I know we talk about this often, but it's important to understand that the fundamental nature of selecting our leadership is dishonest and designed to shut us up rather than elicit our participation. The million name ballot is a problem, of course, because almost no one knows who the hell is on it. Last time I voted, I checked a box for MORE, but I don't really know all of the people for whom I voted. I know and like some people from Unity, but I was voting against a machine, a philosophy.
Here's what that philosophy is--winner take all, no compromise whatsoever, and everyone else can go screw themselves. If you try to take Common Core from Mike Mulgrew he'll punch you in the face, he says, but the election is arranged precisely so no one can lay a hand on his beloved Common Core.
There are flaws in any democracy, of course. You notice when Jimmy Carter runs all over the world monitoring elections, he never establishes electoral colleges. So one point in favor of the UFT election is that the President is selected via majority voting. That's a good thing, particularly if you disregard the fact that most of the vote comes from retirees. Let's do that, for the moment. All working UFT members should and do get a vote on the President.
It's when we move down the ticket that things get confusing. There's a VP for Academic High Schools, for example. Wouldn't it make sense that high school teachers choose that person, who ostensibly represent their interests? Well, it doesn't make sense to UFT-Unity, who lost that office once. As soon as they got it back they changed the rules to make sure it never happened again. This position is now "at-large" and everyone gets to help us make that decision.
Should the entire UFT get to vote for our rep? Of course not. Each branch has different interests, and each branch ought to select the person who best represents those interests. But that's just the beginning. Actually, the overwhelming majority of positions in the UFT elections are at large.
It's entirely possible the Bronx may have different interests than Queens or Manhattan. For example, Queens gets less Title One funding than the Bronx and perhaps Queens reps could wish to fight for more. Perhaps your school has s disproportionate percentage of ELLs or special ed. students. Maybe the overcrowding in your school is worse than mine. Maybe the Eva Moskowitz school in your building is causing unique problems. Maybe it was not the best thing for your school when Cuomo gave carte blanche to Eva to do what she wished on our dime. There are countless possibilities, and our system insures the only issues raised are those that are pre-approved by leadership.
Can you imagine what the United States would be like if the entire country voted for every single political position? The entire country would choose your governor. They'd choose your mayor, your state senator, and your dog catcher.
It would actually make a lot more sense if, for example, the people chosen as chapter leaders in their local schools were delegates to NYSUT and AFT. These are the people we know and trust. But in the UFT, it's winner take all, and the only people who represent any of us have signed a loyalty oath to support whatever leadership tells them to support. That's why the President of the United Federation of Teachers can stand up at the AFT convention and say that if anyone took his Common Core he'd punch them in the face and rub their face in the dirt.
Who's gonna argue? Not the parents whose kids are suffering because of the ridiculous predetermined failure rate. Not the teachers, few to none of whom approve of the APPR Mulgrew boasted of. Not the 800 rubber stamps we spent two million dollars to send to LA.
Those of us who'd argue are excluded from participating. Those who were sent to LA are excluded from speaking unless instructed to. Rank and file is left with a huge tab for a convention that represents no one but leadership.
This is not democracy. It's a sham and it's unconscionable. This is no way to run an election, and it's no way to run a union.
Unless, of course, your goal is to just run it into the ground.