Monday, May 11, 2015

The Great Debate--Just How Rigged is the UFT Election?

Last Friday Night Norm Scott and Mike Schirtzer got into their respective corners and came out swinging at a diner on 34th St. Both are active in MORE, for my money the only genuine opposition to UFT Unity Caucus. Unity has controlled the UFT since its inception, and there isn't a whole lot to suggest there's any impending threat to their total control.

Norm says the voting is so rigged it's better to sit out on the sides and boycott. Let Unity have a Saddam Hussein-style majority. Mike thinks it's worth running, and from what I hear, that was the prevalent mindset over at the diner. I'm not going to take sides, and I'm not going to make a prediction. That's not really the point here.

I guess the point is that it's remarkable any such discussion could be taking place at all. No one disagrees about opposing leadership, which has championed some of the most counter-intuitive and hurtful nonsense any of us can imagine. What sort of world is it in which the legislature passes the most anti-teacher evaluation system I've ever seen and the UFT President thanks them?

Now there was a time when the high school teachers voted against Unity. There was an opposition called New Action that not only took the HS Executive Board seats, but also the High School VP position. This, to the monopolists who manage Unity, was unacceptable. Therefore, they changed the rules so that high school teachers could no longer select their own VP. Furthermore, they made a deal so that the once-successful opposition caucus would be co-endorsed by Unity.  Without Unity support, this caucus simply would not have a seat, let alone several.

Like the high school VP, a whole lot of UFT positions are "at large," meaning everyone gets to vote for them. While I vote every chance I get, over 80% of my colleagues don't think it merits their time. I kind of understand why. The one time the High School VP wasn't Unity, they challenged the election. Fortunately, they lost by an even wider margin in the do-over.

NYSUT follows suit with a lot of this nonsense, which means that reps really beloved in places like Long Island are defeated by the entire state. It also means that locals who can't swing a weekend at the NY Hilton don't get to vote on leadership, and their potential votes are easily wiped out by UFT rubber stamps. UFT-dominated NYSUT just reaffirmed its commitment to this nonsense.

In our neck of the woods, so few working UFT members vote that more than half of the vote consists of retirees. It's a pretty good deal for leadership, which has an office in Florida. How many working teachers could take a week off to campaign against leadership in Florida? How many could travel there at union expense for ostensible union business? The sitting UFT President is not a working teacher, so for him it's no problem at all. And of course there is an army of oath-signers, many of whom are chapter leaders, for whom getting votes for Unity is do or die. Or at least do or no free trip to LA, or Buffalo, or wherever voices of UFT rank and file will not be heard this season.

To run or not to run, that is the question. Whatever the answer may be, it's a disgrace that voting is so blatantly stacked in favor of Unity that the question need even be asked.
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