Sunday, June 16, 2013

About MORE: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Yesterday, I aired some of MORE's laundry on here. The airing was a response to a decision they made to shut down one of their lists. Because the decision appeared to be made suddenly, and because the list was also shut down suddenly (very shortly after after their announcement was made), I posted the message (along with my response and my goodbye).

That post was seen as an attack (it was not an attack. It was a rebuke. Please see the full post here) but it helped lead to a flurry of emails, telephone calls, text messages, G-Chats within MORE which eventually lead to a review, then a reversal, of their decision. My understanding is that people within MORE who rarely spoke found themselves having long phone conversations last night, explanations about the decision, which weren't initially offered, were offered (in great detail)  and some longer term issues which I thought would never be addressed, were suddenly put on the table. 

So today, on the newly recreated MORE planning listserv, this message was sent. I posting it her (with permission from a Steering Committee member) with the hope that everyone who read yesterday's post will read this one.  

Dear Friends,
We are sorry for the way we handled the closing down of this list serve. It was done in a hasty, non-democratic fashion and we apologize sincerely. It was never our intent to offend anyone or make you think you no longer count in MORE. It was a mistake to send out an email on a list and then immediately close that list to all discussion. For that we apologize, we are very sorry. This list has already been reactivated and you will get advance notice to any changes
Steering committee made the decision to change from a planning list to a discussion list in order to involve MORE people. It is not fair to our membership to have an internal list where certain conversations go on that others are not privy to. This planning list as it currently stands consists of people who came to MORE at the beginning and are not really active anymore, as well as others who are very active.  There was no real process for getting on the list other than "if you were doing work it made sense for you to be on it." Not very democratic, but obviously nothing malicious, and now we are more organized and need a clearer process.
The discussion list will be the same as the old planning list, open for all discourse and debate, and in fact we encourage it, as long as it's in a respectful tone.There will be an internal steering list to hammer out the minutia of setting up meeting dates, conference calls, and approve press releases and/or statements. We are doing this so as not to bombard people's emails which seems to be the case, therefore much of the correspondence goes unread by so many. If membership feels, including all of us on this list, that all emails ought to be transparent we can arrange that too. The steering committee was democratically elected and is only a 6 month term, so there is always room for change.
There needs to be room for discussion of differences that exists among the members of MORE and we all must work harder to ensure this discussion continues to happen.
We have formed committees in order to organize the work of MORE and involve as many UFTers as possible in the work of the union. See below for the list and contact info (from the weekly update) of our committees: 
The high stakes testing committee was formed to challenge the high stakes testing regime that it is destroying our public school system, and is at the heart of the assault on teachers and students alike.
The newsletter committee exists to give us a publication we can get into our members boxes because there are so many great writers in MORE and every great change is led by it's literary heroes, including a change in UFT leadership. This is a trusted and tried way of educating, organizing, and mobilizing.
The chapter organizing committee was initiated because it was felt that after the election we must help people by building strong chapters, or as in we say in old trade unionism "organize the shop first". In order for MORE to gain victory we will need chapter leaders, delegates, and organizers who can protect their own in schools.
We began the contract committee because we all know that when a new mayor steps in, municipal worker contracts will be the first order of business. MORE must have a vision ready to deliver, because we all know in the past (and most recently with evals) leadership is ready to give away the farm and concede on anything. MORE must be prepared to lead the conversation on what a good contract entails and a vote no campaign is necessary.
The media committee is in charge of putting out content for our blogs, statements, producing videos,and responding to press requests. There have been many great contributors so far and we always need more. Our blog and social media has brought us great notoriety and after watching the events in Occupy, the Arab Spring, and Union protests through-out Europe, we all can agree in the importance of twitter, facebook, and blogging in bringing about great change of any kind.
If there is something you feel passionately about that is not covered by these committees, by all means start one up and we will offer all our platforms to help you promote it or join one of these committees. MORE needs all the help it can get.
Hopefully we have set the record straight. There will be an open, transparent, email list where all discourse and debate is welcome by all members of MORE. We deeply regret the move yesterday to close the list, sorry, and we hope everyone here continues to be active on the email list and with one of the committees
In Solidarity, 
The MORE Steering Committee
Just three thoughts to share about this. 1) I believe every word of it. It's in line with everything I've heard  and read about the issue yesterday. 2)  It takes a commitment to integrity to publicly acknowledge your mistakes. These folks deserve a lot of credit for sending this out and for sending it out so quick. 3) This wasn't an email that was just put together by one person who felt bad for me or others.  I've been reading emails from MORE people for some time now and I am able to identify the writing styles of no less than three different  people from their steering committee in this message. This acknowledgment of  the foul up seems to be the result of a group effort. So kuods to MORE. That says something about the integrity of people within that group.

Post Script (but a very important one): I also pointed a finger at steering committee members who are part of the International Socialists Organization. In my post, I wrote that these people seemed to be taking over MORE. I shouldn't have gone there and, in fact, I should address two things about that tact: 1) It was, apparently, factually inaccurate. After my post, it was brought to my attention that only three people on that committee belong to the ISO. 2) It was a very misplaced label. A more appropriate label would might have sounded more like 'people from the left' or 'the 'social justice' crowd within MORE'. The ISO person who spoke with me today was, rightfully, upset at that salvo. In fact, as my therapist always says, labels are something you want to stay away from in general anyway. And so I apologize for it. 

That reference, however, opens up a whole can of worms that is just too big for me to understand or deal with. The issue of how a union caucus addresses something called Social Justice Unionism, as opposed to Trade Unionism, has been talked about from the outside quite often. You can see some examples of some smart people trying to address this underlying issue  here (and here and here and here (and here on Ednotes)).  Unfortunately, that discussion hasn't been so robust within MORE itself. Meanwhile, I have observed that the differences, having not being addressed directly, tend to materialize from time to time in the form cognitive dissonance, or grumblings, or disagreement over an issue that is being addressed or, like my take on their move yesterday, misplaced suspicions of some very well intentioned and well-meaning people. 

Like any healthy organization, MORE has some issues that they will, eventually, have to address.  But those issues are way too big for me to understand or want to deal with or even want to be near as they're being dealt with. So while I wait for people who might be identified as the 'social justice' wing be more willing to have that larger discussion,  and as I wait for people who might be identified as the Trade Union wing figure out how to open their mouth and speak up when  it counts (when an issue is actually being discussed), I'm still going to be a former member of MORE (sorry folks: I already have a job that consumes all of my time and thoughts and it's way more fun than union stuff.). But (taking the advice of one MORE person who was kind enough to send me an email today) I'll be listening, and I hope to see those issues resolved sometime soon. 


  1. I'm glad you posted this. After 43 years of fighting Unity I would not want to be part of a caucus that began to look like Unity. I never thought that about MORE even in this fiasco. I was at the steering comm meeting (the first one held since the election) even though not a member -- and in fact all these meetings are open to anyone in MORE in the interests of democracy and didn't say much about these changes. As I thought about them over the next few days some of it bothered me. But when the memo came out I took the position it is an elected group and they should have the right to make these decisions and if we don't like them raise hell about them -- which you did though I do not agree with doing it publicly. In your case, you tried to raise it privately and were blocked so I can see where you are coming from. One thing I learned over the years since the internet -- take a deep breath and wait overnight to think things through.

    I also want to address the social justice issue -- as I told you, from everything I know about you, I consider you a social justice teacher -- you care deeply about the kids, their lives and teaching itself. To me that is the fundamental element of social justice unionism -- taking it beyond an individual and using the power of the union to not just help teachers (which I still think is a priority -- and maybe the balance is what is causing some debate in MORE) - thus I disagree with Chaz who I also from everything I know is also a social justice teacher. While we take care of teachers -- and let's point out that MORE put out a strong statement of support when Christine Rubino won her victory -- we must take care of our kids -- even if you break it down to the element of -- the better off they are the easier our job.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I don't think it was a mistake to throw that out publicly. I hope in some future retrospect, you can see that it wasn't either. Taking a conversation public is a full and healthy option with democracy (who's processes are are always messy precisely because of the way disagreements are sometimes aired). You're anything but a shy person. Don't be scared of hammering these things out in a larger forum if they have to be hammered out.

      The failure, I think, is when issues/concerns/reservations AREN'T aired publicly, but are rather aired privately only later popping up, like an angry little wack-a-mole, for everyone to deal with. That's democracy, too. Just not practiced so well. How long are you married? I'm with my wife for 15 years and I call tell you, the only major bumps we've hit is when issues weren't raised right away and festered instead. I think it's a lot like that.

  2. TeachmyClassMrMayor(andyoutooMrMulgrew)June 16, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    Glad to read this, I was saddened by all of this, because I like Mr. "Ed Notes" have spent a bunch of time signing the praises of MORE at work, and did not want them to become UNITY. There is a reason I updated my moniker at the various blogs to include both the Mayor & UFT management. And at this moment in time, it is hard to tell which is which. I would not (and I am not anywhere close to the level of involvement you guys are) MORE to get to that. Thank you guys for getting this out in the open.

  3. Putting this on the internet is a mistake.

    1. Was it? I think it's a strong organization and we'll be stronger with more discussion.
      Besides, I called them out when they did wrong (btw, I didn't notice you say that was a mistake). The least I could do is give them credit when they did right.

    2. Of course that's *will* be stronger
      That was a typo.

  4. I meant airing this whole thing in public was a mistake. You just gave Unity a whole 2016 campaign. That probably is not the real Leroy Barr commenting above, but it may as well have been.

  5. Oh, please. airing these things won't hurt MORE one single bit. I'll offer two lines of reasoning for that: 1) Being able to air these things out demonstrates strength, not weakness. Many people in our union don't understand the concept of strength but, anon, I think that you do. It means that you can walk down the street with your head held high knowing that no one can get to you. Sure, they'll f**k with you from time to time, but you know they can't get to you. What if that really was Leory Barr (I don't think it was either. The way understand it, Mr. Barr doesn't read the blogs the way that Mr. Casey did)? What could he say that could possibly hurt MORE? In three years, I hope to see your caucus gain 50 chapter leadership elections and be in the papers as often as once a month or more talking about what good education could be. Do you think they'd give a cr*p about what had been said back in '13 by then? Please. 2) LOOK AT YOUR RESPONSE!!! How does a response like that demonstrate anything else but democracy and openness? Can you think of a group anywhere that has placed an apology in response to a public rebuke so quickly? If Mr. Barr ever says thank you to you, your response should be 'bring it. We'd love to have that debate about our process and our structure'.
    Anon, you know me (I know you know me) and you of all people should know not to be scared of speaking and having a discussion in a public manner.

    Now you, and those who's feathers I ruffled with that post can lay whatever blame at my feet that you want. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable with yourselves. I'm good. But as you do, you should probably consider that without that post, whatever resentments about that admittedly bad call and the underlying issues that came with how it was viewed, would have simply festered until something else occurred somewhere else down the road. So, anon, you're welcome. And I'd be happy to make that say you're welcome to whoever feel confident enough to raise that issue with me directly.
    There's a story that mentions the healthy aspects of union people arguing that I'll be posting here shortly. Be sure to read that.

  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.

  9. I wish Grandma and Grandpa were around to join MORE with the old folk like me -- we could be the alta cocker wing.
    As you know I have lots to say about MORE including critical comments. While I do not think the argument that you handed Unity a 2016 campaign holds any water I also would have spent some time trying to resolve things internally -- and I say that for future reference as I think this time is fine as was the MORE response.
    I do want to make it clear that I am far from being MORE or the essence of MORE as some people mistakenly believe. As a retiree I really don't have a handle on what is going on in schools other than what people tell me. I was one of the few people in MORE against running in the UFT elections and while I thought there were some positive elements I could still argue the other side -- that it was more important for MORE to build itself up as an organization before putting itself in the line of fire. I bristle when I feel people don't have the patience for discussion. As you point out there are way too many issues still on the table that have not been resolved that were postponed due to the election. Maybe your post will force more discussion. MORE is more of an action group than a group that delves deep into issues. Not quite the style I was used to in ICE so I have trouble adapting. But I'm an old guy who likes to talk and with a lot to say and probably the younger crowd is sick of hearing it. I say let the steering committee steer -- but if they don't get to important issues they will never be resolved and keep popping up things will be tough. MORE can't be a "let's all be rosy and cheerful and not talk about things that might be contentious" caucus. Or be self-critical.
    I know we had some battles in ICE but because we didn't try to paper things over but put in the time and energy to keep having conversations about them we got a lot of consensus. MORE needs to find a way to do MORE of that -- but without the puns.