From April 7-8, the New York State Union of Teachers (NYSUT) will be holding its triennial elections at the Representative Assembly in New York City at the Hilton. Most of us are not aware that New York City represents approximately a third of the voting delegates, all members of the Unity caucus/UFT, and it is the dominating force at the state level that has made many smaller locals join forces to form the first ever opposition caucus called Stronger Together.
MORE took part in the formation of ST caucus three years ago when we ran six At-Large positions for the NYSUT Board of Directors alongside our ally, Beth Dimino, from Port Jefferson Station, Long Island. Arthur Goldstein, now one of seven MORE members who secured a UFT high school executive board seat, ran for Executive Vice President of NYSUT. (Watch Lauren Cohen and Mike Shirtzer’s speech: https://youtu.be/AbkqXmDz62Y.)
Three years later, the Stronger Together Caucus has new leadership with one MORE representative serving on its executive board. They are running four candidates for five officer positions. Michael Lillis, president of the Lakeland Federation of Teachers, serves as director of ST and is running for NYSUT President. Bianca Tanis, is running as Executive Vice President, Megan de la Rosa for 1st Vice President and Nate Hathaway for Secretary/Treasurer. The opposition, on the other hand, comprises members from the Unity power structure. Current V.P. and Unity loyalist, Andy Pallota, is running for President along with four other candidates. With five officer positions up for grabs, ST caucus has left one open, guaranteeing it for a Unity candidate.
ST caucus sent out a preliminary call for nominations via email and social media. There is a lack of clarity around whether MORE members from NYC would be considered for an officer position had anyone been nominated, since the executive board voted to attempt a negotiation with Unity Caucus in their vie for positions. At the same time, ST indicated that any at-large candidates (non-officer) from any local would be included on their campaign literature.* This issue has sparked tension between members of MORE and statewide allies who have worked together around supporting opt out, decrying the teacher evaluation system, and calling out our union leadership for spending Vote-COPE funds on the election of pro-privatizer politicians.
Before you read on, it is important to remember that democracy is messy. It involves the ability to acknowledge that there will be more than one point of view, but ultimately, it is up to us to come to a common understanding. Here are some perspectives, and we invite MORE members to weigh in:
- The goal of the ST executive board is to take over the leadership of the Unity entrenched NYSUT, and to them, it means working within its current power structures. They are confident they can win based on their positions and track record on key issues, such as opt out, teacher evaluation system and working with state parent groups to identify and promote elected officials.
- Individual MORE members have expressed their personal opinions on their existing blogs. The viewpoints expressed range from complete disagreement with the ST executive board to support for the candidates based on the strong sentiment that we must have a different leadership. One major point of contention is the ST Executive Board’s decision to entertain a negotiation with Unity Caucus.
These are uncertain times, and to build a strong, democratic union, we must resist the current threats to our working conditions. Therefore, we invite fellow members of MORE to weigh in on how MORE should position itself in the current NYSUT elections in the comment section below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The deadline to register as a nominee was February 9.