Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Only Thing Unity Caucus Is Good At

Sure we have a substandard contract, and the money everyone else got five years ago won't be in your pocket until five years from now. Leadership expects you to ignore that and say, "Thank you sir, may I have another?" It's also true the contract sets up a new level of due process, only for ATR teachers, and that this, according to the UFT President, represents progress.

I could go on, but I will spare you for the moment. I've been teaching over 30 years, and I can tell you the job has not much improved. Leadership thinks any change it makes is an improvement. Even when they surrender previous improvements they are improvements. This is the best of all possible worlds, you are living in the best of all possible times, and you have the best of all possible contracts due to the best of all possible union leadership. So what if over 80% of working UFT members are so absolutely cynical and disenfranchised they can't even be bothered to vote? So what if the election is dominated by retirees who have no stake in future contracts? Who cares if high school teachers aren't allowed to select the high school VP?

The point is Unity Caucus has a monopoly on power, the system is designed to maintain said monopoly, and if something shocking occurs, like an opposition figure winning the vice presidency, the system can be tweaked so that it never happens again. So that's just what they do. And if those annoying New Action folks should keep winning, well, you can always make some deal to have them support the sitting UFT President.

That deal, in fact, has fractured the opposition for years. It was genius on the part of then President Randi Weingarten. A fringe benefit was that those New Action members who didn't approve of the unholy alliance with Unity broke away, and formed another caucus, ICE. ICE actually managed to win a few seats on the UFT executive board until Unity tweaked the system so as to co-endorse New Action rather than fail to oppose them. Now if you were to combine the New Action votes with MORE votes, they would have actually defeated Unity last time.

Of course, there are always contingencies, so Randi Weingarten met with a disaffected teacher, and a week later, voila!, there was yet another caucus. Personally, I don't know or care what the intentions of that teacher were. I have reservations about MORE, but they have people I respect enormously and I will support them this election cycle, as I did the last. With them, there's certainly no coincidental meeting and no deal with Weingarten, Unity, or any person or entity that's made deals counter to the interests of teachers.

In case the point is not clear, the only thing Unity Caucus is really good at is sustaining the Unity Caucus. The election is fungible, with rules that can be changed any time they become inconvenient. AFT President Weingarten can meet with anyone, offer jobs if necessary, and divert a lot of people who might become serious opposition. I don't think Mulgrew does things like that. Who knows if he answers email or talks to anyone at all?

Right now UFT votes are overrun by loyalty oath signers who will do anything and advocate for whatever based on a free trip or after school gig. In NYSUT and AFT, they vote as told. If your chapter leader isn't Unity, you have no voice in AFT. If your chapter leader is Unity, you still have no voice in AFT because that person is sworn to represent leadership rather than rank and file.

It's time to make a crack in the wall. It's time to make them listen whether they like it or not. Because it will be us who wake the sleeping, or dead if need be. We have made no deals and we are stalking horses for no one, willing or otherwise.

And make no mistake, this will be our year. We are going to break the Unity wall and they are going to listen to us inside what they believe to be their house.  In truth, it's not their house.  It's our house.

And the time for us to use it is long overdue.
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