The March for Justice and Unity

August 21, 2014 — 38 Comments

peace-unity-justice

This is MORE’s statement on the march with the Eric Garner’s family sponsored by the UFT

Last week the UFT announced sponsorship and support for A March for Unity and Justice.  The march, with Eric Garner’s family at the helm, is billed as a coming together and a call for transparency and accountability in the wake of several prominent cases of alleged police brutality.  A firestorm of criticism of the UFT’s sponsorship of this march has played out on the pages of newspapers, social media, and countless emails between educators, politicians, and community leaders.

There are numerous critiques and voices expressing a range of opinions from criticism of Al Sharpton, to the UFT’s democratic decision making (or lack thereof), to branding the march as anti-police.  In addition, many are questioning the UFT’s involvement at all.

MORE caucus is comprised of UFT members and community members with differing and passionate views on many issues, including the sponsorship of this march.  We agree however as dictated by our points of unity, that we are the social justice caucus of the UFT, we stand against racism and believe educators and our union, must be on the forefront of the fight for racial, social and economic justice.

MORE believes that democratic decision making and rank-and-file involvement and voice in the issues that face our members, our schools and our students is the foundation for a strong and united union.

MORE believes that issues that affect our students and their families are our issues, and it is vital that we stand with children and families whenever and wherever there is injustice.

MORE believes that due process is a right all workers should have.

We do not have the mechanism to engage in a healthy, informed and democratic debate within our union in regards to this march. However, we stand in solidarity with the Garner family, and countless families who have lost loved ones during low-level police-related encounters. Many of our members will march with the Garner family this Saturday, many will not due to the concerns surrounding the sponsorship and organization of this march.

We believe the issues of excessive force, police brutality, restorative justice practices, and the over-policing of our schools including the use of metal detectors are issues that deeply impact and affect educators and our students and we encourage our union leadership, as well as the leadership of the PBA, to engage our memberships in healthy debate, discussion, and meaningful democratically decided upon actions that will lead to the systemic changes we want to see for our children.  Rather than allowing these issues to divide us, we encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite us.

This statement was approved by the MORE steering committee due to the timely nature in which a response was required.  We want this statement to serve as a starting point for more debate, discussion and conversation.

Please use the comments section to express your views and thoughts on the issues surrounding the march, but more importantly let us focus on the reason this march is taking place:  in the last decade hundreds of black men have died during interactions with the police.  The United States has the highest prison population of any similar nations, and a disproportionate number of those incarcerated are black men.

As educators, most of us know of at least one student who has experienced harassment, brutality, or even death at the hands of the police.  Acknowledging this does not make any one of us anti-police.  Rather, with our brother and sister officers we should seek improved practices and policies that will result in equal and just outcomes for all of our students and their families.

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38 responses to The March for Justice and Unity

  1. 

    I don’t get it. Does MORE endorse the march or not?

  2. 
    Judith DeFour-Howard August 21, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Yes. It is very important to underscore loud and clear the reason for our participation: Justice and Recognition to support the Suffering. It is ridiculous for folks who have close affiliation with the cops like being husbands, sons… to think that we are against cops. Folks like these should constantly work with their kinship to help the public reach the others and not fester grudges. Justice for all – injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Let us take care of our little corner and keep it clean.

  3. 

    Thank you for your comment, Judith. We do empathize with those UFT members who feel that they were not consulted in this decision by our union – we need to work on democratic practices within our union so all members feel involved.

    However, we agree with you that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and this is an important issue that affects our students and their families.

  4. 

    The message of justice for all being offered by the rally is not a problem for me, I do however take exception with Mulgrew’s seemingly co-opting the event. It is apparent to me that Mulgrew has little interest in social issues as evident by his treatment of parents, students (especially those in poverty), educators and the education system this bully assists in destroying. Mulgrew would attend the opening of an envelope if it meant press coverage and saddling up to those public figures he is so enamored with. I have no respect for an individual who would “threaten to punch someone in the face” and then attend an anti-violence rally.

  5. 

    As a member of More, glad to see your letter and that we are taking a principled stand on the issue. As teacher’s and as parent’s who are in intimate daily contact with those children most effected by the unequal treatment of children of color in our schools, we have a special obligation to take up these concerns. That there still exists a residual resistance among some trachers to acknowledging our society’s racism and our own culpability in perpetuating it, even if only by denial and passivity, indicates just how far we still have to go.

  6. 

    Peg and OneMoreVoice, thank you for your comments. To Ray and Pontifikate’s question, the post is clear that: “We stand in solidarity with the Garner family, and countless families who have lost loved ones during low-level police-related encounters. Many of our members will march with the Garner family this Saturday, many will not due to the concerns surrounding the sponsorship and organization of this march.”

    • 

      It is a no-brainer that we as teachers of public school kids take part in this, because our work is all about social justice….we should also seize the rare opportunity to answer the union’s righteous call to action, to show our unwavering solidarity with the families and the communities of color who are most victimized by police brutality- the last time Mulgrew “came out” for the People was when the UFT HQ was used to deposit backpacks/belongings of the Occupy Wall Streeters, and for that little solid Mulgrew was under police surveillance, which had to have left a bad taste in his mouth….he missed the golden opportunity of standing in solidarity with the school bus drivers last winter, so I was amazed-but heartened- to see he was finally showing some real and activist leadership on this, the issue of our lives and times, namely, race. And our participation as teachers and at the same time as activists is a direct response to the blasting from that UFT member on SI married to a cop- yes, you can be- and should be- both a teacher and an activist. I always thought that was what MORE stood for, and why I joined and support it! The MORE statement should be revised , and be unequivocal, if we are to put our money where our mouths are!!!

  7. 

    It doesn’t matter who organized the march, and who else will be there- we, as NYC teachers and union members, whose livelihoods are meshed with the lives of young men of color, have a duty and a responsibility to be there, and to voice our support of any street action that legally sends the message that we as educators are on the side of justice, and against police brutality. I for one was stunned to hear that Mulgrew agreed to be involved; the last progressive act he did was to allow the Occupy Wall Streeters to dump their backpacks and materials off in the UFT HQ lobby- for which, by the way, he WAS immediately under the scrutiny , the surveillance in actuality, of the NYPD….I saw a squad car parked in front of 52 Broadway with my own eyes!!! Maybe THAT political persecution, though brief and relatively discreet, was enough to leave a bad taste in his mouth! MORE must stand in solidarity with the Unity scrubs on THIS one; it looked abysmal when Mulgrew was up in a training for chapter leaders last winter while he assigned a skeleton crew of Unity hacks to be in attendance at the Brooklyn Bridge for the school bus workers strike ( I do recall a few Moreistas at that event), and I ALWAYS see Marjorie Stamberg at EVERY important street action, but that was a digraceful lack of leadership on Mulgrew’s part. I think he has no choice in this one, politically speaking, whether he believes in justice for Eric Garner or not. So it is a grand opportunity to support our union leadership on a very visual level, which, personally, doesn’t happen too often. And it should act as a brilliant response to the UFT member married to a cop on Staten island who blasted Mulgrew for “enlisting” the UFT in the rally- I am a teacher AND I am an activist, dumb-dumb!!!

  8. 

    Sorry for the redundancy- I thought my first post got lost in cyberspace!!!

    • 

      No problem Marty – thank you for your input. The MORE steering committee did its best to gather feedback on a draft of this statement from a diversity of voices in our caucus, but of course we are always open to constructive criticism and the discussion on this issue will doubtlessly continue.

  9. 
    Teach them Revolution! August 22, 2014 at 11:07 am

    I MORE really is a social justice group, it would vote to march.

  10. 

    What is missing from the statement is MORE’s endorsement of the march and support for the call issued by the UFT to participate. This undercuts the claim that MORE is the social justice caucus of the UFT. I am out of town but would have joined the UFT contingent. I fear that MORE has shot itself in the foot if not the head.

  11. 

    Just got back from the rally…I came by car so I do not know how many UFT’ers were actually there, but a colleague named Claire was kind enough to start up a chat when I arrived, and together we went in search of our union…they WERE there, I know, because NY 1 had a clip showing Mulgrew and Randi marching behind the lead banner, next to Rev Al and the other Nat’l Action Network Bigshots…good to report that the marchers were multi-racial, multi-ethnic, as expected….PSCNY was visible, as always, and 1199 and DC 37 were wearing their colors.Would have liked to walk with more UFt members, but glad to be there and then to see on TV how huge it really was. The cops were there, too, in force, lots of helicopter noise whirring overhead, Lots of community cops and plainclothes, as promised. As Sam Anderson said somewhere,a fine “photo op” for Diblasio…but more power to Mark-Viverito for being the ONE counciperson attending! Now, Lets hear from Mulgrew and Weingarten and let them speak loud and clear in solidarity with the communities we serve…its Big Mike’s backyard!!!

  12. 
    Jessica Klonsky August 25, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Why is MORE waffling when it comes to supporting black and brown communities experiencing racist violence at the hands of the police? If MORE actually stands for justice, not just for union members democratic rights within the organization, but for all the communities in New York CIty that are served by teachers, how could it ,in good conscience, not endorse the march as an organization? MORE’s role should be pushing UNITY to do more around the issues of racist police violence, not criticizing UNITY for taking the right position! This letter is a disgrace and a total abdication of leadership.

  13. 
    Marjorie Stamberg, UFT delegate, Class Struggle Education Workers August 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    MORE’s unspeakable statement refusing to support the August 23 Staten Island march against police brutality, particularly over the NYPD chokehold murder of Eric Garner last month (see https://morecaucusnyc.org/2014/08/21/the-march-for-justice-and-unity/) speaks volumes.

    Not only did you not stand with the thousands who came out to denounce this racist cop killing, you called instead for “unity” with the PBA, the voice of the killer cops

    You wrote that many of your members would be there. How nice. But MORE as a caucus in the UFT would not. Claiming you are in solidarity with the Garner family is cynical hypocrisy when you wouldn’t march with them. How dare MORE call itself or pretend to be a “social justice caucus”? If you cannot even take a stand against racist police murder you have indelibly stamped yourselves as a social injustice caucus.

    What’s more, you have shown that on the key issue of racism MORE stands to the right of Mike Mulgrew’s sellout UFT bureaucracy.

    You have criticisms of Al Sharpton. I have repeatedly publicly criticized Al Sharpton since 1983 when he wore a wire for the feds. But your objections come from the opposite direction, from people who think he is “anti-police.” Nonsense, Al Sharpton has worked with the police for decades to “cool things out,” keep protests “under control” and divert struggle against racist injustice in alliance with the capitalist Democratic Party.

    But this march was not about Al Sharpton. It was a referendum on racism. Even the UFT knew that. The NAACP knew that, and sent a big contingent. Countless other New Yorkers knew that. They came out, including unionists from SEIU 32 B-J, the New York Nurses Association, CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress, and numerous anti-racist and left groups across the city. Class Struggle Education Workers was there with a contingent.

    The August 23 march was a time to stand up and be counted. If MORE was so blind to racial oppression that it couldn’t see that, all you had to do was look at the barrage of racist criticisms of the UFT for its stand. But, of course, you were well aware of those criticisms, and conciliated and even embraced them. What was needed on Saturday was a massive turnout of labor, blacks, immigrants and all defenders of working people and the oppressed against police terror. Thousands did turn out, but not MORE.

    MORE claims to “stand against racism,” not to mention being for justice, unity and all good things, but when the moment came to show it, you were first tied up in knots, and then came down on the wrong side. Instead of linking arms with the family of Eric Garner, murdered by the racist NYPD, you put out a despicable call for “unity” with … his killers (“we encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite” … “with our brother and sister officers”). Outrageous.

    Far from being our “brothers and sisters,” the police are professional strikebreakers and enforcers of racist “law and order.” That’s their job for the ruling class. The victims of NYPD killer cops include Eleanor Bumpurs, Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Kimani Gray and so many others. The list goes on and on of black lives snuffed out by the NYPD. But MORE wants to work together and unite with the murderers.
    I might have said MORE’s statement was shocking, that it was incredible coming from a group claiming to be a “progressive” alternative to the sellout UFT bureaucracy of Mike Mulgrew and Randi Weingarten. In fact, it is not only credible but even predicable. It flows directly from MORE’s basic premise of “uniting” all and sundry against the Unity misleaders. It flows directly from its avoidance of all issues of race and class, the fundamental questions in this country.

    If MORE cannot fight against our union endorsing the capitalist Democratic Party politicians that keep labor tamed and enchained, and who are leading the offensive against public education and teachers in particular; if it cannot take a firm stand against Common Core; if it cannot point out the racist nature of the school closings; if it was “missing in action” during the NYC school bus drivers strike last year; if it couldn’t march last summer against the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” of hundreds of thousands of African American and Latino youth; if today it can’t bring itself to mention the racist cop killing of Michael Brown in Missouri, MORE has demonstrated that it is in no advance over Mulgrew’s bureaucratic Unity Caucus.

    While the MORE Caucus of the UFT has been lionized by many on the left, we in Class Struggle Education Workers have characterized it as a case study in opportunism. Opposing racist police repression is a litmus test. Today people throughout the U.S. are confronted with the basic, urgent need to take a stand with African American targets of murderous racist repression and military occupation. This is ABC for any decent unionist or opponent of oppression.

    Trying to dodge this with a gazillion words about “teacher priorities” is obscene. What are we as educators if not advocates for our students who are stopped and frisked in the streets every day, and sometimes shot?

    After MORE’s vile statement, how can any self-respecting leftist, anyone with a shred of anti-racist consciousness (or conscience), not to mention class consciousness, remain in MORE? This is not a mistake, it is a betrayal of the first order.

    –Marjorie Stamberg
    UFT member, delegate D79
    Class Struggle Education Workers

  14. 

    MORE gives no coherent explanation for failing to support a rally that (as it correctly states), brings together forces opposed to the mass incarceration and murder of African Americans in the U.S. Instead it chooses to stand with “our brother and sister officers” to “seek improved practices and policies”! As a veteran teacher and individual member of the Classroom Struggle caucus the Oakland Education Association, I am astounded and revolted by this position by a “social justice caucus.” Just as we will not transform public education by collaborating with school privatizers and administration, we will never eradicate state violence by collaborating with the police. Negotiate from a position of strength, based on militant organizing and action, yes. But “encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite us,” hell no! MORE is mirroring UFT’s overall misleadership, but actually is worse than UFT in this case.

  15. 

    Jessica, and Marjorie: You hit the nail on the head! MORE, please respond. Progressive ideologies should be able to admit a wrong move, and/or be willing to debate the issue at hand! The silence here is deafening!!!

    • 

      Any Union or union caucus which contends for leadership must take a stand. “Which side are you on” as the song goes. Yet the members of the UFT, including MORE, wear many hats. Here’s the challenge: Is opposition to white supremacism a defining feature of MORE’s social justice vision that we believe is central to the defense of learning and working conditions, teacher unionism and public education?

      Up until this march I thought it was. I don’t think I was deluding myself but I have asked for a vote on the decision not to endorse the march at the next MORE general membership meeting to make clear the sense of the body.

      The UFT describes itself as “a union of professionals.” A union of semi professionals and wannabees would be more accurate. Teaching has typically been a stepping stone out of the working class. The membership is an assemblage of rich peasants and poor peasants, privileged white peasants and racially oppressed Black and Brown peasants, and a majority female membership lorded over by a male dominated DOE and UFT. The membership includes Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and politics from left to right. Add to this disparate mix the years of brainwashing that comes with a college degree (‘I’m a professional’) and concerted action and solidarity emerges as an elusive but not impossible goal.

      Any group seeking to organize a grassroots movement with sufficient capacity to move the UFT in a more democratic and progressive direction would be wise to sort out those matters that must be agreed upon from those that do not. White supremacism is the test for MORE. Julie and Norm’s comments tell me that the center or middle view in MORE is moving in a good direction. I think that Mulgrew’s decision to endorse the march was partially influenced by his desire not to be outflanked by MORE and not to loose support from the Black and Latino officials in Unity. It would be a very positive step this Fall for MORE to take the diversity petition into the schools and build public support to stop and reverse the disappearing of Black and Latino educators. As Peter suggested on the MORE list serve this is a way to move past the rather shameful lapse regarding the march. But not I think without some reflection on how we came to this point.

      There has long been an undertow within MORE that viewed all this movement building, social justice, progressive and socialist talk as a diversion. The only movement that really matters was to replace Unity caucus leaders with themselves. I’ve been around rank and file movements for 40 years in different unions and those who gravitated to the opposition out of a desire for power and personal advancement we described as “Triple O’s” for Opportunists Out of Office. That is not to say that every MORE member who is politically conservative is an opportunist. Far from it. Events are forcing many “Reagan Democrats” to rethink. Real movements include all types, that is just the way it is. What is important however is that the majority does not permit the triple O’s to subvert the interests of the movement for personal gain or to push their own sorely constricted fears on to the group as a whole. Most importantly, the majority cannot cede control over action in exchange for heartfelt words. The sum total of such a deal is a rotten compromises on race that blunt the focus of our organizing and message.

      This rotten deal should be repudiated at the next MORE meeting in the form of a vote and subsequently through reflection, education and a concerted effort on the diversity petition.

      Peace,
      Sean Ahern

  16. 

    Here is my response on ed notes. This is what democracy looks like:

    The Left and Right Attacks MORE on Garner March Position: I’m Shocked, There Are Social Democrats in MORE

    This is — or should be — absolutely the end for MORE and its sponsors in the ISO and other opportunist organizations. This is what social democracy looks like… Comment on MORE position (The March for Justice and Unity) on Garner march.

    SHAME ON MORE!!! SHAME ON THE ISO AND SOLIDARITY WHICH ARE INVOLVED IN MORE AND SHAME ON TEACHERS WHO DARE NOT STAND FOR PROSECUTION OF COPS WHEN THEY CARRY OUT SUCH BRUTALITY AGAINST BLACK MEN. SHAME! ON YOU!!! RATHER THAN STAND BACK WITH SELF-RIGHTEOUS CLAP-TRAP ABOUT PROCESS, MORE SHOULD BE LEADING AN EFFORT TO MOBILIZE ALL LABOR UNIONS TO JOIN THE SATURDAY PROTEST!!!! … Comment on listserve

    i wondered if they would take a position on whether to come to Saturday´s march. The answer is no. It is a referendum on racism in NYC, and they have capitulated to staten Island white racist sentiment. After a lot of blather, they say “some members will attend as individuals….” comment on listserve

    MORE caucus is comprised of UFT members and community members with differing and passionate views on many issues, including the sponsorship of this march. … MORE statement on the march

    There are maybe fifty teachers here, twenty from MORE Caucus…. Arthur Goldstein on Staten Island at the march.

    Now that the march led by Al Sharpton and his UFT ally, Michael Mulgrew, is over, it is an opportunity to put some things in perspective with respect to the often difficult internal discussions that went on in MORE, which has come under attack from the ultra left and the right. We must be doing something right. So, as the ultra left assaulted MORE, it turns out MORE had one of the largest contingents at the march, including people who were opposed to the UFT and MORE taking positions as an organization, but were in favor of participating as individuals.

    This is what democracy really looks like, a condition that seems to make both the left and right unhappy.

    You mean MORE caucus is comprised of UFT members and community members with differing and passionate views on many issues, including the sponsorship of this march?

    Oh heavens, why do you allow such people in your organization? You must be racists. Or worse, social democrats.

    The ultra left wants a group like MORE to run roughshod over the views of people in the group that may not agree with them – and of course, those people must be racists. They should be purged from MORE in the view of the ultraleft.

    They want only a JALO – Just Another Left Organization — not a caucus that can actually build to the center of the UFT to challenge Unity – but a small ideologically centered group to push their ideology.

    I’ve seen that act for over 40 years – I’ll give some examples in follow-up posts —

    That is what democracy looks like on the far left – my way or the highway, always leading to splits. There is the old joke – put 2 trotskyists in a room and you get 3 groups.

    But the interesting thing is that even if MORE were a JALO, they would be attacked for not being the particular flavor of JALO of the sectarian leftist group that is doing the criticizing. Ask any of them to explain why there are so many tiny fragmented left groups – and how theirs differs – and turn on the snooze alarm.

    I laughed when one of MORE’s biggest critics called on people to march with her group, which as far as I can tell has managed to coral only one UFT teacher in over a decade – her. Someone please send me a photo of that line of march.

    Luckily, and probably to the chagrin of the Unity machine, this is an example of the shocking conclusion on the far left — MORE is not a JALO –

    —- despite the charges from the right in the UFT that MORE’s social justice position somehow means we don’t care about teacher issues. You know – let’s only talk about teachers, never the children, and when we do talk about the children let’s make sure to bash them as violent and misbehaving miscreants – and their parents too.

    Some of the comments bordering on open racism on some of the blogs make me shudder in embarrassment.

    Oh how nice teaching would be if there were no children around to interfere with it.

    And oh, the hand-wringing over the abandonment of our brothers the police and their union the PBA, which has never lifted a finger to defend teachers on any issue and will arrest a teacher on a dime of complaint.

    On the UFT facebook page announcing support of the march there was a flurry of anti-Mulgrew comments, with Sharpton being a major point of contention. (Personally, I ain’t a-marching anymore with Al Sharpton under any circumstances — see today’s NY Times on how his stature has risen due to the march.) Some MOREistas were cheered by the anti-Mulgrew comments. Others were dismayed.

    I just love being part of a group with such diversity of opinion, a mortal sin in the world of the ultra-left.

    Inside MORE we had a right leaning crew who were critical based on the idea we should stick to teachers issues and also support the police as union brothers. This crew often views things as social justice vs. trade union issues. I and others don’t view them as contradictory. And it must be pointed out that narrow trade unionism usually gets you nowhere — while in Chicago, the intertwining of social justice with trade union issues has resonated internally and externally.

    Our pal Assailed Teacher emailed a response to those in MORE who called for unqualified support for the police.

    One thing to consider is the role of former NYPD detectives in investigating teachers. So many teachers have had their careers destroyed due to SCI investigators stalking them, overstepping their bounds and lying at 3020a hearings. The above-the-law ethos that has overtaken the NYPD has also overtaken DOE investigations. This is part of the reason why principals feel so empowered going after expensive and/or outspoken teachers.

    There is a correlation between the authoritarian manner in which the communities we serve are policed and the authoritarian manner that teachers in the schools of those communities are policed. I understand the arguments for union solidarity. However, the police are a different animal altogether. When was the last time a police officer felt conflicted about arresting striking workers or protesters who advocate for workers’ rights? When was the last time a police officer refused to make a frivolous arrest of a teacher at the behest of the DOE? Where have the police been when teachers and public schooling in general were being attacked?

    The biggest argument against joining the protest is the presence of Al Sharpton, who has been an advocate for charters. That is the one sticking point with me.

    However, as the issue of police brutality continues to flare, I think MORE can be well-served by showing how authoritarian policing practices have seeped into SCI/OSI. Maybe it is something that can be explored.

    Let me say this – PBA head Patrick Lynch would let any teacher hang – like has anyone seen one word from him or the PBA on the actions of rogue detective Louis Scarcella whose actions led to people serving enormous amounts of time? Our pal Peter at SB, supporting tantrums by Patrick Lynch, is living in a dream world when he says:

    At a time when we as teachers and a union need all the support and backing we can get to show a lack of support to our union brethren is not right. Yes, it’s been said that the NYCPBA has done squat for us, well someone has to step up and do squat first, why not the UFT?

    Criticism came from all sides, even internally, including a MORE stalwart:

    What is missing from the statement is MORE’s endorsement of the march and support for the call issued by the UFT to participate. This undercuts the claim that MORE is the social justice caucus of the UFT. I am out of town but would have joined the UFT contingent. I fear that MORE has shot itself in the foot if not the head….Sean Ahern

    Also internally there were calls from the non-left MOREistas to stay out of this as an organization. Some were opportunistic I felt – Mulgrew is in trouble over this, let’s take advantage by appealing to the right wing of the UFT.

    Others felt the UFT had no business getting involved and neither should MORE, even though they personally supported the march and would attend. Some have cops as family and friends – “How can I face my friends if MORE takes a stand for the march,” said one?

    Over on the left inside MORE, support for the march was a no-brainer. While everyone agreed that Sharpton was a problem, there was support for Mulgrew’s decision.

    In the MORE center there was an anxiety-ridden attempt to stay true to democratic procedures – as opposed to a Unity like loyalty oath where we see the lemmings march to whatever tune the leadership will call — to take all views into account in forging the MORE position that has come off to some as wishy washy.

    Something that can be supported by the group consensus if there are all sorts of views inside a democratic functioning caucus, the center view – sorry folks – this is what democracy looks like in organizations that do actual organizing and outreach rather then proselytzing a narrow point of view.

    ——which I guess brands some of us as a dirty word on the left — social democrats.

    I and many others in MORE are proud instead of being ashamed of that label.

    The attacks from the “ultra-left” – push button leftist sectarians who have the only true beliefs and are at their most vicious attacking other leftist groups like ISO which has people in MORE, as do other leftist groups like Socialist Alternative, Solidarity and Progressive Labor. While there is no right wing in MORE, there is the social democratic wing which creates a vibrant yin-yang that echos the history of left of center groups going back to before the Russian Revolution.

    Naturally, it was the always awesome Julie Cavanagh, who is not easy to categorize politically – other than as a Budhist, who came to the rescue with both an amazing personal statement (For Deion)
    and writing the bulk of the MORE official position (The March for Justice and Unity) in an attempt to capture the consensus of the internal debate — with support from our only registered Republican, Mike Schirtzer who made a strong argument for some statement of support for the police. I and others were opposed to including that statement in support of the police and I had hours of argument with Mike over this. Julie, who I always listen to implicitly, worked with Mike on phrasing that point and made the case for inclusion.

    Julie is solution oriented. What point, she reasoned, do we gain from merely bashing the police, when in fact teachers and police come into so much contact in schools? Don’t we want our kids treated better as kids and as adults? Isn’t it better to keep open the lines of dialogue with police to see if we can work together to make things better for kids of color who grow up to be adults of color?

    That girl just makes so much sense. But the ultraleft would rather rant and flail away at “killer” cops than actually work towards solutions. [Some cynics claim there is utter joy in some left circles when a cause like someone getting murdered drops into their laps so they can vent their moral outrage].

    i wondered if they would take a position on whether to come to Saturday´s march. The answer is no. It is a referendum on racism in NYC, and they have capitulated to staten Island white racist sentiment. After a lot of blather, they say “some members will attend as individuals….”

    Talk about blather. The person who made this comment shows up at events with a small group of people, mostly college students – I’m sure there were more MORE teachers who attended the march — If you organize – or think you are organizing in a forest and nobody hears you organizing, did you really organize?

    Then this comment on the MORE statement about police – the very point that has set off the ultra left into a frenzy, claiming that by this statement MORE was giving into the pro-police Staten Island wing of MORE:

    This statement by MORE is an unspeakably vile declaration of support to the police. The call for “due process” for “all workers” is a reference to the killer cops. It bends over backwards to say MORE is not “anti-police’ (sic). It goes beyond this usual ritual reformist statement to explicitly refer to “our brother and sister officers” and states: “we encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite us”.

    Yes, let’s call for due process for all teachers, even those who have committed crimes, but not for police. I know, let’s turn the cop over to ISIS and have a public beheading.

    • 

      I have to stand with those on the so- called Ultraleft on this one, as my personal experience has dictated to me that the police NEVER have our backs , but ,:rather , as the instrument of state control and as more and more paramilitarized, act in an inexcusable manner, esp regarding students of color, and teachers who try to stick up for them. Sharpton may be a decisive figure, but he has been the one person of whatever background who knows how to harness the establishment media to get the message out from those abused and those disenfranchised by the powers that be….it is beside the point that he himself is a tool for restoring order….that is something he has to swallow in order to speak for the victims of state-sponsored suppression. I saw a remarkable “truth” come out of him when he went on a hunger strike (!) While locked up in the detention center in Gowanus after his return from Vieques years ago….the military was killing islanders as they used the island for maneuvers….I believed he was in the moment in his courage to confront the military terrorism, and THAT was in defense of brown people….I saw him TRY to help the Hasid’s in Borough Park when the police were heavy-handed in dealing with a schizophrenic who they “executed” when he went towards them with a hammer, and they would not even let him out of his car….so to me he remains a mixed bag, but the one guy willing to fight the powers that be…I do equate Marjorie Stamberg with that portrayal too, as she is the ONE person, over and over, who will not be silenced by the “sheep” who parrott Unity positions at the DAs, who filibuster and squeltch opposing arguments at Mulgrrw’s, or previous President’s, orders, and who “red-bait” her the minute she starts to speak. THAT is true courage, and it is a rare thing. It is time for MORE to surrender the politics of “compromise solution”, as it never gets us anywhere in our corporate Democratic party a controlled union, and move to the Left. The criticism from the Right should be sent as a Clarion Call for where we stand vis a vi the State in our city and country….we are supposed the stay “still and silent”, like “good” children. I say speak truth to power loud and clear, and reject the middle ground, the cops may have unions, but they stand with their State sponsors every time!

      • 

        Martin, I think you are mistaken about Sharpton “harnessing” the media.

        What in fact happens is that Al has a symbiotic relationship with the media that is useful to both of them, but detrimental to almost everyone else: he gets the attention he relies upon for his various hustles – witness his fifty grand-a-year shakedown of the UFT – and the media gets a cartoon figure (Oh, I forgot, he’s doing the “Statesman” shtick right now) that is an evergreen source of distorting and defaming Black grievances and demands by association.

        It’s a Devil’s Bargain to have anything to do with him: yes, you’ll probably get more attention and media play, but you’ll also get the near-certainty of short circuiting any chance of a multi-racial, working and middle class challenge to a system where Sharpton is a (frequently entertaining, but never trustworthy) character actor in the prevailing narratives of misdirection.

        That’s not a bug, it’s an evolved feature, serving both parties.

  17. 

    Thank you TeachForRevolution, Marjorie, Sean, Jessica and Marty for your comments. As Norm has so thoroughly described, there was definitely a debate within our caucus, with a wide diversity of views represented, including views closer to your own but also views strongly opposed to the march. However, our steering committee chose a position that would reflect the broad diversity of views within our caucus. The debate around these issues within our caucus will continue and we invite all of you to participate, and help to build and grow the social justice caucus of the UFT.

    See this picture linked below for the sizeable group of MORE members who marched Saturday, which was a large section of the UFT contingent. Other members, because of the concerns in the post, chose not to participate.

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0nTOSgbZXqgTHFpUkUzT3piVnhURG5LRVJMRVR2b3VPTEVN

  18. 
    Jessica Klonsky August 26, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    That individuals from MORE, even wearing MORE shirts, attended the march isn’t really the question. Individuals can attend a march and they don’t need an organization to do it. But the struggle against police brutality and white supremacy needs organization to fight it. This was the time to express what side you were on and MORE as an organization, decided not to take a side, which as all students and teachers of history should understand, means taking the side of the powerful against the side of the oppressed.

    • 

      Jessica – I believe you are engaging in a form of nitpicking based on whether MORE actually used the word “endorse.” To focus on one aspect and ignore the powerful points Julie made in writing that statement is unfair. It is not beside the point that MORE had one of, if not the, largest components of people at the rally. Exactly what do you see here you disagree with?

      We agree however as dictated by our points of unity, that we are the social justice caucus of the UFT, we stand against racism and believe educators and our union, must be on the forefront of the fight for racial, social and economic justice.

      MORE believes that democratic decision making and rank-and-file involvement and voice in the issues that face our members, our schools and our students is the foundation for a strong and united union.

      MORE believes that issues that affect our students and their families are our issues, and it is vital that we stand with children and families whenever and wherever there is injustice.

      MORE believes that due process is a right all workers should have.

      We do not have the mechanism to engage in a healthy, informed and democratic debate within our union in regards to this march. However, we stand in solidarity with the Garner family, and countless families who have lost loved ones during low-level police-related encounters. Many of our members will march with the Garner family this Saturday, many will not due to the concerns surrounding the sponsorship and organization of this march.

      Yes, Al Sharpton was an issue- a police informer and someone has has, and will continue to, undermine the growth of a genuine movement that might actually prevent tragedies like this. So everyone who marched felt good on Saturday. What happened on Sunday? Sharpton’s influence was stronger than ever while for everyone else was in the same place.
      Someone would have to show me which organizations brought massive numbers of people out to the rally. It is well and good to talk about racism, but when push came to shove MORE showed up.

      • 
        Jessica Klonsky August 28, 2014 at 9:52 pm

        I’m not taking issue with one word, I am taking issue with the letter. MORE’s response has been the strangest kind of talking out of both sides of your mouth. MORE promotes photos of a handful of MORE people at the march while at the same time giving credence to the concern that a police officer, who has yet to be even arrested or charged with a crime, should be given “due process.” What?! I don’t understand the logic of saying MORE supports the the fight for racial justice while writing such nonsense. I think it is one thing to engage in a debate and discussion within a democratic organization. But then the organization needs to take a position. MORE has not taken a position. Therefore, you side with the police by default.

      • 

        Jessica – are you saying he should not have due process? Or a trail? We take a strong stand for due process for teachers and all city workers. If a teacher is accused of a crime we still take that position. We feel the need to be consistent and if we pull cops from the list we are not. I know teachers have been arrested so due process has nothing to do with a crime. If he is charged he should be arrested. How interesting to make ti a digital – side with police by default vs side against police when this march was about supporting the family. It was not advertized about being about the police by the organizers. So everyone put whatever stamp on the march they wished to do. I refused to march and by your definition I am supporting the police and not fighting for racial justice. It is this either/or position that has driven enormous wedges between people – and indeed raised it within MORE. I refuse to be pigeon holed by simplistic formulas. I am not interested in being active in an organization that looks at things this way. So no matter what my history of political activism, my decision on this day brands me for life.

  19. 
    Michael Fiorillo August 27, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Since when is marching behind Al “The Wire” Sharpton a blow against police violence and racism? Sharpton represents, not the struggle against racism in this country, but it’s after-life, and if you want to think that you’ve made some kind of brave statement, you’re free to continue deluding yourselves.

    Sorry, but his presence at any event means you’ve already lost, and been played.

    When I told some people I respect that marching with Sharpton was a deal-breaker for me, their response was along the lines of, “This is too important for you to be concerned about that.” My response was, “This is too important to allow it to be hijacked by a self-seeking fraud, FBI informer, stealth Republican operative, tax and business deadbeat, enemy of teachers, hypocrite, (he sent his own kids to exclusive private schools in Brooklyn) liar, demagogue, hoaxster…

    Shall I continue, or is that enough?

    Speaking for myself only, I don’t care about the feelings of cops or the PBA. Their union solidarity argument is transparently bogus, since their history is by and large one of attacking working people in this city, not helping them. If they want us to feel bad about their being stereotyped, then let them start speaking out and whistleblowing against arrest quotas and the impunity with which the NYPD, as a militarized arm of the Neoliberal State, and some of their psychopathic brothers in blue are encouraged to act. Until then, their complaints transact at a 100% discount. But just because they are self-serving hypocrites doesn’t mean we should reactively settle for the poison and betrayal we know are the only things Sharpton has to offer.

    As long as Sean is libeling fellow MORE members with his “Three O’s,” his insistence on an ex post facto repudiation of the Steering Committee’s vote concerning what was an eloquent navigation of treacherous waters, is push-button Leftism exhibiting the “Three D’s:” divisive, deluded and very destructive to MORE. It’s the voice of someone with an obsessive agenda who threatens to take his ball home if he does not get his wish – something he has done more than once in the past with other groups – and is certain to marginalize the organization before it’s had a chance to actually speak with teachers, rather than harangue them over their racism – as he would have us do – and grow.

    If he wants to take his ball elsewhere, good: he can find other people to play alone with. Perhaps he and Marjorie can experience the deep satisfaction of putting out statements from their sandbox that no one reads, which advertise their anti-racism, but MORE should be allowed to find its own way without grandstanding that purports to serve democracy, while in fact undermining it.

  20. 

    Excuse me: MORE made an OFFICIAL statement calling for the UFT to unite with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), at the same time that it officially decided it would NOT and could not call on its own members to attend a march in solidarity with the targets and victims of the PBA.

    Its *official* statement refers to “our brother and sister officers” while pointedly attacking as undemocratic the UFT’s decision to endorse and attend the march in solidarity with the Garner family and other targets and victims of the NYPD.

    No amount of excuses or fancy word games (or baiting) can cover that over.

    Now a photo showing half a dozen red MORE shirts worn by individuals at the rally is supposed to make the unspeakable official stance of the MORE caucus, officially voted by its Steering Committee, all officially OK? Are you serious? Do you actually imagine you can have it both ways in this fashion? And this is the same MORE caucus that constantly boasts of its size and influence, while baiting leftist anti-racist activists as insignificant “ultralefts” and…”sectarians”? (Yeah, right: the “sectarians” are supposedly the class-struggle oppositionists who did call on teachers, students and all opponents of racism to march on Saturday. Just goes to show that any word will do when it comes to justifying the unjustifiable.)

    Now your Mr. Fiorello evidently hopes someone, somewhere will believe that the reason MORE took an OFFICIAL position *against* marching as a caucus and against calling on its own members to attend the march in solidarity with the Garner family is because Sharpton is too enmeshed with the status quo, as Mr. Fiorello multiplies adjectives on the subject? Please… NOBODY WILL BELIEVE THAT STORY. Everybody can see that what the MORE Steering Committee was reacting to was the “firestorm” of rightist denunciations of the march, the fear of being branded “anti-police” (why else go out of its way to bow down to the PBA?), and most decisively the problems that endorsing attendance would cause within the ranks of its own caucus, whose overriding point of unity is to avoid taking a stand on “divisive” political, class and race issues — that is, all the decisive ones.

    MORE’s Mr. Fiorello also hopes we will swallow his claim that what the march was *really* all about was Sharpton, that Sharpton was the real, overriding issue on August 23rd — not the expression of horror, indignation and outrage against massive police terror in New York, in Ferguson (a place your official statement somehow manages to avoid mentioning) and across the country. Apparently Mr. Fiorello would have us believe that this alleged fact about Saturday’s march was simply missed by the thousands of youth, African American residents of Staten Island and other parts of NYC, anti-racist activists and unionists who attended — including from other unions that had the decency to officially call on their members to attend — together with the Garner family, Amadou Diallo’s mother and others targeted by the NYPD/PBA who spoke there…

    Let us look again at the “firestorm” mentioned in the third sentence of MORE’s statement. You all know, and so do your readers, that what MORE was reacting to came from rightist and outright racist elements both inside and outside the union and from people within MORE’s own ranks who (to put it mildly) believe the union and your caucus should not endorse protests against racist police terror. Everybody knows that the right-wing press launched frenzied denunciations against “Sharpton’s anti-police rally” (while needless to say the Democratic Party operative Sharpton denied over and over that he is against anything more than “a few bad apples”). Everyone who reads the papers knows the NY Post and Staten Island Advance and a host of others blared quotes from “indignant teachers” up in arms against the union daring to endorse the rally, and claiming that the union’s decision did not reflect their views (i.e., was undemocratic), was not an appropriate use of their dues and all the rest of it. That is what you bowed down to.

    And let us look once again at the question of why the PBA crops up in your statement. Not even the most starry-eyed apologist for opportunism could actually believe that this is some kind of random, irrelevant or secondary aspect of what you have officially proclaimed. Or do you think your readers can’t read?

    Everybody who follows the news knows that the PBA was front and center in the a “firestorm” against the UFT for daring to endorse a protest against racist police murder. Everyone can see that this is obviously why MORE’s official statement goes out of its way to state that MORE is not “anti-police” and launches an official appeal for the UFT to work WITH the PBA. Everyone who reads the text can see that this is why the MORE Steering Committee goes out of its way to officially assure “our brother and sister officers” that MORE is against “allowing these issues to divide us,” and officially calls for the UFT and PBA to work together to “unite us.”

    Lastly, though frothing red-baiters in your ranks may denounce this “outsider” because I am not a card-carrying member of the UFT, let me state that while writing in a personal capacity I am a member of another AFT local (the PSC-CUNY) which like SEIU 32BJ and other unions, did at least have the decency to endorse and officially march, unlike MORE.

    Sándor John

    • 

      Next time, please take the trouble to spell my name correctly, and I’ll have more patience for your opinions, weak and overwrought though they are.

      • 

        Sorry Michael, but Sandor John made a statement that is anything but weak..should I have worried about who was leading The People’s Climate March, and refuse to attend because they may have “skeletons in their closets”? Sandor believes in the viability of street action, and knows that Phil Ochs did too, regardless of his song’s mantra, which was really about his own wounded mental state, and NOT the continued urgency of The March for Human Dignity!!!!

  21. 

    I am resubmitting here comments sent August 25 that were not approved for posting (possibly because I didn’t reply to the confirmation email soon enough), with an additional comment in reply to subsequent posts. I am member of the Oakland Education Association and the Classroom Struggle caucus and speak as an individual.

    MORE gives no coherent explanation for failing to support a rally that (as it correctly states), brings together forces opposed to the mass incarceration and murder of African Americans in the U.S. Instead it chooses to stand with “our brother and sister officers” to “seek improved practices and policies”! As a veteran teacher and individual member of the Classroom Struggle caucus in the Oakland Education Association, I am astounded and revolted by this position by a “social justice caucus.” Just as we will not transform public education by collaborating with school privatizers and administration, we will never eradicate state violence by collaborating with the police. Negotiate from a position of strength, based on militant organizing and action, yes. But “encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite us,” hell no! MORE is mirroring UFT’s overall misleadership, but actually is worse than UFT in this case.

    Norm’s long, convoluted attack on MORE’s critics is riddled with some of the most vicious red-baiting by a “socialist” I’ve seen in a long time. It’s particularly ironic to read his rant against “sectarian leftist[s]” and his boast of democratically embracing diverse political views. Aren’t the “sectarians” calling for MORE to stand with all who chose to rally against racist police violence, despite the conspicuous presence of political opportunists and reactionaries like Al Sharpton? Apparently “I ain’t a-marching anymore with Al Sharpton under any circumstances” is a more precious principle in this case.

  22. 

    I do not understand your statement that “we encourage the leaderships of the UFT and PBA, to find ways to work together and unite us.” The PBA is not a union of workers, since the cops are not workers but the enemy of all working people, including teachers. Whatever one thinks of Sharpton’s leadership, there is no reason that a progressive, social justice caucus should not have supported the march, or now the March in DC for December 13.

    • 

      As an after script, the first MORE meeting of the year in September, following the statement on the Garner Rally, voted 34 to 3 in support of the rally and as it turned out there were more MORE members who participated in the rally than there were Unity.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. The killing of Eric Garner and the failure of social justice unionism | TREND HUB DAILY - December 9, 2014

    […] the UFT leadership, MORE refused to endorse the march, though this may have only been a procedural issue. More significantly, their statement on Garner […]

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