Sunday, April 06, 2014

UFT-Unity Caucus Demonstrates How It Handles Dissent

Yesterday morning I watched from the audience as Lauren Cohen, a petite young woman from the UFT MORE caucus, got up and addressed the NYSUT Representative Assembly as a candidate. When Lauren mentioned the UFT-Unity Loyalty oath, my 800 brothers and sisters from UFT-Unity tried to drown her voice with loud boos. The moderator had to get up and explain that it was not in the best traditions of public forums to prevent people from speaking.

Lauren stood calmly, and continued undeterred after waiting a moment for the noise to subside. She demonstrated grace and thoughtfulness, neither of which was evident in the audience that saw fit to shout her down in the full view of UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

It is not in the best traditions of democracy to shut out dissenting points of view. Perhaps the participants deemed this activism.  But it was something else altogether.

In fact, activism does not entail drowning out your sister unionists, or voting in such a way that your part-time job at UFT stays a sure thing. Activism entails thinking, looking at problems, and finding ways to solve them. It entails consideration of multiple points of view, even those to which you may not subscribe.

Thus, it was an embarrassment when 800 UFT-Unity members tried to shout down their sister unionist. At the NYSUT convention, I heard many things said with which I did not agree. I booed no one. Nor did Lauren, and nor did any member of the MORE caucus.

Ironically, hours later, students took the stage to edify us about bullying. I hope the 800 members of the UFT-Unity Caucus who ostensibly represent us were paying attention. My friend Harris Lirtzman made this comment on Facebook:

Now let me get this straight, Arthur: it's OK to have a 'loyalty oath' but it's so NOT OK to mention its existence that the mentioner must be shouted down?

Unionism has to be about free speech, discussion and hopefully, agreement. Those who will not even allow us to express ourselves do not and cannot represent us.

Right here, right now, I defy the UFT-Unity Caucus to apologize for their attempt to silence this young woman.
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