT election - Unity, New Action, MORE and Solidarity. Expect some chaos.
In normal times today would be one of my busiest days of the year - like the last 5 UFT (04, 07, 10, 13, 16) election cycles.
Ellen Fox and I would have been running a military like operation getting petitions ready for people this afternoon. In 2016, on petition day at the DA, we had everything ready for people as the DA ended and we all went to a bar around the corner for a massive petition signing event. Over 50 people showed up. (Where are they now?)
Today, Ellen and myself will be watching the DA from the 19th floor. There is little election excitement with the outcome already decided. (I predict a lower turnout due to the confusion of 3 separate opposition slates on the ballot.)
But I will be downstairs until the meeting begins to sign anyone's petition.
I have been urging a boycott of the UFT elections, so signing petitions might seem hypocritical.
UFT elections are fundamentally a farce, yet every 3 year cycle all the opposition parties get sucked in. They argue elections are an opportunity for caucus building and organizing. It never happens and after the results are in people are burned out.
I view elections as busy work for small caucuses which often retards the real work of organizing that needs to be done.
And all three caucuses have been scrambling to get the 40 required people to form a slate (Unity will have 800 people getting signatures). That is shameful, since in 2016 we had 300 people running on MORE/NA and could have had hundreds more. What a waste of resources today.
Oh, caucus leaders make all sorts of excuses about getting the message out and reaching rank and file, etc. But they do not state flat out that they cannot win. In 2016 we were very open -- we said we could win the high schools and nothing else -- and I was attacked by the leader of another caucus as not wanting to win or being a defeatist. I think the outcome of the last election, where I predicted the rough totals before they came out, has proven the point.
Each of the caucuses, including Unity, are dominated by a tiny group who are in control, leaving most members on the fringe. So they use the elections every three years to pump people up and downplay any hints that they are running in a futile exercise. Then after the election, they go back to running the caucus the way they want. Democracy inside caucuses, no matter what they say, is very limited. We found that out in MORE where attempts to run a broad-based democratic group were shut down by one faction that gained total control.
But I will sign all petitions, as a social act.
At last count 3 former disaffected MOREs I am friendly with will be running on the Unity line - and when they explain why it makes sense I will publish their reasons. They all assure me they did not have to sign loyalty oaths and have been told they are free to be critical. Given the state of the opposition, having people with some freedom to be critical inside Unity may be the best option. That MORE lost people to Unity who are very progressive politically is a sign of the dysfunction on the part of the controlling faction. A number of former MOREs say they will vote Solidarity.
But I won't vote for my pals running with Unity -- nor for anyone individually, as only slate votes are reported. And of course I won't vote Unity. But I will waste my ballot in another way.
Right now I intend to use my ballot to make a statement - invalidating it by voting for all three opposition slates and writing United Front with a check mark. It would be great if more people did that. The only future for an opposition to Unity is to build a big tent caucus, which is what MORE started out being but has turned into something else.
While I am still a MORE, I have no issues with the other caucuses, but my political views on the whole still line up with some people in MORE, especially the few ICEers left. My gripe in MORE is with a certain faction, not the entire group. And I will delve more into this faction in the future. I would still urge people to join MORE and help move it in a more positive direction.
My election objection this time especially is to the inability of the opposition to come together. This is mostly the fault of the faction controlling the MORE caucus which wouldn't run with New Action as we did in 2016. I urged them to run with everyone or not run at all so as to give someone a chance to win. I lost.
New Action is also at fault, to a lesser extent, because they wouldn't run with Solidarity, which was willing to run with everyone. There was a split in New Action over this issue but the anti-Solidarity forces won out. (I will delve deeper into the whys another time.)
But legitimate questions were raised as to the viability of Solidarity as a caucus and also worries by the liberal wing over an appeal to right wing populism. (I already noted one candidate who I would never vote for.) Not only because they didn't get a slate in the 2016 elections, but also because they have had almost no presence in the activities in the UFT since the last election and only have come to life for this election. However, many of us have lightened up on criticism of them and I may even attend one of their events.
The reality is that even if all groups did come together, they could at most win the high schools (a good bet) and the middle schools (a long shot). As for elementary schools - no shot. And that is the key to organizing -- reaching deep into elementary schools for the opposition would be a game changer in the union. And getting people inside the functional chapters. (Assume the OT/PTs will vote opposition on the whole.)
That was my original goal in MORE. To build a structure that went deep into the schools. The 2013 election was a base mark. I remember leaving the 2013 election count and going to a MORE "victory" party at a bar where there were almost 100 people waiting to celebrate our first election. What a far cry from that event we are today. Most of those people have disappeared.
The 2016 election built on that and I expected to make more gains in the 2019, especially in the elementary and middle schools. There are a lot of reasons for the crash in MORE that has dashed all these hopes for the prospect of building a force to challenge Unity. That analysis is for another time.