Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Behind The Scenes: Commentary On Both Campaigns

This is just a quick commentary on both campaigns as I observed them throughout the election. 

It's been a campaign of declining horizons for the UFC. What started as an idea to unite all of the teachers in the city who weren't too happy with Unity, quickly moved into a working group that would consider uniting all of the left teachers in the city who weren't too happy with Unity. That, somehow grew into a campaign tailored to all of the already activated teachers on the left who weren't too happy with Unity but were, at least, paying attention. At the end of the day, people from all of the groups who ran oppo for years wound up running this campaign. The new blood that had come into the process had come only through those same old faces and had been along for the ride through the same old tricks. The only difference from years past is that, for 2022, they were all on the same page. That is still not too shabby and it was more than enough to shake Unity out of its slumber for this election. 

In the Fall, the UFC truly had a chance to win a majority of working teachers. That would have put the leaders of the UFC in a very strong position over the next three years. A majority of working teachers would have allowed them to heavily influence union policy until the next election cycle. That would have been historic.  Given the many missteps (some, stemming from mean spirited internal moves made over the course of the campaign, and others which wound up playing right into Unity's "We Do the Work" strategy),  that outcome will not happen. But, like any Confederate solider who was at Gettysburg the moment before the battle began, there was once was a moment where all that and more was possible.  

Unity, on the other hand, used this election to organize its caucus like it has never done before. Before this election, the Unity caucus was a big, sprawling group of people who seemed more concerned with their small 'team' (or piece of turf) than they seemed to be with the union as a whole. Many of these people didn't know one another. Many more seemed almost preoccupied about brandishing their own career reputation, or settling internal caucus disputes, then they were with the union as a whole. 

They all know one another now! So far as I see, each person inside the Unity Caucus sees the purpose of their work in a whole new light. As a group, they seem more organized in thought and in word than I have ever seen before. And they have been forced to be more reflective of who they are when they speak about these issues. They don't attack regular members anymore on social media. They sound like professionals when they add a comment. They avoid that demeaning tone that Unity had become known for. They're better. Their "all-in" approach has made them better and this election has been a blessing in disguise for them (and, by extension, the rest of us). 

And, as they are in better shape, so too is the UFC. The United Federation of Teachers is not a union of teachers of the left and the UFC is a group made up of teachers and teacher supporters of the left. Despite this, they are a united left. That's important for the rest of us. They have a long history and knowledge base of taking to the streets that they all employed this year. The new found cooperation led them to learn from each other, share each others' ideas and approaches and benefit from a sort of cultural diffusion from which the left does not typically benefit.  They now know how to launch a media campaign now and they  (caucuses who made up the slate) are all in a position to organize and bring more to their respective causes. If they were smart (and they are at least smart enough to read this blog), they would start organizing forums and other gatherings around their issues now -before the campaign becomes too forgotten  and while so many are still paying attention to them. 

I doubt whether that will happen, though. They are, after all, of the left and the left is notorious for not staying together for very long. I have already written that they will probably get 'about as far as the next few stops on the subway'. That could give them up to one good solid year of being on the same page and helping one another. If they could 1) Stick to their points of unity, they will see  2) a growth in their numbers, then they'll 3) become more powerful. 

Alas, the old way of doing things, which are rooted in suspicion, had prevailed in the final construct of their organization. They yelled for more voices, yet they organized their group around a small council of older ("wiser"?) members some representing their caucus and some representing just themselves. That part didn't feel very new.  Though brimming with energy and brilliance and motivation, the younger voices inside MORE have still not come to understand that the caucus is controlled by four or five of the same people (and some of those people have blown up joint slates in the past). But this group almost didn't happen and it did and that greatly matters. 

(Side note: Someone needs to do a history of the UFT oppo groups. Only oppo is too scared to do it, because then they'd have to admit to some of the things they do.)

Looking out in the distance, the UFC's future is very questionable. If the younger real organizers can't figure out a way to work around the older voices who cause damage, then the entire UFC may well be a memory by the time the next election rolls around. And, while there are other members (like the entire group over at ICE UFT) who hold all of the institutional memory and who understand how to be helpful to newer activists instead of competing against them, the truth is there are about 4 or 6 people from the UFC slate who could help the cause by stepping aside starting now and allow the younger voices to take it from here. Sadly, if those key members don't decide that it is time to hang it up, then the UFC will not have a fighting chance to make any difference at all in three years time, because the UFC will no longer exist. 

But Unity has never been in better shape than they are right now. And that fact, along with a newly formed oppo group challenging them at every legitimate turn, will be good for working teachers. 

1 comment:

  1. To me, the reason why UFC bombed is that their running president, Camille Eterno, did not promote herself or the UFC platform enough. The vast majority of teachers in NYC think one thing: They think that the United Federation of Teachers is Mike Mulgrew. Since Eterno did not do a good enough job of promoting herself, coupled with the fact that Unity rejected a debate, UFC has been doomed from the start.