The UFT is in uncharted water with the threat of the Janus Supreme Court decision coming in 2018 that will almost certainly make union dues optional in the public sector, including the UFT. Some who comment here are looking forward to the ruling so they can stop paying union dues and pocket the money while people like me feel opting out of a union is a terrible move that will make all of us vulnerable to losing many of what is left of our hard earned rights in the work place.
Long time activist Norm Scott encouraged me to get involved in helping to edit a newsletter called Another View in the UFT so that some of us who are critical of the Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's invitation only political party that runs the UFT) could put out something at UFT Delegate Assembly meetings. Norm, High School Executive Board members Mike Schirtzer and Arthur Goldstein and I put out our first issue at the Wednesday DA.
We were hoping that the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) would be doing this work but MORE is fully on board with Unity's campaign to get members to pledge to stay in the UFT and has at least for now pretty much ceased being openly critical of the UFT leadership in literature at the Delegate Assembly meetings or during the actual meetings.
Some of us disagree with this position. We feel we must continue reporting on how Unity Caucus is running the Union as sort of co-managers of the school system with the Department of Education and not as a real trade union. Norm called out the leadership on this the other night at the Executive Board in his brilliant speech in defense of teachers and against administrators who abuse our members.
Here from the NYC Educator summary of the meeting is an account of Norm's speech:
Speaker—Norm Scott—Speaks about NY Knicks and NY Jets.
Says he was first speaker here 15 years ago, spoke of abusive principals. Asked to defend chapter leaders, they opposed it in 1999. Every week we come here, and there are still abusive principals.
Spoke against principal tenure, was voted down. Sandy Feldman loved it, but said politically it was untenable. At that time they were willing to put something in paper, and had regular features about them. Last week Tottenville High School was here. Principal sounded like the Mooch.
Last year we got rid of two principals, CPE1 and (Townsend) Harris, where parents and students rose up. That’s what got those people out. Union had nothing to do with 50 people who came up, when CL was pulled, and when delegate was pulled.
What about teachers who don’t have 50 parents coming? We could rouse the 50 parents if we wanted to. State of fear exists in many schools because you (UFT leadership) won’t go public. Maybe there’s an arrangement with CSA. Union won’t step on too many toes.
And now we hear, from union, that teachers have to be held accountable. We need same for principals. We have almost zero say, despite committee, on how administrators are chosen. We need to hold them really accountable to parents and teachers at schools. They used to have fear of union.
When are you, leadership, going to be accountable? You say the DR is wonderful, when teachers say otherwise. You don’t hold principals or yourselves accountable, yet you say teachers should be observed 4 times a year instead of two.
Let’s see everyone accountable.
Schoor responds they are accountable every three years.
Every three years there is a UFT election that is essentially rigged because there is no way for a group opposed to the ruling Unity Caucus to have sufficient access to almost 200,000 UFT members spread out throughout the country to have enough meaningful contact with those members to win an election.
This blog documented this cold hard fact back in early October.
Is this the kind of union that the opposition MORE caucus wants us to pledge to remain in? There is basically zero accountability for the leadership and they fully know it. That is why the Union leadership fears Janus. They know that this will be the first chance active teachers and others have ever had to stop giving the UFT money.
I know we need a union as much now as ever but I am having a very difficult time seriously committing to encouraging people to pledge to give dues to anything run by Unity Caucus. The October 5 posting here explained how difficult it will be to fix the UFT from within and what it would take to accomplish the nearly impossible task of starting our own union by fragmenting the high schools (or any other division) from the UFT. We hoped that people might be interested in taking up that cause in the high schools or working to fix the UFT.
There is some interest for starting a petition drive to decertify the UFT as the high school teachers bargaining agent and start a militant high school teachers' union but not nearly enough to be a threat to the Unity Caucus.
As for fixing the UFT from within, I see little or no growth in the opposition caucuses even though the six Executive Board members from MORE-NEW ACTION are doing a great job against the 95 strong Unity majority that all votes the same way on just about every matter before them.
We need people to step up and join us. The new newsletter is one way to tell members that we must do more than just pledge to say yes to staying in the UFT or complain on the blogs. However, it also needs to be read in the schools and not just online or at the DA.
Norm can have the last word:
The problem with MORE Lit is often an unwillingness to take on the union leadership or even mention Unity Caucus. MORE often has bigger ideas it wants to emphasize and wants to avoid coming off as negative. Like take its "Save Our Union" campaign which a minority in MORE feel is better left to the leadership because it puts MORE in the ticklish position of trying to be an opposition and critic - in theory - while in essence urging people to back the Unity party in power. (Some MORE people did show up to hand out a Save Our Union leaflet yesterday.)
I have no qualms about going after the union leadership and am withholding a blanket "Stay in the Union" pending some signs from the leadership of democratization. I am in my 51st year of UFT membership (and will remain a member) and over decades have seen too much on how the ruling party operates. Some of the younger MOREs may need a few more decades of seeing how they operate before they get riled up like me.
Howie Schoor's response to my speech (see Arthur's report) at the EB meeting the other day where I called on the UFT leadership to be held accountable for he failures to challenge awful principals more aggressively and for the climate of fear in so many schools was that they are held accountable every three years in the UFT elections.
I was already off the mic -- I wondered how many teachers at Port Richmond and Flushing and Tottenville HS feel that way --- just wait until post Janus.