There's No Comparison; I've been with Both Groups!
By James Eterno Jamaica HS Chapter Leader and Ten Year UFT HS Executive Board Member
We have been reading literature attacking ICE-TJC as people who just complain. Yes, there is a great deal to complain about if you work in the NYC schools but that's not what we are about. We are not a "knee-jerk" opposition group. We support the UFT leadership when they are right and criticize them when they are wrong.
ICE-TJC representatives have a solid three year record of advocating for our members at the Executive Board. I personally have been there for a decade: seven years with New Action and the last three with ICE-TJC.
There is no comparison.
The ICE-TJC opposition to Unity over the last three years has been more active and effective as compared to the prior three when NAC was on the Executive Board, cementing their "bipartisan" relationship with Randi. We have a solid record of raising issues and actually getting some stuff accomplished at the UFT Executive Board.
Chapter leaders and people in the temporary reassignment centers are getting more support because of our advocacy. We also proposed doing our own investigations when people are reassigned by hiring our own investigaators to counter the Board of Ed Office of Special Investigations reports. Randi said no. However, because of ICE pressure, Randi has finally come out against closing schools and displacing staff. Back in 2003 and 2006, Unity refused to support resolutions opposing the closing of schools. I know; I brought them both up. We have come out for the rights of all caucuses to distribute material in mailboxes and being able to email campaign literature to members. Our position on mailing campaign literature is now union policy. When we originally raised the issue, Randi told us we didn’t know labor law. We were right; she was wrong.
We have called for the election of district representatives. NAC abandoned that cause after 2003. In 2004 when the resolution to have the president appoint DR’s was up for renewal, only NAC's Ed Beller and I voted no. New Action's other representatives had changed their view or didn't vote. In addition, you will not find stronger advocates for people who have received U ratings than ICE representatives. We have also spoken up strongly on behalf of members who have been charged under the new expedited time and attendance procedures or members who are being harassed by supervisors.
We also got an executive board resolution amended to include high school students for ESL testing exemptions. We have continued a formerly cherished New Action policy of demanding a VSF for UFT members to include all retirees. (Variable Supplement Funds are supplemental pension checks that can be much greater than a cost of living adjustment. Police and fire retirees are receiving over $11,000 in VSF money this year.) Randi pledged in 1999 that she would push for a VSF for us when corrections got one. I am fighting year after year for our VSF bill to include all retirees, not just those who retire after the bill is passed. We have done a great deal more but I don’t want to go on all night.
On the Contract, we pleaded with Randi not to go to fact finding in 2004 because we knew we would lose based on the 2002 and 1993 precedents. When it was released in 2005, we asked her to reject the horrible fact finding report with all the givebacks (longer day, longer year, loss of right to grieve letters in the file, return to hall patrol, etc...) as it was non binding. I raised the possibility of working with the transit union and other unions. (That summer when my wife and I were in California walking a picket line with Northwest airlines workers, we watched their eyes light up at the thought of a general strike.) We told Randi that the threat of working with other unions would give us more leverage. We hoped at the very least that they would reject the report and start over. Randi got angry and her people ridiculed us. I believe New Action’s members on the negotiating committee voted for every one of those disastrous policies having to do with fact finding that led to the awful 2005 contract. Also, even after every idea we had was rejected and we knew there was no UFT plan to wage a real fight against Bloomberg, ICE still supported every UFT action, no matter how small, that the union came up with to try to engage the members.
It's also a fallacy to say we don't work on UFT Committees. I was the co-chair of a UFT committee in 2004-05. Barbara Kaplan-Halper and Ellen Fox of ICE sat with me on that committee and yes we voted with the Unity leadership. We support and compliment them when they're right and criticize them when they're wrong.
Let us now examine the prior term: the last three years New Action was on the Executive Board from 2001-2004. NAC representatives, with the exception of Ed Beller and me, raised very few issues back in those days. When the Ed Evaluators chapter was eliminated, New Action’s representatives voted for the watered down version known as the IEP teacher. Ed Beller and I did our best to question the leadership but we didn’t get much backing.
In fact, one of New Action’s representatives during the 2001-2004 term was so dedicated to the UFT that she resigned to become an assistant principal in the middle of her three year term. That’s the NAC commitment to the cause of trade unionism for you. I’m not making this up. Doug Haynes is a holdover from that group who is running now. Doug is a really good guy who I will not say a negative word about, but Doug didn’t exactly speak up on a bunch of resolutions back then so NAC should not knock what ICE-TJC are doing now when New Action and Unity for that matter have very little in terms of the facts to support their case.
Unity people under their Caucus obligations must support whatever Randi comes up with. New Action's last stint on the executive board proved that some of their people didn't oppose or question Randi too often either. Why run as an opposition group if you don't oppose much of anything the leadership does? Maybe you want to eliminate the real opposition: ICE-TJC. A truly independent opposition to Unity will strengthen the UFT. I urge everyone to vote for ICE-TJC.