Monday, October 06, 2014

Nonsense About UFT Democracy

There is no one from my union leadership who represents my point of view. No one. My union leadership supported mayoral control at its inception. When it proved to be an unmitigated disaster, resulting in school closings and thousands of displaced teachers, when scores of my colleagues ended up wandering the city as subs, my leadership asked for minor changes. When they failed to get them, they supported it a second time. Frankly, it's hard for me to imagine that a large percentage of my colleagues agreed with them.

My union leadership went to Albany and negotiated a law that made sure teachers would be rated by junk science. I don't know a single teacher who thinks that's a good idea. Last year my school rated me highly effective, but when the junk science kicked in I got knocked down to effective. I discovered this while at a Queens chapter leader meeting. The same thing happened to the CL to my right. When I pointed out the ludicrous nature of this, not one person in the room raised a peep. Of course, the overwhelming majority of them had signed oaths not to.

We supported Barack Obama's second term, though it was pretty clear he was high on reforminess. His education secretary, Arne Duncan, thought that Katrina was the best thing to happen to education in New Orleans, where public school has been eradicated in favor of charters. Race to the Top forced us all to embrace not only junk science evaluation, but also Common Core, largely the brainchild of Bill Gates. At the AFT Convention, where no one from my union represented the point of view of anyone I know, the UFT President declared that anyone who tried to take this corporate monstrosity from us should be punched in the face and have their face kicked in the dirt.

When Bill de Blasio ran for mayor, while he was surging in the primary, union leadership supported Bill Thompson, who'd told the Daily News that the city could not afford to give teachers the raises all other city workers had received. When Cuomo and the legislature sold him out to Eva Moskowitz, mandating that the city pay her rent, union leadership raised not a peep.

Then I turn to Bridging Differences, once written by Diane Ravitch and right now written by former UFT VP Leo Casey instead, and I read this:

To honor their democratic decisionmaking processes, some parties and caucuses adopt an understanding that is known as cabinet rule in the British parliamentary system: Once a democratic decision has been made within the party or caucus, its members are obliged to not oppose it in Parliament.[2] If the matter in question is one of fundamental principle, one can always leave the party or caucus and oppose it. In my view, this understanding is essential for a caucus to function as a democratic body.

One reason this is nonsense is that it actually refers to only one caucus--the Unity Caucus. The elite Unity Caucus is open only by invitation. UFT elections are rigged so as to ensure that Unity Caucus has complete power. No other caucus has any voice whatsoever. In order to shut out all true opposition, Unity cross endorses New Action, gives them a small number of seats on the UFT Executive Board, and keeps opposition fractured.

When New Action was a real opposition, it managed to win the high school vice presidency. Unity demanded a recount and lost again. As soon as this vice president was gone, Unity changed the rules and made the high school vice presidency "at large," meaning high school members no longer got to choose their own vice president. More recently, chapter leaders were precluded from electing district representatives, and guess what? Now all district reps are Unity, and can recruit for and promote Unity Caucus.

Ballots are sent to members' homes rather than schools so as to keep participation low. As a result, fewer than 20% of working members vote. Retirees not only get to select who negotiates contracts for new members, but as a result of Unity's monopoly, now get a larger percentage of the vote than they used to. In the last election, retirees represented over 50% of the vote. Months before elections, there are television commercials telling everyone what a great job the union does. Coincidence that we fund these commercials at this time? I doubt it.

And then, of course, is the Ballot with a Million Names. I once tried to pick individual names and it took 45 minutes. I'm not doing that again. With UFT's winner-take-all system, opposition is completely shut out. It's most certainly designed that way, and it's no coincidence that 80% of membership sees voting as not worth their time.

It's positively Orwellian to contend that UFT elections are democratic. And UFT leadership reminds me of nothing more than Animal Farm. The quoted paragraph sounds like something written by Comrade Squealer.
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