Archives For ELECTIONS

The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) voted unanimously at our last General Body meeting to propose that the United Federation of Teachers, instead of sitting out this gubernatorial race, endorse the pro-public education platform presented by Howie Hawkins for Governor and Brian Jones for Lieutenant Governor.

MORE prepared to present a resolution at Wednesday’s Delegate Assembly. The UFT leadership, however, did not allow this discussion. Despite being informed in advance that MORE chapter leaders and delegates intended to raise this resolution for debate and voting, UFT leadership called time on the ten-minute new motion period, thus prohibiting this conversation. In fact, though Michael Mulgrew’s President’s Report was longer than 45 minutes, there was no mention of this Governor’s race.

Though UFT and NYSUT leadership remain silent regarding the upcoming Gubernatorial race, we pledge go to the polls and vote for the only public school positive, teacher-and-student friendly candidates in this race.  We encourage fellow friends of public education to join us in voting Hawkins/Jones!

Why? Here are just a few of the many reasons:

  • Both Andrew Cuomo and Rob Astorino vocally support the privatization of education through the expansion of charter schools. In contrast, the Green Party ticket of Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones opposes charter schools.
  • Andrew Cuomo has pushed through an expansion of testing statewide and the punitive linking of test scores to teacher evaluations. The Hawkins/Jones ticket opposes an emphasis on high stakes testing.
  • Andrew Cuomo implemented a destructive tax cap that has forced massive layoffs of teachers in upstate districts.
  • New York State AFL-CIO and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) have declined to endorse Cuomo because of his anti-education policies.
  • Astorino and Cuomo are both millionaires while Hawkins and Jones are both union activists, Hawkins in Teamsters, Jones in the UFT and PSC.
  • The Hawkins/Jones platform of a Green New Deal calls for
    • equitable funding for all of our schools,
    • reduced class sizes across the state,
    • support for programs that promote desegregation in our schools,
    • an end to zero-tolerance discipline policies driving the school-to-prison pipeline,
    • and allowing schools to develop methods of assessment organic to the learning process. 
  • To learn more, Read their letter to teachers here, and spread the word using the voter guide below. 
MORE/UFT Caucus Pro-Education Positions Hawkins/ Jones (Green) Cuomo(Dem.) Astorino(Rep.)
Against the Expansion of Charter Schools
Against High Stakes Testing, Against APPR (New teacher evals) / Supports Parents & Students’ Right to Opt Out of High Stakes Tests
Against Common Core?
Union member or Millionaire Candidates? Union Millionaire Millionaire
Fight corporate ed deform by rescinding NY’s Race to the Top application and replacing NYSED commissioner John King
Tax Top 5% and Eliminate State Property Tax Cap to Fund Schools
Supports unionism, social movements and a $15/hr minimum wage

Don’t sit this election out, vote for a real change in Education Policy!  Vote Hawkins/Jones!

Today, our six MORE candidates for NYSUT Board of Directors will contend for votes at the the NYSUT Representative Assembly.  They are Julie CavanaghLauren CohenJames EternoJia LeeFrancesco Portelos, and Mike Schirtzer

We are also supporting Arthur Goldstein for Executive Vice President and Beth Dimino for At Large Director.

New, Positive & Independent Leadership for NYSUT

  • A Strong Rank & File Member Driven Union That Will Take Action in Defense of Our Educators and Students
  • Repeal The Common Core Standards
  • Teacher Autonomy Without High-Stakes Testing
  • Evaluation Based on Collaboration, Not Measured by Test Scores and Cookie-Cutter Rubrics

Continue Reading…

Bill_de_Blasio_and_family

By Mike Schirtzer

Teacher/UFT Delegate

Leon M. Goldstein High School- Brooklyn, NY

Congratulations, Mr. Mayor Elect, no matter one’s politics there is universal agreement that twelve years of rule is enough, it’s time for a new day. I’m sure you have already heard from the so called education experts on how to best “fix” our schools. Some of our friends have already told you how to best address the education needs (Diane Ravitch and Assailed Teacher). Rather than write you a laundry list of everything we want to help our public school system we have one simple request; visit our public schools and speak to the real stakeholders, educators, parents, and of course our children.

There it is Mr. de Blasio, you have already said education is a top priority, so take time and actually show up unannounced to public schools around New York City. Please don’t show up with an army of advisors and consultants, when the “iPad mafia’ comes in from the DOE it disturbs our classroom by diverting our students attention. You do not need cameras or reporters either. It’s simple, show up, sit down, listen, observe, ask questions and find out the truth for yourself. Our elementary school teachers have a great expression, “use your five senses,” that’s great advice that can help your evaluation. I know there are bunch of folks at Tweed (DOE headquarters) who have fancy titles and resumes full of “qualifications’ that they believe makes them experts, but better to speak the real experts, the people on the ground, find out the truth for yourself.

Visit all types of schools, ones that are considered high performing, ones that have been labeled “failing,” those that are forced to share room with charters, schools in communities where poverty is the norm, and schools where parents associations and alumni have made up for the wave of budget cuts. When you get there sit in on our classes, watch what teachers do. Take time to speak to them afterwards. Find out from teachers about how all these new policies such as Common Core  standards, new aligned curriculum, evaluation schemes, and proliferation of testing is affecting our students. After you’re done talking to teachers, visit the guidance counselors, deans, paraprofessionals, and other educators and find out their thoughts on all the changes made in the last twelve years.

Hopefully you can find some principals and assistant principals to talk to who preceded the Bloomberg era and can explain to you how our school system has changed for the better or the worse. Ask them their thoughts on the leadership academies, where inexperienced educators are left to run their own schools. Ask them how much sovereignty they actually have. It would be a really good idea to sit down and run a budget analysis with them, make sure to to focus on the allocations for “network support” and “educational consultants”.  It would also help you out to ask our school leaders about networks, superintendent offices, consultants, Tweed, and if all that money being diverted to these levels of bureaucracies could be better used in the schools. Find out the impact that these so called experts are having on our children and if we can better allocate public funds, such as reducing class size, adding more after-school programs, and wrap-around services.

And while you are talking to the educators and leaders, meet with parents, ask them their thoughts on all the new curriculum changes and testing. Find out how closing schools and co-locating ten schools in one building is affecting their children’s education. Ask them how to fix education and if poverty matters. Give them the “company” line that “poverty is just an excuse”, lets see their reaction to that! Ask them if the lack of healthcare or a pathway to citizenship affects their children’s education.

Finally, make time to sit down with the most important group of all, the real experts, our students. Have lunch with them, taste the food, find out their thoughts on school, what they want, what they need. Do they like all the test prep, less creative-arts classes, less physical education, less after-school programs, What do they think of their teachers, their principals, all the school faculty? Talk to the children who had their community schools closed or lost space to fancy new charters, investigate what has been the impact of Bloomberg’s policies on these innocent children. Ask our students how education can be improved, talk to high school students about the limited choice of courses due to budget cuts, find out how our younger elementary children have gone from playing and enjoying school to being drilled for tests on a daily basis, discuss with our middle school children how much stress they have from the constant practice for their ELA and Math exams. The main question for all our children has to be, is the obsession with bubbling in the correct answer making your educational experience better?

We don’t think this is too much to request. Visit schools, talk to the stakeholders, and let these conversations dictate your educational policies and choice for chancellor, not the experts who are lined up at your door, but have never spent a day in our schools. This is our only wish, Mr. Mayor Elect, we only hope you take our advice. As one of the few, if not the only organized group of actual rank and file educators that are actively working in public schools we are more than happy to open our doors to you.

No-Contract-only-001

By Kit Wainer

Teacher/Chapter Leader Leon M. Goldstein High School

2007 TJC/ICE UFT Presidential Candidate

The UFT leadership’s strategy for winning us a fair contract crashed and burned on September 10. Although we have been working under an expired contract since October 2009 UFT President Michael Mulgrew has refused to lead us in the kind of movement that could have pressured the Bloomberg administration to negotiate in good faith. Instead, the president and the ruling Unity caucus banked everything on the 2013 mayor’s race. They calculated that by backing a winning candidate they could get us a friendly mayor from whom they could expect a fair contract. No union or community mobilization would be necessary. It was a naive strategy from the beginning. But when Democratic primary voters rejected Bill Thompson, the UFT’s choice, they also foiled the entire UFT strategy.

Mulgrew’s strategy

From his presentation to the September 12 Chapter Leaders meeting, one never would have guessed that Mulgrew’s electoral strategy had failed. There was no reflection on the strategic choice UFT leaders made in early 2013. Nor was there consideration of the implications of Thompson’s defeat for UFT strategy in the future.

Yet throughout the spring of 2013 the Mulgrew/Unity leadership imbued the Democratic primary with historic importance. Insisting that it would be impossible to negotiate with City Hall until Bloomberg left office, Mulgrew gradually built dramatic tension over whether to participate in the mayoral race and whom to endorse. UFT Political Action Director Paul Egan gave scientific-sounding presentations to the Delegate Assembly outlining the metrics the union would use to evaluate the race, judge the viability of each candidate, and determine the UFT’s potential impact. After deciding to enter the race the union hosted candidate forums in each borough office, fueling speculation about whom the UFT would ultimately pick. The drama culminated in the Thompson endorsement at the June Delegate Assembly. June’s dull-crescendo was well orchestrated, if somewhat insulting. The delegates were allowed to democratically vote on the endorsement. Yet the choice of Thompson had already been leaked to the press before the delegates arrived. There were already Thompson yard signs printed with the UFT’s name on it. And Thompson himself was in attendance at the Delegate Assembly before the vote had been taken.

The undertone of all of Mulgrew’s and Egan’s presentations last spring was that then-front-runner Christine Quinn would continue Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s agenda, but if the UFT could swing the primary to a different candidate, that candidate would owe us something after the election. The assessment proved to be wrong in every respect: Quinn’s front-runner status was short-lived for reasons that had nothing to do with the UFT, the UFT’s candidate lost by a substantial margin, and there is simply no evidence that the UFT had any meaningful impact on the race.

What went wrong?

The Mulgrew/Unity strategy was flawed from the beginning. UFT leaders fundamentally misunderstood where our union’s strength lies and gambled the union’s energies and resources in a game that is rigged against us.

Underlying the UFT’s approach to the 2013 elections is the assumption that the union’s strength comes from its treasury, its phone banks, its staff, and its political connections. The UFT is, after all, a substantial institution with a large full-time staff, millions of dollars in monthly dues income, and hundreds of millions worth of New York real estate assets. But no labor organization will ever have the financial or bureaucratic resources to compete with hedge fund billionaires, corporate networks, or political machines that are more than a century old and have a significant stake in influencing the next mayor. Those elite forces can outspend, out advertise, and out phone-bank any union. No wonder the UFT has not picked a winning mayoral candidate since 1989.

What’s a union to do?

October 2013 will mark our fourth year working under an expired contract. Yet the UFT has not yet begun to organize union members for the kind of fight that would be necessary to win us a good deal. Nor has it begun to build grass roots community movements against school closings, test-driven curricula, and school privatization that could change the political climate in the city. Instead of staking our futures on the union’s ability to influence the mayor’s race, the UFT should have followed the example of the Chicago Teachers Union. In fact, it is not too late for our union to do so now.

In 2012 the Chicago Teachers Union launched a series of escalating mobilizations — pickets, rallies, marches — culminating in a strike last September. At the same time they built alliances with parent and community organizations against corporate “education reform” and against the destruction of neighborhood schools. The CTU exposed the racist nature of the broad attacks on public education by pointing out that schools in low-income, non-white neighborhoods were among the first to be closed. The UFT should follow the Chicago example and begin a city-wide fightback involving union members and parent and community activists.

We also need to democratize our union. At no point last spring did members ever have a forum in which they could discuss strategy, or even provide input on whom the UFT should endorse or whether a mayoral endorsement was the best tool to win a good contract. Ironically, the undemocratic nature of UFT decision-making probably hampered the leadership’s ability to influence the Democratic primary. Few union members seemed to know or care whom their leaders had endorsed. So far there is no evidence to suggest that the UFT endorsement even influenced how union members voted. We need a leadership that can win back the confidence of a membership that is becoming increasingly discouraged and tuning the union out.

On September 18 the UFT Delegate Assembly voted to endorse Democratic nominee Bill DeBlasio. Once again Mulgrew had already held a media event with the DeBlasio before the DA had a chance to vote. No delegate was allowed to speak against the motion to endorse the Democratic candidate and DeBlasio arrived just as the vote was being taken.

Regardless of what happens in the general election the union should start now to mobilize us and our communities against the horrors of the new evaluation system, school closings and privatization, and test-driven curricula. If we do that we have a chance to turn this union around, pressure the next mayor, and  win a decent a contract. But simply waiting for a new mayor is not viable strategy. Nor is any course of action that relies exclusively on union staff, dues income, and political connections. The UFT now has 170,000 members. We need to remember that word: “members.”

These views may or may not represent the official position of the MORE caucus

The following will be part of a series of posts based on our summer series forum that was presented on Thursday 7/25/2013. The purpose was to share the various perspectives on how we, an opposition caucus,  views Unity, the dominant party in power of the UFT? As potential partner, foe or something in between? There were four presentations, this is an introduction for the next three to be posted in the upcoming days. These views do not necessarily represent those of MORE, rather they are part of the diverse viewpoints that represent our membership.

[UPDATED WITH AUDIO]

By Norm Scott

Publisher of Ed Notes Online

Member of ICE, GEM, MORE

Diane Ravitch’s recent  post, My Friend Randi Weingarten garnered over 250 comments, mostly critical of Randi and some of Diane for posting this (I think it was a good thing she did),

Diane wrote:

It serves no purpose for those of us opposed to teacher-bashing and corporate reform to fight among ourselves. We must stand together so that we will one day prevail over those who want to destroy public education and the teaching profession. We can’t win if we are divided. I will do nothing to help those who pursue a strategy of divide and conquer. They want us to fight among ourselves. I won’t help them.

Peter Goodman – Ed in the Apple blog – Unity Caucus shill – retired District 22 Rep.

Unfortunately the union movement has spent too much time fighting internally rather than concentrating on their enemies…

For the past 45 years this has been the constant Unity line used to kill internal criticism and brand it anti-union.

There have been internal debates for years in ICE, GEM and MORE on this issue. How far does an opposition caucus go in criticizing the leadership? Does it risk blow back — feeding into a sense of anti-unionism, especially from the newer generation of teachers who often enter with an anti-union bias? How do you try to compete for power in the UFT without being critical? How does MORE manage to counter the so-far successful propaganda campaign by Unity over the last 2 decades that it is the mayors (Giuliani and Bloomberg) who are the problem, not the people running our union?

Julie Cavanagh sent me this question:

How do we connect our members to our union and help them to understand its importance and galvanize them to get involved– how do we overcome the disenfranchisement and disconnectedness and instead convince people our union is actually a force for good and justice locally, nationally, and globally?

We basically put forth the concept Julie is talking about in our film The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. But I have trouble saying what Julie is talking about the union without qualifying it. How do we do the above with a union leadership that at best can be considered ineffective and at worst collusive with our enemies? I won’t get into the whys and wherefores of motivation or reasons for their actions  this time but maybe some answers will emerge later today.

Other questions that have come up:

What strategies and tactics should an opposition caucus use in relating to the union leadership? Should the opposition work with the leadership? If so, when, how and under what terms? If it’s going to be critical, what kind of tone should be maintained? If the decision is to criticize/attack the leadership, then how should it be done, while making it clear to all that The Union is always to be supported [unless it goes so far off the tracks, this is impossible morally and politically]? In other words, how can the leadership be separated from the Union in the eyes of the rank and file? And should it?

Given the power balances in the UFT do you attempt to lobby the leadership towards better policies? That’s pretty much what New Action does. They have no grassroots and they play the role of a loyal opposition — not even an opposition given that they could not win one position in an election without Unity support.

Some in MORE think that the leadership can be pressured, but instead of playing the inside New Action game, by organizing enough rank and file and the leadership will be forced to respond.

Some think the UFT leadership cannot really be pressured to change direction, given their history of capitulation and even when they look like they are doing something right, that is only on the surface. In fact they coopt the language of the critics (what they say) but don’t actually do anything very much different from what they’ve been doing (what they do).

Peter Lamphere will touch on many of these issues in his presentation.

  • what are the interests of the union leadership?
  • why do they act the way they do?
  • to what extent are the susceptible to pressure?
  • to what extent can we work with them?
  • comparing the UFT leadership to other union leaderships.

I hear all the time, even from newbies: if only we had Al Shanker instead of Randi/Mulgrew we would have a militant fighting union. As a 43 year activist I don’t buy that line and in fact believe that there is a direct line ideologically from Shanker, through Sandy Feldman through Randi and Mulgrew.

Ira Goldfine, my colleague from the 70s and a founder of ICE in 2003 will do a presentation going back to the late 60s through the 90s pre-Randi to show this connection. That Randi did not in fact take the union in another direction. Shanker started the give back ball rolling as far back as 1972, the last time we got a good contract.

The UFT/AFT/Unity leadership has made it easy to be critical based on their support for so much of ed deform.

Vera Pavone will present a comprehensive list focusing on the UFT capitulations over the years.

UFT Friend or Foe is too simplistic a description for what we are doing today. I’m guessing there won’t be a lot to disagree on. We hope to come out of today with a clearer sense of how MORE can navigate this territory and refine the way it addresses the  issue of when to we support/when to we criticize/when do we attack.

This is the start of a conversation and if there is interest we will do an informal follow-up.

Below find a list of items that the UFT/AFT leadership has collaborated on:

  • supporting the teacher accountability ed deform mantra – the evaluation mess
  • signing on to “we must get rid of bad teachers” as a solution
  • variations of merit pay schemes
  • mayoral control
  • common core
  • charters and co-locations
  • rating and grading schools and generation of phony statistics on graduation rates, dropouts, all resulting in….
  • Closing schools (which the UFT supported through the end of 2009 and still supports to some extent), destroying neighborhood schools, dezoning, eliminating comprehensive HS and availability of electives for the vast majority of HS students. Forcing children to travel longer distances.
  • tepid defense of reducing class size, which ed deformers disparage as a solution
  • the contract and agreements in 2005 that coupled school closings with the burgeoning population of ATRs who started off as in-house subs and ended up as the wandering unwanted. Leading to the forcing out of thousands of older and experienced teachers.
  • charter schools, co-location (the union had 2 co-located charters), unequal treatment from DOE. The growing corps of temporary, non-unionized at-will teachers.
  • the growing segregation of the student body—the wanted vs. the unwanted
  • denial of tenure to newer teachers (year after year extensions, discontinues from principals with a grudge — no rights for non-tenured and increasingly restrictive rights for tenured teachers who are now facing even the end of that protection
  • a grievance procedure in the toilet
  • multi pension tiers

By Kit Wainer- Teacher & UFT Chapter Leader at Leon M. Goldstein High School

2007 TJC/ICE UFT Presidential Candidate

2013 MORE UFT Executive Board Candidate

The results of the 2013 UFT election revealed a startling fact: Just 18% of eligible active employees (20,728 of 115,050)  decided to vote.  On June 19th the UFT Delegate Assembly will entertain a motion to charge the election committee with the task of analyzing the problem of low voter turnout in the 2013 union elections. While it is easy to focus on the organizational minutiae of whether the election committee is the correct body to consider this question, or whether it is representative enough, it is important to keep an eye on the broader issue of the origins of low voter participation and its significance for the union as a whole. The declining participation is both a product and a symptom of our union’s weakness. More importantly, it poses an existential threat to the future of the UFT.

Low voter turnout is part of a long-term trend of increasing voter apathy over the last several union elections. It is also part of a larger and equally disturbing trend within the UFT as a whole. When I was first elected chapter leader in 1996 several of the oppositional high school chapter leaders would sit together at high school meetings and complain about the low attendance rates at monthly divisional meetings. At that time there were slightly more than 200 high schools but rarely would more than 40 chapter leaders show up at the monthly meetings. Over the past two years the number of high schools has increased to more than 400 and the turnout of chapter leaders at monthly meetings has declined to fewer than 20. At some meetings participation has been in the single digits if we count only those chapter leaders without part-time staff positions.

Although attendance at Delegate Assemblies has been steady over the past 20 years, it has been very low. The UFT’s meeting hall is large enough to seat no more than 30% of the delegates and there is only slight spillover into the secondary meeting room upstairs. Consider that a delegate’s only job is to show up at the monthly meetings. A delegate who is not coming to DAs is, therefore, not performing any aspect of his/her responsibilities. The fact that thousands of delegates have behaved the same way over decades indicates that this isn’t a problem of individual behavior. It is a larger trend. Inactive delegates are replaced by other inactive delegates.

The success of the June 12 rally is a hopeful sign. However, past membership turnout at union rallies has been uneven, at best. In spring 2005 the UFT did manage to pull off several successful protest events as a build-up to what should have been an activist contract fight. However, more recent results have been disappointing. On December 1, 2011, in the wake of the Occupy protests, the UFT participated in a city-wide union protest. Michael Mulgrew advertised the December 1 march as the one we were “building” — as opposed to other Occupy-inspired actions we were only “supporting.” Then-staff member Janella Hinds came to a high school meeting in November to impress upon us the importance of the march. She argued that if we show up with only 1000 members it will be a show of weakness. I marched in the UFT contingent that day along with the 300-400 other UFT members who heeded the President’s rallying cry.

Analyzing the causes of membership apathy requires some educated speculation. We have no polling data to indicate why people don’t vote or don’t show up. We know that we are in a larger historic climate of low levels of activism, at least compared to the decades of labor upsurges of the 1930s and 1940s, or compared to the growth of social movements in the 1950s and 1960s. However, that is only part of the explanation. Our members vote in U.S. elections at a much higher rate than they vote in UFT elections, despite the fact that going to the polls in November requires more effort than filling out and returning a mail ballot. (And despite the fact that, in my view, decisions of President Mulgrew have a greater impact on the daily lives of UFT members than do decisions of President Obama).

The low membership participation is an ironic — and dangerous — consequence of the UFT’s failures to defend the basic rights of our members.  The impact of the 2005 contract was disastrous. Our work day was lengthened. We lost the right to grieve letters in the file or transfer to other schools and the ATR crisis was born. Now we will be evaluated based on standardized test scores. And at 3020-a hearings the burden of proof will now be on us to convince a hearing officer that we should not be fired. The problem is not simply that we have lost ground. It is that the UFT leaders have spun each giveback as a victory and argued that we are better off than we used to be. Members may not analyze the causes of our decline but when bureaucrats tell them that steps backward are really strides forward, when they tell them things that contradict what they see and feel at work every day,  members simply tune the union out. UFT members have become acclimated to bureaucratic double-speak. We hear it from supervisors, from the Department of Education, from politicians. We have learned over the years to mentally change the channel. When our union representatives speak the same bureaucratic language we respond the same way.

Members respond to the union’s failures — and its refusal to admit failure — by tuning the entire union out. They don’t show up at meetings or rallies and they don’t vote. Ironically, this strengthens Unity’s hand as it frees them of the obligation of formulating coherent arguments that can convince independent delegates that they are right. Delegate Assemblies attract mostly Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus members and have become pro-leadership rallies in which the President speaks for most of the 2 hours and there is little room for serious conversation or debate. Nor does the leadership have to win over activist, critically-minded voters in order to prevail in union elections. Ironically, membership inactivity feeds the very forces that lead to more discouragement and more inaction. And an increasingly isolated union leadership is weaker, more prone to make concessions, and more likely to alienate members. The cycle is tragic but not illogical. Members who are disenchanted with the  union’s trajectory have thus far chosen apathy rather than than the project of building an alternative vision. Frustrating as it is, this decision makes sense for members who have no live experience of any other version of unionism. So many members infer from Unity’s failures that unions in general are bankrupt, or at least irrelevant.

The Unity leadership has turned off the membership and that may soon pose a serious crisis for the UFT as a whole. As some MORE members have pointed out, by acquiescing to the new evaluation procedure, Mulgrew has negotiated contractual concessions without anything in return — not even a contract. Invariably, the state and the city will want more in the very near future and the UFT leaders no longer have the ability (assuming they had the desire) to mobilize the membership to defend what rights we still have. Worse still, the 18% turnout among active members in the 2013 UFT election is a signal that the membership’s lack of investment in the UFT has now reached crisis proportions. This opens the possibility of a direct challenge to the very existence of the UFT. In the national climate of declining union membership and state legislatures moving to eliminate collective bargaining in historic union strongholds such as Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, to ignore the possibility of an assault on our collective bargaining rights would be foolish. An attack from a Tea-Party dominated legislature is unlikely in blue New York. However, a decertification drive from “reform” groups such as Educators For Excellence or Children First is a possibility. Can we be certain that the 82% of active members who don’t care who our union president is will vote to continue paying $100 per month in union dues if given the choice not to? By failing to mobilize our members for the kind of fight we should be waging in this political climate the Mulgrew regime is endangering the very union it leads. That is nothing short of grotesque dereliction of duty.

The good news is that our union’s decline is not inevitable. We can turn things around. The Chicago Teachers Union, which launched a successful strike in September 2012, has shown us that an activist, mobilized membership can fight back and win. The corporate reformers are still on the move in Chicago, but the strike checked at least part of their agenda and provided a living example that participating and organizing are worth the effort. We need that kind of change in mentality in New York.

The Unity leadership seems impervious to the lessons of our defeats in New York or the successes in Chicago. But the Movement of Rank and File Educators is committed to a unionism that is based on mobilized members in alliance with a broader social movement to save our schools from destructive reforms. We believe that a revitalized UFT can energize our members and fend off even Bloomberg-style attacks. We urge you to get involved. The future of your union may depend on it.

The Unity caucus has won the 2013 UFT elections. The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE) congratulates them on their victory, and looks forward to working alongside our union brothers and sisters to defend and improve our union and our schools.

The election totals, however, tell an important story about the state of our union. MORE members and supporters should be extremely proud of our results, but all UFT members have cause for concern.

MORE INCREASED THE OPPOSITION VOTE IN EVERY DIVISION

MORE members and supporters can be proud of the fact that MORE increased the opposition vote (previously ICE/TJC) in every division. Meanwhile votes for UNITY and New Action declined in every division. Compare this year’s results with those of the last election (see chart at the bottom). Most significantly, MORE ran neck-and-neck with Unity in the High Schools — with an elementary school teacher as our presidential candidate! We got 40% of the vote there, while Unity got 45%. We still have a long way to go, but MORE’s growth is the result of all the hard work of our members and supporters who carried petitions, distributed leaflets, and promoted MORE’s message far and wide — THANK YOU!
75% OF UFT MEMBERS DID NOT PARTICIPATE — WHY?
The majority of UFT members did not bother to participate in these elections. Out of 173,407 ballots mailed, only 43,138 were returned. When 75% of the membership doesn’t think voting is worth their time, that’s a serious problem. We can’t read the minds of those roughly 130,000 non-voting members, but we can imagine that frustration, demoralization, and basic alienation from the union at the chapter level must be ingredients in the explanation. While public education is facing an historic crisis, our union has thus far failed to involve the majority of members in a struggle to defend our rights and to improve our schools.
The participation results, listed by division, are shameful:
                               Mailed  ballots           Returned ballots
High School:      19,040                          3,808
Middle School:   10,807                          1,879
Elementary:         34,163                          7,331
Functional:         51,040                          7,704
Retirees:              58,357                          22,462
Retirees contributed the majority (52%) of the ballots. Among UFT members who are still on the job, only 18% voted. When the active membership is less engaged in the life of the union than those who have stopped working (and, in many cases, live in other states!), that is cause for serious concern.
HOW CAN WE BUILD A STRONGER UFT?
MORE wants to invite UFT members — whether they voted for us or not — to join us in the struggles ahead. We’re going to have to organize fights against cookie-cutter evaluation rubrics (such as Danielson), against the plan to tie teacher evaluation to high stakes standardized test scores, and in defense of basic protections such as tenure.
In this election, most UFT members did not vote for any group. But everywhere we go, we find educators and other school-based workers are responding to MORE’s basic message: we don’t have to lie down and accept the logic of corporate education reform. We can and will stand up and fight back!
Join MORE at our next city-wide membership meeting:
Saturday, May 11
12 to 3pm
224 West 29th Street, 14th Floor
CHART: VOTING SHIFTS FROM 2010 TO 2013
slate votes only * remainders are split ballots
Elementary Division
                                    2013                                                        2010
MORE                       1,140                                                 703 for ICE/TJC
New Action              534                                                    978
Unity                          5,111                                                7,761
Middle School Division
MORE                       398                                                  248 for ICE/TJC
New Action             161                                                     421
Unity                        1,185                                                 1,981
High School Division
MORE                       1,430                                              1,369 for ICE/TJC
New Action             452                                                  774
Unity                         1,592                                              2,595
Functional Division (non-teachers)
MORE                       951                                                 708 for ICE/TJC
New Action             754                                                  1,175
Unity                         5,167                                              7,337
Retiree Division
MORE                       1,490                                             1,037 for ICE/TJC
New Action              1,880                                            2,234
Unity                          18,155                                          20,744