Sunday, December 19, 2021

Four Caucuses and an Uncaucus - What Is United for Change?

The United for Change (UFC) coalition could have turned into Four Weddings and a Funeral regarding the UFC coalition of groups that have come together for the UFT elections, which are taking place this spring. Some wags were saying the Palestinian/Israeli conflict would be easier.

What are the formal caucuses?
New Action, Solidarity, MORE and Retiree Advocate (RA).

The non - or Uncaucuses - ICEUFT. EONYC, Independent non-affiliated. I'm part of this strand -- we don't think any one caucus or even a bunch of caucuses can reach deep enough into the schools  unless indendent non-affiluated are attracted to the campaign. Too far left turns the center off and too far center turns the progressives off so a meeting of the two is necessary. There are actually some right of center anti-Unity people angling to get in on the action.

Represented so far are people from various left points of view, some non-left progressives, some center left and even some center right people. So far, no funeral, but I always expect the worst so I don't get too disappointed.

Let me explain some thinking. There is a wide range of opinion in the UFT outside the dominant Unity caucus and its supporters. Trying to bring a sense of a united front against Unity from across political lines requires some very sensitive negotiating along the fault lines. Unity can only be seriously challenged if there is one united opposition even if they all don't agree. Now there can be dangers if the group happens to win and I will address the chances of that happening and what it would mean in a follow-up piece,

Let's remind people that just two and a half years ago in the 2019 UFT elections the first three opposition caucuses independently ran against Unity and the results were a disaster with Unity sweeping every elected position overwhelmingly. The oppo vote dropped drastically from 2016.

RA was not formally involved in 2019, though key members were with New Action. ICEUFT, a founding member of MORE, having recently disengaged - or been disengaged from MORE -- sat the election out, though individuals supported carious candidates and caucuses. In essence, ICE had Uncaucused.  I remember one semi-sage urging the groups to run together or just sit the election out with a boycott and let Unity run unopposed--- OK I was the semi - or quarter - sage. 

So this time I did whatever I could to support a coming together while also supporting the alternative idea that if they couldn't agree they shouldn't run -- but also calling for a general uncaucusing for the election. My original idea was to actually uncaucus and form a general election committee that would ask individuals to run, not formal caucuses but that clearly was not an option. I wrote about the United Front idea in April - The United Front: Retiree Advocate/UFT

Retiree Advocate leading role in bringing people together 
Looking back a year ago, I can see that Retiree Advocate, though running in the spring Chapter leader elections with a cast of 130 retirees and its militant leading of a fightback against Mulgrew Care

 (All- Star Cast Joins Retiree Advocate/UFT Slate to Challenge Unity Caucus in Chapter Election)  played an instrumental role in forging the coalition as all caucuses and many independents came out to support us.

RA itself is an example of a merger of various caucus elements. It began as a New Action project over 25 years ago but around 2014 voted to no longer be solely affiliated with New Action in order to attract non-caucus members. 

That turned out to be a good move in that some of us from MORE, ICEUFT and independents joined RA and became part of the organizing committee. The experience of bringing different perspectives to the table was an example of working together --- I often joke that I was now working with people who I hadn't  talked to in three decades. The positive experience was a lesson.

We also received support from independents voices, the most prominent of which was Educators of NYC led by Daniel Alicea, a working teacher who lent us his tech and political expertise. He became a conduit to some of the caucuses and when we proposed joint inside and outside actions at the Delegate Assembly around healthcare issues, a basis was set for all the groups to work together at the Delegate Assembly in the final months of last school year.

That joint work escalated at the September CL meeting and the  October and November and the UFT elections.

 Behind the scenes feelers went out to the various caucuses and independents (like the venerable Jonathan Halabi) about setting up a potential structure this fall to address the spring UFT elections. That this has actually come together, no matter the ultimate outcome, is an exciting event in UFT oppo history. maybe the first time since the 1980-early 90s era.

 Coming next: Does UFC think it can win? Define Win.

See -Ed Notes Sept 12, 2021 - 

UFT Elections: Boycott?- Why Run at all if Unity stacks the deck? - The Sunday Special

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