Wednesday, July 28, 2021

UFT Elections (Part 2): ICE/UFT meeting calls for United Slate for UFT elections, addresses back to school safety and abusive principals

We ... call on all caucuses and UFT members opposed to one party ruling Unity Caucus to come together now when there is common cause at UFT district/borough level Chapter Leader meetings, Delegate Assemblies, Executive Board meetings and to secure a better contract for all members during the upcoming negotiations....

At the meeting, the united front was not even the main item on the agenda. Right now, of greater importance was back to school safety issues were front and center, as was the consistent problem of how to support teachers facing dictator principals.

It's ALIVE! ICE/UFT passed a reso calling for a united front in the spring 2022 UFT elections (see reso below). See Part 1 of my series for why I supported this reso - UFT Elections (Part 1) - Historical Analysis - Comparing the 2016 success and the 2019 disaster

 I was asked to call a zoom meeting of the Independent Community of Educators and I admit I did so reluctantly, stamping my foot and declaring, "I ain't meeting without getting my rice pudding in person." 

OK. So I asked for RSVPs and got about three, including from an island in Greece and one from an ICEer in Mexico City. "This noon-time meeting will be a shorty," I figured, and I could go back to the beach. If a tree falls at a meeting and no one was there, did the tree really fall? 

Boy, was I surprised when 20 people showed up, including people from different groups in the UFT. It's the first time I saw young people at an ICE meeting, where there is no membership required, since I was young myself. Actually, ICE has no membership. Show up and you're in. We've had people eating at other tables in the diner become ICEers by being in the same space - or by ordering rice pudding.

If so many people emerge in the middle of a hot summer day to attend a meeting, ICE/UFT still lives.

July 28, 2021 - Good morning

The Independent Community of Educators emerged out of dormancy and came to life yesterday with its first zoom meeting ever, a meeting attended by over 20 people, some for the first time. Included were actual youngish in-service UFT members, including newly elected chapter leaders and delegates who made up the majority of attendees. Many of us original ICEers had come to think of us as a retiree group and had been putting our energy into Retiree Advocate Caucus where we work with people from New Action and former MOREs. ICE last met in person (usually no more than a dozen people) at our fave rice-pudding diner years ago. Since the faction in control of MORE/UFT Caucus had formally asked ICE, a founding caucus of MORE, to leave and began suspending individuals, some ICEers had pulled back from UFT activities - me included.

ICE/UFT - The Uncaucus
People in the ICE community have been pressuring me to call a meeting for months. I wasn't sure what ICE really was. The public face of ICE is the James Eterno and the ICE blog. We have an expanding listserve with many veteran UFT activists and a few new people. We still have money in the bank. Founded in 2003 and running as a caucus in the 2004, 07, 10 UFT elections, ICE merged with TJC and independents to form MORE in 2012, aiming at the 2013 elections. While TJC disbanded, ICE continued to meet to discuss important issues that were being given short shrift in the rigidly run MORE. 
The idea of an uncaucus --  being active in UFT issues but not formally running as a caucus in elections - was born in ICE. Yesterday's resolution fits into the uncaucus idea - calling on all non-Unity UFT caucuses and the non-caucused independents to join together for the 2022 spring UFT elections.

Hail the Eternos
Enormous credit goes to James Eterno for keeping the ICE brand going with the ICE blog, which has developed an enormous following due to his diligence in being the only space for people to go for up-to-date reporting on the UFT. But as we saw yesterday at the meeting, James and Camille Eterno have an enormous number of contacts in schools throughout Queens, even elementary schools. James and Camille have been advising many teachers seeking help and have also helped advise those running in recent UFT chapter elections. Some of them were at the meeting.

The resolution passed yesterday to me is a no brainer - as I pointed out - UFT Elections (Part 1) - Historical Analysis - Comparing the 2016 success and the 2019 disaster.

The reso was not just about UFT elections every three years but calls on all groups to start cooperating on many fronts, including the delegate assembly and district meetings where we begin to make demands and not just sit there and listen to a Unity Caucus presentation. And of course at the Ex Bd if a unified slate should win seats - and the only way is with a united front. We've been seeing some cooperation around a few issues, especially the move of retirees out of formal public Medicare and into privatized Medicare Advantage plans. In service members will be getting the same treatment, or non-treatment very soon. Some of us have been floating an idea for a big demo in front of 52 Broadway before the Jan. 1 implementation.

I have some issues to still raise and will do so in parts 3, 4--infinity and at the next ICE meeting.

If UFT elections are rigged, What's the point in running? Why not boycott? 

If there is no united front, what do we as ICE do? 

Someone suggested we recaucus and run another slate like we did in 2004 when we were not happy with the other groups.  

Another idea is to try to unite all groups that could be united and support that group. 

Or just sit it all out and watch with amusement.


As passed unanimously by the Independent Community Educators at our meeting of July 27th, 2021

Whereas The UFT Leadership Unity Caucus, the ruling one party system that has suppressed democracy and stifled member participation under a 60-year hegemonic, unilateral control of the UFT, has failed the membership on a number of issues and can only be seriously challenged by a united opposition,

Be it Resolved: The Independent Community of Educators urges all UFT opposition caucuses and non-affiliated independents within the UFT to come together and form a full and united slate to run against the Unity Caucus in the 2022 United Federation of Teachers union-wide elections.

The Covid 19 pandemic, with its challenges and life and death consequences for our union family, has forged new relationships between opposition caucuses, groups and independent union members within the United Federation of Teachers.

A growing consensus and collective spirit towards greater cooperation has blossomed among those opposed to the Unity leadership and have found common cause in fighting for a better union and safer schools during the pandemic.

This cooperation has been evident in seeking to mutually coordinate around vital issues for rank and file members fighting against the privatization of Medicare for our senior retirees; and mobilizing to organize and cooperate within the Delegate Assembly for common agendas.

It is our fundamental belief that only a full and United Slate in the 2022 UFT union-wide election can challenge the ruling one party system that has suppressed democracy and stifled member participation under the 60 year hegemonic, unilateral rule of the Unity Caucus.

This United Slate will be formed by UFT members who believe a better, democratic union is not only necessary, but presently possible. Our union leadership must energetically and responsively involve, engage, and educate its members at all times. Together we can fight for this!

The goal of the United Slate would be to challenge the Unity Caucus in order to ensure they are  responsive and transparent to our members. We will use the election as a platform to educate all union members about the dangers of an increasingly isolated leadership that makes decisions for us, not with us. If we were to win seats on the Executive Board, which historically speaking is very possible, we would work in concert to give voice to members of our union, bring member’s issues to the leaders that they have otherwise chosen to ignore, and speak truth to power. 

The members of Independent Community of Educators, which in the past has won seats on the UFT Executive Board in coalition with other groups and as founding members of MORE, will assist in providing logistical support for the union-wide elections through completing petitioning efforts, canvassing, electoral analysis, media promotion and distribution.

We also call on all caucuses and UFT members opposed to one party ruling Unity Caucus to come together now when there is common cause at UFT district/borough level Chapter Leader meetings, Delegate Assemblies, Executive Board meetings and to secure a better contract for all members during the upcoming negotiations. 

We need not and can not work together on every one of our platform/program points. There are political differences amongst the groups, but on issues where we find ourselves under the same banner, and we know there are many times when this will be and has been the case, we ought to find the means to coordinate for the betterment of our union, its members and the families we serve. 


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