Friday, November 26, 2010

How To Beat Unity And The UFT

This past March we had UFT elections. Somehow, someway, Unity received 91% of the vote. How could that have been with over two thousand ATR's, almost a thousand Rubber Room inmates, conditions worse than they ever were, and a leadership that seems dumb, deaf and blind to the rank and file?

This past Tuesday night I interviewed Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union on my radio show. Karen and her group CORE managed to beat the entrenched leadership of the CTU. Unfortunately, I was not able to specifically get into how CORE won, but one point Karen made was that change starts at the bottom, at the school level. I agree with her, and that is what needs to be done. But, we can affect the change at the top which will trickled down to the school level and I have given this a lot of thought over some months on how it can be done.

1. ICE/TJC needs to select a candidate for president now.

Why should we wait until late 2012 or early 2013? We need to choose the best candidate for the job now. This person needs to be a shadow to Mulgrew. Whenever Mulgrew makes a proclamation, our candidate come out with a retort. Get the name and face out there, and NOW!

2. Once a candidate is chosen, start the fund raising immediately.

Bake sales, car washes, happy hour mixers, whatever it takes raise the money. It can be done, but that is why we need to start this several years ahead of time.

3. Direct mail

Yes, the old Karl Rove ploy. But it works. Radio ads are nice, so is free publicity. But teachers as a whole are lazy, especially the younger ones. At the very least we can get the mailing least of the UFT paper. Once we have all the names, addresses, etc... direct mail can be targeted to young teachers, minorities, teachers nearing retirement, teachers that are reassigned, etc.... Put Unity on the defensive.

4. Newbie teachers

This is a difficult group. The younglings of today have not been brought up in a world in which there have not been strong unions. We need to explain how even if at this point in their careers they feel they are fine with things, that one day they can become a target and will want that union there for them.

5. District leaders

Identify one person in each district that can organize other teachers. These "district leaders" can then get one person in each school in the district to get information out to the teachers in each school. Meet once a month to discuss what is and isn't working. Constantly adapt to what to what needs to be done.

6. Florida

We need someone down there to speak to the retired chapter frequently, to explain our positions, to listen to their concerns.

7. See #5

If this is done early enough each school organizer can be a de facto candidate for chapter leader in 2012. If we start early each "school leader" can shadow the CL, can be a person the staff comes to as well. Start showing that they can get things done as well.

8. Reach out to other unions in the City.

The TWU seems pretty radical. Might they be of assistance? It doesn't hurt to try. The other municipal unions need to realize that once the City is done with us, they will go after the other unions.

I know this might simplistic, or easier said than done. But I truly believe that Unity is ripe to be plucked. The pushback needs to start now, and not just in a small way. We need to announce our presence with authority.


ed notes online said...

I have spent some time with the CORE people. Two of them came up a few weeks ago and I have the video. The story in Chicago is more complex which I will try to explore on Ed Notes very soon.

Karen Lewis did not emerge as a candidate until the CORE caucus picked her to run in a democratic manner. We have no such operation here due to low numbers of activists. CORE has 500 members who vote.

Thus the idea of s few people choosing a presidential candidate at this time is not the key. Karen told me in Seattle that there were a number of others in CORE who could have run and won. It is the machine not the candidate that is important. But a democratic method of choosing people is as important as the result.

While you make very good points, the reality right now is that there is no group that seems capable of taking these actions. What is needed is some kind of uber caucus functioning in a democratic (non-Unity) manner to pull stuff together. There are stirrings but no action yet.

Personally, I do not see the union elections as crucial at this time as others do. Unity controls the schools through the chapter leaders. Thus, the chapter leader elections in 2012 are more important than the union elections in 2013. You can run any kind of campaign you want but Unity can use its district reps and chapter leaders to reach into every school.

An opposition must begin to win over the neutral chapter leaders or at least get one active person in as many schools as possible to tell the story to their fellow teachers every single day. That's the real battle. CORE grew from a handful of people 2 and a half years ago to 500- a large enough group to take power - (even though they really only had 1/3 of the vote - the union leadership was so bad CORE won the other 3 caucuses endorsements in the run-off (which we don't have).

Chicago has 30,000 teachers (down from 43,000 before mayoral control 15 years ago.) We need at least that many people to become active here in NYC and we are far from getting close at this time. Maybe it will take a Cathie Black assault on seniority - but watch them use and promote the Evan and Sydney show to get young teachers to undermine the union. The bloodbath is coming.

Pete Zucker said...

So let's get the party started.





Ed Notes has focused in on the chief problem-- the incredible inertia among NY's 80 or 90 thousand teacher Rank & File.

The very last time I saw the R & F come together and rise up was the great City wide Strike of 1968 which was an amazing event to behold in my very first year of teaching (Fort Apache).

It takes a truly huge event to wake up the R & F from their habitual, status quo slumber.

When the effects of the Black-Gate disaster begins to decimate the R & F, job security, Seniority, and thousands of heads begin to roll- perhaps then what Ed Notes says is required will begin to come together- and you will start to have CORE like Critical Mass.

When I stood outside Steiner's building to deliver the 12,000 signatures and noted the meagre turnout of people (long after schools had let out for the day), it was clear to me it was all a lost cause.

What was needed was just a thousand signatures but 12,000 boots on the ground tieing up the entire Upper East Side around Steiner's residence during Rush Hour.

The never ending mistake of believing that pressing the Petition send Button on a laptop will alter the Universe is a true Grand Illusion.

Revolutions and Change succeed not by signing petions but by REAL ACTION. That mean filling Chambers Street from the East side to the West side with YES- I will say it again and again- BOOTS ON THE GROUND. And then the right charismatic Leader/ Speaker/ Galvanizer of People speaking to those Boots over a Two thousand Mega watt speaker.

The above is the ONLY language the POWER ELITE have ever understood and taken notice of since the dawn of history.

No Dictator has ever voluntarily relinquished power because someone said: "Gee-pretty- PLEASE with a cherry on top".

Black-Gate could have been nipped in the bud last week with a paltry two or three thousand marching Boots on the Ground in front of the Tweed Courthouse, and in front of King Bloomberg's private mini Palace on East 79th Street during Rush Hour.

But for all the talk- no one would Walk the Walk.

Maybe when the entire Rank & File begin to feel sufficient PAIN- that four letter word that has a way of getting people off the sofa-they will arise from their slumber.

It happened in Chicago and while Ed Notes is correct that it is more difficult here, it could yet happen.

But a gargantuan opportunity was lost during Black-Gate. Needless to say an Al Shanker type Leader would have made all the difference.

Instead we got a "Quisling"-- the very last thing you want or need when the odds are already so stacked against you.

It is all enough to make the Angels weep.

Frankly I am still drying my eyes as I hear the Champagne glasses clicking in my neighbor's Town house at 17 East 79th Street.

Did I just hear The Queen of Coke snip: "Let them eat cake" as the room full of celebrity guests roared with laughter-- adding-
"Oh- and thanks encore, Mike- no one knows how to do it like you do". "No wonder you are so wealthy".

"More Caviar anyone ?"