Giving up on the UFT Delegate Assembly

    The following was distributed at the UFT citywide chapter leader meeting on Sept. 25.

    Education Notes has been distributed at almost every Delegate Assembly since 1996. Roughly 100 editions of the paper, in various formats from mimeographs to full newsprint tabloids.

    The last regular print edition of Education Notes will be distributed at the October Delegate Assembly and will only publish in print when there are special issues on the table.

    Why stop now?

    Ed Notes began when I was a chapter leader and delegate as a means of establishing a regular communication with the members of the Delegate Assembly to counter the Unity Caucus spin.

    The initial purpose of Ed Notes was to inform delegates of motions I was going to present in advance to meet the “has to be printed if 3 lines or more” rule. I would inform Randi Weingarten before the meeting where I was sitting. Initially, things worked out, with Randi even declaring to the DA “I love reading Ed Notes.” But then again, I wasn’t overly critical of her and Unity Caucus at that point, thinking that as a new President, she would bring a breath of fresh air to a union that was in much need of reform. I also felt that with New Action being such a weak (and pathetic opposition even then) that only by getting Unity people to back reforms would we see the kind of democratic changes that would prepare for the coming attacks. New Action even began spreading rumors that Randi was funding Ed Notes. Ironic in the light of New Action’s total sell out in years to come.

    At some point it became clear that I was being avoided when Weingarten wasn’t happy with my motion, even canceling the new motion period (the only opportunity for rank & file delegates) at one point. I angrily told her that in all my years at the DA (since 1971) neither Shanker nor Feldman had ever gone that far. The final straw came in 2001 when I spent 4 months trying to get a motion calling for the UFT to reject all schemes that hint at merit pay. That was followed soon after by Weingarten’s endorsement of mayoral control, a clear disaster for members of the UFT. (I had been in touch with George Schmidt in Chicago.)

    It was clear there would not only be no reform under Weingarten but she would take the control and manipulation of the membership to new heights. And so she has. At that point Ed Notes went into opposition mode which led to the formation of ICE by supporters of the paper after the New Action sell-out left a void.

    I won’t go into the history of the past 5 years. Just look at your schools and the state of the union at the school level where pre-UFT conditions prevail in so many places. From Kahlenberg’s new Shanker bio: “Shanker was assaulted by a student, but when he asked for help from the principal he was told, ‘This would not have happened if you had motivated your students.’” That was 1952. “Administrators were in a position to play favorites, assigning some teachers to ‘administrative assignments’ and others to the most violent classes. At long drawn out faculty conferences “teachers sat there seething.”

    Back to the future.

    So, why stop publishing the print edition of Ed Notes now? Ed Notes continues to be more active than ever on the ednotesonline blog. But with Unity Caucus more tightly in control than ever and a DA that reminds me of the Roman Senate in the declining years of the Republic, the idea of reaching out to people at the Delegate Assembly seems fruitless.

    Weingarten has turned the DA into a farce. Why not just put up a video of her hour long report on the web and save everyone the trip?

    The past few months of last school year took things to a new level. With 10 items waiting on the agenda, a deputy mayor and DOE reps from the reorganization are brought to the April DA and a meeting gets extended until after 6:30. One blogger, a member of New Action, actually complained about this on his blog. Where was he at the meeting raising a protest at the outrage? Only silence. And silence from most of the opposition, including some of my colleagues in ICE. They seem to have given up on the DA too.

    The outrage continued at the next DA when Manhattan chapter leaders, who voted 19-1 to call for discussion at the June DA on a rally against the reorganization, had their resolution overwhelmingly defeated. Nothing better illustrates the disconnect between the schools and the Unity Caucus leadership when nineteen chapter leaders representing probably a thousand to fifteen hundred members are turned down in the attempt to discuss - I repeat “Discuss” - the idea of a rally. (By the way, are you still happy with the cancellation of the May 9th rally?)

    But it went further. When Kit Wainer rose to defend himself against Jeff Zahler’s red-baiting attacks, Weingarten had the nerve to suggest that the body read all 10 resolutions while he spoke so they could be voted on en masse. When someone objected, she incredulously said, “Well, people have been waiting for these for so long, it is not fair to obstruct them.”

    No one called a point of information to remind the delegates about the deputy mayor and all the DOE people at the previous DA. Farce, indeed!

    At that point I said “Enough.”

    It seems the overwhelming majority of delegates and CL have accepted the rationale of the Unity spinmeisters that the UFT leadership bears absolutely no responsibility for the events of the last 5 years. They are coated with Teflon. Similar to the way BloomKlein have become the heros of the nation for basically destroying the union at the ground level. It confirms a new insight - that the most important job in the world – one I would urge any young person to go into – is public relations.

    In fact, the UFT leadership have been enablers of BloomKlein. And all too many members of the DA have been enablers of the leadership. If they won’t look at themselves in the mirror and see that the conditions for most rank and file teachers resemble those that existed before the birth of the UFT, there is no point in Ed Notes trying to convince them otherwise.

    I pity the rank and file. To survive they have to fight a 2 front war – against a horrendous assault on them by BloomKlein and with a collaborationist leadership that has shown a masterful ability to coopt and deflect any hint of militancy that might arise. I can go into numerous examples but you will have to read them on the ednotesonline blog, where daily I post the outrages of the BloomWeinKlein team.

    Have I given up? Not at all. Not with the loads of emails coming in from teachers in schools all over the city that have been decimated by BloomKlein who are screaming for a union that will truly stand up for them. Increasingly, teachers are beginning to take action on their own, in small groups. The U-rated, rubber rooms, ATR’s are beginning to make their voices known. The biggest threat they face to this movement is from a union that will leap in to gain control of them by promising action with words, not deeds. They will get high level meetings which will impress them no end. But in the end the most vocal might get a behind the scenes transfer or some special deal that will separate them from the rest of the group.

    Deflection, cooptation, delay. Or form a committee.

    I will continue to work with ICE and support TJC. But from now on I will only attend Delegate Assemblies purely for the entertainment value – and for the post DA visit to a local pub with the regular DA gang. Join us. If you are an independent delegate, skip the meeting and go directly to the pub where the real delegate assembly will take place.

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