There is a real opposition to Unity Caucus in the schools. 7,637 UFT members voted against the two year extension of the worst Contract ever in spite of two years worth of the ruling Unity Caucus' leaders constantly telling us how great it is to: teach an extra small group instruction period four days a week, come back to work in August, patrol halls and lunchrooms, not be able to transfer based on seniority, not be able to grieve file letters and observation reports, have weakened tenure protections, risk being an Absent Teacher Reserve even after dedicating decades of our lives to New York City's students, etc…
The work that the Independent Community of Educators, Teachers for a Just Contract, NYC Educator and others did almost exclusively on the internet made a bit of an impact. It must be taken into account that those of us who oppose the Contract did not have the means to distribute literature urging a no vote to most schools but the ruling Unity Caucus spin machine sent a cadre of employees into virtually all of the schools to sell the Contract. ICE-TJC may not yet be able to reach everyone but we have moved forward.
Consider that back in 2001 before the traditional main UFT opposition group, New Action, decided to form an alliance with Unity (Randi Weingarten's political party), New Action received 11,523 total votes in that year's UFT Election. Traditionally the opposition would get around 2,000 retiree votes in UFT elections. After many years of working, New Action was usually getting around 10,000 active members to vote for them. In 2002 with New Action support, the first extended time Contract received 94% of the vote. Only 4,000+ members opposed that deal. The opposition was in tatters leading New Action to form their alliance with Unity.
In 2003, after New Action made a deal not to run against Randi Weingarten, ICE was formed for the 2004 election. TJC ran in a UFT election for the first time in 2004 also. ICE and TJC presidential candidates combined to receive a total of 5,374 votes in the 2004 election, including retirees. Now in 2006, there are 7,637 active people who voted no on a Contract. This group constitutes a growing working base opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus. Recall that retirees do not vote on Contracts. Therefore, we can conclude that after only a few years of existence as political organizations, ICE-TJC are growing and getting close to reaching the level where New Action was after working for many, many years.
Now is the time for ICE-TJC to diligently pursue other potential supporters. There were approximately 7,000 disgruntled members who voted in the 2005 Contract ratification but didn't bother to vote this time around. Why was the turnout lower this year? Some people have apparently given up in disgust and we need to give them a reason to vote for the opposition in the 2007 UFT election. Also, there were over 32,000 members who voted against the 2005 giveback laden Contract. It is our job now to reach each and every one of them and give them our alternative view on how this union should be run.
We believe this Contract was approved by an overwhelming margin not as a vote of confidence for Randi Weingarten and the Unity machine but as a sign of resignation that we can't do any better under Unity-New Action leadership.
Unity-New Action's main strategy is to wait for DC 37 to settle up with the city and go in and say, "Me too," and get the same deal based on pattern bargaining. Pattern bargaining means that when one city union settles on a contract to start a new round of collective bargaining with the city, then all other city unions subsequently receive the same pattern settlement. If DC 37 sets a lousy pattern, then Randi will again trade away more of what's left of our Contract to get us some money as she did in 2002 and 2005.
It's up to ICE-TJC in the next few months to get the message to everyone that we can organize to improve UFT member salaries as well as teaching and learning conditions without trading away our rights.