Saturday, April 20, 2019

UFT Elections: Core vs Coalition

The internal union elections are now over and some trends have not changed.  The group that dominates the union dominated this year's vote count. Less members voted this time around than last and the union's political positions, in City Hall, in Albany when faced with political progress and in schools when facing abusive administrators will not change because there is no focussed group of opposition to move them.

While there are a few aspects of this election that stand out, the most significant result of 2019 is what we all learned about the left: That this group of  "The Left" of the UFT is a very small group of teachers, indeed. We now all know that less than 2400 out of around 80,000 working classroom teachers are loyal leftists who, no matter what, will vote for the most left group. That has significance.

Politics are relatively simple to understand. Each leader or group has a core of loyal supporters, called a "base" and that core reaches out to other people or groups to form coalitions as they build toward majority. It may sound complicated but it is really quite simple: Your group joins with with other groups and stuff gets done. This isn't just how governments perform complicated tasks like developing policies. It's also how my family performs mundane tasks like deciding what to cook for dinner (and there are only three of us in the house). The core group plus a coalition gets you where you want to go. Got it?

It is rare in any political setup to get a bare unvarnished glimpse at the the size of the core of any coalition. Typically questions like "how big is this group?" "How people do they have with them?" are never fully answered.  Think about this: People say Trump's core is around 30% but that's all based on polling and so no one really knows how big is base is. Most times, folks don't know about the size of the actual core.

Yet here in the union, during this election, the MORE caucus presented all interested parties with a true gift: A clear view of how large their core really is.

You see, by purging all of their coalition partners, and moving into an election with only their core, everyone can see that their core is actually less than 2,500 teachers.

And we see glimmers of people understanding this fact.  Norm Scott noted how embrassing of a loss of support it was for MORE when he writes:

Think of it - in 3 years MORE lost 8000 votes. Someone do the % drop math -- from 10,600 to 2,600. Is 75% a rough figure or am I way off?

A 75% drop is bad anywhere. But the 25% who remained is actual the sectarian left. That's the MORE group without all of the coalition partners it threw out. That is them at their bare bones and they are less than 3% of working teachers in New York City public schools. Less than .08% of total membership of the UFT. This is not a large group. There is only one word to describe it: Small. This stigma  is going to be tough for people on the left to overcome.

There is good new for people like me, though: Less than three percent of working teachers are these extreme left sectarian socialists who have wrought so much damage everywhere they have gone (throughout history) in groups large and small. I somehow always thought that number was bigger.

But MORE has ensured that this movement of "the left", which started in 2011 with Occupy, has died on the vine. And unless they can figure out ways to rebuild coalitions, they are their tactics, and even some of their philosophies and causes, will soon die on the vine with them.

The group did far worse damage than lose just this one election. By choosing this course, they have exposed their core as an extremely small size of vocal left supporters within the UFT. NOw, every can see.  How they could have harmed the various causes of progressives with this one little bullet of theirs is beyond me. All I know for sure is that these knuckleheads performed a truly stellar act.


  1. I will contend that 2500 number. The actual politics put out there is not that much different than in 2016. What changed was that they pushed people out who were able to bring in the vote in the past. I don't consider them any more left than I am. Arthur's school voted for MORE in 2016 not because of the politics but because of Arthur. This time they probably voted for Unity. And don't forget the vast amount of people who did not vote -- I bet a good number are left but UFT elections are irrelevant to them - and some even reject MORE for that reason - for participating.
    The same with the 2600 MORE votes this time -- a batch came from schools where MORE people are present and if they like them they voted for MORE. Doesn't make them left. In 2016 we had people who knew we were left but trusted us. Now they don't and went to Solidarity -- but let's not celebrate them as being victorious -- they got more votes than MORE which blew it.

    1. I think it takes a fair degree of blindness to contend that the politics are the same as they were in 2016. Leadership has gained resl traction and has recruited two of our brightest stars to run and work with them. I don't see how the politics could possibly be viewed as the same.

      It's this same lack of sight that contends organizating can happen without forming a coalition of moderate or even conservative people inside the union, akthough natbe that's a different conversation altogether.

      And it's not identify politics that is the killer here, Don Norm. It's a failure of being able to reach and to form coalitions with other identities that is the real failure here.

      Last thought, shared with huge amounts of admiration for you: This little group, filled with many little people who never actually accomplsihed anything excpet for recruiting you, Mike and Arthur, and you, Norm Scott, share this absurd inclination to not find points of unity with people outside of your core. Too "dangerous" I suppose (although I do not know what danger exceeds the opt outs that are cominf down the road).

  2. We don't actually know that. Maybe it's people who voted for MORE last time and have no idea who they actually are anymore. It's not like everyone reads the blogs or gets leafleted.