Friday, July 18, 2014

Unity or Non-Unity, You Still Get No Voice in UFT

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about rigged UFT elections, and I will have more about those tomorrow. Today I'm going to focus on our system of appointing chapter leaders to our schools. Whether or not your chapter leader is Unity, a good one should be able to help you within the school building. A good chapter leader should be familiar with the contract and other work rules, or at least able to access them when necessary. A good CL can advise you of your options when you encounter problems within the building.

Outside of the building, it's another story. If your chapter leader isn't Unity, your chapter gets no voice in UFT politics. When decisions are made behind closed doors, as most are, your chapter leader won't be there. And when there are conventions, your non-Unity chapter leader won't be there either. So even though you've chosen this person to represent you, UFT leadership has decided that the million-name ballot take precedence over your personal choice.

What may be surprising, though, is that if your chapter leader is Unity, as are most, your chapter still gets no voice in UFT, NYSUT, or AFT. If your CL isn't Unity and someone else in your building is, you also get no voice. That's because every single person in Unity has signed the loyalty oath and will vote as instructed in all union elections at every level. In fact, this precludes representing you at all. What if, say, the majority of your members oppose mayoral control, Common Core, charter schools, colocation, VAM, two-tier due process, or any number of things that hurt working teachers?

Well, too bad for you. If your CL isn't Unity, you get no vote. If your CL is Unity, said vote must support whatever leadership decides.

And while leadership publicly maintains that the DA is the highest decision-making body, almost everything that happens there is determined behind closed doors. If you read James Eterno's accounts of what goes on there, and I've been there to witness a lot of what he writes about, you know that fairness and hearing both sides are not remote priorities. When Mulgrew was hyping the contract he pretty much squelched any and all discussion against it. A young delegate sitting next to me commented, "An elementary school student could see how unfair this is."

So UFT members have choices. They can choose chapter leaders, for now. But no matter who we choose, the fact is our voices are not heard. That's lesson two on the fundamental lack of democracy in our union. Look for part three tomorrow.
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