Friday, June 15, 2007

Memo to Unity Caucus:


By James Eterno UFT Chapter Leader Jamaica High School

For the last two months, we have arrived at Delegate Assembly meetings and received Unity Caucus literature attacking ICE. What's going on here? The election results were counted in March. Why the non stop smear campaign?

Yesterday's Unity attack on ICE was totally unnecessary. Unity is so obsessed with ICE that they feel the need to react to everything we say to anyone. In Monday's NY Sun there was an article entitled: "End of the UFT is Talk, After A Parley in L.A." The piece was about Green Dot Charter Schools. According to the Sun, Green Dot School teachers lack "privileges for senior teachers." Randi visited Green Dot in California last month because apparently they have empowered teachers in some ways.

In NYC we already gave up many of our seniority rights. All that senior teachers have when their schools are closed is the right to be an absent teacher reserve somewhere. Everything else such as seniority transfers, preferred placement if a school closes, and guaranteed placement if excessed were given away in the 2005 Contract. Yesterday's Unity leaflet quotes ICE's Jeff Kaufman in the Sun article saying, "This is the end of the Union." Unity neglected to mention Jeff's next line where he says referring to Randi: "She's going to leave in her wake now a real change in terms of what teachers unions are." Jeff has a point and for proof just refer to the 2005 Contract which ceded so many of our professional rights to management and certainly did change the nature of teacher unions. However, my point in writing is not to keep re-fighting the Contract or 2007 election battles again and again. We want to turn this around.

Instead of continuing in full 24/7 election campaign mode bragging about themselves, Randi, Jeff Zahler and their Unity Caucus should do what Randi said she would do on April 10, the first Executive Board meeting after the election. At that meeting Randi stated that she would work together with other groups and that she was reaching out to people. These sounded like positive steps. However, yesterday's Unity piece reverts to boasts about Randi's election victory saying how Unity's election victory was a "tremendous vote of support from all our UFT members." All of them? What about the almost 78% of teachers who didn't bother to vote? In Chicago recently, close to 2/3 of their teachers voted in their union election. I brought this fact up at the last Executive Board meeting. The UFT is a weak irrelevancy in numerous schools in NYC . The Contract doesn't matter in too many places. Countless teachers who I know feel tremendous burn out as this interminable school year finally winds down. We need to work to build a strong union if we are to have any chance of restoring our professional dignity.

Since the UFT leadership is so fascinated with reading blogs and obsessing over what we say, I have some free advice:

The UFT election is over; you won; now Get Over it!

Move on & fight to rebuild our union!


Anonymous said...

Well said. Just further evidence of the status quo and clear Unity first type of attitude, instead of union first.

I wish you guys would post more often on the issues. As a regular teacher (not a CL or Del) I rely on the blogs for info on what's going on.

Regardless thank you for doing what you do.


Anonymous said...

Do you think it makes any difference to Randi and Company that so few voted? It still got them in, and they are collecting the big bucks to sell us out.

If they fear anything, it would be a totally bad reaction to Green Dot, and (I bet) she already told the mayor he will get it.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with James when he urges the UFT leadership to get over the election and rebuild the union. That's like asking Attila the Hun to rebuild the cities he sacked.

Anonymous said...

How would you rebuild the Union Norm?

Anonymous said...

Many good points made in your your blog posting, James.

I'd just like to add that at Wednesday's DA I had hoped to ask Randi about the Green Dot issue, but of course that was not possible, since she filibustered for well over an hour, to the point where questions and other business were an afterthought.

Had I been able to ask her, my question would have been,

" Randi, you've spoken about how "aggressively pro-union" the founder of Green Dot schools is, and that the teachers there are represented by a union. However, in the next breath you said that they are speaking with UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles, the AFT local) about signing a contract. If there's a union at a Los Angeles public/charter school that is not represented by UTLA, then isn't that a COMPANY UNION, illegal under the NLRA, and thought to have been eliminated back in the 1930's? What are you doing meeting with the boss of a charter school that has a company union - inevitably dominated by management - when the practical result is the undermining of a fellow AFT local?

Just thought I'd try to ask, but silly me.

Anonymous said...

The other question should be:

Are you supporting mayoral control or partial/partnership control?

Anonymous said...

ICE has been against mayoral control since before ICE existed. Norm knew about what happened with the mayoral takeover in Chicago and other cities and he and others warned Randi to oppose it. ICE still takes that position.

Anonymous said...

Umm...the question about mayoral control was not to ICE, but as an add on to another question for Randi(see comment above my mayoral control question)

Talk about a RosannaDanna moment.

Anonymous said...

You lost me on that last one. Who was the prior question for?

ed notes online said...

"How would you rebuild the Union Norm?"

Let's start with a question to you:

Is this statement an admission that under the current leadership the union needs rebuilding? Or is everything just hunkey dorey as proclaimed by the Unity PR machine?

Now, the idea of rebuilding the union post-2002, 2005, 2006 contract and the disastrous leadership under Weingarten may just be a bit beyond my power. My suggestion? join the Sanitation Dept.

Anonymous said...

So Norm you are saying that the UFT is beyond repairing?

Anonymous said...

Norm the members voted for all three of those contracts so why do you keep solely blaming Randi? Don't the teachers share some of the blame for not looking beyond the salary?

ed notes online said...

Sure teachers deserve part of the blame, just as the American people deserve blame for voting for Bush. Yet do you blame Bush as leader or the American people for the catastrophe in Iraq or Katrina? Leaders often mislead and they bear major responsibility. As Weingarten does.

As to whether the UFT can be repaired, the short answer is NO.

It would take a movement similar to the organizing efforts of the early 60's and a teaching staff with some experience and background to work with leaders - Shanker was a teacher who became a full-time organizer. But in those years there ironically was no fat cat Unity caucus to be there as a brake as there is today.

The longer day and the amount of work load teachers are under, there is little energy left even amongst activists interested in change.

There will be few experienced teachers to organize with given the peace corps strategy of the DOE - 5 years or less and get 'em out - no high salaries reached and no pensions - which has been so aided and abetted by the UFT with the end of seniority protection and a fat-cat complicent leadership interested mainly in maintaining itself in power and stuffed with money to buy out people who might make a stand.

There is little chance of rebuilding the union at the bottom and the top isn't really interested except doing the minimum it has to do to maintain support.

The recent elections, even with the opposition not finding an effective message or a way to reach people, demonstrated there is little interest in the UFT in the schools by the members. I'm not convinced as some are that if the opposition was handed a lot of money they would do all that much better than they did.

Yet, the top level of the UFT will flourish - a head with no body, but with guaranteed dues always coming in. The DOE needs Unity/UFT headquarters as a partner to help sell certain programs, etc -- like Doctoroff at the DA and all the DOE people there too selling their programs. And the Teacher Centers as partners.

Also, the UFT Leadership is there to cut and misdirect militancy when it occurs - like kill the May 9th rally, which even though it was their baby, they got cold feet when it was clearly striking a chord with the members and parent and other groups. Randi actually saved BloomKlein's ass when there was a real chance to kill the reorganization, which if you look, you will see the UFT partnering with some of the support organizations.

Or have phony straw men events - like the John Stoessel demo to give the appearance that the leadership is doing something.

It would take cataclysmic events to create a movement that can organize on 2 fronts against both the DOE and its partner, Unity.

Anonymous said...

A very grim picture indeed. Norm,orm you keep at it when you don't even think you can succeed. Why bother?

ed notes online said...

What else is there to do? There is a need for some check to unfettered power, no matter how little the impact. Thus, opposition to BloomKleinWein. The goal is not necessarily to take power from my point of view. It is to try to do the right thing consistently. I believe I survived as a teacher and a vocal critic all those years, even though we weren't under such pressure, due to the backing of a group in the 70's. We were small but the system -- UFT and DOE -- are such monster dictatorships, they respond to the slightest hint of opposition and even small pockets get way more notoriety than they should. Does it make an overall difference? Probably not. But to the people who become involved it does and sometimes that is enough.

Though bleak, some of us are working with others around the city to set up some forums next year that will be of some interest we hope and get some people to at least discuss the issues that are swept under the rug. Again, the goal is to make it meaningful for the participants, not necessarily to change the world.

Anonymous said...

What else is there to do?

Norm I can answer your question easily: have some fun, enjoy life!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, thanks Norm and Jeff for being out there and telling it like it is. We need more voices like you out there.

Anonymous said...

But what if Norm enjoys life by bugging Unity?

Anonymous said...

Whatever floats Norm's boat.

Anonymous said...

Why such a low voter turnout in the UFT elections? The anti-union Fellowes program, that's why.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe there is a low turnout because everyone has just given up and thinks it doesn't matter any longer.

Polo Colon said...

I am successfully challenging the election! It aint over til it's over! You haven't seen it yet because the DOL allows for the AFT to have "internal remedies" exhausted and it takes months. I'll keep you all posted. PS: If anybody wants to see what's really going on, see my case and others at !

Polo Colon

Anonymous said...

What's going on with the challenge?