Saturday, July 13, 2024

UFT Retiree Chapter Update: Retiree Advocate Takes Control

Saturday, July 13, 2024

The reality of winning the RTC chapter election began to strike home on July 1 and a follow-up meeting on July 8 when elected Retiree Advocate officers met with UFT officials to discuss transfer of control. All ten officers were given UFT ID cards and CL Bennett Fisher given and two auxiliary cubicles on the 17th floor of 52 Broadway. Bennett has already been going in most days to answer emails and deal with other business. After some negotiations he will be on a salary equivalent to what Tom Murphy earned.


Let me remind you the RTC has 70,000 members, by far the largest group in the UFT. And we now have to deal with managing the chapter for the next three years with a steep learning curve. But I feel our team is up to it, especially Bennett who wanted to win so badly because he was confident he could do the job. Even our internal group who have worked with Bennett over the past 6 years since he retired, have been impressed with the way he has taken charge. I know I could never have managed and would have put a pillow over my head.

Now if you've been reading this blog you know I never expected to win.

But Bennett did. And so did Arthur, who is one of the ten officers.

The Retiree UFT Chapter, now under the control of Retiree Advocate Caucus which has replaced Unity Caucus for the 10 officer, 15 exec bd and 300 delegates, goes way beyond the relatively small group of RA organizers and supporters and we must keep in mind that the RTC is NOT RA, something Unity often forgot. In fact many of the people who won with us are not members of RA but independents.

We do not intend to forget that we represent 70k not a few hundred and must act accordingly. The monthly RTC meetings at 52 Broadway are not RA meetings and we must give voice to all factions in the UFT, including Unity - if they have anything to say. But they will have a voice - after all they got 37% of the vote.

RTC meetings will be run very differently. I am interested in helping plan those meetings and make them  more meaningful and informative. I've already had long conversations with Bennett and we have some exciting ideas. Meetings should be somewhat fun to attend. 

At this point, we view the top 25 electeds - the officers and exec bd as a governing body of the RTC, not rubber stamps as Tom Murphy used them. Our group is eclectic with varying views and we always won't agree but that's good. Diversity of opinion.

A bigger job is organizing the 300 delegates, some of whom do not live in the New York area but can attend the DA remotely. If even 50 show up, that will have a significant impact on the DA, especially if linked up with the working delegates. This is not about just showing up but showing up in an organized and meaningful manner. There will always be the wild cards who have their own personal agendas and expect some cringe moments at the DA.

As for RA, our relatively small organizing committee must continue to meet and grow the caucus to meet future needs. We won this with almost no budget. It would be nice to have greater outreach - dues are only about $25 a year. We also must keep our facebook page while also managing the UFT retiree FB page in a non-partisan manner, unlike Unity which cut critical comments. We welcome critical comments.

Some people ask how it RA structured. Since its founding over 30 years ago, RA has been run by a small committee. Some of the original founders have died and the leadership passed into new hands around 8 years ago when Gloria Brandman, Lisa North, Prudence Hill Ellen Fox and myself, all in MORE at the time, joined the group that at one point was a branch of New Action. We ran with a MORE label at one point but once MORE purged ICE, we cut ties.

Gloria and I ran into Bennett, who had also been in MORE (how many Ex_MOREs are there?) at the first RTC meeting of the year in the fall of 2018, surprised to see him there since the last we heard he was still working. We invited him to RA organizer meetings. During the pandemic we began to meet more often on Zoom, especially in organizing for the last RTC election in 2021. Just as the balloting began, word leaked of the Medicare fiasco and RA became super active in organizing opposition, eventually linking up with other municipal workers in CROC and then with Marianne Pizzitola and her group.

Jon Halabi retired a year ago and was an obvious choice to join RA organizers. 

A few people have raised the issue of whether we are elected. We are not. There's an amorphous RA membership list, but membership at this point merely means support. People seem to be OK with the current structure since it seems to work. We attempt to reach consensus on issues. 

Remember, RA Organizers have been connected to most UFT opposition groups, so various points of view are there. Going forward we will see if new voices can be added but we also can't afford to grow so big as to become unwieldy. I'd say our success so far gives us some leeway in continuing along our current path with people trusting us to make the right decisions while we welcome any criticisms.

 

Thanks for all the good wishes after my last post about my health. Right after I posted the surgeon called and said he got all the cancer and right now I'm cancer free but Pancreatic cancer is a beast and there are mini potentials floating around and chemo is needed to try to stamp them out. We spent the past 3 days at our apartment in the city just in case something cropped up and are heading back to Rockaway today to see Bernie the cat who probably forgot we exist. Doc wants me to walk and walk and walk but I tried and don't get very far. Maybe Rockaway air will push me. I'm still agog that a 2.7cm tumor - about an inch - can have such an earthshaking impact on my life.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

I'm Baaaack - Norm Almost breaks Medicare after 15 days at MSK Hospital for Pancreatic Cancer Surgery

I've kept up with developments with the RA winning the election and now having office in the UFT building. Exciting stuff and I will follow this with more info on those events. But I wanted to update everyone about my condition after getting out of MSK yesterday after 15 days. I think I set a record. And the food at MSK is not bad - unless you are on a liquid diet.

My last post (Can Unity Be Beaten in 2025 UFT Election? What was right and wrong with the UFC Coalition) was on Tuesday, June 25th shortly before I went to sleep the night before major surgery that would change my life permanently. I had hoped to blog from the operating table except for that damn stuff they knock you out with for a 6 hour operation. 

Can you have a good time recovering from massive surgery? Well, if you are at MSK it comes as close to heaven for a hospital, where the care and attention was extraordinary. You know, patients first as opposed to financial first. On Mulgrewcare they wheel you out of the operating room into an Ubber - in the luxury version. The cheap version, down the subway stairs.

If you've heard anything about pancreatic cancer, it is fundamentally a death sentence for most since it is a silent killer sneaking up on people without warning until it's out of the box. Most cases are not operable, so the fact mine was put me in the game. But check out the graphic.You see that cute little pancreas. My tumor was in the neck, so the surgeon had to make a game-time decision with my tummy open whether the take the front end (a Whipple) or the back end (A Distal). 

Surgeon calling Aetna in mid operation: Which Operation can I do? AETNA - whatever costs us less.

Well he took the back end and the spleen which leaves me with a cute little ball of a pancreas. Believe it or not my surgery was considered the better option because the ducts to the digestive system are still there. Phew!


People who are pancreatic cancer survivors are getting in touch. My old UFT friend who died of esophogus cancer a few years ago has a brother my age who also had a distal and is a 5 year survivor. He's a retired physician and immensely helpful, especially about the upcoming chemo.

Winning RTC and para election was some compensation

I had symptoms since December but you don't run for CT scans when you have tummy aches. Still, the actual diagnosis on May 24 was like being hit by a bazooka, softened by the exciting UFT elections we won. And I was healthy for all of exciting events. I was elected to the RTC Ex Bd and expect to be as active as I can. I was lucky in that I caught the cancer a shade early so I have a shot, though looming chemo may kill parts of me.

The numbers of well wishers and visitors have made things bearable. 

Anyway, let's get to some really important stuff. Truly imagine if the Mulgrew/Unity machine had succeeded - you know, the constant Mulgrew drone that MedAdv is just Medicare Part C - a matter of names. He wished he could call it something else - like ScrewYouCare.

For me the opposition to MullgrewCare was not based on worries about my health which was decent --- I probably wouldn't have been affected much. But we always told people one day you will  get real sick. I didn't know my day was coming so soon. 

Did Marianne help save me from going through hell?

I went through an enormous number of test and scans and endoscopies over 6 weeks with a lot more to come. I have a stent in my stomach inserted with an endo and I need another endo to remove it. Leaking fluid has pooled under my stomach and must be drained so they connected the stomach to the fluid in a complicated endo. UGH1 I need another CT scan to see if it drained. I look pretty healthy - nothing like cancer to lose weight - I look sort of buff. The nurses kidded me about that. But my glow is probably from the radiation. Calling Aetna - how about approving like my 5th ct scan and 3rd complex endoscopy in a 6 week period?

Mulgrew’s bigger crime: contributing to the rape of traditional Medicare and proud of it by bragging: Look where we can get our 600m a year - savaging medicare. 

Mulgrew at the trough with all the private insurers.

Arthur has an important piece up exposing the upcoding schemes of MedAdv.  

https://arthurgoldstein.substack.com/p/scamming-the-government-for-fun-and 

Scamming the Government for Fun and Profit: The cancer that is Medicare Advantage

Medicare pays insurers more for sicker patients. So if you are pre-diabletic, they just upcode you to diabetic which nets them $2700 more a year. Now that I offiically have diabetes, if I had a MedAdv plan, they would scrape that much money out of Medicare. This is what Mulgrew wanted to see happen.

Instead of saving taxpayers money, Medicare Advantage has added tens of billions of dollars in costs, researchers and some government officials have said. One reason is that insurers can add diagnoses to ones that patients’ own doctors submit. Medicare gave insurers that option so they could catch conditions that doctors neglected to record. The Journal’s analysis, however, found many diagnoses were added for which patients received no treatment, or that contradicted their doctors’ views.

For my money, Aetna is a parasitical entity. So are all health insurance companies. We’d all be better off if we removed the profit motive from medical care.  

These private insurers are criminals - the health insurance mob. What a shame our own UFT leadership has decided to join them.

RICO, anyone?

Marianne's latest video:

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Can Unity Be Beaten in 2025 UFT Election? What was right and wrong with the UFC Coalition

Can Humpty Dumpty be put back together again? I say NO and let's start all over. We can't be hamstrung by having to wait for every caucus to approve every move. Let's move beyond caucuses and have key people from every interested party get together outside the caucus structure and move ahead. I am in the minority on this point within the oppo movement in NYC.
Wednesday, June 26

Already speculation has begun about next year's general UFT election where for the first time in it's over 60-year hegemony, Unity Caucus control of the UFT may be threatened.There is speculation that many Unity people, especially those with jobs, wouldn't mind seeing Mulgrew, who has become a millstone for them, decide to retire. (hose speculating he might replace Randi as AFT pres one day are barking up the wrong tree - he never had a shot. NYSUT president Melinda Person is Randi's replacement. Mulgrew is in the same position as Biden, where many Dems wish he didn't run. If Mulgrew does run and Unity loses, can the tar and feather be far behind?  


Who might Unity slide into Mulgrew's place and would it make a big difference? Randi, who seems to be popping up around her lately, may see her own control of the AFT threatened by a Unity loss, is probably involved in some ways. I hear names like Mary Vocarro and Elem VP Karen Alford. Losing Mulgrew might just distract enough people to give Unity the win.

But to me no matter what they do, Unity does not seem to inspire the loyalty it once did. Expect the Tier 6 issue, with 55% of current teachers, to resonate no matter how Unity tries to say they woke up after 10 years and allowing Tier 6 to pass without opposition. Endorsing the architect of Tier 6, Micah Lasher, won't help - but only if the oppo makes this an effective campaign item. It is not just Mulgrew but Unity Caucus that helped give us Tier 6. 

 

Jonathan applied the recent RA win numbers to the 2022 general election and we would have gotten 51% with those numbers. Retired Teacher election… What if? But as Jonathan has pointed out the retiree voting pattern in a general and chapter election is not the same, so for next year's election I wouldn't necessarily assume 63% of retirees would vote against Unity.

So the buzz is on about next year. RA people will be busy running the 70k chapter and there's a lot to do - like improving the food at RTC meetings and organizing our 300 delegates, which considering we recruited every former activist from the past, some of us who often disagreed, will be like herding cats. But oh so much fun.

Organizing a campaign against Unity will be like herding herds of cats. The excitement of the United for Change Coalition where 7 or 8 groups came together in Sept. of 2021, faded pretty quickly after the election. The big win was the 7 high school candidates which echoed the same win in 2016 with about 300 more votes, but still weak considering in the old days opposition in hs often topped 3k. But that was the only area of improvement. Every other division was stagnant from 2016 - except retirees hit 30%. While some celebrated the closing of the gap due to erosion of Unity votes, there was little sign of making a dent in getting active UFT members to vote for UFC. I of course was the Debbie Downer because so many of the newer recruits wanted to see the positive side.

Soon after the election, calls for UFC to meet fell on some deaf ears, especially MORE. Since UFC was founded on the sense of consensus of all groups even one major missing element threw a monkey wrench. But the HS group did meet regularly and worked together - for the first year. This past year things sort of fell apart with differences, some of which I can't make heads or tails about.

The problem with UFC was that each segment had veto power and for every decision, people said they had to go back to their caucus. Not much fun watching paint dry. 

Can Humpty Dumpty be put back together again? 

I say NO and let's start all over. We can't be hamstrung by having to wait for every caucus to approve every move. Let's move beyond caucuses and have key people from every interested party get together outside the caucus structure and move ahead. I echo the statement published today on the ICE blog: 

Here's my problem with the process of creation of UFC. It was done in darkness with select reps from invited caucuses and some individuals who met for 6 months in dark corners of zoom to put the platform and slate together. UFTers beyond this inner circle were left out of the process and there was a lot of caution. Frankly, I feel many of the leading oppo voices who often go through analytical angst over the state of the membership actually tail the underlying militancy that exists in many schools.

Caucuses tend to move through their own process in whatever democratic manner, with a steering committee and or executive board that must meet to decide important issues and then possibly go through a general meeting or membership vote before moving ahead.

This time the process must be more open and inclusive and less caucus controlled. 

There have been some big changes in the original UFC. 

James Eterno's death has hampered ICE and made the key communication agent, the blog, severely restricted. ICE is not a caucus and hasn't been one since it merged to form MORE in 2011. ICE has and continues to be open to all from any caucus and individuals connected to ICE are some of the major players in the opposition. ICE makes decisions by floating items on the listserve and seeking comments and modifications.

ICE members have and will support any moves toward a unified opposition but if there is fragmentation, ICE will meet and rethink its support.

With all this I am extremely proud of the work ICE has done over 20 years, whether as a caucus or not. We held 4 meetings in person this past year and all were invigorating. ICE must continue to function at any level it can and I expect many of its associates to be involved andl have input in next year's election.

Solidarity with Lydia gone has lost its great advocate and has not been very active, though there are some individuals who are in touch and we hope they will be part of a campaign.

That leaves New Action and MORE as the fairly active groups, along with of course Retiree Advocate, where I am part of the organizing committee that has proven to be so successful.

So fundamentally, there are major changes in what was UFC.

If the leading voices in the traditional opposition were to start, where exactly do they start working on organizing for the election? I have no easy answers - other than some people need to take the bull by the horn and JUST DO IT!

I am advocating for the key voices from the various groups to start talking outside their own caucus structure to reduce a formal caucus role but hopefully with the support of their caucus in the interest of winning.

While I was part of the process in creating UFC, I was uncomfortable with the slow pace. And the fact that there are loads of people out there who want change in the union but are not included in the process. We found out in the RA election that in recruiting 300 people to run and getting them involved we were a much bigger force. 

Of course RA is a caucus and the organizing committee did a great job. So am I talking out of two sides of my mouth?  Well, we had one major issue facing us - healthcare -  and we had to move fast and build alliances and most importantly, we were the only oppo game in retiree town and didn't have to build coalitions with internal competing groups but only with individuals and we certainly did with our 300 candidates.

Let's use that model as an example. We can run 750-800 people in the election next year. Let's reach out and get some more voices involved in organizing for the election and not stay behind closed doors until January petition craziness when it is already getting too late.


has some thoughts on next year on the MORE blog:

By

The electoral sweep by opposition forces in the paraprofessional and retiree chapters are nothing less than an electoral earthquake in UFT politics. By winning close to 2/3rds of the votes in these former bastions of Mulgrew’s UNITY caucus, the union activists in Fix Para Pay and Retiree Advocate slates have proven that it’s possible to electorally defeat UNITY’s 60 year control of the UFT. 

If the 2022 United for Change slate had received the same margin amongst retirees as in this years chapter election, we would have won by 51%

The retiree activists also have provided some new innovative and inspirational tactics and strategies we need to apply to our general union elections next year.

 Read if at What could a grassroots UFT election campaign look like?

----
Afterburn

This post will piss off some of my oppo colleagues but I will be in the hospital early tomorrow morning for a hopeful operation on my pancreas so I'm posting and running. You might not be hearing from me for a while so enjoy the best day of the year - the last day of school.

 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Mulgrew Offers Tepid "I Give" on Medicare Advantage, Bennett, Marianne and Arthur response

I disagree with President Mulgrew's analysis. UFT retirees are neither fearful nor anxious. We are clear-eyed and steadfast in our opposition to the privatization of our public Medicare benefits. We are not the panicked old fogies that President Mulgrew pictures us to be....Bennett Fischer, newly elected CL of the RTC/UFT responding (full text below) to Mulgrew's withdrawing support for Medicare Advantage

Dear Norm,
I cannot believe the letter I got from Michael Mulgrew.  He is trying to put forward that only the City and the Mayor were pushing this plan.  After everything, he still thinks we are stupid sheeple.  What a lack of respect.  It would be funny if we didn’t know about the Herculean struggle the retirees waged to save their healthcare.  How does he have the chutzpah to say these things.  I cannot believe it.  It makes Unity’s credibility even weaker.  They really do think the membership is brainless.  It is such an insult. 

Susan Steinmann, UFT retiree

Monday, June 24, 2024

I'm getting ready to leave for a Retiree Advocate retreat today to try to make sense of what just happened. People are reaching out from all over and there is lots of talk about what it would take to defeat Unity in next year's election. But RA is going to focus on how best to run the 70k chapter, with or without help from the official union. We have lots to talk about.

There is more than a bit of sweet irony in Bennett's election and response since the last time he communicated with Mulgrew on the healthcare issue, Bennett was fired from his part-time UFT job.

Yesterday Mulgrew sent out his announcement. Today there is supposed to be an emergency meeting of the MLC (Municipal Labor Committee) today - I wonder why? There are also leaks that MLC is going broke due to enormous costs associated with hiring healthcare consultants' high fees for giving advice on how to create an abyss. MLC should ask for their money back.

Here is a video response Marianne made. She is somewhat magnanimous thanking the UFT for relenting. I find it funny that Mulgrew called me a liar at the May RTC meeting when he refused to take my leaflet. Mulgrew time and again claimed MedAdv was no different from Medicare -- "It's Medicare Part C," he would say - time and again. Exactly who is the liar?

Please read through the fantastic analysis by Vincent of the RTC meeting at the end of this piece.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Final Unity RTC Meeting: Kumbaya, Deconstructing Randi

We heard you. Michael and I heard you.... Randi Weingarten

...as my friend Norm Scott likes to say, “Watch what they do, not what they say.” You can be sure, Randi, Mike, et alWe are watching.... Arthur Goldstein

 Sunday June 23, 2024

Did Randi and Michael really hear us? I'll get into the weeds down below.
 
But let me also mention the after party at a local bar attended by 50 supporters. Everyone is so excited. 
 
6/24 UPDATE: I hung out with Vincent Wosjnis, former CL and newly elected delegate who happens to live in Ghana but is in for a few months. I'm inserting his FB comment on the meeting.
Vincent C. Wojsnis
Yeah, we heard her too. After listening to Weingarten speeches over the years I've learned to "listen between the lines." Randi is a talented orator. In her speech, she emphasized the importance of electing Biden over Trump in order to protect Medicare and Social Security, which I agree would face an existential threat if Republicans were to take control of the government. We can all agree on that. But let us not be fooled here. Randi, Mulgrew, Unity all support Medicare Advantage. They haven't moved from that. They continue to maintain that Medicare Advantage IS Medicare just as she has been on record defending UFT/AFT support for charter schools as "public charter schools" (while the only thing "public" about them is the public money they take to line their private pockets.) I HEARD HER TOO, when she pointed out that cities across the country are moving their retirees to MA. It's true that more than half of all Medicare enrollees are now enrolled in MA plans. How is this a good thing? Why isn't the AFT fighting this? In her speech, Randi referenced lessons from history. She wasn't wrong. As a former history teacher I can appreciate that. I too have a history lesson to share with Ms. Weingarten. In the 1960s big insurance companies opposed the creation of Medicare. "Socialism," they called it. They had Ronald Reagan do media spots warning of the "slippery slope." Unable to kill it, with the aid of both Republicans AND Democrats, in 1997 they found a way to "embrace" it. Embrace it, much like the way a python "embraces" its prey. And so, Medicare Part C was formed. That hasn't changed. I also agree, there were many "gracious" moments at the RTC meeting. But the vote wasn't even close. THAT'S what they heard. Years ago, as a new chapter leader, I never formally joined Unity (Thank you, Angel Gonzalez.) but I almost did and I was close enough to witness how they viewed the opposition. I can assure you whatever "unity" they're projecting here is not what they're saying among themselves and they will be actively planning how they can stop us. Kumbaya? "Don't listen to what they say. Watch what they do." (Thank you, Norm Scott.)
I haven't had a chance to share my impressions of the historic final Unity controlled Retiree Chapter meeting this past Tuesday, as Retiree Advocate prepares to take control of the chapter for the next three years. 
 
I was elected as part of the 15 member RTC Exec Bd, along with the 10 officers. I was also one of the 300 elected delegates to the DA -- my first time there since I retired in 2002. I may have to revive Ed Notes print edition. The first meetings of the RTC chapter and the DA will be in October.
 
(We held a zoom orientation meeting on Thursday and all 25 were present and it's quite a team of experienced UFT activists, but we all still have a lot to learn about the mechanics of running a 70k plus chapter. Will the UFT/Unity hierarchy help or hinder the transition? Maybe we should do a poll.)
 
The 63% majority opinion had a major impact on how the meeting was run. Bennett Fischer was invited up to speak and RA decided to take a moderate approach at this final Unity meeting and be nice. Unity tried to act nice too, despite a few sour looks. A bit of humility. They still seem in shock.

Note - yes we won on the healthcare issue, but don't discount the democracy angle as members heard 3 years of lecturing and hectoring and attacking critics.
 
Randi Weingarten was the featured speaker and contrary to people who think she was rushed in due to our victory, she had been advertised for some time. Let me say up front. I disagree with Randi in numerous ways but I never viewed things personally and her personality can be piercing to some but for people like me I'm quite comfortable with her and had no problem going up to sit next to her for a brief chat about what I felt was wrong with her speech. And by the way -- the good thing about Randi is you can do that.
 
If you read Ed Notes since it began (in print since '97 and blog since 2006), you know I've had a complicated relationship with Randi as a hopeful supporter when she took over in '97 to great disappointment by 2001. But Randi is a master at managing relationships and has always been outwardly friendly. 

Right up front I was impressed that Randi and Michael had heard us. So I expected she would say we are immediately abandoning our support for replacing Medicare with a Medicare Advantage plan in NYC. 
 
But instead what we heard was that we must re-elect Biden so we can lobby him to push for legislation to protect Medicare. OY! Dem Party Central message.

Sure. Congress has been so willing to pass such legislation. This proposal I immediately branded as bullshit and my hand shot up to ask a question and stayed up for much of her speech, with Tom Murphy in his final meeting being true to his form of not calling on me.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Massive Fix Para Slate Victory - Is the Unity Machine Crumbling?

Paraprofessionals are stuck with a chapter leader against whom they voted overwhelmingly. In Unity world, that means little. As long as the sitting CL serves Mulgrew, who cares about membership?... Arthur Goldstein, UFT Paraprofessionals Overwhelmingly Reject Unity

Let's do some math. Total Slate Votes: 3408
Fix Para Slate: 2516. Unity: 892. 
Let's see if I can figure out the percentages. 
 
2516/3408 = 74% for FPS. 
 
892/3408 = 25% for Unity.
Holy Shit - the para opposition to Unity actually got a higher percentage than the retiree's 63%. 
 
Oh, by the way, there are something like 27,000 paras eligible to vote and Unity ran a big GOTV campaign - and only got 892 votes out of a potential 27k?



Friday, June 21, 2024, 12:01 AM
- phew - I survived the Longest Day - And I didn't go to the yoga class I registered for in Times Square. But I did take a 7:30 AM hot yoga in Rockaway yesterday - and I'm still awake. Today starts the long decline in sunlight down to the dim of winter. Brrrrrr.

Back in April I wrote about the upcoming  UFT's 3 Consequential Elections, TRS, Retiree and Para. Here are three posts I put out on the latter:
Despite winning only the TRS, all three have turned out to be bad omens for Unity Caucus. Arthur is reporting on the shocking outcome of the para election:
Despite only involving 8 wins for the Fix Para Pay slate, that election has just as deep consequences in some ways as the retiree election.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

TODAY - Final RTC Meeting under Unity control, Randi is guest, RA Press Release, NY Post article

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

It's been an absolute pleasure working with decades old Retiree Advocate/UFT group since I joined them around 2016. We've had success by working as a consensus group with the understanding that if we disagree with a general consensus we will be willing to give in the interests of staying united. We have kept our eye on the prize -- I think due to the many years of experience and learning the ropes of working with others. 

So today at 1 RA and many of its supporters (growing since Friday) will be at 52 at noon handing out a leaflet and attending the 1PM meeting, the final one run by Tom Murphy. It should be quite an experience, unlike anything we've experienced in the UFT. We expect the formal announcement of the results of the election. 

Following that there will be a celebration from 3-5 at a local joint.


 

 

 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Earthquake in the UFT/Unity Machine as regular Unity voters desert the mother ship for RA in 30 point vote swing

There is no joy in Mudville. Mighty Unity has struck out.
Unofficial totals rough numbers: RA 17,000+, Unity 10,000+

What exactly did RA win? Due to the wrong winner take all (instead of proportional rep) system, RA gets it all:

10 officers, 15 ex bd (I am one) and all 300 delegates to the DA (not AFT). I reminded a long time Unity guy at the count that if they had prop rep they would have had over 100 delegates and over a third of the officers and ex bd and I believe that would be better for the union. I reminded him that 3 years ago RA asked for 5 out of 300 DA position so our voters would be represented and were turned down. I imagine with us in charge we will actually call for a fair system.

The major impact on the union goes beyond the RTC. Our 300 delegates are packed with long-time and experienced former CL, Del, Ex Bd members - and UFT Pres candidates. (Our saddest moment is thinking about how James Eterno will not be there with us.)
Let me note that Unity has been planning on some carve out of the 7k para retirees from the RTC chapter. Let's see if retired paras go for it. I bet they don't.
And don't forget the para election where all 8 slate candidates on the Fix Para Pay slate won. But Unity won all 268 delegates and the rest of officers and ex bd. Unity did some rigging of this election. But look for the FPP slate to grow and be part of the oppo next year.

You have certainly changed the dynamics in the NYC labor movement: Ray Markey President New York Public Library Retirees Association, President (Ret) New York Public Library Guild Local 1930, VP (Ret) DC37 Executive Board AFSCME -- comment on Arthur's Substack

IMPORTANT NOTE: The final RTC meeting, (the last for the next 3 years under Unity control) of the year will take place on Tuesday June 18 at 1 PM at 52 Broadway, followed by RA inviting those who show up to join us at a local establishment. Randi is the guest at the RTC meeting. Who knows, she might even drop in at the RA event.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

I was wrong. The wrongest one of anyone. 
 
At most I expected RA to lose with about 45%.  63% was beyond comprehension. This is a tale of a massive shift in voting sentiment amongst retirees. Can the same shift occur in the general election next year? It now seems possible -- if the forces opposed to Unity can actually unite - always problematical, which I will delve into at some other time. Let me catch you up on Friday's historic events with some instant analysis.
 
I left you on Friday with a last minute 12PM early update that presaged the tsunami about to hit the UFT, Unity Caucus and the opposition movement. I called Jonathan who saw the 28k as good for us while I felt we needed 33-35k with many new voters to win. I didn't account for the massive shift of Unity voters. I turned off my computer and was about to leave when Bennett texted early sampling showing us winning each batch by a lot, so I turned on my computer and updated with those early returns:
RA  Unity
34    25
22    13
17      8
23    16
19     12
 
So this was my 12:15 report:
I got back to the count at 1 and Jonathan was just getting there and said "We won and its over 60%." Only a relatively few votes had been counted but the sampling was going our way.

When I entered the counting room and saw the faces of the Unity crew, the story was told -- but this was 1PM with less than half the ballots counted. I texted Bruce Markens, one of the heroes of the opposition since the early 1960s and he said he'd come down to the vote count. The last time he went to a vote count was when the members turned down the 1995 contract. Bruce is two for two. Let's get him there for next year's election. RA core people were showing up and at some point we had to rotate into the viewing room. As usual, Yasmin, in charge of elections, was gracious -- we even got to share the pizza and drinks with the counting staff who took a lunch break with about half the ballots counted.
 
As the afternoon went on, the Unity crew huddled in the corridor and phone calls were being made to HQ. RA people were stoic. We never gloated.
 

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Powerful endorsement for Jamaal Bowman from Naomi Klein in Daily News Op Ed

I just contributed another $100 to Bowman as a way to ward off the millions Aipac is tossing into this campaign. AIPAC money is openly racist, being used to remove non-white progressives from Congress. They even tossed in money to defeat that black policeman who was a hero on Jan. 6 for no other reason than he was black (he had no record on Israel or any really controversial issue.)

There is so much over the top dishonesty in the ads. Bowman's vote against the Biden bills joined others who were promised the bills wouldn't be split. Yet they were. (I won't go into the ugly details over Biden admin broken promises.)

I will admit I would like to have seen Bowman, as probably the only public school reality-based educator in Congress spend more time focusing on education issues and their root causes. More clarity on the chain of testing- closing schools - promotion of charters. Use his bully pulpit in the anti ed deform cause.

Naomi Klein brings it all together. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

America needs brave leaders like Jamaal Bowman
By NAOMI KLEIN    June 9, 2024 at 5:00 a.m.

 


Friday, June 14, 2024

UFT Retiree Chapter Election Vote Count 11 AM Update - Over 28k ballot returns, Count Won't actually start until 1 PM - Why I left

12 PM Sampling UPDATE: It's going to be close.
Looks like they started counting already so discount my complaints below.
Counting ballots flying across screen: looking good for RA
RA  Unity
34    25
22    13
17      8
23    16
19     12

The major news is that the vote count jumped from 23,034 to 28,098 with today's returns to be counted even if past 8AM plus anyone who brings in a ballot today will be counted. Jonathan will do a deeper analysis later so mine will be some quick speculation. For me the numbers are too low to win. I felt we needed to bump to 32K or more to make it close. Others in the oppo don't agree and think this number puts us in contention. 


Here's the issue. Two years ago 27k retirees voted in the general election with 19k for Unity and 23k voted in the RTC election 3 years ago with 16k for Unity. 70% both times.

Two views
So the pessimist like me looks at the 27k and sees only a 1k increase from the general election.
The optimists in RA see a 5k increase from the RTC election 3 years ago and sees those votes as mostly RA. And they count on some erosion in the 16k Unity vote. So they are putting RA in the over 40% while my pessimism keeps us in the 30's.

 I've been reporting my concerns about the vote counting process and did some handicapping. The latest was last night: 

So I did get there (AAA 120 Broadway) at 8AM with Bobby Greenberg, RA's lone rep on the UFT election committee and Yasmin and her assistant were there along with Nina Bishop, Unity chair of the election committee. A while later UFT Manhattan Born head Carl Cambria showed up but his day starts at 10.  Then another Unity election committee rep, known as the farbissiner in a certain dialect - showed up with a third Unity caucus member, John Soldini due. So what did I do? I left Bobby alone with this pack and went back to my apartment.

Why? Let me tell you.

Like I expected they didn't start slitting the outer envelopes until after 8AM using one machine to open 28k and then they have to open the 28k secret ballot envelopes. And they won't start running the ballots until at least 1 PM. Why can't they have a few machines slicing envelopes? And start counting

Then there is the observing aspect. I began the day objecting to Yasmin over the process where we can't go in and look at the 4 scanners and she said we can see two scanners on a screen. 

Well, I did leave Bobby alone with the Unity pack so I am heading back down with my sleeping bag because we are not leaving till we have a slate count -- they will take more time to count the split votes from the booklet. Last time there were 500 of those. I think a batch of Unity people are splitting the vote so I think we will see that number go up -- some Unity hack sent out a memo pleading with their core not to split the ballot. I hope Unity people did split -- better for us.

See you later. 


Thursday, June 13, 2024

Norm Handicaps the 2024 Retiree Chapter Election - 35% is bad, 45% and above is a winning formula going forward

Unity Caucus - The Real Enemy Within
I went to the DA Wednesday with a leaflet I wrote under the Ed Notes banner with the headline above where I pointed to the leadership working closely with the city and private health insurance - outside the UFT - to undermine retiree healthcare. In brief conversations even some with Unity, people seemed to agree that the healthcare issue is not a good one for Unity. I had conversations, especially since my recent major health issue, with Unity people about how if I was on Mulgrewcare I would not be able to get the quick service in terms of tests and seeing new docs so easily. They all nod their heads and seem to agree -- so even in the deep state there's skepticism. 
 
But will loyalty to Unity triumph over common sense?
 
Then I attended the 14th annual Skinny Awards event with the usual amazing ed activist crowd. Saw many old pals. Leonie honored PEP members, including Kaliris for the 2nd time. It was a big crowd of ed deform resisters, some for over decades. Proud to be among them. 
 
I saw Jonathan there and we chatted briefly about possible election numbers. He did a deeeeeeeep dive on election numbers. Really worth a read. 
 
I'm not going to go so deep.


(Late) Thursday June 13, 2024
 
I'm staying in the city so I can get down to the retiree chapter vote count early Friday morning. I've been back and forth on the potential outcome from slight win for us to slight win for Unity to big win for Unity (meaning 65-70%). 

I know I'm going to make some of my colleagues angry in this analysis because people consider taking hard looks and not being positive as defeatist. Most of my colleagues are more optimistic than me (a noted pessimist) who always looks at the downside.) 
 
 
So, on the day before the count, it is safe to come out of the water. Or is it?
  • In my interview with Daniel Alicea on the WBAI Talk Out of School program he asked me to handicap the election and I told him he'd have to wait for today. I talk about how I got into teaching, the process I went through in becoming an activist and my version of opposition history through the early 90s. We end on the membership voting down the 1995 contract. To be continued in a few weeks with part 2 taking us up to current events in the UFT.  Listen to Part 1 (https://wbai.org/archive/program/episode/?id=50740)
I shared my pessimism with one of our candidates the other day -- he's a long time UFT activist going back to the 70s and a founder of ICE. He is not as pessimistic, saying he's been on contact with many Unity retirees, all of whom are so pissed at the Medicare situation, they say they are voting against Unity. Others report the same but that may be a particular non-hard core Unity.

Does Unity really have to worry about losing?

I feel there is a massive retiree Unity loyalty hell or high water block that is immovable.
 
So let's take a hard look at the current RTC election by the numbers and see if Unity is really threatened with losing or just panicking and tossing around hysterical charges at Retiree Advocate and Marianne Pizzitola whose NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees has just managed to save UFT retirees thousands of dollars over the past few years while the UFT/Unity gangsters have alied with the city and insurance companies. Exactly who is the enemy within?
 
I'm going to make this argument in the context that getting former non-voters to vote is a key in this election.

RTC Election Results, as reported on Ed Notes on June 23, 2021

Slate results:
Total votes cast: 23,024
Retiree Advocate/UFT: 6755 (29.3%)
Unity slate: 16,269 (70.7%)

Chapter Leader Results:
Total votes cast: 23,546
Gloria Brandman, RA: 6900 (29.3%)
Tom Murphy, Unity: 16,646 (70.7%)
  • Note that about 500 people split their ballots -- a big error as slate votes are how we judge results.
You will notice that there is almost a ten thousand vote difference between Unity and RA. The key question is whether RA can make up that 10K difference. 

But let's jump ahead to the 2022 general election numbers where I had high hopes for the retiree vote.

Retiree ballots mailed: 68,970. Returned: 27,451
 
Unity: 19,368. United for Change:  7,984
  • "the most dramatic number in this election’s turnout was the surge in retiree votes, 4,600 more votes than three years ago." - Jonathan
Yes - a year after Mulgrewcare we hoped more retirees would vote but even these new voters still did a 70-30% split. That is why I'm pessimistic.
 
While we went up by one thousand and Unity went up by 3000 votes A YEAR AFTER MEDICARE. 

The 2022 outcome is my major reason for thinking Unity will win this bigger than we think. Some people point out that my focus on that election is wrong and that over the past 2 years there is more erosion in Unity.
 
What is bigger? The worst outcome for us is sticking to the 30% but I don't expect that will happen. How about 35%? That would be very disappointing. We need to get to 40% to give people hope the opposition could close to 50% by next year. 45% would be a big boost. Winning would be better.
 
We live in a bubble of retiree anti-Mulgrew/Unity sentiment due to the healthcare issue. Outside that bubble where retirees are not getting any info other than from the Unity machine, it is a different story.  

There are the people who are not plugged into any network - the vast majority of the 70k retirees, some of whom are not even aware of the healthcare issue or the chapter election. Expect well over half not to vote -- if over half did vote - non-voters from the past - RA could win. But I don't expect such a big turnout based on previous elections. I'll get into more detail on the numbers below.
 
I wrote on May 19, 2022:
Retirees - massive turnout - over 27K - the UFT is weakened with well over half the total votes come from the no longer working, Unity is strengthened.

UFC got almost 8K, just short of 30%, which is the highest total by far in a general UFT election. Most attribute that vote to Mulgrewcare, but I don't see it that way. In last year's RTC election we also got 30% and Mulgrewcare was just being announced. I assumed we would go up to 35% or more. this year. But Unity was helped by the plan not being implemented due to the court case and Mulgrew tried to run away from it -- and in some ways was successful. Imagine of the opt-outers were paying $200 a month on Jan 1? It seems even Unity people who were unhappy came home. In the over 3K new votes this time, my guess is UFC and Unity split them with an edge to Unity -- which is sort of good but disappointing as I had hoped we would get a bigger chunk. Unity went all out organizing retiree chapters all over the nation -- all dominated by Unity retirees. I don't see us moving much beyond the 30% in the future and may in fact see a slippage. Unless Mulgrewcare is implemented. Watch outcomes in the RTC election in 2024 as Retiree Advocate remains active in the RTC chapter and as a crucial part of UFC.
So you can see I was not optimistic two years ago about this upcoming election but am more so than then.
 
The Shanker Advantage Still Holds for older Retirees: Voting for Shanker and forgetting that Mulgrew is no Albert Shanker
 
The other night we were out with a couple we know for 50 years. He's a UFT retiree. I asked if he voted yet. He said NO. He knows about the healthcare issue. But people are in his ear. A good friend says he will vote Unity because Unity has been good for us because of Shanker. Our friend's sister says the same. She will never vote anti-Unity. And these are not Unity members. They dismiss the healthcare issue. Do they actually believe Mulgrew has a better plan? They probably can afford to pay an extra premium if Mulgrew gets his way and gives us "choice" with pay for what we now have for free option.
 
Did they forget the Randi/Bloomberg years? Have they forgotten the reduction of interest from 8.25 to 7%? Of course they have no knowledge of the Tier 6 sellout. They were probably retired to witness the even more inept Mulgrew years. There will be no way to shake them. 
 
I'd bet there are a whole lot more like them, which leads to me taking a harder look at the realities.
 
That's not a good sign for this election. I have been assuming that if we can get the vote totals up to the 30-35k range, most of those votes would go to us. But Unity still pulls a lot of loyalty. Tens of thousands of retirees were or still are in Unity. And they have been as propagandized by the Unity machine as FOX with the Trumpies. 

We have an almost 12,000 vote gap to make up and with the court wins the pressure is sort of off Mulgrew. How can we make up the gap?

Will Unity votes slip? At most they will slip a little. But maybe not. So I start by giving them 18-20K. If they actually slip back to their 2021 16k, RA may be in the ball game.

RA vote will increase because we have 300 candidates and a lot more outreach and people are telling us their friends are voting RA. Even right wingers. But lots of retirees to some surprise are not totally tuned into the healthcare issue and also some are fine with MedAdv - a woman going in to the RTC meeting told me all her relatives in Massachusetts are happy with MedAdv and she is also on some plan she is happy with. She might have been Unity.

The major hope to close the gap is the Marianne fans, which is why Unity is so intent on attacking her. But does she have enough outreach to close the gap? I'm guessing no, but her people will make the election closer - I hope. 
 
The key question will be whether we get 35% or 40% or 45%? or 51%

How can we win?
On the bright side, stories are coming in from hundreds of people who say they have contacted their retiree networks and people are saying they are voting RA. Let's say we get about a thousand vote bump from them.

The way to victory is for Unity to lose a few thousand - down to 15 or 16K and for us to get those votes plus our outreach plus the Marianne crowd. But if would be close no matter what as the best case scenario. 
 
And then expect Unity to do what it can to undermine the win in every way they can.

Expect the vote count to contain elements of a shit show.
We will post what we know Friday night - unless we are sleeping over at the AAA.

 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Press Release: ICE-UFT Demands Transparent and Efficient Ballot Count and Reporting Results by the American Arbitration Association (AAA)

Reprint from the ICE blog

Press Release: ICE-UFT Demands Transparent and Efficient Ballot Count and Reporting Results by the American Arbitration Association (AAA)

New York, NY – The Independent Community of Educators within the United Federation of Teachers (ICE-UFT) is demanding that the American Arbitration Association (AAA) implement a transparent, efficient, and equitable ballot counting process for the upcoming UFT elections, including those for the UFT Retiree Chapter, Paraprofessional Chapter, and all other contested elections. ICE-UFT insists that all members, regardless of caucus affiliation, must be treated equally and provided with equal access to observe and participate in the ballot count and access to all data generated during the entire election process.

(See Education Notes for more background: Can AAA Competence, Management and Reporting Process be Trusted in UFT Elections?)

 

This demand follows numerous issues observed in previous elections, including inefficiency and delays on the part of AAA, frequent machine jams, and extremely limited observation opportunities for members. Additionally, concerns have been raised about private communications between the UFT officers, all members of Unity Caucus, to which others were not privy, and AAA, as well as delays in announcing results. During past UFT election counts, requests for school-by-school data were denied, with AAA stating that only UFT officials had access to those reports.

 

“Transparency and fairness are non-negotiable in our union elections,” said Norm Scott, spokesperson for ICE-UFT. “We demand that AAA conduct the ballot count in a manner that is open, efficient, and equitable, ensuring that representatives from all caucuses have the same opportunities to participate and monitor the process. Any deviation from this standard undermines the integrity of our elections and the trust of our members.”

 

ICE-UFT’s demands include:

 

1. Equal Access for All Caucuses: Representatives from all caucuses must have identical opportunities to monitor the ballot count and raise any concerns in real-time.


2. Transparency in Procedures: AAA must communicate and adhere to clear, consistent procedures throughout the counting process to ensure transparency.


3. Efficient and Accurate Counting: The counting process must be carried out with utmost efficiency and accuracy to reflect the true will of the UFT membership.


4. Access to All District and School Data: Full access must be provided to all district and school data related to the elections to ensure complete transparency.


5. Access to ballot process during the voting period: Regular reports on numbers of ballots received, a report on number of ballots that were returned due to wrong address, number of ballots returned past deadline of reception, modification of the 8AM due time in final date of return to account for late mail delivery.


6. Prompt reporting to all caucus election committee reps on day of the count instead of being told to wait for the official AAA report.

 

ICE-UFT emphasizes the critical importance of these measures in the ballot counts for the UFT Retiree Chapter, Paraprofessional Chapter, and all other contested elections.

 

“These problems have cast doubt on the integrity of the election process,” continued Norm Scott. “We cannot allow these issues to persist and compromise the democratic principles our union stands for.”

 

ICE-UFT’s call to action comes amid increasing concerns about potential discrepancies and biases in the ballot counting process. By demanding these measures, ICE-UFT aims to uphold.

 

This press release is intended for immediate distribution.

 

For more information or to arrange an interview with Norm Scott, please contact him at (917) 992-3734 or via email at normsco@gmail.com

 

**About ICE-UFT** 

The Independent Community of Educators within the United Federation of Teachers (ICE-UFT) is dedicated to advocating for the rights and interests of educators and supporting democratic practices within the union. ICE-UFT works tirelessly to promote transparency, fairness, and inclusivity in all union activities.