Gothamschools.org and Ed Notes are reporting on the upcoming UFT election. UFT Elections 2010 blog is also reporting on the issue. As the ICE-TJC presidential candidate, I would like to put out a call for assistance to everyone who reads this blog.
At the January Delegate Assembly meeting, I couldn’t understand why it was so crowded. There was standing room only in the auditorium at 52 Broadway and the overflow had to go on the fifth floor to watch on closed circuit TV.
The main resolution to pass at the DA said that we would support relief for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. That one was an obvious no brainer to pass. Building for the January 26th rally at the PEP meeting was also discussed as was the usual reminder of how bad the budget is. A resolution from the floor to support the march at the Mayor’s home on January 21st was defeated and some questions were asked but there was nothing on the agenda that would account for such an unusually large turnout. Alas, looking around the back of the room I discovered what was so important: multitudes of Unity Caucus members were circulating their nominating petitions for the UFT election.
For those who are new to this blog, Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew’s faction of the UFT) is the closed, invitation only group that has controlled the UFT since the sixties. They rule the UFT with a top-down corporate style system that one time AFT President David Selden said made the union function more like an insurance company rather than an organization that is part of the labor movement. His book, The Teacher Rebellion should be required reading for anyone who wants to become involved in UFT politics. Selden’s description of the UFT under Unity rule forty years ago is as applicable today as it was then.
The Unity machine is one of the last huge political machines to remain potent in the US. Here is how it works. The leadership (Mulgrew, Randi Weingarten or whoever) dispenses patronage to its followers in exchange for complete loyalty. If a UFT member wants a free trip to AFT and NYSUT conventions or a UFT job, one has to join Unity Caucus or their wholly owned subsidiary since 2003, New Action. Unity makes a big pitch for newly elected chapter leaders to join them. After someone is accepted to the caucus, they have to drum up 100 signatures to get on the ballot for the UFT election to win those free trips to conventions.
A friend informed me that the leadership is asking that Unity members submit an officer petition along with their own petition. Therefore, the Unity faithful will circulate a petition for Mulgrew along with their personal one. They are able to link themselves with Mulgrew so he gets school level recognition and support. In return, he dispenses the patronage. The system works very well for Unity and it explains why so many of the Unity believers were at the DA in January. They were exchanging their nominating petitions.
For a Unity member, showing loyalty to the Caucus is the main goal. Caucus obligations require that Unity followers support the decisions of the caucus in union and public forums. People who dissent are liable to be thrown out of the caucus and lose their perks. These perks include the aforementioned convention trips as well as part time union jobs after school and the ultimate goal which is a full time UFT job with a salary well over a senior teacher coupled with a union pension in addition to the DOE pension. The main requirement for the jobs is that one stay loyal to Unity and not the membership in the schools. They must sell the party line in their schools.
This breeds cynicism and mistrust among the rank and file in the schools as when the Unity crowd sold the awful giveback laden 2005 Contract (longer day, extra small group class, return to cafeteria and hall patrol, loss of ability to grieve letters in file, loss of seniority rights which created the ATR situation and more). Most UFT members respond by not voting in UFT elections. This is a mistake.
Norm Scott and I have written extensively about how the Unity machine operates. To watch them function at the DA last month was something I observed with a combination of grudging admiration mixed with frustration as so few UFT members are aware of how their union really operates.
How can we beat this well oiled political machine? It won’t be easy. We need your help.
If the UFT rank and file really wants to see change within the Union, members should help ICE-TJC. This means voting for us of course. It also involves distributing literature (you have a right to distribute in letter boxes) in your school and in neighboring schools. We also must spread the word on line and through word of mouth that there is an alternative to Unity Caucus. Please get in touch with ICE and become involved in our campaign. Without organizing from the bottom up, we will have no chance and the Union will more than likely continue on its current downhill trajectory no matter who the leader of Unity is.
ICE stands for a democratic union with an involved membership. We will go back to union basics if elected. Our people running for office have proven track records of activating their chapters. If we had the resources of the UFT at our disposal, we know we could activate the members throughout this city. Our public relations campaign on day 1 will be much more hard hitting. No more cartoon commercials; we will show the public the protests that have been occurring at closing schools. Elected officials and PEP members will also be held accountable for what they are doing to us.
This election is too important to sit out. Please join our campaign.