Wednesday, February 21, 2024

ICE Gathers Today - James Eterno Legacy, Retiree and TRS Election - is Tom Murphy Toast?, Whither COPE

The past 2 weeks has been wrenching for the many James Eterno fans since he passed on Feb. 6. The past 2 days with the viewing and funeral have brought out hundreds of people. Monday night was very touching seeing so many people who have bonded over the years in union struggles. Watching the coffin be lowered yesterday was beyond sad.

In the months before his stroke in May, James was bugging me to start calling ICE meetings again and we were about to begin but I felt paralyzed without his counsel.

Today's pre-planned ICE meeting seems so fitting. Jews have healing shiver after funerals. We will talk about James' legacy and how hard he worked to keep ICE going after we started working with MORE, especially after ICE left MORE. Given his efforts, we have no choice but to continue ICE in some form. We will have a rice pudding ICE meeting to help us heal. I hope we can talk about the possibility of a memorial for him to celebrate his work.

There's lots to talk about regarding the RTC and TRS election (we may have a candidate at the meeting).

The RTC election is looming and how well Retiree Advocate does can be a game changer in the UFT -- I will expand on this in my next post. Our super successful press conference last Friday where we announced we have a full 300 member slate to run and also introduced some of the 10 officer candidates is a good sign. We had heard that Mulgrew is so insecure he wanted to keep Murphy who he knows will be unfailingly loyal and would not trust someone else.

Arthur posted this tweet:  

We're hearing that @UFT RTC boss Tom Murphy will be replaced with another Mulgrew lackey, who will continue the fight to decimate our health care. Her working motto is, "I'm not Tom Murphy." Appealing though that may be, protect your rights and vote for @RetireeAdvocUFT.

There are some rumors former UFT Spec Ed VP Carmen Alvarez may be the candidate. We remember her shameful testimony at the City Council hearings begging them to change the law so she could have the choice of opting out of the very plan the union was pushing. As a UFT staffer since 1990 she could afford to pay for opting out. 

If Carmen is campaigning inside Unity for the position does that make Mulgrew feel condideent if he does prefer Murphy? Or has Murphy outlived his usefulness and the RA threat is so real they feel they have to make a change? Will Mulgrew run again in '25 or will be fazed out as it seems Tom Murphy may be as RTC head?

We will share ideas for the election campaigns at the ICE  meeting. And lots more.

A PhD candidate doing a thesis on the UFT compared to other unions will be at the meeting.

And if there is time, we will talk about the concept of COPE and should people withdraw in protest or call for some level of more democracy.

James was one of 20 or so founders of ICE 20 years ago in late 2003 when I called a bunch of key people together to discuss the deal New Action was making with Unity for the 2004 election. James, Camille, Ellen Fox and Lisa North left New Action to become part of the future ICE core.

ICE ran in the 2004, '07, '10 UFT elections before merging with TJC and others into MORE.  James was the 2010 presidential candidate against Mulgrew who was running for the first time and Camille was the UFC candidate vs Mulgrew in the '22 election. James got the most VP high school votes in the 2016 election but due to UFT election manipulation rules the VP position are voted on by all UFT members.

ICE was different, with no official membership - just show up at a meeting - no steering committee, few if any limits on what could be discussed - open meetings to all, even from other caucuses. 

One thing that James was so much part of was the sense of family people connected to ICE felt about the group and each other, a feeling I never felt on other groups I was involved in where they were run like a business. ICE has been as much a social group as a union political group. A space where you felt safe enough to bring up issues that would be uncomfortable talking about in other groups. Where you could disagree with the prevailing winds and not get cancelled.

We set up a zoom this past November and an in-person during the Xmas vacation. And that was so great even if only a dozen. We talked about issues for almost 3 hours. And everyone seemed to leave happy. We propose an every two month schedule on the Wednesday during school vacations so in-service people can attend. The meeting today meets that schedule. The next one would be April 24.

It's hard to describe what ICE is at this point, given James Eterno's illness and the stillness of the ICE blog which he assiduously maintained over the years. Some mistakenly believed it was his personal blog but James always rejected that idea. He wanted ICE to remain a presence.


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