I have been involved in UFT Delegate Assemblies since 1994. I never recall the Delegates rejecting a leadership recommended endorsement until today... James Eterno at ICE/UFT blog: LIVE BLOGGING FROM THE APRIL DA (Delegates Vote Down UFT Leadership ...
I have been involved in UFT Delegate Assemblies since 1994. I never recall the Delegates rejecting a leadership recommended endorsement until today... James Eterno at ICE/UFT blog:
LIVE BLOGGING FROM THE APRIL DA (Delegates Vote Down UFT Leadership Recommended Endorsements for Comptroller and Other Positions)
The factions represent various constituencies within the union: The Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE-UFT) is a social justice caucus that advocates for racial justice. New Action focuses on social justice as well as economic working conditions and benefits. UFT Solidarity focuses on issues that affect members’ working conditions.--- Politico
Hmmm, I'm getting a kick over the description of the different caucuses. The reporter should have talked to ICE/UFT too since that blog gets quite a lot of traffic.
And I bet certain UFT officials have egg on their faces.
It is important to note that voting at these remote meetings is anonymous so Unity Caucus member votes can't be tracked. Knowing the size of the Unity block, which can include up to 300 retirees, there is not doubt that a number of Unity people had to vote NO.I bet Mulgrew can't wait to get these people back in person, 3 feet apart.
It is also important to note that one of the points of objection was about the process - lumping all the candidates together - and that Unity retiree and often pain in the butt Dave Pecoraro who tried to get the endorsements separated but a motion is out of order at remote meetings so he spoke against the motion and also the endorsement of Corey Johnson and in favor of David Weprin. Pecoraro is a delegate because he runs on the UFT retiree slate as one of The Three Hundred - and if you read my last post, Retiree Advocate is challenging that Unity slate in the chapter elections. I wonder if Unity will keep Dave on the slate for fucking up their endorsement process. Here is James' report from the DA.
Special Orders of Business
Brooklyn borough rep Elizabeth Perez spoke in favor UFT endorsement for various candidates for city offices. Corey Johnson for Comptroller and others. A speaker endorsed Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA. David Pecoraro (Unity Caucus retiree) tried to amend to separate the Comptroller from the others but Mulgrew said amendments are not permitted. David then spoke out against the Johnson endorsement because David Weprin is giving up his assembly seat and he is well qualified and he actually wants the position. He added we need a fiscal expert and Johnson is not one. Another Delegate spoke against saying doing multiple candidates at one time is wrong.
55% No and 45% Yes.
The 5 candidate endorsements the Delegates voted against were:
-Corey Johnson: Comptroller
-Alvin Bragg: Manhattan DA
-JoAnne Simon: Brooklyn Borough President
-Selvina Brooks-Powers: City Council D31
-Dweinie Esther Paul Dorsainvil: Judge Brooklyn
None of the above were endorsed today - the leadership oligarchy may find a way to bring them back for individual endorsement in what I assume will be some emergency DA for a mayoral endorsement because the next DA in May will be pretty late. I mean how much effort to do these one by one, which we always used to do? Some people are getting pretty lazy in how they are running this union.
I assumed the favorite in the Comptroller race was the too liberal for the UFT Brad Lander but Corey threw a monkey wrench into that and I hope he loses. This may help that happen, though an actual UFT endorsement often helps the opposition.
Political endorsements--Elizabeth Perez--Great honor and pleasure to present this reso. Political teams worked diligently to select best candidates. Can't say enough of hard work political teams have put in. Asking this body to join me in endorsing these people.
Carmen Romero--Would like to endorse Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA. Got overwhelming support of UFT for accountability and transparency.
Mulgrew--Thank you. Not just about him.
David Pecoraro--Wants to divide Comptroller endorsement from remainer.
Mulgrew--Can't do that.
Pecoraro--Then speaking against resolution. Cannot support speaker Johnson. Favors David Weprin.
Thomas McDonough--Also speaking against motion. Endorsing seven at a time is rushing things,. Should vote individually. Disagree with several endorsements.
55% no. Fails.
I'm going to do a separate report on the mayoral endorsement process but here are two Politico pieces worth checking out. First,
THE CITY’S TEACHERS UNION is leaning toward Scott Stringer as its preferred mayoral candidate, multiple union members have said, but rank-and-file teachers already dissatisfied with the union’s politics have criticized the endorsement process as opaque and unreflective of their values. The union’s finalists — Stringer, Maya Wiley, Eric Adams and Andrew Yang — recently participated in its final town hall after a series of candidate screenings held behind closed doors. The United Federation of Teachers’ 3,200-member union-wide Delegate Assembly — chapter leaders and delegates — votes on the candidates. And their final decision could come this week. But some members tell POLITICO the system for endorsing in the nearly 200,000-person union, governed by president Michael Mulgrew, does not capture the genuine sentiment of members. POLITICO’s Madina Touré
For the second piece Madina Toure spoke to opposition people for her article and they all slammed the process as undemocratic. But with former Cuomo operative Cassie Prugh running the UFT political machine why expect democracy?
Here is one highlight from Madina's report:
political factions within the union have bucked under Mulgrew — though the well-known president won his own re-election in 2019 with 38,591 votes, or 86 percent of the votes cast.---
Jeez. Only 86% just two years ago. I bet it ain't 86% today but who's to say the opposition won't screw it up again in next year's election, though with unhappiness with Mulgrew growing throughout the union maybe Randi will kick him upstairs --- how about NYSUT - maybe Mulgew should start looking for an apartment in Albany - except Unity doesn't have a deep bench to replace him. Here's the entire Politico article.
[Ed Note: No surprise here that Myrie focuses on Morales' identity instead of her fairly progressive policies - though I would still want to know more about her time working for Joel Klein. As for why the UFT didn't include Morales, we know that too left is not right for the UFT leadership and hasn't been for, oh, 60 years.]
[Ed Note: It's nice she gave Shulman some serious attention - I've been working with him on the reinvigorated Retiree Advocate.]
Wednesday, April 14, 2021: Submitted by Norm Scott
Recently, a group of UFT retirees, active for decades in the union as working teachers and current retirees, often in opposition to the ruling Unity Caucus, met in a backyard in Bay Ridge to sign petitions for the Retiree Advocate/UFT slate opposing Unity Caucus in the upcoming UFT retiree chapter election (70,000 ballots go out in May). It was the first time they had not met on Zoom in over a year. It was a lovely spring day and so good to see everyone in person.
Retiree Advocate began decades ago as an offshoot of New Action Caucus after some of their key people retired and wanted to remain active in the UFT without being subsumed by the retiree chapter controlled by Unity Caucus which dominates retiree functions. About ten years ago some retirees from ICE began to work with the RA and that led to the group becoming unattached to any one caucus and welcoming to all. A group of about ten make up an informal organizing committee of RA and have reached out far and wide to help organize for the chapter election. Over 125 retirees have signed up to run.
Over the decades those of us on the current RA organizing committee had fought together and had fought against each other. (Until the past 5 years I had avoided talking to some of them for decades.) That we were all together in one space and working well together over the past few years is remarkable - a lesson to never burn bridges.
The RA slate has come together from different histories and caucuses: New Action/UFT, ICE/UFT, former members of MORE/UFT, Solidarity Caucus and a current member of MORE Caucus. This election is truly a united front.
UFT history has shown that splintering the opposition only makes Unity Caucus stronger, while united fronts have been able to create at least some challenge to the total control of Unity.
A test question: Compare and contrast the outcomes of the general 2016 and 2019 UFT elections.
2016 saw a united front of MORE and New Action - vs Unity - two caucus choices on the ballot* and they garnered almost 11,000 votes, winning the 7 high school Ex Bd seats - the first time non-Unity endorsed candidates won those eats since 2004.
*Solidarity did not have the required number of candidates to get on the ballot and ran as independents with the presidential candidate getting 1300 votes.
In 2019, MORE fractured the alliance with New Action and refused to work with a third caucus, Solidarity, thus leading to a ballot with three caucuses opposing Unity. The results were a disaster with vote totals for the opposition dropping drastically (MORE finished third and got less votes than Solidarity).
If I were a rank and file voter and saw 3 opposition caucuses vs Unity I would say "WTF. You want us to vote for one of you when you can't manage to even work together in an election?"
I think back to my involvement with UFT elections back to the 1970s and have always felt the only reason to run in a UFT election was in a united front - one group opposing Unity - otherwise there was no point in running.** Thus we saw united fronts from the late 70s through the 2004 election when New Action decided to run with Unity and the ICE/UFT Caucus was formed and worked with another caucus, TJC, new to elections to challenge them and won the high schools.
In fact, the creation of the UFT itself emerged from a united front between the Teachers Guild and the High School Teachers Association in the late 60s. Eventually, that United Front led to a merger into one organization, the UFT.
New Action itself emerged from over 15 years of United Fronts for elections in the UFT when two caucuses, TAC and New Directions, around since the 70s, merged in 1995.
ICE had come out of independents working together in the early oughts. ICE worked in a united front for elections with the TJC Caucus for years.
MORE/UFT emerged out of an alliance between TJC - which dissolved and ICE which did not and continues today as a sort of non-caucus caucus..
So the Retiree Advocate organizing committee has been extremely excited to put together a wide-ranging group that includes many historical figures in UFT opposition history, with almost every UFT presidential candidate who ran against Unity since the late 1970s: Michael Shulman (New Action), Marc Pessin (New Directions, PAC), Marilyn Beckford, (ICE), Kit Wainer(TJC/MORE), James Eterno (ICE).
Plus other UFT activists from the distant past like Bruce Markens (Manhattan HS District Rep 1990-2000), Lois Weiner, my first mentor Lew Friedman, my latter day mentor Angel Gonzalez, an old 70s pal and major activist Matt Gulden, Jose Alfaro, the legendary Ellen Fox, my closest compadres for almost 50 years, Vera Pavone and Ira Goldfine - and so many more.
We have chosen Gloria Brandman to be the RA standard bearer as chapter leader vs Unity's Tom Murphy. I've worked closely with Gloria for 15 years in ICE, GEM, MORE and now Retiree Advocate and Gloria as often the glue that keeps everyone working together. (When MORE lost her they lost a GEM.)
The UFT RTC chapter is structured with 10 Officers and a 15 member Ex Bd. Also on the ballot are 300 delegate assembly candidates, all are elected in an undemocratic winner take all system which has given Unity Caucus control over every elected position since the inception of the UFT and has helped them keep a tight grip on the UFT Delegate Assembly.
Jose Alfaro, Angelo D’Angelo, Patricia Dobosz, James Eterno, Claudia Giordano,
Angel Gonzalez, Bruce Markens, Gustavo Medina, Paul Millstein, Vera Pavone, Robert Provenza, Dacio Quintana, Roque Ristorucci, Anita Romm, Thomas Siracuse
All together we have about 130 candidates running. The rest are running for RTC Delegate Assembly position of which there are 300 with winner take all - which would give Unity all of them, thus disenfranchising the 20-25% of retirees expected to vote for Retiree Advocate.
For the recored, we asked for a minimum of 5 delegates out of the 300 to at least give the minority view a voice at the DA. We were turned down.
**At a MORE meeting where I argued this point a long time activist disputed me and pointed to the 5 caucuses that ran in the Chicago 2010 election where CORE defeated the incumbent - leaving out a few caveats: That the ruling caucus had split in two and more importantly, Chicago has run-offs if you don't get a najority of votes and CORE finished second in round 1 with 32% of the vote but the other caucuses backed them in round 2. When I attempted to correct comparing apples to oranges I was ruled out of order because I had already spoken - I just gave up when it was clear people didn't want to know the truth.
#The medical issues have arisen over the past few weeks and James and I will monitor them carefully.
Friday night I posted an early version of this story about the UFT final four mayoral forum this Wednesday, April 7. I reposted earlier today and then even more info came in - so this is a 4th rewrite.
---- Norm Scott
UFT Media Advisory: UFT Invites "Final Four" Candidates to Forum, Sets Stage for Endorsement in Democratic Mayoral Primary: Four candidates for the June Democratic primary -- Eric Adams, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang -- have been invited to take part in the final mayoral forum sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers... The forum, chaired by UFT President Michael Mulgrew, will be held on Wednesday, April 7, at 4 p.m. at UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway. Mulgrew and the candidates are expected to appear in person (socially distanced), along with a small audience of UFT members. All others, including the press, will be able to watch online. --- UFT Media
There are a lot of knots in recent events surrounding the UFT process for endorsing a candidate for mayor, something they haven't gotten right since Dinkins 30 years ago. Bloomberg called a UFT endorsement the kiss of death. Maybe they should sit this one out.
And what exactly is the process for endorsing candidates? Three guys and gals in a room? I mean how exactly was the final four chosen?
Watch the name Cassie Prugh, UFT's high level political operative who comes straight from the Cuomo administration. She fits perfectly with the Machiavellian operation at Unity Caucus. What did she know and when did she know it when she worked for Cuomo? She's a major player in UFT political decisions.
The REAL final four - forget basketball - will be April 7
Did Yang have to make a three point shot at the buzzer to make the final four?
Mulgrew announced the candidates who made the cut last Friday - Given the UFT history of failure in these endorsements these candidates might not be celebrating.
People were shocked at the inclusion of Yang, who had attacked the UFT and blamed the union for keeping schools closed, clearly wrongheaded and mistaken since it has been the rank and file resistance that would never have opened schools in the first place and has been critical of the leadership for even considering to work with de Blasio to open schools partially.
Mulgrew had recently referred to Yang as "Bloomberg Reincarnated." But he's under consideration? But in Arthur's notes Mulgrew said: To not have Yang would be crazy because he's frontrunner in every poll. Would be irresponsible not to have him answer. Not just about policy, but viability.
No less an eminence than Diane Ravitch, upon hearing the news asked:
Why is Andrew Yang in the final four when he supports public money for religious schools and more charters?
And of course Adams is also pro-charter - so two out of the four finalists seem willing to turn more of our public schools over to anti-union charters. A giant WTF.
My first thought was that the UFT can't really endorse Yang - maybe Adams - but they are the front runners so the UFT plays the "who can possibly win" game even of they would screw the membership.
Rank choice voting gives the UFT a few options.
I always thought long-time UFT ally Stringer would get a/the nod (he ended Eva's political career) and there is support for Wiley among some in the leadership. I heard Wiley on Brian Lehrer today and she was good. But as an MSNBC person we know she had to toe a center/mederate Dem line. She's moved left since but not that far the UFT couldn't pick her.
Will the UFT leadership play multiple cards like they did in the Democratic Presidency endorsement when they played a Biden- Warren- Sanders card -- of course Bernie would never have gotten the final nod and corporate Dem central preferred Trump -- have I told you Dem centrists like the UFT leaders would prefer the devil to the left?
Why did pro-charter Eric Adams make the cut? He's a leader in the polls after Yang. It's the political game --- these two are leading the pack and have a better shot at being mayor but the UFT can't go that far to endorse them. Anyway, including pro-charter people at all sends a bad message.
Which is why Diane Morales, who definitely tilts left despite being a former UFT member, got no mileage. She wasn't happy.
If the UFT has a final four, does MORE have a final two?
I heard Morales on a good interview with MORE Caucus last week and she was good - maybe the most teacher friendly - though I still hold it against her for taking a job with Joel Klein. She and Maya seem to be working together as Maya has her as the number two choice - and Maya is scheduled to be interviewed by MORE soon - which also causes me to wonder - in the past a candidate would have been scared to death to go to a caucus that opposed Unity. This issue bears further exploration in the future - MORE has grown so influential as to attract mainstream interest. But I also note as a founder of MORE but no longer involved that we always took the position of not getting involved in political races. I'm thinking of the influence of the Democratic Socialists in MORE, since DSA had had success electorally - see Ross Barkan below. Maybe the MORE leadership which eschewed Dem Party involvement have changed with more openly leftist candidates running.
Has the choice been made and the final four a sham or is there some flex?
A few more notes:
Mr. Mulgrew said: "Of the 12 candidates who have appeared at preliminary UFT forums, these four have reached the final round. Educators participating in this event will drill down, ask tough questions and see who really has what it takes to be a great mayor for public education and our city."
Who are these participating educators? Unity Caucus flacks or real educators?
I bet a thousand on flacks.
Let me close with a Ross Barkan analysis of the mayoral race from the center, liberal and left perspective. DSA is a major player and their stake in MORE is interesting - if they bring their A game to UFT elections, watch out.
roughly, the American left is split among three groups: the moderates, democratic socialists, and left-liberals. These factions are as much voter classifications as they are descriptions of particular organizations. Some people wouldn’t self-identify with the labels at all. And, as I always insist, there’s plenty of overlap.
The mayoral race is not going well for the left-liberals. Scott Stringer and Maya Wiley have been running in this lane, chasing younger progressives, MSNBC viewers, and even socialists as they try to knit together a winning coalition. Neither has managed to poll as high as second in the Democratic primary. One problem both have is that DSA didn’t endorse in the mayoral race and their significant electoral infrastructure won’t be deployed for any candidate. Stringer, as a white man, has run up against a wall with left-liberals who prize seeing a person of color rise. Wiley, a Black woman, has won more generous press coverage, but has struggled to attract attention from voters. Neither Wiley nor Stringer are especially charismatic; Wiley’s backstory is more compelling, but her most recent city experience is as Bill de Blasio’s counsel. Dianne Morales is hunting for socialist votes and gaining momentum, but she’s not a DSA candidate and her background—as a well-compensated nonprofit executive executive—and the lingo her campaign deploys are more left-liberal in orientation.
The moderates are faring better. Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, has consistently polled second. Andrew Yang, who can blend moderate, left-liberal, and some socialist sensibilities, is in first. Neither of them have any deep ties to the nonprofit left organizations like the WFP, Make the Road, and New York Communities for Change. Neither would ever win an endorsement from Elizabeth Warren. Neither support defunding the police. Adams, a former police captain, is a reformer, but would not cut headcount. Yang, to the consternation of the left, has called for more police in subways. Though he has spoken often of late about his Asian identity in light of the rising hate attacks against Asian-Americans, Yang has a long-running skepticism of identity-based politicking, saying in 2019 that he didn’t think “it’s a great way to try to build consensus or bring people together or get big policies across the finish line.” Yang added that it was a “stupid way” for trying to win elections.
Identity politics, built around both racial and ethnic identity, has a deep tradition in New York, where outer borough ethnics erected political machines around what European country their grandfathers came from. Moderates can engage in it as much as left-liberals. But the old-fashioned, identity-based coalition-building of a Barack Obama or David Dinkins has less in common with the CRT-inflected identity appeals that come straight from the academy and can be seen, most clearly, in the underperforming presidential campaigns of Warren and Julián Castro.
If the moderate candidates, and their coalitions, can capture City Hall and the comptroller’s offices, they will exist as the primary, if temporary, bulwark against DSA. There are no DSA candidates competing for citywide or countywide offices this year, but in 2029, the next time term-limits will force municipal politicians from office, the socialists will have a far deeper bench. It’s not impossible that four or five or six DSA members could enter the next City Council. Any of the current socialist legislators could seek higher office. The WFP-aligned lawmakers, like Jessica Ramos and Alessandra Biaggi, share much of the DSA policy aims in Albany.
With the rise of DSA and the durability of anti-socialist moderates, it’s easy to imagine, years from now, these two factions becoming far more dominant in New York. DSA is highly-organized, with a high ceiling for growth. They’re picky endorsers, which means large slates of socialists won’t enter office together in any one cycle, but their influence has clearly been felt in the state legislature already. At the same juncture, an anti-DSA bloc will inevitably rise: of moderates wary of the socialist label, who are willing to pull closer to the police and real estate. New York City itself has a very diverse ideological electorate and there’s no guarantee that today’s immigrant class, as they age and acquire wealth, won’t evolve in the same direction the Irish and Italians of yore did: toward a patriotic, pro-capitalist, and pro-police worldview. Rising shootings and murder rates can push them there even faster. And then, unable to excite the young socialists and unable to placate the rising tide of people with no interest in their buzzy nonprofits, left-liberals may be left in an uncomfortable place.
For months I've worked with Retiree Advocate to help put together a slate and a program to challenge Unity in the upcoming chapter elections. Unity Caucus elects 300 delegates to the Delegate Assembly out of the retiree chapter that help them flood the Delegate Assembly.
Winner Take All
Since we usually get 20% of the vote, in a democratic system we would get about one fifth of the delegates -- roughly 60 -- but in the winner take all autocracy Unity get them all and the thousands who vote for us get no voice at the DA.
We asked for a measly 5 delegates just so there would be some representation of those thousands of retirees who will vote for us. We got none. Truly, as I often say, Putin is jealous of Unity.
This election cycle for the first time we decided to gather retirees who had been active in the UFT as a sort of celebration of the work many have or had done over the years. We have an all-star cast, including every single presidential candidate that ran against Unity (except one) since the late 70s.
UFT Retirees are invited to join us (you must still be a union member)
We have a few more days left and I thought that if there any retirees left reading this blog I'd invite you to join us. Email me with name, address, phone, file # or last four of social and email if interested to email@example.com or see below.
Retiree Advocate/UFT is running in the UFT Retired Teachers Chapter Election (Ballots go out in mid-May).
Petitions must be submitted by April 5th
We hope to get as many retirees as we can. Unity Caucus occupies the DA with 300 elected members. The more people we run, the better able we are to challenge them! We are asking you to run with us as a Delegate to the UFT Delegate Assembly. The logistics for participation are not complicated; we will take care of getting all necessary signatures on the nominating forms. All we need you to do is agree to run on the Retiree Advocate/UFTslate.
Why run with us?
Retiree Advocate/UFTiscommitted to improving our benefits, supporting our working members, fighting for social justice, and increasing rank and file democracy in our union.See our platform below
What happens if we win? Chances are slim since we’ve received about 18 -20% of the vote in the past. But by running as full a slate as possible, we will be sending a message to UFT/Unity leadership - we do not accept the status quo and changes are necessary moving forward.
Seriously consider participating in this election. We need the following information: YOUR NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE, EMAIL, and LAST FOUR DIGITS OF YOUR SOCIAL SEC. NO.
More than 2,000 elected school reps joined the January meeting by phone, a 40-percent increase over participation last spring that undoubtedly reflects a craving for information in circumstances that remain so fluid. However, the UFT delegate assembly was meant to be more than an information session. .... --- Solidarity Caucus Letter of complaint in letter to The Chief, posted on ICE Blog:
My next to last pre-pandemic day in the city before heading back to Rockaway was March 11, 2020 when I attended the last in person UFT Delegate Assembly. Outside the meeting a chapter leader of one of the largest schools in the city told me his school had more cases than the DOE or UFT was admitting to and his complaints to the union were landing on deaf ears and he was thinking of going to the press. (I think he did and those articles put pressure on the DOE and UFT). Earlier that day my wife and I had attended almost empty classes for retirees at 52 Broadway that were cancelled for the rest of the year, it was clear things were going bad. The night before, March 10, we went to a crowded Broadway play - Broadway shut down 3 days later. Schools were shut shortly after though teachers were required to come in the next week without children for "training." Over 70 ended up dying. And the Delegate Assembly has only met remotely since then.
OK, that's some background but the intention here is to open a discussion on democracy at the UFT Delegate Assembly, currently and in the near and distant past. John Lawhead, one of the authors of the Solidarity letter, has been running a UFT history study group which has been fascinating and I've gotten a good handle on how a very democratic institution was turned into what it is today. Look for follow-up posts.
What is the Delegate Assembly?
It consists of the elected chapter leaders and delegates from the schools and functional chapters, where there is a 60-1 ratio, meaning a school with 300 UFT non-functional/classroom chapter members, gets 5 delegates. Large functional chapters get a load, like retirees with 70,000 members, get 300 members of the DA.
Retiree Advocate running a slate vs Unity in chapter election
I'm working with Retiree Advocate to run a slate against Unity in the upcoming chapter election - if you are a retiree and want to run let me know - we won't win and Unity will claim winner take all despite us getting around 20% of the vote - which in a democratic institution would give us 60 delegates - we actually asked Unity for a measly 5 seats to at least represent that 20% and they said NO.
How many delegates?
Do the math and you can see there are probably over 4000 people who can attend a DA but in person the room only holds a max of 850, with a few breakout rooms.
But the reality is that there are often less than 600 in person - for from a quorum which makes meetings technically illegal, but who's counting? And Unity caucus people naturally dominate the crowd, especially when you add in retirees even if only 100 attend.
A key feature of the DAs, especially since Randi Weingarten took over have been long filibuster president reports that often take up to an hour and eat up time.
So by its very nature, DAs are undemocratic in practice. The pandemic has changed things and the union has had to adapt.
The current situation is that many more people are attending the DA - I think I saw some 2000 at the January DA. Imagine zoom meetings with thousands and electronic voting which they have no way of controlling.
How do you do democracy in that environment? Most importantly, the number of eyes on the DA is itself more democratic and that has made the union leadership very nervous, even though they can easily shut people they don't want to hear from out. But I think the transparency is a bigger threat to them and I bet they are dying to get back to normal smaller DAs. But they have figured out a way to restrict democracy even further.
During the past few months, delegates have attempted to bring school issues arising from the pandemic to the floor for debate. They submitted resolutions for deliberation on the blended-learning agreements and the ongoing negotiations between the UFT and the city over evaluation of Teachers providing remote instruction.
Such resolutions have been crowded out in favor of what amounts to business as usual: matters of primarily symbolic significance, expressions of solidarity and various commemorations. At the two most-recent meetings, wholesale endorsements of dozens of candidates for the City Council were bundled into single resolutions of 20 or more and moved to the front of the resolutions period.
Last May the UFT leadership brought a resolution to amend the procedural rules for delegate assemblies without debate. The new rules left delegates unable to raise points of order or offer amendments to resolutions. Meetings cannot be extended past the time for adjournment without a vote to suspend the rules. These changes have given the assemblies the air of a perfunctory proceeding rather than a meeting for serious deliberation.
Well, I never thought the DA was ever a place of serious deliberation and I will get deeper into that issue in a future post.
The question coming next year is what will DAs look like? Obviously a blend of in person and zoom makes sense so any delegate can attend and there will be demands to do it that way and can the UFT leadership resist those demands?
The Solidarity letter has a point on the use of technology to improve democracy:
phone-conferencing technology could provide the means for any participant to raise a point of order, offer an amendment or make a motion to extend the meeting. This would simply require having operators put members into the queue for the question period.
The UFT's elected delegates deserve a voice in matters that leadership has direct control over, including agreements with the city. The delegate assembly should have its two-way communication restored in a manner befitting the union's democratic aspirations.
Is it worth trying to democratize the DA given all the other undemocratic issues in the UFT?
James Eterno who had a hand in writing the letter says:
We have now exhausted our internal union remedies. It could be the right time to go outside the union to attempt to get full democracy at UFT meetings.
My question is whether given the overall lack of democracy in the UFT where the Unity Caucus has been in power for 60 years - in essence the UFT has a one party system, is a campaign calling for reforms of the DA worth the effort?
On the ICE blog a regular readers, Shelley commented in a very astute way ...
I applaud the effort. The anti-democratic and autocratic methods of the UFT need to be exposed.
But this letter wastes most of its paragraphs with favorable descriptions of how the UFT has increased participation in union business during a crisis that has prevented in-person assemblies and challenged normal democratic procedures.
And the remedies it seeks are neither specific enough nor extensive enough to make any real difference in how the UFT operates.
The high-handed schemes of the UFT are anti-union and have undermined the essential purposes of our union--better pay, benefits, and working conditions for our members.
The UFT has exploited the pandemic crisis to consolidate power, not only with anti-democratic ploys at assemblies and town halls but by making back-room deals, thus alienating and demoralizing teachers and diminishing dignity and respect for our members from our employees and from the public we serve.
These autocratic methods are not limited to the delegate assemblies and town halls. They are employed at the school level to ensure the Unity caucus of the UFT continues to hold monopoly power, a power it has maintained and wielded, more and more, not to serve its members but for self-preservation, for half a century.
Mulgrew has weakened the current agreement that was collectively bargained by the UFT and weakened the prospects for negotiating fair agreements in the future. Other unions should be concerned because the UFT is likely to take the lead in pattern bargaining when a new mayor is elected.
I agree with much of what Shelley says. I will address some historical issues related to the restriction of democracy at the DA over the 60 years of the UFT, starting with Albert Shanker's strangling the institution almost from the inception of the UFT.
The big question is can the UFT ever be democratized and if not then what?