Wednesday, April 14, 2021

UFT Delegates REJECT Endorsements, including Johnson for Comptroller, by 55% - Is there a crack in Unity?

I have been involved in UFT Delegate Assemblies since 1994. I never recall the Delegates rejecting a leadership recommended endorsement until today... James Eterno at ICE/UFT blog:
LIVE BLOGGING FROM THE APRIL DA (Delegates Vote Down UFT Leadership Recommended Endorsements for Comptroller and Other Positions)

The factions represent various constituencies within the union: The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) is a social justice caucus that advocates for racial justice. New Action focuses on social justice as well as economic working conditions and benefits. UFT Solidarity focuses on issues that affect members’ working conditions.--- Politico

Hmmm, I'm getting a kick over the description of the different caucuses. The reporter should have talked to ICE/UFT too since that blog gets quite a lot of traffic.

And I bet certain UFT officials have egg on their faces.



It is important to note that voting at these remote meetings is anonymous so Unity Caucus member votes can't be tracked. Knowing the size of the Unity block, which can include up to 300 retirees, there is not doubt that a number of Unity people had to vote NO. I bet Mulgrew can't wait to get these people back in person, 3 feet apart.

It is also important to note that one of the points of objection was about the process - lumping all the candidates together - and that Unity retiree and often pain in the butt Dave Pecoraro who tried to get the endorsements separated but a motion is out of order at remote meetings so he spoke against the motion and also the endorsement of Corey Johnson and in favor of David Weprin. Pecoraro is a delegate because he runs on the UFT retiree slate as one of The Three Hundred - and if you read my last post, Retiree Advocate is challenging that Unity slate in the chapter elections. I wonder if Unity will keep Dave on the slate for fucking up their endorsement process. Here is James' report from the DA.

Special Orders of Business

Brooklyn borough rep Elizabeth Perez spoke in favor UFT endorsement for various candidates for city offices. Corey Johnson for Comptroller and others. A speaker endorsed Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA. David Pecoraro (Unity Caucus retiree) tried to amend to separate the Comptroller from the others but Mulgrew said amendments are not permitted. David then spoke out against the Johnson endorsement because David Weprin is giving up his assembly seat and he is well qualified and he actually wants the position. He added we need a fiscal expert and Johnson is not one. Another Delegate spoke against saying doing multiple candidates at one time is wrong. 

55% No and 45% Yes.

The 5 candidate endorsements the Delegates voted against were:

-Corey Johnson: Comptroller

-Alvin Bragg: Manhattan DA

-JoAnne Simon: Brooklyn Borough President

-Selvina Brooks-Powers: City Council D31

-Dweinie Esther Paul Dorsainvil: Judge Brooklyn

None of the above were endorsed today - the leadership oligarchy may find a way to bring them back for individual endorsement in what I assume will be some emergency DA for a mayoral endorsement because the next DA in May will be pretty late. I mean how much effort to do these one by one, which we always used to do? Some people are getting pretty lazy in how they are running this union.

I assumed the favorite in the Comptroller race was the too liberal for the UFT Brad Lander but Corey threw a monkey wrench into that and I hope he loses. This may help that happen, though an actual UFT endorsement often helps the opposition.

Arthur includes this in his DA report 

Political endorsements--Elizabeth Perez--Great honor and pleasure to present this reso. Political teams worked diligently to select best candidates. Can't say enough of hard work political teams have put in. Asking this body to join me in endorsing these people. 

Carmen Romero--Would like to endorse Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA. Got overwhelming support of UFT for accountability and transparency. 

Mulgrew--Thank you. Not just about him.

David Pecoraro--Wants to divide Comptroller endorsement from remainer.

Mulgrew--Can't do that.

Pecoraro--Then speaking against resolution. Cannot support speaker Johnson. Favors David Weprin.

Thomas McDonough--Also speaking against motion. Endorsing seven at a time is rushing things,. Should vote individually.  Disagree with several endorsements.

55% no. Fails.

I'm going to do a separate report on the mayoral endorsement process but here are two Politico pieces worth checking out. First,

THE CITY’S TEACHERS UNION is leaning toward Scott Stringer as its preferred mayoral candidate, multiple union members have said, but rank-and-file teachers already dissatisfied with the union’s politics have criticized the endorsement process as opaque and unreflective of their values. The union’s finalists — Stringer, Maya Wiley, Eric Adams and Andrew Yang — recently participated in its final town hall after a series of candidate screenings held behind closed doors. The United Federation of Teachers’ 3,200-member union-wide Delegate Assembly — chapter leaders and delegates — votes on the candidates. And their final decision could come this week. But some members tell POLITICO the system for endorsing in the nearly 200,000-person union, governed by president Michael Mulgrew, does not capture the genuine sentiment of members. POLITICO’s Madina TourĂ©

For the second piece Madina Toure spoke to opposition people for her article and they all slammed the process as undemocratic. But with former Cuomo operative Cassie Prugh running the UFT political machine why expect democracy?

Here is one highlight from Madina's report:

political factions within the union have bucked under Mulgrew — though the well-known president won his own re-election in 2019 with 38,591 votes, or 86 percent of the votes cast.--- 

Jeez. Only 86% just two years ago. I bet it ain't 86% today but who's to say the opposition won't screw it up again in next year's election, though with unhappiness with Mulgrew growing throughout the union maybe Randi will kick him upstairs --- how about NYSUT - maybe Mulgew should start looking for an apartment in Albany - except Unity doesn't have a deep bench to replace him. Here's the entire Politico article.

As teachers union readies endorsement, members complain about process

The city’s teachers union is leaning toward Scott Stringer as its preferred mayoral candidate, multiple union members have said, but rank-and-file teachers already dissatisfied with the union’s politics have criticized the endorsement process as opaque and unreflective of their values.

The union’s finalists — Stringer, Maya Wiley, Eric Adams and Andrew Yang — recently participated in its final town hall after a series of candidate screenings held behind closed doors. The United Federation of Teachers’ 3,200-member union-wide Delegate Assembly — chapter leaders and delegates — votes on the candidates. And their final decision could come this week.

But some members tell POLITICO the system for endorsing in the nearly 200,000-person union, governed by president Michael Mulgrew, does not capture the genuine sentiment of members.

“[It] just seems that it’s been a series of backroom deals and backroom occurrences without much membership input ‘cause a lot of times honestly under Mulgrew, a lot of things have been secretive, and it’s the faction that gets the information and spreads it out, and once the race is spreading like wildfire, then we get a communication from the union,” said Ramdat Singh, a teacher at Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy in the Bronx.

The union’s pick for mayor will be its most significant political endorsement since 2013 when it backed Bill Thompson, who ended up getting trounced in the Democratic primary. Mulgrew has enjoyed a much better relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio than former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, though they’ve had a handful of public disputes — most notably during the last year as the Covid-19 pandemic threw the city’s education system into chaos.

And political factions within the union have bucked under Mulgrew — though the well-known president won his own re-election in 2019 with 38,591 votes, or 86 percent of the votes cast.

The factions represent various constituencies within the union: The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) is a social justice caucus that advocates for racial justice. New Action focuses on social justice as well as economic working conditions and benefits. UFT Solidarity focuses on issues that affect members’ working conditions.

Lydia Howrilka, a founding member of UFT Solidarity, said the process “was very closed off.”

"Any mayor that has promised teachers anything has often gone back on their promises,” she said. “We've seen it with Bill de Blasio in particular, and the candidate that the rank and file would support is the candidate that would eliminate mayoral control of schools.”

Mulgrew defended the effort saying it was thorough and transparent, adding 10,000 people participated in the process before the final forum and pointed to “hundreds if not thousands” of new volunteers working in the union. He said some amount of dissatisfaction was more or less standard in a union of the UFT's size and diversity.

“Every single endorsement has come from a committee of volunteers who did the questioning and vetting process on their own and nobody has changed their recommendations,” he said. “Every one of their recommendations has come through. I don't know what else to do. How about no matter what we do, there's gonna be a problem."

Among the criteria for the union nod were a candidate’s fundraising, polling, voter engagement, endorsements, the candidates allies, policy and campaign proposals on education and labor, their Covid-19 response, equity issues, homelessness, job loss and affordable housing.

The union said the process entails members submitting comments before, during and after the town halls to the political action teams in each borough and filling out post-town hall surveys. More than 10,000 UFT members participated in the first four town halls held between February and April and the screeners asking candidates questions were UFT volunteers.

For the Delegate Assembly vote, the union creates a list of all of its delegates who use their phones to vote, which are tallied by a third party vendor.

Most members told POLITICO Stringer will emerge as the victor, but some said Wiley has a shot— both are candidates with union-friendly campaigns.

Michael Shulman, chair of New Action — the union’s oldest opposition caucus — said he would support Stringer or Wiley. His litmus test, he said, is the relationship of the various candidates to charter schools and vouchers.

“I think pretty much I would say they would eliminate Yang, and I think Eric Adams seems close to the charter movement, so I think there'd be a real problem there,” Shulman said.

Mulgrew wouldn’t confirm who the union was leaning toward.

"If we're looking at policy, knowledge on educational policy or policy for the city labor relations, economic policies and the big issues that we always bring up, I'm assuming you can figure out who…,” Mulgrew said, not finishing the sentence.

Critics within the union have raised concerns over the decision to include Yang in the final four — who does not seem likely to win the nod based on criticisms of the union’s role in school re-openings and his pro-charter statements — and the decision to not include Dianne Morales, who is among the most progressive candidates in the race and a former teacher.

“[Mulgrew] did say that Andrew Yang, he’s just another Bloomberg and that was last Wednesday… it’s sad because it tells you this guy is talking out of his mouth,” said Dermott Myrie, a UFT chapter leader and part of the MORE-UFT caucus. “There’s a disconnect between leadership and whoever is on these political teams.”

He added he doesn’t know why Morales “was discriminated against by the UFT and excluded,” Myrie said. “This is straight up marginalization… [a] Latinx woman of Afro descent is ignored, and this is not new.”

[Ed Note: No surprise here that Myrie focuses on Morales' identity instead of her fairly progressive policies - though I would still want to know more about her time working for Joel Klein. As for why the UFT didn't include Morales, we know that too left is not right for the UFT leadership and hasn't been for, oh, 60 years.]

Mulgrew said electability and fundraising had to be considered in the union’s choice. Someone who hits all the right notes but can’t win would be a bad move for a union who hasn’t picked a winning candidate since former mayor David Dinkins in 1989.

He admitted the inclusion of Yang and Adams in the final four was, in part at least, to give the union a chance to grill the candidates on their stances.

“I think it's important for people to hear us saying to him, 'You said this and you are wrong.' Now how do you respond to that?” he said.”

But plenty of members said the union’s process was thorough and inclusive, given the dynamics of the race and the challenges of the pandemic

Shulman said the process was “done fairly well” given a “very complicated and mixed race,” calling the Zoom meetings “terrible.”

[Ed Note: It's nice she gave Shulman some serious attention - I've been working with him on the reinvigorated Retiree Advocate.]

“You don't have that [interaction], what do you really have by the way of a democratic process?” he said. “So that's my frustration with it… I'm not necessarily faulting the union leadership for this. I think that's just the way it is."

Ife Damon, an English teacher at Curtis High School on Staten Island, argued the process has been inclusive.

“I personally appreciated the approach because it allowed me to find out about them all in one place,” Damon said.

 Ed Note: I smell Unity shill.

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