Friday, November 23, 2018

MORE Loses 100% of the Fights It Wins

The title is a play on something I saw on the MORE blog, which said something like "UFT loses 100% of the fights it doesn't take on."

MORE has decided not to run with New Action, with whom they won the 2016 high school seats. I hear they didn't like it when NA's Jonathan Halabi supported the contract, and the caucus took a too-nuanced position.

I can only suppose they also didn't like it when 87% of membership also supported the contract. It's one thing to drop New Action and ensure a loss. It's another to suggest that 87% of membership is equally unsuitable. Their particular brand of sectarianism reminds me of nothing more than my students who are reluctant to sit with people from other countries, or speakers of other languages.

Their talking point now is that we need to become more militant, which sounds okay on the surface. When you get to the specifics, it's troubling. They are talking strike. I've argued that our working conditions don't merit a strike, and that rank and file would reject the notion by a wide margin.  Beyond that, what MORE doesn't discuss (and may not even know) is that NY State strikes have consequences West Virginia strikes do not. You would lose two days pay for each day you were out. Your tenure would be suspended for a year so the DOE could fire anyone it deemed inconvenient. The UFT would lose dues checkoff which, combined with Janus, could prove catastrophic. If we went on strike, every night would be New Year's Eve at the Koch Brothers mansions.

MORE hasn't been around that long, and I've had a love/ hate relationship with it since its inception. I would hear horror stories about the meetings from my friends, but I made it in a few times. I think the first time was when they wanted someone to run against Andrew Pallotta in NYSUT. I said yes, I'll do it. Evidently, no one already in the group wanted to, and that speaks volumes. It was an uphill battle, but I thought we had a chance so I took it. Alas, we lost.

In fact, half of MORE didn't want to contest the NYSUT election. They only relented because it was a 50-50 split. It's amazing that a group so wedded to a notion of militancy couldn't make a decision about whether or not, as opposition, it made sense to oppose. There were two factions in MORE, or were--one that pushed teacher issues, and another that wants, well, who knows what they want? Maybe they want conditions to as bad as West Virginia, so their strike idea would not be such abject nonsense. Your guess is as good as mine.

I may have gone to their meetings once or twice more before we decided to try and retake the high school seats that opposition held on and off over the last few decades. Someone said we had the possibility of aligning with New Action. I thought that was a great idea. Why not try for a big tent unified opposition? A lot of people in MORE spoke against it. Again, I didn't understand. It seemed like a path to victory, and I'm pro-victory.

And it was. We won the high school seats. People from MORE said we'd see them at every meeting. For the most part, we didn't see them at all. A few of the remaining ICE people show up semi-regularly, but of those in MORE, we've seen two or three of them maybe once or twice over almost three years. Some of the most vocal of them never showed at all. One personally promised me to be there for every meeting, but showed no more than twice and stayed no longer than thirty minutes. (For militant activists, MORE people are pretty goshdarn busy.)

Despite how busy they were, there were demands on us. We were asked to attend meetings about our work on Executive Board. We said come and see us around five on any meeting day. We're always there. No, we were told. We had to travel somewhere on one of our days off. Why? Because the person elected with us, the one who showed two or three times and stopped coming altogether, wouldn't come to the meetings. How can we involve this person, they asked, who never comes to meetings?

I said it didn't matter. For the sake of Executive Board, this person was nobody. I didn't care what insights there were about why this person didn't feel going was a productive use of time. I had a commitment, and I was going to keep it. We met with all kinds of people on the first floor of 52, but those who were supposed to be aligned with us, those who purported to care so deeply about our progress, had more important things to do.

Then came the demands. After we bitched and moaned about Unity demanding to see our resolutions one hour in advance, MORE demanded to see them one day in advance. They decided to hold a vote on what we should do, and did so on a day when I was volunteering at a UFT event for ELLs. Despite my absence, it barely passed.

The original idea came from Steering, whatever that is, so it was important. After all, Steering was going to meet with the guy who never showed up to our meetings, and that was Very Important Work. Mike Schirtzer went to that meeting, on a weekend.

At the meeting they asked Schirtzer what our priorities were. They wanted to support us, they said. Mike, speaking for both of us, told them the important work was getting out a coherent message, so we could win more seats. We had our eyes on the middle school seats, and thought they were within our grasp. Here is what they did to help us--absolutely nothing. There was no newsletter, and there was nothing sent to the high schools, let alone the middle schools.

Here's the truth--these people were not remotely interested in helping or supporting us. They didn't have the time or energy to show up to twice monthly meetings, and they didn't trust anyone else to do it either. If they'd wanted to be involved in what we did, all they had to do was show up. We've been meeting around 5 PM in the UFT lobby twice monthly. Sometimes educators in trouble come to see us. We're right there all the time.

Then came the big purge. Steering had been replaced by a bunch of people who pushed teacher issues rather than the the "militant" agenda, whatever that may be. Mike Schirtzer had used the word "bullshit" in emails to some list. This was horrifying. Also John Giambalvo did something. I have no idea what. So they had to go. Also, Steering had to go. Now that the sectarians didn't control Steering, it wasn't important at all. Go figure.

In fact, they made up their own new Steering committee, with no election, no rules, and none of this nasty democracy stuff that gets in the way of doing Whatever You Feel Like. They have some gall criticizing the UFT for lack of democracy. I have a voice in UFT, and I know I will continue to do so whether or not I stay on the Executive Board. I go to UFT to get help for members almost daily. I wouldn't waste a moment of my time discussing the weather, let alone member issues, with the ideologues who now make up the ghost of MORE.

MORE wants what it wants, even if the overwhelming majority of UFT members don't want it at all. They want militancy and they want strikes, but they don't want to be bothered with anything that intrudes on their me time. They want to be with people who believe as they do, even if it precludes connecting with the 87% of us who support the contract. It doesn't much matter to me. I know why I do this work. I want better working conditions for teachers. I want better learning conditions for students That's what I fight to win. Here's what MORE did--they took a name that others helped build up, dumped the people who were out there doing the work, and pretty much blew up the opposition altogether.

I can't tell you how distasteful and disgusting I find it that they demand ideological purity and dump people who don't share their myopic vision, whatever it may be. I don't suppose I have to describe in detail how stupid it is to take a victory and turn your back on it rather than build it further. The people running MORE are disingenuous and unfit to lead. Their unwillingness to work with anyone beyond their very narrow sectarian sphere is unproductive and stupid.

I've got a strong aversion to stupid. If I wanted stupid, I'd vote for Trump and be done with it.
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