Education News

Vote for Unity Caucus Next Week

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

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That’s my friend Alexandra on the left. I met her a few years back. Alas, she’s not the subject of this post, but it’s about time someone credited her for her work.

Six years ago, I ran for HS Executive Board and won. I ran with MORE. We decided to align with New Action, and I was pretty much over the moon about it. Of course, it was hotly debated. 

This wasn’t the first thing I’d seen hotly debated in MORE for little or no reason. I ran for NYSUT EVP once, and there was much conversation about how we maybe shouldn’t do that, because we might win, and if we did, it might corrupt us. I decided to risk it. I ran all over the entire state, at my own expense, and lost, as did the whole ticket I was aligned with.

UFT Executive  Board looked a lot more doable. After we agreed to run with New Action, four of us went out to a beer garden in Brooklyn and discussed the socialist faction and how we’d deal with them. And no, we didn’t care that they were socialist. That was not the issue.  The issue was that they were uncooperative, that they’d been so for years, that they’d joined and broken with other groups over the years. We were focused on how we could win this election and expand our victory.

That led into another group, which wrote a newsletter. Our idea was to continue and expand upon our victory. Perhaps we could capture the middle schools as well as the high schools and move from there. We were doing this for a while, and it was distributed at the DA. I dropped it in every UFT mailbox in our school. The last issue I was involved with, though, ran into an issue. One of the geniuses at MORE determined it wasn’t formatted the way it should. So that person reformatted it in a way that made no difference whatsoever, took over the newsletter, and promptly ran it straight into the ground. 

This was pretty discouraging. More discouraging, though, was when I came under attack for the offense of introducing a pretty thorough class size reduction resolution. Why didn’t I run it by MORE first? Who knows? They’d agreed, as far as I understood, not to interfere with us. But that became difficult for some of them. In fact, one of the people had come to that Brooklyn beer garden with us. I was quite surprised because I’d counted that person as my friend. Oh well, fool me once…

Then of course, came The Great Purge. First they started taking votes on things that affected us on days I couldn’t attend their meetings. This, I was told, was done in order to alienate us. As alienating tactics go, it was pretty effective. Why are these assholes doing this, I asked myself. It had something to do with their agenda, and to this day I haven’t got a clue what it is. I only know it had nothing to do with bettering working or teaching conditions, or they would not have been so horrified by efforts to improve class size. 

I know they were involved with ISO, a socialist organization that soon thereafter disbanded due to sexual assault issues. I don’t know what replaced ISO, nor do I care, but I know if we don’t learn from history we’re doomed to repeat it. These same people now control MORE and have established yet another connection with the same groups who’ve joined them multiple times in the past. I thought such a coalition would succeed six years ago. Again, fool me once…

I sat at more than one MORE meeting where I was grouped with a bunch of white people asking why there weren’t more teachers of color. I wondered why, if this was such a concern, no one had bothered to invite them to these meetings. Last I heard, one of them just committed an enormous faux pas. I won’t post it here, but I’m absolutely certain, were it me, that opposition wouldn’t extend me the same courtesy. If they have no issue writing outright lies about me, they certainly wouldn’t hold back on something like this.

I’m running again with Unity because I’ve been able to be part of real gains for UFT members. At my very first Executive Board meeting I brought up my school’s rampant overcrowding, and Ellie Engler was able to get us a meeting, one that had long eluded my principal, with the building authorities. As a result, our school will have a brand new annex next year with a new culinary program. I became close to Evelyn de Jesus, and persuaded her we needed to have two observations instead of the four that were running both us and our supervisors into the ground. We won that. We were also able to win parental leave, for the first time ever. It beats the hell out of the nothing it replaced.

Opposition can claim it will do this and that, but it’s dominated by the same fanatical ideologues who basically object to doing anything but advancing their own unfathomable agenda. And while I won’t attack UFT members personally on this space, I have huge issues with some of the people they’ve chosen to put forward. Still, there is a way forward,  and there can be more victories and improvements.  That’s why I’m standing for re-election with Unity this year. 

For more, read this.

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Mamie M. Arndt