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Op-Ed: A UFT Delegate's Response to Ryan Bruckenthal of MORE
Editor’s note: The following post was submitted by a UFT delegate who has asked to remain anonymous. It is the delegate’s counter-rebuttal to a recent op-ed by Ryan Bruckenthal, UFT delegate and union activist.
At The Wire, we try to allow for a diverse range of opinions from NYC educators from the various caucuses, groups and activists in our union. It by no means we endorse a specific viewpoint.
We believe this issue has a multitude of serious implications, passionate and varying perspectives that should be shared without antisemitic, Islamophobic or racist hate, through civil and democratic discourse.
This will be the final post regarding the two published opposing viewpoints regarding a ceasefire amendment that failed to be passed by UFT chapter leaders and delegates, by a margin of about 100 votes.
See The Wire archive to view and read the related posts.
1. Ryan Bruckenthal himself is an important presence in our union. As he mentions, Ryan clearly works with everyone—not just MORE—on a range of issues and was important in contract debates, class size committees, and beyond. My article mostly critiqued MORE’s response to Ryan’s amendment, as well as their actions leading up to it. To my knowledge, beyond proposing the amendment, Ryan himself was not a part of many of those actions. He didn’t storm out of the building with his caucus in a huff when the amendment failed, didn’t disrupt the DA, and carried no antisemitic signs to shame DA members who voted their conscience. I suspect that Michael Mulgrew called on Ryan, and not some of the other MORE members seeking to raise the resolution, in part because Ryan has a good track record at union meetings.
2. Ryan may very well have had a good faith intention to merely amend an existing resolution on which he otherwise completely agreed. On the other hand, Ryan was one of the speakers at the October DA who wanted to remove anti-Hamas language from the ‘cycle of violence in the middle east’ resolution.
Specifically, he argued in favor of removing the line “WHEREAS, thousands of people have been killed or injured and scores of others taken hostage in the unconscionable terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel this past weekend.” He also argued in favor of removing the line “RESOLVED, that the UFT condemns the attack.”
Since Ryan previously argued in favor of not condemning Hamas’s attack, it’s possible that this time Ryan and MORE just made a tactical decision not to remove the existing line about Hamas’s hostages to increase the chances of passing their ceasefire amendment. Yes, it’s also possible that this time around Ryan really wanted that language about Hamas’s victims, but I don’t think that could be said for MORE as a whole.
3. Ryan’s amendment was not motivated in a vacuum. MORE telegraphed their intention to motivate a ceasefire resolution at the November DA all over social media. They additionally threatened publicly to walk out if that resolution wasn’t heard or passed—a threat on which they made good. MORE clearly conveyed their intentions well before Secretary LeRoy Barr released the November agenda. That agenda announced that Secretary Barr’s own Gaza-related resolution would be the first motion of the night, thereby offering MORE an opportunity to advance ceasefire language via an amendment instead of a standalone resolution. I don’t know what their full ceasefire resolution would have looked like, since it was never motivated, but I doubt it would have mentioned a condition for hostage release. I have good reason to believe that it wouldn’t have included such a condition, by the way, because their ceasefire letter on Change.org also didn’t have such language. That letter only condemned Israel for its “murderous war on Gaza” (sic). It made no mention of Israeli hostages or of condemning Hamas, just as Ryan and others sought to remove anti-Hamas language from the UFT’s October resolution. MORE shouldn’t take credit for humane language that someone outside of MORE wrote when they themselves wouldn’t have written it.
4. Additionally, Ryan’s rebuttal misses the major point of my article: MORE’s response to losing the resolution was the biggest problem here, not the amendment itself. Ryan graciously accepts the defeat of his amendment in his rebuttal, and maybe there are other MORE members who would do the same. But that doesn’t change the fact that most MORE members present at the DA last week stormed out when they lost their vote, disrupted the DA, and organized a rally that included non-union members to protest our decision. It also doesn’t change the fact that some MORE members, such as the two I was responding to in my earlier piece, are calling for the UFT to overturn the will of the DA and still support a ceasefire. Ryan may not be part of the anti-democracy problem in MORE—indeed, I believe he is not—but MORE itself has repeatedly sought to usurp the UFT’s democratic process. They’ve also sought to disrupt the education of our students.
Regardless of how you may personally feel about a ceasefire, MORE’s campaign to get children to leave school buildings and protest Israel on the anniversary of Kristallnacht was absolutely despicable. I have no reason to believe that Ryan Bruckenthal himself was a part of any of those actions, but the existence of decent people like Ryan in MORE has unfortunately done nothing to stop them from collectively misfiring on our union and education system. If anything, MORE has used people like Ryan to surreptitiously cloak the organization’s own odious and disruptive tendencies in the image of civility.
5. Finally, Ryan argues that "online polemic does not build our own union or broader movements for social justice, only recognizing our struggle and common humanity does.” And again, accepting that Ryan himself earnestly believes this, I’ll close with some questions.
Does MORE disrupting our union democracy over contentious issues help our union to recognize our common humanity or does it divide us further apart? Does MORE’s attempt to speak for movements of social justice do so productively, or does it pit historically marginalized communities against each other within our chapters and schools? Does MORE fight to improve conditions in their schools too or is the bulk of their shared project about divisive political issues? Might there be a better way to positively impact our union than by bringing political polemic into our union halls–into our schools?
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