For the Unity Caucus, this campaign has been a real watershed. Before this season, Unity was a sprawling organization filled with people who really weren't very well connected with one another -and they weren't very disciplined. Whereas some understood the subtleties involved in the internal politics of the union, there were others who did not and were so direct as to look like a bull trampling through a china shop. They could not communicate the medical coverage transition for retirees in any way that made any sense. Small groups of loyalists would devise "talking points" all on their own and attend online Zoom meetings with the specific intent of redirecting (ie controlling) the conversation. Unity members would share harsh tones with members, both online and in-person when they disagreed -and almost none of it was sanctioned by the 14th floor. There were whole swaths of Unity who were not in any meaningful contact with other whole swaths of the same caucus -and it showed. When they acted, they weren't always on the same page. When they spoke, they didn't always strike the same tone. They were a disorganized mess. They looked weak and any politically minded unionist could clearly sense that weakness and smell electoral blood in the water. This was a group that was ripe for defeat.
But, as Yogi Berra once said; 'It ain't over till it's over'. Somewhere along the line, the Unity Caucus woke up and most certainly rose to the meet the challenge they were facing.
By the time the official season got underway, they had all been tightly organized under one slogan, "We Do The Work". Suddenly, they were celebrating their members with videos and in visual banners shared all over social media. And, when they spoke via social media, they had their rank and file members -their superstars from the classroom- do most of the talking. Those superstars stole the show. When the UFC lodged a complaint that a paid Unity member was putting leaflets in mailboxes during "work time" the new Unity showed its true colors: It had been another member, an unpaid superstar teacher, who had volunteered her time to do it. The wins kept coming for Unity: A Moderator of one of NYC's largest Facebook NYC teacher groups came out in favor of Unity. The city's most beloved edu blogger came out in favor of Unity. And, to a person, every single Unity loyalist was speaking from a position of good; of defending good work and of celebrating good solid members who work with them. That's all you heard from Unity after it pulled itself together.
At the beginning of this campaign, Unity looked like the 1962 Mets. By the end, they resembled 1927 Yankees. If they lose any divisions this year, it will be because of the early hole they found themselves in. It won't be because they didn't pull themselves together. That crew pulled themselves together plenty. I have never seen the Unity Caucus more together than they are right now and if this election were in May instead of April, they would almost certainly clean the UFC's clock. As it stands, I think they'll pull out a victory (but more on that in another post).
And my picks reflect that togetherness and singularity of effort and mindset.
LeRoy Barr gets my endorsement for Staff Secretary. 100%. The Staff Secretary is the person who helps run the day-to-day operations of the union. He has helped build the Unity Caucus into what it is today and he has reached out to oppo for years hoping to be able to engage in some good work with them. He has an even tone. He considers all sides in any discussion and he knows the membership. He is an excellent leader of professionals.
Speaking as a progressive rank and file teacher, LeRoy has invited me to the table just so he could hear what I had to say. This blog is not a space for attacking and is usually a space devoid of all negativity. But leadership spots are important and this is matter of being inclusive. In 2018, it was his opponent from oppo who employed false accusations about my personal integrity and purged me as well as several others from her caucus. The reasons for this were later described in an internal ISO document: I and my colleagues were not far left enough for them. The actual phrase used in the internal document for ISO's national convention was "far right" (and they were very relieved to have gotten those 'far right' voices out of their caucus). Like I said, this is not personal. It is a simple matter of being inclusive. One leader has proven that he is and one leader has displayed the opposite. It's just that simple. I'm voting for LeRoy (and, frankly, I have only a benign fear of being purged from the UFT if he loses. Nothing a little swig of wine can't handle).
Janella Hinds gets my endorsement for VP of academic high schools. Janella is a transformative leader. Simply transformative. She has both style and grace and leads in a kind and supportive manner. Her tone is never harsh and her staff have always been just a phone call away from offering whatever help I needed. Her opponent once attacked her (in the past) and her response was purely her: She exuded her usual positive approach and tried to engage him in discourse. She apologized for not having his support and invited him to share a better path forward for her future Zoom meetings. Pure class. Janella is pure class. And my understanding is that she still teaches (Janella teaches in a place where good teaching greatly matters on an urgent day-today level) and is still loved at all of her colleagues and students. It's Janella and her team for the win. The whole union needs to lead in the manner that her and her team lead.
Speaking as a progressive rank and file teacher, under Janella I have been asked to edit resolutions that would help teachers and have been called for quick brainstorm sessions from time to time. It is in her DNA to involve rank and file members. That's why I endorse her. Her opponent has been a member of the opposition for years. He has attacked me on Twitter, has implied that I am not a real teacher and has literally told me to shut up when I contributed to a discussion (that's here, if you're interested. I disagreed with him attacking someone else and that's what I got in return). Like I said, this blog is not a space for attacking and is usually a space devoid of all negativity. But past is usually prologue and the experiences I have had with her opponent (which are shared here with no malice and with no spite whatsoever) does shed light on the type of leadership we might expect with a UFC victory in that spot. Please know, I would not be the only teacher to experience this level of pedantic abuse if her opponent were to win. Word has it her opponent recently filed a formal complaint about this blog with the union because I used the UFT's logo in a few of my posts. I think that's what we would expect with a regime change in academic high schools. It's actually nothing personal. I just prefer the other path. Look, folks pick up their own unique styles along the way. Her opponent is a hard charger with a 'take no prisoners' approach. Janella is a once-in-a generation transformative leader who has a 21st Century style and skills. I'm not endorsing Janella because she has never attacked me and has worked with me whenever possible. I am endorsing her because she is the type of leader who will never attack a regular teacher and will work with regular teachers whenever possible. That's what we want from our leadership. That's what people like me want from the real teachers of this union. A win for Janella would ensure that kindness and tone matter to teachers.
Amy Arundell is a candidate for the UFT Executive Board this year. I would have gladly petitioned for her in my school but she had more than enough support without me (of course). But that's how much I endorse her. I think we all know Amy's contributions to the union at this point. She answers questions on Facebook groups. She connects with members whenever possible. She keeps her victories and struggles quiet and tries more than anyone else to connect with as many members as possible. But this is all because she believes in building and growing chapters and teachers and because she believes in the dignity of a professional saying "thank you for your feedback. I like my bulletin board the way it is" to an abusive administrator (she has said these words in the past. But I am asserting to you that she deeply believes in every sentiment behind those words and isn't slow to work toward it). Amy Arundell is a walking, talking theory of action. In my opinion, she is the best organizer the UFT has, period. The work (of building) that she has done in Queens will, I think, add to the amount of votes that the Unity caucus will win this year (more on that later in the week when I publish my picks for who will win). But, for now, it's Amy.
Mindy Rosier - Mindy was once an oppo person herself! She now runs with Unity and has never been more widely respected (and, frankly, loved) than she is now. To know Mindy is to love Mindy. We like that about our union leaders. We like trusting the members of our Executive Board and we like being able to depend on their kindness. But that kindness should not be mistaken for anything less than toughness. Mindy hast taken on Eva in her own school. She has taken on the governor at his own Manhattan office. She is a Bernie Sanders delegate with a gentle presence but she is every bit a fighter. Mindy is the bomb; period. Find Mindy's name on the ballot. Vote for Mindy.
Arthur Goldstein - Has been defending teachers since 2005 -since before I was ever active. I'll have more to write about Arthur later in the week but since being a member of the Executive Board, he has connected hundreds of teachers to their union and has established a forum for thousands more to understand just what the heck is happening in their union. Arthur Goldstein on EB will be a plus for working teachers, just as his blog, his many newspaper column articles and his presence has been in the past. This is a no brainer.
Mike Schirtzer - In a surprise to absolutely no one, the doenuts blog endorses Mikey no-shirt. I won't say more than I already have, but Mike is true teachers' teacher -and a complete ham. He has proven his expertise to me about the contract on more than one occasion and we all know how he has helped teachers in the past. People call him "Mr. UFT" because that's all he thinks and talks about. He has brought winning issues and winning people into the union and has ensured that they are part of it. When he speaks, he speaks as though unionism is cool and you feel as though you are the uncool one for not recognizing how cool unionism is. Mike is a force of nature and, as he continues to refine his leadership style and approach, I hope to see his name and his work find a more prominent place inside of the UFT. Find Mike's name. Vote for Mike.
Mike Solo - I have met Mike Solo exactly once in my life -for all of five minutes- but many of us know his story. As a chapter at John Dewey High School, Mike Solo pushed back hard against an abusive principal. I won't tell the whole story here but his actions were adroit, smart, brave and, ultimately victorious. Most importantly, this is the person who ensured that you and I will never have to record, keep and track data about our DO NOWs and Exit Tickets. That, to my understanding, was his fight and that precedent (which protects us all today) stemmed from his work when he was under direct assult. I know this person only by reputation. I am running to find his name so I can vote for him. Some would try to convince you to not vote for individual people on the ballot and just close your eyes and "check the box". But the things that protect us are the product of the effort of individual people who, under attack. fought back and, in their victory, protected us all. I choose to honor Mike Solo this year and I'm going to give thanks for his work by directly voting for him and for people like him.
I have one edit from my last post: Sally Bean is running against Mike Sill for UFT assistant Secretary. I like Mike Sill but Sally Bean is a brilliant bundle for smart positive energy. I realize this is Unity's part, but the doenuts blog endorses Sally Bean or UFT Assistant Secretary. How great is she? She is so great I endorse her over one of the coolest people in Unity. She's that great. Find Sally's name. Vote for Sally.