Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew-Andy Pallotta's political party) hates open debate. They stifle it at the UFT Delegate Assembly on a monthly basis and they abhor it at the state level too. There is a statewide election for New York State United Teachers officers coming in April. The Unity tradition of no open dialogue will continue throughout the campaign.
Presidential candidates in the UFT in New York City from Unity have not debated since 2001.At NYSUT, after their disastrous showing in a 2014 open forum (Unity was called Revive NYSUT in 2014), Unity won't be debating their opponents from Stronger Together before the 2017 NYSUT election.
Unity is sending out information coming up with all kinds of excuses why they are ducking being in the same room at the same time with the opposition from Stronger Together. ST has responded. First, in italics are segments of a Unity email to Long Island Presidents and Delegates followed in bold by the Stronger Together responses.
March 17, 2017
To Long Island Local Presidents and Delegates:
Over the last few weeks, our campaign attempted to work out a format which would be most conducive to having genuine, respectful dialogue with local leaders about NYSUT’s future. We hoped that collaboration between the LIPC and both campaigns would result in a format that worked for all parties. We thank Jim Kinnear on his efforts to make this happen. We wanted to meet with Long Island delegates, evidenced by the many discussions with Jim over the course of several weeks and our agreeing to move away from the originally proposed date to one more convenient for our opponents.
RESPONSE: The only other date discussed was March 16th. The conflict was not a rescheduled date in deference to the ST slate, but rather, there was a similar forum scheduled by the Directors of ED 15/16 in Westchester. In a statement read at the Westchester event (that they refused to attend), the UNITY candidates announced a different event for ED 15/16 to be hosted by the UNITY slate at a future date in Mahopac. Now they are unwilling to attend a forum on Long Island scheduled for March 21. It is not only disconcerting that the UNITY Caucus candidates seem unwilling to participate in events hosted by neutral organizations (the ED regions) in a democratically agreed upon framework (a framework that both EDs specifically asked for) but that their absence is falsely placed at the feet of ST Leadership. From the start of the campaign, ST Caucus candidates have desired open, honest debate with Andy, Jolene, Philippe, Marty, and Paul. We have been blocked at every attempt. Please see timeline at end of this response for more details on the candidate forum invitations.
We thought we had arrived at a proposal that could be agreed on by all sides, but were ultimately disappointed to learn that the LIPC steering committee, in a split vote, overruled Jim and was not supportive of the reasonable parameters we proposed.
RESPONSE: The LI forum format was the same as the one UNITY refused in ED 15/16, yet it is the format most would expect. Delegates and Presidents would like to hear from both slates at the same time. We are in the same union and face the same problems. Regions have no obligation to conduct a forum in a manner that either slate demands. The ST Caucus slate has accepted every invitation extended to us, regardless of format. It must be noted that it seems disingenuous to stand for transparency, diversity, and action when UNITY candidates suggested an hour and a half for their candidates, then a separate hour and a half for our candidates, with no opportunity for delegates, presidents, AND MEMBERS to ask questions of both slates simultaneously.
As our slate took shape, we pledged to run a clean, issue-based campaign free from personal attacks and derogatory speech about other locals with whom we disagree. The idea was simple - to have an election that didn't further divide this union at a time when it is critically important to be united.
RESPONSE: This has been a clean campaign, free from personal attack. It is simply not a dirty campaign to speak truth to power and to discuss the significant losses our members have faced during the last nine years. Union leadership requires a thick skin. The ST Caucus will never place personal sensitivities over the needs and demands of members to be able to ask tough questions and receive transparent responses.
This continues for some time over more issues but I want to succinctly tell you why Unity won't be debating in the same room as ST.
Unity knows their presidential candidate Andy Pallotta will lose a debate badly to ST's candidate Mike Lillis.
Just read our report of the 2014 forum held on Long Island. Our friend Arthur Goldstein, running against Pallotta for Executive Vice President, just threw Pallotta's horrible legislative record in his face which led to Stronger Together easily winning over the crowd. Here is some of our coverage from 2014 when I was in the room as a guest.
New York State United Teachers is all of the local non supervisory educator related unions (and some non educator unions) in New York State combined into one statewide union. On April 5, NYSUT will have its first contested election in its history. The election will take place at the NYSUT Representative Assembly. Only Delegates can vote; the rank and file will be shut out.
To help Delegates make their decision, The Long Island President's Council hosted a forum last night for candidates for the five NYSUT officer positions. If last night's crowd reaction was a poll, President Richard Iannuzzi and his Stronger Together slate should breeze to reelection. Andrew Pallotta, who split from Iannuzzi recently to help form Revive NYSUT, was put on his heels most of the night trying to deflect very tough questions and some attacks on his legislative record. His colleagues, including presidential candidate Karen Magee, looked tentative at times.
Conversely, the four candidates from Stronger Together, led by Iannuzzi, came armed with facts and figures to confidently defend their records and provide a vision for the next three years.
Iannuzzi and the other three officeholders were joined by none other than Arthur Goldstein, Chapter Leader from Francis Lewis High School, aka NYC Educator. Arthur had a very impressive debate debut as he put his opponent Pallotta, the incumbent officer who defected from Iannuzzi, on the defensive most of the evening by merely emphasizing the awful laws that have been passed in New York the last few years under his watch. The Executive Vice President is in charge of NYSUT's political operation and has a big say over which candidates get voluntary COPE money from us.
Arthur and Karen Magee were the only two candidates who played much offense. Arthur went after Pallotta's failure as the Executive Vice President. Pallotta was compelled to answer for the inferior new pension Tier VI, the 2% property tax cap and the horrible Annual Personnel Performance Review (APPR) system. Pallotta was also questioned about Revive's possible support for Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The highlight of the evening was when a question was asked about whether or not we should endorse Cuomo's reelection. Arthur answered with a definitive no and launched into an attack on the governor's anti-union, anti-public education, pro-charter school record.
Pallotta, on the other hand, responded to the question by saying that it is not up to him to endorse candidates. He explained that the Union has a process involving many people and he would let the process play out. This answer did not please the crowd who loudly accused Pallotta of trying to duck the question. This prompted Pallotta to respond by noting he would not personally be endorsing Cuomo.
Pallotta's record has not improved over the last three years. In fact it worsened with the Educational Transformation Act of 2015. He can only win the election because of the Unity loyalty oath that Unity-UFT compels its members to sign that will ensure UFT Delegate votes for Pallotta. If they do not, I doubt they will ever go to another convention at member expense. Since the UFT is the largest local in the state by far, Pallotta starts the election with a huge advantage.
If, however, we want to improve the union, a first giant step would be to remove Unity Caucus from power at any level.
*Full disclosure: I have endorsed Mike Lillis and the ST slate. This piece is my view only. ICE, MORE and New Action have not made any endorsements in this election.