Here are some interesting insights by 2 former Unity Caucus members. Signs of cracks in the machine? I'm not betting on that yet.
The Unity Leadership put out a message regarding school closings that says we are watching closely. We will go to court. We will help schools that want help. Holy Crud. Of course that is all you can do . You don't have a clear and concise blueprint of how our schools should operate. You supported and helped shape Mayoral Control and now are invested in making sure the law is followed. They can close down every school, pump up the ATR pool until it reaches heaven and create an untenable situation down the road where you will have to sell out the ATRS, and you sit with your hands tied because you are following the very law you helped to create. Great job.
--- Posted on ICE mail by John Powers, a former Unity Caucus member
Just catching up on my email and I read the piece about the two Michael's*. Do you know about the Speaker's Bureau? They hold a meeting usually the day before the DA to go over questions for the President and any resolutions. The president has a map of where people will sit to call on. They do it for everything. They used to meet at a junior high on 21st or the china chalet but last year they were starting to have conference calls. - Another former Unity Caucus member
*A Tale of Two Michaels: UFT and Mayor Bloomberg - Who is more undemocratic?
was written by Seung Ok - We are waging a two front battle against major powers - the millions of our own union leadership and the billionaire mayor.
Below is the full piece by Brooklyn Chapter Leader John Powers, a former member of Unity Caucus. Powers joined Unity in the summer of 2009 with the intention of trying to create debate on crucial issues within the caucus but when the union supported teacher evaluation measures he withdrew as a delegate to the AFT convention in Seattle (I'm sorry he did as we could have used some more people on the inside - who secretly were slipping me info) in June 2010, effectively ending his association with Unity.
The number one concern that the Unity leadership has is not Cathie Black (and the ATR, seniority situation), but Andrew Cuomo and his desire to hold a NY State Constitutional Convention. The language in our NYS Constitution protects city/state pensions from being changed or "diminished" in any way.
This is the great sleeping giant that will activate workers across the state. What is Unity's plan? Labor's plan? Will they lack the courage and leadership to mount a fight against this great austerity measure? Do they have the imagination, creativity and talent to create a united front that puts forth a clear and concise message that will resonate with citizens across the state? Will they engage in the necessary planning and training of its members to mobilize in ways that might "paralyze" the state? Or will they rely strictly on massaging politicians who may ultimately turn their backs on us. Abandon us?
I am so worried about how Labor will respond, especially Unity. Our leadership has failed over the last fifteen years I have been teaching to put forth a serious educational worker campaign with a clear message that states what we stand for and what we believe K-12 education should encompass in all of its complexities. The Unity leadership is all over the place constantly defending itself from attacks, making compromises and appeasing individuals, agencies and organizations who hold our work in little regard and seek to pulverize us.
Remember that absurd cartoon commercial last year about high stakes tests and ed jargon. Wow. That really hit it out of the park. One million bucks on a cartoon that apparently "tested well" with some audiences. What about us? The DOE runs multi-colored propaganda ads on subway cars and shoots "missiles" at us daily via corporate controlled newspapers and magazines. And what does the Unity leadership do: creates a "fluffy" one million dollar cartoon. Who signed off on that one?
We are such a talented, dynamic force of 80,000 teachers. So many untapped resources and the Unity leadership still operates under a perverted form of "democratic centralism" that insulates them from engaging in dialogs and debates with their own party members as well as the masses of rank and filers who could help them. Their hubris and lack of imagination and openness is a threat to the long-term viability of the UFT as a union.
One way the leadership seeks to divide and conquer their party members and other rank and filers is through "red fear." They paint dissenters or critics as being extreme leftists whose ideas will destroy the union. Here is where it gets tricky. Even if one were to agree that some dissenters / critics appear to hold more "extreme" views than others (funny aren't the ed deformers the real extremists?), this practice makes Unity members docile and hostile to even entertaining relatively traditional modes of unionism that includes various types of mobilizations.
For instance, we have principals and schools that operate under a climate of fear and intimidation. Why doesn't the Unity leadership help these schools hold small demos that focus on embarrassing the principal and educating the parents of school children who attend? You don't need lawyers and courts for this type of action. You don't even need large numbers of people. Hell, bring in the retirees. Have them stand hand in hand with teachers at affected schools, especially the younger teachers (BTW: Wait until the retirees figure out what's going on with Cuomo and our pensions. The pension "language" I referred to before would not only affect present employees but all retirees too. Are there any retirees out there who are reading this? Create a flier regarding our pensions and Cuomo and pay a visit to the next UFT Retiree Chapter meeting. I'd go but I believe they are held during work hours. Now there is a target group. Boy oh boy, our retirees are an untapped resource. Who is reaching out to them? Who is asking them to come speak at meetings, especially meetings with young teachers. Any CLs out there? Bring a retiree in to talk to young teachers about the importance of unionism, benefits, pensions, seniority, and providing for your family. Ask retirees to canvas schools who need our support. Have them distribute literature that explains the state of our union. Our pensions. ATR's. Seniority. Collect signatures. Put email addresses of names collected on ice-mail and other list serves (with their permission).
Heck, hit the colleges too. Hit all the CUNY ed departments. Private universities. We need the newbies and the newbies need us.
There is so much to be upset about regarding the "deformers" and the Unity leadership, but I'm hopeful that we are reaching a point where we will have to be heard.
And Unity Leadership: Stop Trying to Dumb Us Down. Stop Trying to Divide and Conquer UFTers. Get a Plan. Create a Strong Positive Message and Get It Out There.
Little Surprise: The Unity Leadership today put out a message regarding school closings that says we are watching closely. We will go to court. We will help schools that want help. Holy Crud. Of course that is all you can do . You don't have a clear and concise blueprint of how our schools should operate. You supported and helped shape Mayoral Control and now are invested in making sure the law is followed. They can close down every school, pump up the ATR pool until it reaches heaven and create an untenable situation down the road where you will have to sell out the ATRS, and you sit with your hands tied because you are following the very law you helped to create. Great job.
That's one heck of a job.
P.S. Has anyone seen the potential new NYS performance standards for students? After reading them, you will probably need a toilet quickly. If I can get an electronic copy I will send it out. It represents the final nail in the coffin of absolute and total regimentation of teaching and learning. It is spreadsheet fascism at its worst. But more importantly, look for the Unity leadership to highlight these performance standards and talk about how disgusting they are while focusing almost exclusively on how our work day does not permit time to do the activities indicated in the performance standards. Although this is true, it is also true that this will leave the door open for a compromise/appeasement agreement where the Unity leadership will approve some or all of the inanities as long as we are compensated for it and given time to do it. What they should do is???????? You guessed it, advocate for what real teaching and learning encompasses. Wait until you read this draft of performance standards.Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/
Here is an article related to the NEA and AFT cooperation in the onslaught on teachers: