Friday, June 14, 2013

ISO In the House! (My email to Brian Jones)

Back in MArch when the blogger Chaz accused MORE (the union caucus) of moving to the left, I thought he was, well nuts. Chaz' conclusion, that this cool little caucus had been taklen over by the left (and byleft, I mean members of the Internation Socialists Organization (ISO)) may have been correct after all.
Just today, I receievd an email on the MORE listserv from Brian Jones. Here's the email:

Dear planning listserv,

Thank you for serving as the volunteer planning committee. Your work has gotten MORE to where it is today!

We now have a several committees up and running, including a steering committee.

The steering committee decided to take several steps to streamline our use of email and to create a more transparent and democratic use of email.

For those reasons, we voted to terminate this listserv, and move its various discussions into the committees and to the discussion listserv.

For general discussion and debate of important issues, please use the MORE discussion listserv.

Since some people have complained about receiving too many emails, we will be re-starting that listserv very soon. Stay tuned for an email that gives you the opportunity to re-subscribe.

We are also starting a separate news listserv for articles and other news items. Stay tuned for the email to subscribe to that listserv as well.

We will continue to maintain a discussion listserv for chapter leaders and delegates ONLY. This listserv is for discussing school-based organizing issues. If you are already on this listserv, then you will remain on it. If you would like to join that listserv, send an email to:

For concrete work and decision-making (drafting leaflets, etc.) please use your respective committees.

You can contact any of the committees directly with the following email addresses:


The Steering Committee makes proposals for MORE's general membership meeting agendas, and makes decisions for MORE between membership meetings.

The Media Committee handles social media, the blog, press releases, and the production of most leaflets.

The Newsletter Committee produces the MORE newsletter (launching this fall).

The Testing Committee works on challenging high stakes standardized testing.

The Chapter Building Committee deals with the ins and outs of school-based organizing.

The Contract Committee is looking carefully at our upcoming contract to help MORE develop a strategy for a contract campaign.

Feel free to send any questions about these changes to me.

for the MORE Steering Committee
I have been a little concerned about an agenda that didn't put teachers (and parents and students) first for sometime now. With this concern, I've observed that the voice of one full wing of the caucs (the Trade Uniosts or teachers' rights people) has been lessened and and the other wing (the International Socialists of the World(!)) has been on the increase. That big uber committee, Steering, is overwhelming influenced by the 'ISO crowd. So shutting down the 'plan' list in favor of the larger list (which is never used, and which I was actually never added to anyway) was more a way of lessening the democratic structure (and containing disucsion within the several committees) than it was a way of increasing democratic structure. I understood it as the socialist crowd saying "hey; we've pretty got control of this steering committee now, so we're going to go ahead and shut down other vehicles for communication. Thanks and have a nice day"

So I quit. I never was much of a union person anyway. And I sent the list this  reply:

This isn't, in my opinion, anywhere near the transparency that I was assured would exist when I joined MORE. It sounds more like you nice folks in steering are containing much of the discussions to committees, then allowing the general listserv to continue. Moreover, it sounds, very much Brian, that the decision (which wasn't discussed anywhere outside of steering?) wasn't as democratic as I have come to expect, and have experienced, MORE to be.
For those reasons, and because I'm not comfortable with what appears to be an ISO agenda (at the direct cost of a Trade Unionist agenda) asserting itself, I'm going to go ahead and say goodbye to MORE. I wish you well, I just don't wish to work with you.
Now before you go taking to the keyboard like a, well, a warrior, I'd like to point out that a single brick bat was delivered in this entire email (which is quite a feat for an edu blogger), so I expect a response in kind which would include, and would be limited to, such messages as "ok" "be well" or even no response at all (preferably the latter).
Thanks very much and be well
Johnnie Doenuts
Thing is, it got bounced. MORE had already shut down that list before anyone could express any opnion abotu it at all! No discussin there. No democracy.

Now I know the decision to shut down the planning list wasn't unanumous. It surely wasn't discussed with the general membership, including a lot of folks who have been workign very hard for the organization. We all just got this email today, you see and ..poof! The list was shut down. So I have to quit publicly!

Dear  Brian and MORE (including the folks who I adore),
Please accept this cordial goodbye.
Good luck with that whole 'democratic' thing.

MORE to come ;)


  1. MORE has become a vehicle for self-avowed leftists to brandish their credentials. As time has gone on, it has become clear that the caucus has been taken over by people who have little interest in trade unionism and/or public education.

    Waving around one's political inclinations is not a recipe for success or growth. But it is evident that the "ISO" contingent has little interest in growth. That is shame because the teachers in New York City need a real opposition caucus, not a political group who wish to use a part of the UFT as a platform to spout their political beliefs.

    People for whom I once had respect have now left me with a sour taste in my mouth. MORE will not be successful as it stands now, and that seems to be just fine with many of them,

  2. I knew it was just a matter of time before people will realize what "social justice" truly meant.

    My parents were Socialists (a real deep pink) and "social justice" was the theme in the household. The Socialist and Communist newspapers that were all over my apartment made me keenly aware that MORE was compromised by this "leftist" philosophy.

    MORE should go back to the "trade unionist" roots that put teachers first or maybe ICE will reclaim that role. However, any union that puts "social justice" in their plank will not have me as a member.

  3. I cannot believe that a caucus that claimed to be all about social justice...has turned into this. Hopefully, one day soon--->>level headed people with a real interest in teacher's rights form a "transparent caucus" where topics such as the story above are discussed, evaluated, and then voted upon. SO....SO....SAD!

  4. MORE is made up of people with a wide range of viewpoints, many if not most of them far to the right of ISO.

    Let's not forget that Unity has politics - that of mayoral control, catastrophic failure on RttT and state education law, and failed political endorsements - and that the weakness of its trade unionism led to the emergence of MORE in the first place.

  5. Actually in some ways I find myself to the left of ISO on some issues. And it is funny to see the ultra leftists - I shouldn't even use this label -- call ISO "Socialist light." So actually we shouldn't even get into left/right labels -- some of us are "right" on some issues, "left" on others.
    In fact I tell everyone that the ISO crew in MORE are amongst the hardest workers and organized people I've met -- they know how to do so much without which an organization cannot function. My biggest complaint has been that they need to be more transparent about how the goals of ISO fit in with an organization like MORE where they have such influence and to keep the channels open to discussions where outcomes may end up being ones they don't agree with.

  6. My grandpa and grandma lived in a large Jewish community in the Lower East Side of New York City. Grandpa was a union organizer, I’m not sure what type of factory he worked at, He never identified himself by his job title, he always called him self a union-man. I think he had a position like shop steward, or delegate, but in his words he a “union organizer”. I know he led many protests, strikes, rallies, picket lines, and famous marches down Broadway. The only thing he ever discussed was unionism, politics, and Jewish matters.
    Grandpa would stand on the corner of Delancey and Essex and argue all day long. They would argue how to organize, who had the worst boss, best union, and which politician was best for workers. They debated loudly all day and all night. Some were claiming communism was better then socialism, others socialism better than communism. The Alta kakas (old Jewish Folk) all called themselves something different; some were Trotskyites, other revolutionaries, some anarchists, communists, socialists, Marxists. My grandpa never told me what he was, other than a union-man, of course, but I once asked Grandma “who is Mr. Marx:, she laughed and said “he was a Jew”, that was it in grandma’s book,. I never understood the difference, I would just listen to them argue and argue, eventually the debate would stop with some one cracking a joke, they would all laugh and go back to talking how best to defend workers rights and make their unions stronger. I asked grandpa “why do you fight all the time?” , he said it was good they fought, “we’re in America” Grandpa said, “in the old country we wouldn’t be allowed to do this, now we have different views, but we’re all union men and that’s what counts”
    I asked Grandma why they always argued she answered “its what they do, its healthy, its helps them get out their ideas and learn from each other”, I said “if they fight so much why do they stay friends” Grandma answered “because they’re in the union together”. That’s it conversation was over.
    We would go to synagogue every Saturday and high holy days but it was never about God or prayers it was always about discussing unions and politics. Grandpa loved God and Judaism; he just loved unions and politics more. Of course Grandpa and friends would stand on the steps and argue before the service, after service, during service every time the rabbi would yell at them. Grandpa then would go back to the corner and argue some more. There were always two groups, the loud rabble-rouser type, like Grandpa, and the intellectual types, who were not so loud, but always referred to some book or article or the torah or haftarah and had it all memorized. The loud people weren’t always right and the intellectuals were sometimes wrong, but that was the fun of watching them all go at it. It must be fate that today his grandson is a union delegate that is a rabble rouser, who works along side a chapter leader who is an intellectual that knows the contract as well as Grandpa’s union friends knew the Torah. Grandpa must have arranged this

  7. Grandpa thought everyday, every place was a chance to organize, he would go to a store and ask the clerk “why don’t you form a union I’ll help you”. I was always excited at how grandpa would speak to anybody with such authority. I always knew I wanted to be like him. Some of the Jewish men would not speak to the “gentiles” on Mulberry Street, they were Italian and Catholic, very strange to this community. Grandpa would have none of it, he said “lets go talk to them and find out what unions they’re in”, soon enough grandpa had made new friends and new connection and of course new people to argue with. They would march down Broadway and strike in support of each other. I would join the marches and Grandpa would say “We have to be louder than them”, they would compete who had the largest banner and brought out the most people. God-forbid you missed a union march, my grandfather and everyone else would yell and yell at you, you would be too embarrassed to leave your house. Grandpa and his friends would warn the man and his wife that missing a union event was the worst sin in the world and they would be thrown out of the union if it happened again. No matter how sick or tired you were in that union march, it was a shanda (shameful act) to miss one.
    Grandpa would talk to anyone regardless of color, religion, or background, as long as you were union it was fine by him. He spoke a lot about how poorly the government treated black people, he always said, “ the way our people were treated over there (meaning the old country) are the way black people are treated over here”, “this” grandpa said “must not be allowed”. He was very upset at the images he saw on TV, as were the other Jewish union workers. They reached out to Black churches and asked how they can help. They donated to Black rights organizations and had joint meetings with civil rights leaders. I asked Grandma why is Grandpa involved in this, “she said we’re Jewish, we can’t sit by and watch, do you remember what happened to our people, never forget” and that was that. Jewish leaders would march side by side with Martin Luther King, Rabbi Hershel, Rabbi Prinz, and the union leaders that created committees to support the civil rights movement. Today such a thing would be called social justice unionism, grandma and gradpa called it “the right thing to do”. They never saw supporting civil rights as separate from union rights, it was one in the same for them; human rights!
    I questioned my grandparents as to why they seemed to be the only ones talking to Italians, Irish, Black, Hispanic, and all types of people, Grandma answered, “Your grandpa and dad fought for this country so people could be what ever they want to be, Grandpa only cares if they support the unions, if they do, then they’re good in our book” and as usual that ended the conversation. Today grandma would be called progressive or liberal, I’m not sure she would understand those terms. She would just tell me “In this country you are allowed to be, think, or say what you want, that’s why we Jewish people like it here, and it should be the same for everyone”. Grandma was ahead of her times and I’m sure she would be happy to see the rights Gays, African-Americans, and women have achieved. Grandma and Grandpa never cared what people believed in or what the looked like, they saw everyone as working class and “in the same boat” as grandma would say “and the boat will sink like the Titanic if we don’t stay together” she always said. I never thought this was radical it just made sense.

  8. My grandparents didn’t see me achieve my dreams. Today I’m a teacher, a union delegate, and an organizer myself. The proudest days of my life were being hired to be a teacher and being named vice-presidential candidate of MORE for UFT. I know they were watching from heaven and proud of me. I know they love that I’m part of group that is so diverse where we stand for union rights and human rights. They always said, “Jews have to always fight for the rights of others, because we’re lucky to finally have some”. They would approve that my group is dedicated to unionism and social justice.

    I regret they didn’t live to see my name of that UFT ballot; it gave me so much pride to tell everyone I was the UFT Vice presidential candidate. I only wish I could have told them. I even told my students about it-as I teach Participation in government and always stress the civic participation part. My favorite day out of the entire election was the last period I taught during Friday after the election, I walked in a bit late into class as I was have a discussion on union matters with my principal, I walked into a standing ovation, I asked “my kids’ why they were applauding me, they said “you finished second, we’re proud of you” –they must have Googled the election results. I was shocked and it was the closest I ever came to crying in front of the class.

    Today I continue to try to be a union leader, I see past any differences as grandpa did because as he would say “we’re all in this together, unions”, and grandma would like my caucus because we defend the right of people to “be whatever they want to be”. Im the last of dying breed in Brooklyn, I was Born, raised, and teach here. I am the product of the public school and CUNY system. I have a deep Brooklyn accent that the new people who have since moved into Brooklyn, seem to look down on it. People mistake my accent for being dumb or naive. My friends and I wear crosses or chai’s, have tattoos, and all have hard old-school Brooklyn accents. Although the new Brooklynites call themselves progressive, I get the feeling they see themselves as better than me. I’m working class and they’re what Grandma would have called a “limousine liberal” they slap the Obama sticker on the back of their hybrid but as grandma would say “you talk the talk, but can you walk the walk”. My answer is no. Its unfortunate we’re losing our working class identity, I don’t think grandpa would approve of UFT being called a “union of professionals” he would probably say “your a union, that’s it”. The loss of union strength was deeply disturbing to all my family, but they would have faith since me and my brother are such strong union activists.

    I’m happy to be in MORE, I learn a lot by being here, and it makes me a better person and a better teacher. I am 10000 percent sure, Grandma and Grandpa would be very happy with MORE, grandpa would most certainly like the politics and arguing, grandma would like that people are who they are.