Monday, December 10, 2012

Can Unity Be Dethroned?

There's an interesting post and conversation going on over at EdNotes as to whether the MORE Caucus can defeat the Unity Caucus machine run by Michael Mulgrew which has reigned supreme for half a century. There's a question, in fact, whether MORE should even be running at this point or spending more time developing the kind of infrastructure and support that just might dethrone Unity in the 2016 election.

I have to admit, I don't know whether MORE can win, but I do think they need to be in the fight. While their chances may not be great against the well-oiled Unity machine, their chances drop to zero if they're not in the ring. Surely no one thought that CORE in Chicago could win, but they did, and then held a successful strike and began taking back much of what the reformers had stolen away.

So, the real question may be, are teachers in New York City as fed up as their colleagues in Chicago? Has the weakening of tenure, the lack of a contract, the endless concessions, the ATR fiasco, the shaming of teachers in the tabloids, and the failure to oppose Bloomberg or mayoral control in the last election got you thinking that a change is needed? How about the collaboration on teacher evaluations using VAM, the cooperation on Race to the Top which will result in unending testing and teaching to the test, and the impending implementation of the 57 page Danielson framework rubric to evaluate teachers? If that's not enough to rile you, think about school closings, rising class sizes, and support of charters through creating two of our own?

If none of this bothers you, then by all means vote for Unity. You will doubtless get more of the same.

I do sense an opening for MORE in this election. There is a looming trifecta of bonehead moves by Unity leading right up to the union elections. First, there was the Sandy fiasco, in which Unity surrendered three work days without a fight or even waiting to see whether the state would take action to excuse the mandatory 180 days that Unity claims are necessary. Next comes the seemingly inevitable sellout on new teacher evaluations. Finally, right before the election, we will actually have to work those three days in February thanks to Mulgrew's surrender. Those three days are key. People will be tired and angry. Can MORE capitalize on that anger?

They can if you help. Let the other teachers in your school know that MORE exists by passing out their petition on evaluations, or telling people to sign online. If you can't do that, just talk to people at your school. You'll be surprised at how many teachers don't even know that there are other caucuses.

While a win might be a long shot, it may not be necessary to effect change. Remember that Mulgrew got an astounding 91% of the vote last time around. Suppose we could cut that to 70% or less this time around. Unity would have to take notice of the fact that the UFT membership is getting educated and is ready to act. As long as they get 91% of the vote, they have no motivation to do anything but sit on their hands and not make waves when the city makes demands.

I want some waves, dammit. I don't send the UFT my dues so they can have gala lunches and plush offices and double pensions, and neither do you. Those dues are supposed to be there to protect us, the members.

Do you feel protected by your union? Do you feel that your job is secure as long as you work hard to educate children?

Neither do I. It's time for something better. Check out MORE.


Anonymous said...

I've been doing my part and spreading the word. It is sadly amazing how little my peers know! I've personally talked to about 30 individuals in my school. Perhaps a handful knew a new evaluation might be coming. No one heard of MORE - not one! Sadly, and it hurts to admit this, I get the feeling of great indifference among the ones I have talked to. I have spread the word and the petition via FB - only five teachers have signed from the list of perhaps 20 or more I shared with - will see how many I have personally talked to have signed on later. It's frustrating to say the least. I literally have to stop myself from telling them to "WAKE UP!" I am not going to cause a "scene" yet there is part of me that wants to. Hoping others are spreading the word as well.

Anonymous said...

I circulated a paper petition at my school today. It's on it's way to the MORE headquarters. Teachers must spread the word!!!

ed notes online said...

Word spreads slowly until there is a crisis -- and then wham. Like Chicago they were firing teachers from closing schools and it still took years for things to snowball.
So MORE needs to use the election to compete and also to build awareness.
MORE has held monthly meetings since last February in hopes of building that infrastructure. A key is a massive ability to reach teachers at the school level through their mailboxes.
MORE is an open and democratic organization --- unlike Unity and the UFT. As anyone knows that takes work and time. Democracy can be messy but we want even a person who shows up for the first time to feel the channels are open for them to get involved to whatever extent they feel they can. Decisions must be made in an open and democratic manner -- I don't want to be involved in any org that functions like Unity -- and that process is not for impatient people.

Since I took the position we should not run I do want to point out that I totally support the effort but am also focused on making sure the structures are built so things continue after the election no matter what happens. Even though Kit and James (the last 2 Pres cand from ICE/TJC) are involved MORE has a new generation of leaders like Julie, Brian, Sam, Rosie, Emily -- a nice blend of old and new. The blending given that people from NYCORE, ICE, GEM, TJC and independents are coming together takes some time given different politics and attitudes.
I urge people to take a look at the structure of the UFT and how these elections are set up --- the use of at-large voting where everyone in the union including non teachers and retirees votes for most positions insures one party dominance. Unless a major % of people actually vote this time which could shake things up. So get out the vote is important -- remind people in your school once the ballots are sent out.
The Chicago experience is worth looking at -- CORE won 1/3 of the vote and made it to a run-off --and retirees don't vote there while we have a winner take all system in NYC. A major component of the campaign will be to make the UFT's system known to as many people as possible. The higher the MORE vote is the less able Unity will be to sell us out. I know Tweed at the top levels were concerned about the Chicago strike and if MORE makes a move watch Tweed support Unity.

zeno said...

It is absolutely on us who are paying attention to what is going on to inform our colleagues about what they SHOULD already know. I ask my fellow teachers about the evaluation on their doorstep and I get "huh?" I will continue to pass the information and try to get as many teachers to really look at what is going on here.