Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Will Stronger Together Caucus Buy Into Fatal Timidity of the UFT, NYSUT and AFT?

After a bruising loss in a presidential campaign, United Federation of Teachers leadership has redoubled its quest to learn nothing whatsoever. It wasn't enough that we went all out for a presidential candidate who stood up for half-hearted, warmed-up pablum rather than real solutions for America. We needed to continue our march toward mediocrity because that's our prime directive.

As such, even after a loathsome reptile manipulated his way into the Presidency of the United States, even after he swore to cripple our power via the Supreme Court, even after he enabled and emboldened vile bigotry, racism and homophobia all around the country, we remained too timid to even utter his name.

Leadership knows best, after all. They understand about manipulated elections and suppression of democracy because that is their stock in trade. When high school teachers get uppity and elect officers of whom they disapprove, they change the rules so they can't do that anymore. When chapter leaders dare to elect the District Reps they wish to support them from opposition, they simply change the rules and hand pick them. That's how you maintain power by any means necessary without regard for democracy.

And now there are stirrings in NYSUT. After UFT and NY State Unity leadership led a coup to overthrow a sitting President who objected to financial support of Andrew Cuomo, there are still hundreds of locals who feel disenfranchised. There is a lot of anger, rightfully so, that NYSUT has now become just another arm of the UFT, and doesn't even bother to pretend otherwise. Thus, there is for the first time ever, an opposition caucus in NYSUT called Stronger Together. Stronger Together is largely the brainchild of firebrand Beth Dimino, the outspoken President of the Port Jefferson Station Teacher Union. Alas, Dimino is stepping down and while there are some very capable people remaining, it's an open question whether there is anyone remaining who can rival her vision and passion.

There is, of course, a potential NYSUT solution for all those pissed off locals. They could run a few members of the opposition on the Unity ticket. This would not only preclude a contentious campaign, but also perhaps mute the vocal opposition. It might even give NYSUT locals the impression that it is no longer being run by the machine that shoved Hillary Clinton down the throats of rank and file with little to no member input. The new members could voice opposition within NYSUT, and perhaps the machine would be forced to pay lip service to member concerns. But it's hard to believe that they will accomplish anything substantive. In fact, it's hard to believe the machine would do even that, obsessed as it is with perpetuating itself via absolute control.

Remember this? This is the campaign pamphlet that Revive NYSUT passed out at the convention in which they overthrew mean old Dick Iannuzzi, who'd finally objected to Pallotta buying tables at Cuomo fund raisers. Despite ostensible opposition, President Karen Magee pretty much said it was Common Core or anarchy. NYSUT never opposed Cuomo, and never opposed APPR. In fact, the only legislative accomplishment they can boast of is making sure that leadership got double pensions.

There really are good people, smart people, in Stronger Together. I'd feel better with them in leadership than the current UFT pawns. But the fact is, even if they make any such deal, I'm absolutely certain it would be contingent on said pawns staying in place. When one of them is replaced, it will be by a sitting UFT official. That deal is already in place and UFT leadership can't even be bothered keeping it secret.

As bad as UFT leadership is, a strong bastion of principled resistance to the counter-productive and anti-democratic machinations of the dual Unity Caucuses is still right here in Fun City. I am very proud to be part of it. It's nice that Revive NYSUT can campaign on transparency, but the heart of NYSUT still lies at 52 Broadway, and they are nothing if not secretive and manipulative. We're still waiting, for example, to learn when it will be okay to mention Donald Trump's name, as opposed to disingenuously attributing the explosion in racism and bigotry to "The Presidential Election."

I certainly hope that Stronger Together succeeds in reforming the union. The rationale is that we are facing a really tough time, and that the only way we can face it is by presenting a united front. Here in NYC, we've heard that song before, specifically from the New Action Caucus. New Action made a deal with UFT Unity in the Bloomberg era, citing the threat that Bloomberg faced to our very existence. But New Action learned that didn't really work for them. Last year they decided to join the MORE Caucus and we took the important first step of winning the high school seats on the UFT Executive Board. Though we are massively outvoted by the Unity machine at Executive Board, we've shown that leadership is unwilling to take firm stands against things like class size violations and abusive administrators. When members see proof of what leadership does and does not stand for, high schools will no longer be alone in opposing ridiculous "seat at the table" politics.

MORE is affiliated with Stronger Together, and has been for a few years now. We ran in opposition to the machine, and I was proud to run a David and Goliath campaign against Executive VP Andrew Pallotta. I don't speak for MORE and I don't make decisions for it. But as a New York City high school teacher, I certainly pay dues to NYSUT, and I can't help but notice that there are exactly zero people elected by UFT high school teachers who have a voice in its decisions.

You could argue that NYSUT has UFT representation, and that's certainly true. But the fact is, in the last UFT election high school teachers decided to go another way. And before you dismiss us as a bunch of cranks, the fact is we have more members than the Philadelphia Teacher Union, not to mention the overwhelming number of NYSUT locals. In fact, my school alone has more members than some NYSUT locals.

Again, I'm not speaking for MORE, or ICE, or any UFT-affiliated caucus or teacher organization. But I can't and won't support any movement that doesn't provide a voice and vote for the high schools I represent. I'd be very surprised if MORE took a position contrary to that. If Stronger Together chooses to go ahead and ignore or even tacitly endorse our disenfranchisement, it's no better than the machine it purports to oppose.

And if UFT, or AFT, or NYSUT thinks that backroom deals will protect it from Friedrichs Mach 2, it's laboring under a serious misconception. We need representation, not rationalization. We've had the latter for decades, and it's gotten us precisely where we are today. 
blog comments powered by Disqus