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:


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?


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.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Norm Gets Interviewed by Daniel Alicea on Talk Out of School - Part 1 and The Skinny Awards - Contribute to Leonie

Tuesday, June 11, 2024
I was a guest for a two hour interview about my teaching and activist career in the NYC public schools as a student and teacher on the June 9th edition of Talk Out of School which Daniel Alicea hosts along with Leonie Haimson - a dynamic duo. I've been a UFT member since 1967 and participated in 3 strike. I became active in the UFT in 1970. In part 1 I recount the years through the 1995 contract. For me it was a good way to review and recall 57 years of work in the union and defending public education through groups like

Part 2 will be on in a few weeks.
By the way, June 12 is Leonie's annual Skinny Awards. I haven't missed one yet over a dozen years and I won't miss this one either. I was a recipient of the Award, as were so many other UFT activists like James Eterno, Arthur Goldstein and Julie Cavanagh. 
Support Class Size Matters even if you can't attend.
  This year’s annual Skinny awards will be held on Wed. June 12 at 6 pm.   Come celebrate and honor six independent parent members of the Panel for Educational Policy, who have valiantly spoken up for the interests of our students, and who despite great odds, have maintained their eloquence,  intelligence and persistence in striving for better policies in our public schools. Not to mention, Class Size Matters really needs your support! Food and wine will be served. Here is the link for more information and to purchase your tickets..

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Can AAA Competence, Management and Reporting Process be Trusted in UFT Elections?

How competent is the AAA to conduct UFT elections with massive numbers of voters? Is there somewhat of an illicit relationship between UFT/Unity leadership and AAA officials? Does the AAA show favoritism to the very people who hire them for every election?
From Hiro Kawahara, elections director at AAA. 
  • He said that they can check to see if individual ballots were received at AAA.
  • He is only authorized to give the returned ballot count to the designated point person from the UFT. 
There are reports of ballots, mailed, being delivered to the address on the back (the voter) instead of to AAA. Here is one: 
So, I pick up the mail today and I find my ballot returned! And, it's postmarked "1 June 2024 PM 6 L --- UFT retiree and RA candidate.
He lives in New York so I suggested he hand deliver but he is not currently mobile enough and AAA doesn't allow for someone else to deliver.  No way to get another ballot in time and assure it will get there in time. And what about people who don't live in NY? There is no way they can get another ballot and have it returned in time. We need AAA and the UFT to tabulate how many late ballots come in each day after 8 AM on June 14. In fact RA should call for late ballots to be counted because of the failures of the AAA.

And then there were those delayed ballot mailings. May 10 became on or about with a lot more about than on.

Ed Notes May 21: J'Accuse: Unity/AAA Delayed ballots suppress the vote
So we were told that ballots were to go out on May 10 but no one we know received their ballot until at least a week later and many haven't gotten it yet. Then when asked, AAA reported "on or about May 10." I asked a former colleague who is a snowbird and up in Boston now and he hasn't gotten his ballot and probably never will unless he contacts AAA and gets them to send to his summer home. I expect we will have loads of people who ask the AAA for replacements and they do la, di, da and it takes a week to get one and another week for it to get back to AAA? Demand they extend the deadline for ballots received to a few extra days to make up for the delayed mailing and other AAA screwups.
But of course that will be rejected, as Unity is all about vote suppression. They are the Republican Party of the UFT.

Unity expects to win this election by bombarding their core with lies and misinformation about the opposition while suppressing the rest of the vote where ever they can.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

How competent is the AAA to conduct UFT elections with massive numbers of voters? Is there somewhat of an illicit relationship between UFT/Unity leadership and AAA officials? Does the AAA show favoritism to the very people who hire them for every election?

Over the elections for the past decade I have noticed changes in how the AAA deals with the various parties in the election. 
If RA wins, what are the chances Unity protests and calls for a new election?
Here are some thoughts:
What data does AAA have during balloting process and how much is shared with UFT/Unity? 

We can now confirm that the AAA scans in the cover envelope as the arrive and thus have data on everyone who has voted -- and by subtraction, everyone who has not voted. 
When I asked someone from AAA this same question they said, "No. We scan the day the balloting ends." I didn't see how that made any sense.
Now, imagine if someone had this information every day to check on their own core voters and contact those who didn't vote yet? Do we think that UFT/Unity, which hires AAA, would be denied this data? 

This would be collusion. We need inside leakers to actually tell us they saw this data in the past. Feel free to comment anonymously.

What data does the AAA have on results and how they are reported?
You'll notice on the second point made by the AAA election head that they can only report to a designated UFT rep. This is a big change since the days when AAA reps came out to all observers after each division vote count to inform us of the slate vote totals. LeRoy Barr would represent Unity. Now when we see him huddling privately with AAA people he claims he's UFT not Unity. Thus spoketh the head of Unity Caucus. So in recent elections we get zilch until the UFT decides to release the numbers and put its own spin on them, sometimes delaying things for days.

I raised the reporting issue as a member of the 2022 election committee but was constantly deflected. I also asked for school by school breakdowns on how many people voted as a way to check on the work UFC people were actually doing in their schools. I was turned down. Does Unity get to check on the work their own people are doing in their schools? Imagine a tabulation of returned ballots from oppo schools, with the likelihood of being oppo votes?

I will also note recent signs of a la di da attitude and thus a slowing up the count (purposely to create delays?) I used to walk in at 9 AM in the old days and things were humming. Now when I walk in people are just getting there and unpacking boxes. Then we see breakdowns in scanners, extremely limited ability to observe -- now we watch cameras on 2 out of 6 machines on a big screen with frequent stoppages. 

In the 2022 election they didn't even have cameras and told us we couldn't go beyond the ropes to look at the machines. So I raised hell - what are we observing then? They delayed for an hour to set up some cameras and a feed to the screen.

So is there cheating going on? From what I see I assume AAA conducts on honest count. The questions are how competent are they and their cozy relationship with UFT/Unity officialdom. Imagine if we won and hired another vote counting company? Or went to electronic voting? Our election is a potential threat to the AAA bottom line.

For me the dishonesty is how they pass info to UFT/Unity that other groups do not get. But there were times when the count was at the UFT HQ where the uncounted ballots were left overnight, supposedly with a security guard.

School info on voting is a particular concern
I asked the AAA guy in the past if we can get info on how many people vote in each school and he said they can generate such reports. In fact the AAA knows who in each school voted though not how because of the inner secret envelope. The outer envelopes are opened and are discarded. As a member of the 2021 election committee I made a reso calling for school data to be reported and Unity reps turned it down but agreeing to some kind of district report - which in the end was pretty weak. Spec Rep Patti Crispino was especially vehement in her opposition claiming school reports would "embarrass" people. Damn right. Imagine district reps and Unity ch ldrs being called to account for vote turnouts in the schools? 

I once asked UFT a key UFT election liaison about school data and he said the UFT didn't pay for that data. Yet insiders say I was lied to and they do have the data.
Does Unity have access to school by school data? 
Does Trump ever tell a lie?
Observers used to have free reign, now they are restricted. Why the change?
There have certainly been increasing restrictions on observers (yes, Covid was a reason so we accepted that.) I observed the last RTC count in 2021 and there were so many delays and we didn't get results for days until the UFT released them, a big change since the days of open reporting. YES - this is intentional. 
In last year's special para election they would not tell the two oppo winners the results in terms of counts. Since there were 5 people running, they had no idea how close the ones who lost came -- if they really lost. 

How about those constant jams on the scanners and why don't they have more of them?

So does Unity cheat?
What will they do if they get advance results that they are losing the RTC count June 14) or Para election (count June 13). 

For the June 14 count, will we see slate results that day, especially if the election is close or in doubt? We may have to sleep over.

If you want to read on, below I review my own history of observing vote counts and how the AAA has become more restrictive due to orders by Unity/UFT Officials.

I've been going to UFT election and contract vote counts since the 2004 election (I think I also went to counts in the late 70s) and in recent years have observed disturbing modifications in how the American Abritration Association and the UFT/Unity machine deal with elections.
I was involved in the 2004, 07, 10, 13, 16, 22 UFT elections as an active participant and observer and also observed the 2019 election results. In addition I observed the 2005, 2014, 2018 contract counts. And the RTC chapter 2021and the OT/PT 2023 counts. I don't remember but probably observed in the late 70s.
For major UFT elections through 2013, the UFT and AAA rented ballrooms from hotels on 7th Avenue around 53rd St. The space was wide open to any UFT member who wanted to observe with total access to looking over the shoulders of the AAA workers as they opened envelopes and ran the vote scanning machines. They counted slate votes one division at a time, with the smaller divisions first so we had results. Now they decide to do the largest first.
When each division was completed the AAA guy in charge called all together and gave us the totals for the slates. The booklets with individual votes took a long time and they held that for last -- none of us cared at all about those results. 
LeRoy Barr, Unity head, was often there standing with us. Did he talk to AAA people behind the scenes by switching his Unity had for a UFT official? Let's end the fiction that there's a difference.

I was at the hotel in 2013 and all the MORE people had left to go to a "victory" celebration at a bar on 34th St attended by 100 people. I had the results in hand at around 6:30 - same day as vote began and went down to inform everyone we won nothing -- but they cheered anyway. I bet of those 100 people you can count on one hand how many are still involved in MORE. (When you think of it, MORE is now over 12 years old - no comment in the impact on the UFT so far.)

In the 2014 contract and 2016 election there was a change. The counts were at AAA HQ at 120 Broadway, just a few blocks up from 52. The count took place behind a closed door with a large window for us to look in while observers sat around a large conference table. There was limited space and we submitted names to rotate in if necessary. 
In 2016 I was there until James Eterno arrived to take my place while I went off to an ICE meeting. James called us at the meeting to let us know we won the high schools, which makes the point that we had results the same day.
But we were allowed to go in and look directly at the scanners. Ellen Fox and I would sample a hundred ballots at a time as the day went on and could get a good reading on the ultimate outcome.

So let's jump to the 2019 election when we had 4 caucuses running and lots of observers. Shulman and some NAC, Lydia from Solidarity, Myrie from MORE and I was there I guess as an dishonored guest from ICE which stayed out of the election. I can't remember if we had access to the counting rooms to look over the shoulders of people. We only had a screen with two machine posted and lots of delays and breakdowns.

So the AAA has seemingly become less capable of efficient operation and more tied to the UFT/Unity leadership.