|Don't even think about it, pal. I'm plenty authorized. It's my union.|
I think this is where I'm supposed to say that anyone who runs for a UFT office is a set apart and deserves our respect, right? Not gonna happen here. I've seen both sides engage in actions that surprised me in their lowness. As Ginsberg opened, "I saw the greatest minds of my generation driven to madness" (I prefer nuts, but, hey....) Let's just say that both sides went a little bonkers this time around. This election had too much toxic. Too much bitterness and just too much damn ugly. Frankly, I think it is time for some folks to think about exiting the stage. This is true for the Unity folks but this is especially true for oppo. The new generation should take it from here.
I'd like to thank the Unity Caucus, however, for never attacking my reputation, for their professionalism and friendships -and for always listening to what I had to say. Those are all very gratefully appreciated!
I cannot say the same for members of the UFC. From them, I have experienced very public attacks, very private whisper campaigns and a very healthy dose of that toxicness that they are, by now, well-known for. Hell, I even lost a few friends along the way this season (achimony stemming from a damaging lie peddled by a person who gave them all hope and commanded their attention). I wish I could say I'm the only one who was attacked or mistreated. Alas, I am not. It's just how they rolled through whole swaths of their campaign this year (more on that after the voting ends).
And then there were the mistakes. Instead of combining all players, they opted for a left-only slate, with a center leaning Solidarity being the only non-left sign-on. Instead of crafting a vision and selling it to members, they put all of their efforts into making their opponent look bad whenever possible. Instead of reminding members that no whole-sale changes could possibly be made if they won (that this was a challenge for leadership and for the direction of the union) they opted for an attack approach (repeating the same mistakes oppo has made year after year since as far back as anyone can remember).
And instead of uniting the union, they chose to embrace a message and strategy that united only themselves. This made then all resemble a power strip that has been plugged into itself. They then proceeded through their campaign as though that power strip had been giving them an electric kind of energy. It really hadn't. The energy they felt was only their own excitement over finally being united with each other -with other people who share their world view and see agency in their union. Unfortunately, if history is any guide, what they achieved will probably move them about as far as the next few stops on the subway. You know how that goes over there. Look for them to be not speaking again in a year or two. The leaders really blew a chance to win it all this year. Like, really.
But some of the folks who had little or less to do with any of that are on the ticket this year and they are just amazing. I mean, beyond amazing. I think you should look all the way down the ballot and vote for them. I think you should find these names and vote for them before you look at the remaining parts of the ballot.
Camille Eterno. I have already written about Camille here and here so I won't go over it again. But checking her name will bring a new direction to the UFT. Whatever they want to say over at the UFC about how they will burn the house down and blah blah blah is just nonsense (the truth is they wouldn't be able to find enough qualified individuals anyway without turning to Unity people). Camille's presence as the president would change the course and direction of the union, period.
Gloria Brandman My understanding is that Gloria is running on the retiree slate. I have never known a more committed activist than she. She is wise, she is experienced and she is patient. And Gloria is a builder. You will find many different types of people in the UFT oppo, but there are very few in that world. Gloria is one of them and her integrity and reputation as a committed activist are both beyond impeccable. If you can see her name on the ballot, you should vote for her.
Norm Scott is another name that is worth the extra time to find and to vote for. Norm has been at the center of the UFT oppo for decades. He knows every player - and he knows most of the plays. Norm is one-half brilliant strategist, one-half grinder and one-half Groucho Marx-like intellectual muse. That makes him worth more (by half) than almost any unionist out there. I think of Norm as a Groucho Marx because of Groucho's famous line ("I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member"). Norm is a perennial outside and he has turned being an outsider into an insider's game. This whole union is far far better off with him. He is just what they need to hear for the next three years in whatever capacity they are able to hear it. Find Norm. Vote for Norm.
Lydia Howrilka is the voice of the Solidarity Caucus. She has played an essential role in uniting the several members of the vocal opposition and has dealt with, well, a lot in the name of uniting. If you ask anyone in oppo today, they will tell you that Lydia has really come into her own. The truth, however, is that Lydia came into her own three years ago when she finished second to Michael Mulgrew in the vote. Not only did she gain more votes, she spent three years doing her level best to keep them. It took three full years for some people in oppo to realize that Lydia had kicked their ass. The best they could muster from that realization was a 'Lydia has really come into her own' meme. That's rich, as she has been here for years. She is running for the UFT Executive Board on the high school slate this year and her presence will be a benefit to every single rank and file teacher in the City of New York. She'll be great to work with when the powers-that-be are reasonable and she'll be hell to deal with when the powers-that-be aren't. That's Lydia. Lydia is perfect for us. Find Lydia's name. Vote for Lydia.
I don't know too much about Ibeth Mejia, other than that she is a newly elected chapter leader from Queens (Aviation HS) and has been s a formidable organizer within her school. She also has James Eterno as an advisor and a friend and that is someone whom I have a great deal of respect for. She's running on the Solidarity ticket and I'll be voting for her as well.
Edit: I just learned that James Eterno is, in fact, on the ballot this year. I haven't the time to write a blurb about James, but if you don't know the name, then you should learn it. If he's on the ticket, I'm sure it's as a delegate or some other position where it is nigh impossible for vote just for him, but James is the best organizer in the UFT. If you can, vote for James.
I've met the candidate for VP of CTE High Schools Eric Severson. I know him to be a straight forward unionist who is dedicated to making teachers' lives' easier. In a non-bizarro world, that would be all that anyone would need to know. So I'll just pretend I live in a non-bizarro world and vote for him. If you want a good unionist, you should as well.
There are some other names from Solidarity that I think you should consider. I know no one from the New Action slate but I do hear great things about Nick Bacon (and I think he is a great writer). I am able to recommend absolutely no one from the MORE Caucus but one name, Ronnie Almonte, has popped up several times as a transformative leader, organizer and unionist. I'll be voting for him. Another name to look out for is Matt Driscoll (although i'm not sure if he is on the slate). These names pop up as possibly the future over there at "the movement" (and, man, I hope so. That outfit needs to go back to the future (in their processes) where they belong and needs to drop the dead weight -asap). Finally, I like Yvonne Reason for Middle School Executive Board from the eonyc banner. I don't know this person but I saw this colleague on teacher chat travel to her students' homes over one summer to welcome them to middle school because she knew many may be on remote the following year, and because she wanted them to meet their teacher. She did this during an international pandemic, before there was a vaccine. I've never met this person but anyone who does something like that will represent regular teachers beyond fine.
I'm ending with Peter Zucker! Peter has known the players and has been affecting the game for well over 15 years now. No one has been knowledgeable, more public in his defense of teachers, including individual teachers, than has Peter. I once saw Peter call around and pull out the big guns for a teacher he barely knew. Her story was horrible (just horrible) and that was all Peter needed to hear, The teacher received a more fair deal because of his defense of her and Peter, for all his his tongue-in-cheek writing, never bothered nor cared to brag. The victories are quiet that way and that's fine with Zucker. This is an essential unionst, with more experience and institutional wisdom than many many others. So it would make sense that they put him for Executive Board right? Wrong! Peter is an AFT delegate candidate.
There are new names which I do not know and can't speak to. And there are still other names (names who read this blog) who I will not speak to (hell, those names are probably calling Carl right now to complain about me using my banner in a blog post. But the names listed here are worth the time to carefully search for on the ballot and check the vote box.