Wednesday, February 06, 2019


UFT election season is here. I originally planned on sitting this one out as I was very disappointed that the groups in opposition to Unity Caucus (Michael Mulgrew's political party) could not get our acts together and we were divided for this election. However, there is one candidate for UFT President who has tried to unite all of us and stands head and shoulders above the others and that is Lydia Howrilka from the Solidarity caucus.

Lydia is the only one running for UFT President who has tried to work with the various opposition groups. She has met with members of each opposition caucus and is willing to work with anyone who wants to build a stronger union. She doesn't have a political litmus test about who she will work with.

Lydia is a successful fighter. Look at her own story. Today she is a high school teacher but she had to battle to regain her teaching position. From the Solidarity site:

In 2012, Lydia was hired to teach at a high school in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx. Like most teachers, Lydia dedicated countless hours before and after school working to provide an equitable and culturally relevant education for her students. It was only when Lydia asked her principal for a mentor and resources for her classroom that she began to be the victim of workplace bullying and gas lighting. The UFT did little to protect her from a vindictive administrator sending her to the rubber room in June 2013.
Because she was untenured, Lydia was discontinued from probationary service and blocked from accepting another teaching position because of a false OSI investigation. She only discovered the trumped-up charges that led to her reassignment through the use of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) months later. Lydia successfully sued the NYC Department of Education in New York State Court via an Article 78 and through the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB).

Lydia is not afraid to stand up for herself nor is she reluctant to fight for other UFT members as she is one of the co-founders of Don't Tread on Educators and UFT Solidarity Caucus. Unlike current President Mulgrew, Lydia won't be too weak to take on the Department of Education or the city. She won't think of herself as a co-manager of the school system like Mulgrew has become. Let's just call him Deputy Chancellor in charge of the teachers.

Take a look at the platform that Lydia and Solidarity are running on if you are wondering what life will be like if their long-shot bid for power is successful. Solidarity planks include having campaigns for lower class sizes, removing test scores and the Danielson Framework from teacher evaluations, bringing back teacher autonomy in the classroom, and much more including making the UFT a more democratic union that actually does involve its members.

Another opposition caucus calls itself the Movement of Rank and File Educators. They will be running a slate in the 2019 election. I ran with MORE in 2013 and 2016. MORE talks about member involvement and making the UFT more democratic. Unfortunately for MORE, the caucus in the last year has not practiced what it preaches. An organization that calls itself a rank and file group must provide rudimentary due process and MORE badly fails the due process test.

MORE suspends people from their steering committee and caucus without ever giving them a chance to defend themselves. They practice totalitarian style steering committee show trials where people are convicted without ever being allowed to confront their accusers at a trial. The caucus does not respect basic rights. MORE Steering suspends members without even first interviewing or charging them.

MORE in their bylaws say they use Robert's Rules of Order. Here is what Robert's Rules says about disciplining members on page 656:

"A member or officer has the right that allegations against his good name shall not be made except by charges brought on reasonable ground. If thus accused, he has the right to due process--that is, to be informed of the charge and given time to prepare his defense, to appear and defend himself and to be fairly treated." Is it due process if someone gets an email saying they have already been sentenced before they have even had a trial? This is no way to run a caucus, let alone a union.

MORE voted against working with any other opposition group in 2019. It appears they are more interested in pushing their political views than in changing the UFT. It is impossible to defend MORE's indefensible lack of fairness. While I can still work with members of MORE on individual issues like opposing the contract, it is very difficult to support their candidates for union office under these circumstances. I don't want my union to be run like this caucus.

The oldest opposition caucus, New Action, is also running in 2019. NAC will not work with Lydia or Solidarity for reasons they will not disclose. NAC would only align themselves with MORE but MORE turned them down. Like MORE, it seems as though NAC wants to push a political agenda and exclude people who don't share their political philosophy.

Lydia/Solidarity is the only caucus that is not interested in member politics. Solidarity reflects the politics of UFT members: left, center, right and probably apolitical too. Solidarity members have come to ICEUFT meetings and are willing to work with all groups who oppose Mulgrew/Unity. That is called being inclusive.

The last group that is running is Mulgrew/Unity Caucus. Unity controls the Union and has for over half a century. They control a giant patronage machine so they have every advantage in the election. However, Mulgrew pushed through yet another inferior contract in 2018 that includes paltry raises and few, if any, improvements to working conditions. Teachers in many schools in NYC and other UFT members are treated terribly by our employer. When members object to their working conditions, it is like climbing a mountain to get Unity to help. Lydia Howrilka does not practice this kind of unionism. She has no problem calling out Administrators in Need of Improvement. She is a real fighter and not someone who just pretends.

The ICE-UFT blog endorses Lydia Howrilka for UFT President. I am speaking only for myself here and not ICE-UFT caucus. As a first step, I urge people to sign Lydia's nominating petitions as my wife, a couple of friends and I will be doing at her Queens event on Friday. Here is an electronic petition.


Francesco Portelos said...

Thanks for your support James. We have posted our petitions online as well.
It's 2019 and we developed a new and easier way to sign UFT Solidarity petitions so we can be added to the election ballot.

Sign and share for a stronger union. 

In Solidarity,

Francesco Portelos

James Eterno said...

I posted a link to the electronic petition at the end of the piece so people can have access. I wouldn't count on the UFT accepting these, however and urge you Francesco to get 900 old fashion actual signatures.

Anonymous said...

James read my mind! I was already planning on voting for SOLIDARITY. My school is filled with newbies and they always come to me for advice on everything. I will be telling all of them to vote SOLIDARITY. Send the word!

Anonymous said...

MORE believes in purges like Stalin. NAC is mostly retirees like ICE. Solidarity is the only way to vote.

ed notes online said...

I agree with the commentary on MORE. In fact I was the one suspended for 6 months using an excuse that I published somethign said at a MORE meeting -- talk about total lack of transparency. But the real reason is to remove all dissenting voices from MORE. They out-Unity Unity. More is now a loyalty oath organization. You don't have to sign anything but they use their own form of stoning.
So I have an issue with this part: The ICE-UFT blog endorses Lydia Howrilka for UFT President. I am speaking only for myself here and not ICE-UFT. As a first step, we urge people..
This is contradictory - is the ICE blog ICE or James Eterno? We - is that the royal we? Why not say I?
This may not be intentional but it certainly leads in the direction of ICE as a group.
ICE is meeting soon and if we voted I would bet at least half ore more don't agree with James. At least 2 core members are still ib MORE.
This is a James Eterno endorsement and if he identifies the ICE blog with himself instead of the group then he should call this the James Eterno blog.

James Eterno said...

I clarified who the we is Norm. Hope that satisfies you. For the record this endorsement was discussed with Norm who had no problem with it.

Lydia H. said...

Understood Norm and James.

ed notes online said...

I had no objection to you personally making an endorsement but want it clarified that ICEUFT as a group at this point is neutral. ICEUFT wants to be open to people associated with all people who oppose Unity - our meetings are open and what we say there is open - MORE has put itself under a cone of silence where nothing discussed at a meeting is allowed to be talked about. ICE is an open book and always has been.
On the MORE bylaws - they no longer exist. The faction in charge of MORE - FICOM -- weren't able to get the votes to change the bylaws so they just threw them out along with the steering committee they didn't like because it was too ICE-like. The purge of ICE from MORE - only two still left.

Anonymous said...

Opt out, save $61 per check

Anonymous said...

Opt out so you can't vote in UFT or chapter elections. Opt out of voting for anything.

Anonymous said...

Which one of the caucuses supports opting out? otherwise its just more of the same.

Anonymous said...

Because I really need to vote in a uft election where the winner gets 90%. Or for a CL who does absolutely nothing.

derek said...

FYI, I opted out last August, they finally removed the dues.

James Eterno said...

Norm, I found those MORE bylaws online. They certainly were in effect when they suspended people from the steering committee last spring.

ed notes online said...

Right but not for my suspension and also in those suspensions were illegal even in those bylaws.

James Eterno said...

That was my point. They were illegal and unfair.