Friday, May 17, 2019

Social Justice Activist Ousts Randi Ally, 21-Year Incumbent as Baltimore Teachers Union President - Antonucci

The Union We Deserve slate, which is an alliance of two opposition caucuses within BTU – the Baltimore Movement of Rank-and-File Educators and the Baltimore Caucus of Educators for Democracy and Equity. Both caucuses have a social justice focus....
Brown is the latest in a string of candidates who have managed to defeat established union incumbents with a social justice platform. Though not strong everywhere, such candidates have had their greatest success by forming coalitions to present a united opposition..... Intercepts, Mike Antonucci
How much irony that the Baltimore MORE united with the other opposition groups while our own MORE divided the opposition here in NYC.

Let me point out that I and others called for a similar alliance of all forces here under the banner of a united front to confront the Unity monster in the recent election disaster in the UFT where MORE finished behind a ghost caucus. Maybe studying the Baltimore situation will be a lesson, though I doubt the wounds can be healed, especially as long as the ISO faction that took control of MORE is still dominant - which I expect they are despite the dismemberment of ISO - expect former ISOers to regroup somewhere else.

In Los Angeles a similar coalition of groups united under Union Power to win in 2014. Pay attention to the lessons of history which I tried to point out up to my final moments in MORE.

The Union We Deserve
The Baltimore coalition of two caucuses combined to run against the long-entrenched Unity Caucus-like leadership in Baltimore (it's called the Progressive Caucus - the same name as the Unity version in the AFT), defeating a 21 year incumbent and Randi ally who is a VP of the AFT. More lessons for us here in the UFT.
a preliminary tally shows a 901-839 margin for Brown. BTU has approximately 7,000 members.
Looks like the turnout might be less than here in NYC.

Antonucci has an interesting point:
The opposition slate appears to have won almost all of the teacher seats on the union’s executive committee, while the incumbent Progressive slate seems to have captured all the education support employee seats.
Interesting -- the opposition won the schools while the incumbents won what we would call the Functionals.

The strategy here in NYC has always been to go after the school divisional seats where retirees don't vote -- and I bet retirees don't vote in Baltimore - or anywhere else most probably -- and my point has been to win the 3 divisions and then go to court to fight the retiree vote - but that will never happen here as long as the opposition is divided and inept.

Don't expect this Baltimore outcome to be accepted by the caucus in power - Unity-like caucuses do not give up power easily. They will probably go to the AFT to adjudicate -- and Antonucci makes this point:
Whatever the ultimate outcome in Baltimore, English remains the president of AFT Maryland and one of the many vice presidents of AFT national.
"English, in a statement, pledged to challenge the preliminary results. “Throughout this campaign, there were egregious violations of the elections process,” she wrote. “I can’t in good faith concede this election.”"

Right - Her caucus ran the election. Reminds me of when Mike Shulman won the high school VP position in 1985 and Unity protested the election they ran and actually got a new election - which they then lost.

The opposition protested too:
Teachers who supported Brown’s slate of candidates said the union election was not conducted fairly. They have accused the elections committee of attempting to suppress the vote by having limited voting hours and locations, and denying the majority of absentee ballot requests. They also say educators had to use a confusing ballot that favored English’s team.... Only by the third page did he get the option to vote for people on the Union We Deserve ticket. Daniels was frustrated and upset — just imagine, he said, if the Democratic party tried to get away with that style of ballot during a citywide election.
Union We Deserve was not able to fill an entire slate, because some of its candidates for the executive board were rejected by the elections committee.
We know the AFT has a history of goon takeovers of locals, so this may be a big mess. Watch carefully - a new election wouldn't surprise me.

By the way -- our local conspiracy theorists always complain about the mail ballot we use here but look at the issues related to in-school voting which would take place on one day -- and in fact today's Chicago election is also taking place in schools.

That there are two caucuses coming together for the election should be interesting. Why are there two social justice caucuses? Hit the links to see where they stand - and will this alliance break down under differences?

Baltimore Movement of Rank-and-File Educators and the Baltimore Caucus of Educators for Democracy and Equity.

BMORE seems very similar to MORE in focus and is probably part of UCORE. CEDE is a facebook page and seems to be a less ideological group -- so it is possible to combine a heavy duty SJ caucus with others in a united front.

Today is the election in Chicago where CORE, the granddaddy of social justice teacher caucuses, to win as the incumbent against Members First (Chicago Teachers Union CORE Caucus challenged). There are attempts to brand Members First as right wing in the left wing press -- as if people calling for more attention to be paid to basic working conditions is right wing.

When CORE won in 2010 it was the most broad-based caucus and did not unite with other caucuses running against the Unity style leadership - but that was a special case - there were 5 caucuses running, 2 of them a split leadership and one pretty irrelevant -- and there was a run-off --- so the CORE strategy was based on finishing 2nd and gaining the support of the other key opposition. It was like the Democratic primaries coming up -- the more the merrier as long as you finish 2nd and then unite the rest.

Funny how a long-time voice in the opposition used the example of CORE as an excuse for MORE to run alone --- a specious argument that ignores what really happened in Chicago.

Mike Antonucci has the short report based on a Baltimore Sun article and both are published in full below the break.

In a major upset, middle school teacher Diamonté Brown defeated eight-term incumbent Marietta English for the presidency of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

The Baltimore Sun reported a preliminary tally shows a 901-839 margin for Brown. BTU has approximately 7,000 members.
Both sides claim extensive election irregularities, and English has thus far refused to concede.

Brown ran as candidate on The Union We Deserve slate, which is an alliance of two opposition caucuses within BTU – the Baltimore Movement of Rank-and-File Educators and the Baltimore Caucus of Educators for Democracy and Equity. Both caucuses have a social justice focus.

The opposition slate appears to have won almost all of the teacher seats on the union’s executive committee, while the incumbent Progressive slate seems to have captured all the education support employee seats.

Brown is a board member of Interfaith Action for Human Rights and has served as executive director for Out for Justice.

Brown is the latest in a string of candidates who have managed to defeat established union incumbents with a social justice platform. Though not strong everywhere, such candidates have had their greatest success by forming coalitions to present a united opposition.

Whatever the ultimate outcome in Baltimore, English remains the president of AFT Maryland and one of the many vice presidents of AFT national.

Here is the more comprehensive report from the Baltimore Sun:

Middle school teacher Diamonté Brown defeats Baltimore Teachers Union incumbent, unofficial tally shows

A middle school teacher defeated the longtime Baltimore Teachers Union president Wednesday in a surprising upheaval that signals city educators’ discontent with the status quo, the unofficial tally shows.
Diamont√© Brown, who works at Booker T. Washington, defeated incumbent Marietta English, who was seeking her ninth term as leader of the city’s nearly 7,000 educators, by a 901-839 margin.
Brown, running at the top of a coalition of educators calling themselves The Union We Deserve, said teachers were tired of business as usual and wanted to forge a union that was more accountable to teachers and better promoted social justice.
She promised to be a leader for both the people who voted for her and the ones who voted against her.


“As of now, we have a clean slate and we should be able to move forward together with positivity if our real intention is to make Baltimore City Public Schools better for our kids, our families, our educators, and our PSRPs,” Brown said.English, in a statement, pledged to challenge the preliminary results. “Throughout this campaign, there were egregious violations of the elections process,” she wrote. “I can’t in good faith concede this election.”English had said she wanted to continue the work she started on making schools safer and contracts stronger. She was part of the past four negotiations, and after a massive budget deficit in 2016 threatened the jobs of 1,000 educators, she helped save positions. She launched a safety task force after educators were assaulted at school; the group just released its recommendations. Under her leadership, the union launched a campaign to boost the city’s plummeting enrollment by knocking on families’ doors and lobbying them to send their children to the city’s public schools.
But Brown and her supporters said her team was unresponsive to the educators in the trenches every day. They said English’s style wasn’t suited to today’s political climate, in which teachers unions across the country are rising up to demand better treatment.
Brown is promising more support for educators, a union that’s accountable to its members and a focus on racial equity.
She pledged in a news conference last week that her salary as union president would not exceed what the highest-paid teacher in the district earns.


Dozens of teachers came to the union headquarters to hear the results after a contentious election day marred by allegations of voter suppression and rule violations. After the results came out, Union We Deserve candidates hugged and wiped away tears.The campaign season was riddled by allegations of voter suppression and campaign violations. The Union We Deserve win came after scores of educators on its side complained about the election process.


Teachers who supported Brown’s slate of candidates said the union election was not conducted fairly. They have accused the elections committee of attempting to suppress the vote by having limited voting hours and locations, and denying the majority of absentee ballot requests. They also say educators had to use a confusing ballot that favored English’s team. And at the end of the day, the election observers at Edmondson-Westside High School were kicked out by officials at Elections USA, the outside group that ran the election.“They completely shut down the oversight process,” said Matthew Cipollone, the Union We Deserve observer.
Kelly Durkin works at Hampstead Hill Academy in Southeast Baltimore. None of the six polling places are in the southeastern part of the city, which Union We Deserve leadership says is where a large contingent of its candidates are located.


Driving to the nearest polling place, voting and getting back to Hampstead Hill took more than an hour and ate up Durkin’s entire planning period. Voting opened at 7:30 a.m. and closed at 5:30 p.m. — Hampstead Hill’s opening bell rang at 8 a.m. and Durkin had to pick up her son right after the school day ended.“It shouldn’t be that hard for teachers to vote,” she said. Turnout is typically low in BTU elections.
Teachers encountered other problems at the ballot box.
Patrick Daniels, a longtime Baltimore City College teacher, was alarmed when he saw the screen of the electronic ballot.
On the first page, there was one box that a person could check to vote for the entire English slate. When he didn’t click that box and moved to the second screen, he got a message: “You did not select any party. Do you want to exit this screen?” with a yes or no option.
“That felt like a warning, like I was doing something wrong,” Daniels said.


Only by the third page did he get the option to vote for people on the Union We Deserve ticket. Daniels was frustrated and upset — just imagine, he said, if the Democratic party tried to get away with that style of ballot during a citywide election.Union We Deserve was not able to fill an entire slate, because some of its candidates for the executive board were rejected by the elections committee.
Asked Wednesday whether he believed the wording of the ballots was unfair, elections committee co-chair Thomas Frasier said, “It really is not.”
“If they would read instructions that go along with the ballot, they would not have any problems,” he said. Election committee members are chosen by current union leadership, but English says she has not spoken with him about campaign matters because she is a candidate.
Corey Debnam, chair of the Progressive Caucus, which English is a part of, also wrote a letter last week to elections committee chairs saying the caucus has learned of “numerous complaints and violations.” Teachers who support English reported getting home visits from the opposing party and receiving unsolicited emails to their district addresses.
“There have been several clear violations of the elections rules and procedures that have warranted maximum penalties for candidates involved,” he wrote. “It’s unclear whether those have been addressed.”
A spokesperson with the American Federation of Teachers said the organization received no formal complaints out of Baltimore on Wednesday.

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