Being surreal at December UFT Retiree meeting - the Morning Joe Edition
I'm still reeling from Tuesday's retiree chapter meeting and then I get deja vu all over again while watching Morning Joe, with former Dem Senator Claire Caskill bragging about the record amounts of drilling Biden is doing. That's a sure way to capture the votes of the young people who see climate change as an existential threat.
It's surreal to watch how they talk about all the great Biden stuff but can't understand why the polls are so low, especially within his own coalition -- They admit that Biden hasn't laid out a second term agenda -- only talks about what has been done while ignoring what hasn't been done. A guest says people have to have a real sense that a second Biden term will make a difference in their lives. It's not enough not to be Trump. But no worries. They think people will come to their senses, especially after Tom Murphy rouses the masses in the UFT retiree chapter meeting. So, watching Morning Joe this morning is like a nightmare repeat of Tuesday's RTC meeting where I was more convinced than ever that Trump will be our next president.
December 21 - last day of fall/first day of winter -- brrr.
Tuesday started off peaceful enough. The day began with a gym, swim and sauna. Done by 8:30 AM. Downloaded the flyer for Retiree Advocate to hand out at the RTC Dec. meeting later that day. Dropped by the FedEx on Lexington and 40th St and the ladies there were so helpful in sending the pdf to the copier. Then off to oatmeal and coffee at the Pret at Park and 40th, followed by the library on 40th and 5th and then off to check out the Bryant Park holiday fair and the ice skating - watching, not skating. Then off to Grand Central to head downtown.
So I was pretty mellow when I got to 52 Broadway to meet with the Retiree Advocate crew with leaflets and sign up sheets for RA. We got a pretty good response to our leaflet - a lot of people seemed to know us and wanted a copy. One guy referred to the last meeting where we saw a presentation on seniors avoiding fraud when "the biggest frauds of all were sitting up there running this union and RTC."
And once again the frauds were in action.
So.....I spent an angry hour and a half at Tuesday's Retiree Chapter meeting. I wasn't the only one pissed. Arthur wrote about the meeting from a remote point of view. (When Is the Best Time to Dump UFT Unity?)
Here's a sense of the meeting from Arthur:
...when someone actually has a question, Murphy interrupts her relentlessly. That’s off topic. That’s not a question. Murphy sarcastically calls her “nice.” The woman wants to know what AFT’s position is on Medicare. The woman says if the whole city gets off of it, the program may be in danger. Murphy snidely says, “Thank you,” over and over again, until some Unity hack finally grabs the mike from her.
Lucky for Arthur he wasn't in the room where there was a lot of rage from both sides -- Unity hacks upset at how dare anyone challenge them. And he missed out on those stale bagels in cellophane wrappers. At the top of my platform for the RTC election would be promising to bring back real bagels and real pastries - strudel for sure. Maybe lox. Arthur also missed some awful xmas cookies. But you know me - I ate the bagel and the cookies.
I usually don't get too excited at the shenanigans by the gang running the UFT/Unity Caucus syndicate and its retiree chapter subsidiary, but I had to listen to stuff that set me off. At one point Tom Murphy made a mistake and actually pointed to me for a question but when he recognized it was me he looked horrified and said "NO" and pointed in the other direction. He should make better use of the UFT welfare eyeglass fund.
The meeting, as usual, got off to a rousing start with moments of silence for death notices. (I wanted a moment for the death of our healthcare). RTC leadership loves death notices - which may explain why they want us off Medicare and in a MedAdv managed care program, a sure way to increase death notices.
I can't wait for Murphy to filibuster an entire RTC meeting dedicated to moments of silence, though a recent meeting dedicated to the death of George Altomare where he comes back to life to sing Solidarity Forever - and he means Forever - repeatedly because Murphy couldn't hear it well enough, qualifies. Murphy should make better use of the UFT Welfare hearing-aid fund.
I was sorry to hear of the death of Bernie Zemsky, longtime Unity Caucus member, who soured on the leadership and communicated his feelings to people in the opposition. I was told he was fired by the union and sued them and there was a settlement but he had to sign an NDA. I had planned to get in touch with him to ask him to run with RA in the chapter election. He probably would have.
Ooops. I gave Bernie away. Look for Unity to rescind the moment of silence at the next meeting.
When I'm gone I want one minute of people screaming at the leadership "U Suck!"
"Why aren't we talking about retiree issues," someone calls out a few minutes into the meeting. The meeting reinforced the inept AFT/UFT gang as part and parcel of the inept Democratic Party leadership which is a major reason the Trump phenomena exists. And yes, we retirees get the danger Trump presents. Don't waste our time beating our heads over it and take care of our healthcare. We don't need to go to a meeting to tell us how bad Trump is and how good Biden is. Trump is strong because the Dem Party is so inept. And it's not only about perceptions but policy.
Using UFT Retirees a political force while ignoring their health needs
This meeting was about the role for retirees for political action. Randi's NYT Sunday ad warning about the Trump danger to democracy was referenced. How ironic to talk about democracy at an undemocratic UFT meeting.
Using the Trump threat as a way to distract people from the healthcare issue is not a surprise. The Trump threat is real but so is the healthcare threat the UFT foisted on the retirees.
What will kill us first? Trump or Aetna?
The idea that getting the UFT retirees wired up about the Trump threat in the face of the assault on our healthcare by our own union is what made this meeting surreal.
The major theme in the opening presentation by John Ost, AFT Director of Political Mobilization was all about how Trump is a danger to democracy and is leading Biden in all areas. DUHHHH! He was interrupted constantly by Mulgrew riding in a car trying to talk but all we heard and saw was static -- which is how I always view Mulgrew talking.
Murphy says we’ll bring on a speaker from AFT, but we’ll interrupt him whenever Mulgrew sees fit to show up. As soon as the guy starts to speak, he’s interrupted by Mulgrew, evidently in a car, and no one in the room can hear him. After we waste time on that, Mulgrew says he’ll drop in on the meeting later.
Back to Ost. But of course it's not the fault of Biden or the inept Democrats, which includes our UFT leadership from the top national down to the locals they control. UFT/AFT is inbred with the right/central Dem Party -- which is controlled by the corporate wing. They will sit by while the Israeli lobby wipes out the progressives.
John Ost posted charts - he charted us to death about how much of a danger Trump was and how bad Biden was doing in the polls. I kept calling out WHY? But they are not interested in WHY and when you don't want to know WHY, you will never have an answer. The WHY is that the corporate Dem agenda sucks and alienates the progressives and opens up Biden to weakness on both flanks.
And they don't get why young people are deserting Biden in droves? Student debt - inept. Climate change - inept. Healthcare improvement: inept. Note: Biden ran on extending Medicare. Don't just blame Republicans. Biden never mentions it.
So they talked about Biden bringing down drug prices and medicare negotiating for lower drug prices. But always watch what they don't say: the delay until 2025, that it's only a few drugs, etc. A Unity former VP made a point that Medicare and Social Security would be in more danger if Trump won? I slapped my head -- The UFT leadership has been a threat to Medicare so far, not Trump, who is one of the few Republicans who chastise them for talking about cutting Medicare -- one of his few redeeming points - even if he's probably lying.
You see the problem is that the wonderful work Biden has done is just not getting through. Like people who can't pay rent or buy a house should bow down.
In the first minute of the presentation I was more convinced Trump may win than ever because these people are so clueless. They are hoping to beat Trump by getting states to not put him on the ballot or the courts to convict him. Why so many people are either supporting Trump and rejecting Biden? Not interested.
And how about those Dems in states like Florida, Massachusetts and Tennessee manipulating or cancelling primaries to protect Biden? Dems are not a threat to democracy?
Biden's insistence of running may end up being the biggest threat to democracy, enabled by his enablers in support groups like the UFT.
We heard a long report from the UFT’s new political director, Venecia Wilson.
She is charming as she relates a few personal anecdotes. I had expected her to answer the question, but she doesn’t. She then talks about Santos and says the GOP has picked a candidate for his seat, but we’re waiting to hear from the Democrats. Oddly, I heard yesterday the Democrats had picked Tom Suozzi, and a member later brings it up. (It’s a little disconcerting our political director seemed not to know this.)
I try to get a question in on Suozzi who is to the right of Hochul but Tom ignores me again. Joel Burger shows Newsday which announces Suozzi and leaves egg on their faces. Did they not know or were they hiding that this is the guy we are going to be asked to support? Not all good news on Suozzi either as he's blamed for running a dumb primary campaign against Hockul which helped Republicans in numerous ways -- maybe even the House loss is partly his fault with Santos replacing him.
Mulgrew walks in and he's in a good mood --- I'm glad he wasn't driving the car. He's handling the heckling with a hearty "Happy holidays".
Back to Arthur.
Mulgrew shows up at 2:15. Says this chapter will work harder than any other chapter. Other people have to go into classroom. Evidently, he assumes we have nothing else to do. He criticizes corporations who want unfettered control. This strikes me as ironic. Mulgrew, despite professing that the Delegate Assembly is the union’s highest decision-making body, opposes the NY Health Act, twice endorsed by the DA. He himself has unfettered control.
Murphy, to his evident dread, has to allow questions. He says there are “lots of health question, or statements posing as questions,” in yet another barb at those of us who want to keep our insurance. Belittling us yet again, he snaps, “Here’s an apt question,” which turns out to be about Tier 6.
Murphy finally allows ONE question on health care to reach Mulgrew’s ears.
Sarah Shapiro—Why are you more concerned with the city’s health than our health? NYS Supreme court found Advantage would cause us irreparable harm. Isn’t that enough of a reason to preserve the coverage we have now?”
Mulgrew—We are at war with the health care industry. We can’t just say no, no, no. We see around the corner with what will happen in the future. We will make sure every member gets the best health care with the same benefits, I know the city’s appealing. Keep hearing the rhetoric and the same lines. Responds “Happy New Year and God bless” to people. I support your right to your opinions. I will give you facts and you have a right to agree or disagree. Moving on to next question.
Mulgrew did not answer the question. He implies we are contrary imbeciles, and suggests he has vision, but offers absolutely no supporting evidence. I’m glad he’s not in my class writing a persuasive essay. (He should be glad too.)
There are a few statements on health and welfare. Notable is this one:
Bennett Fisher—Retiree Advocate had very well attended general meeting. Discussed health care going forward. Discussed health care with UFT other unions, and NYC Retirees, Very happy most recent lawsuit went into our favor. If anybody has interest in learning more about RA, please come see us and sign up.
Murphy tried to interrupt, but Bennett got to complete his statement. There was another speaker, and then Murphy loudly cried, “Meeting Adjourned!” Clearly, there was nothing he wanted in life more than to end this meeting.
Bennett was speaking under Good and Welfare which is where anyone can get up to the mic and say something. Well, not everyone. I'm waving my hand and shouting Good and Welfare. "Meeting adjourned" says Murphy, 20 minutes before it was supposed to end.
More info on the Suozzi story:
Anna Kaplan doesn’t like George Santos. And she isn’t so sure about Tom Suozzi either.
“After almost a year of this district having embarrassing representation, Tom Suozzi thinks voters on Long Island have forgotten that he abandoned us to George Santos,” Kaplan, who is running in the 3rd Congressional District as a Democrat, said in a statement. “The Democratic Party is a pro-choice party, and unlike Tom Suozzi, I will always stand up for a woman’s right to choose — period.”
That was just a preview of just some of the attacks that fellow Democrats will make against Suozzi after the longstanding, though divisive figure in New York politics launched his own campaign Tuesday to win back his old seat.
Suozzi “abandoned” the Long Island district last year, forgoing re-election to challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul in the Democratic primary from the right.
Team Hochul viewed Suozzi as a nuisance, at best. And she slammed him for initially supporting the Hyde amendment, which bans federal funds like Medicaid from being spent on abortion care.
Norm Scott is a longtime union organizer and activist. He is the author the Ed Notes blog.
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