Tuesday, May 31, 2016

One Way UFT Unity Rigs the Election

UFT leadership, or perhaps AAA at their behest, hasn't released the slate results for our election. This is odd because they usually come out as a matter of course. You need not be a genius to conjecture why this is. Along with six of my colleagues, I won a seat on the UFT Executive Board. The only reason that happened was because these seats were voted on by high school teachers, and high school teachers only. And this happens to be an uncharacteristic sign of life and joy in the otherwise monolithic and predictable UFT leadership.

But the HS Vice President position is "at large." This means that elementary teachers, middle school teachers, and pretty much everyone else who votes in the UFT election helps us choose who our Vice President is. It's quite clear to me that, if the slate results were released, they would show that high school teachers chose James Eterno to be VP. (Correction--I'm now told slate results are released, though not by division.)

So why didn't that happen? Well, I think it was 1985 that New Action's Mike Shulman won the post of Academic High School Vice President. As a brand new teacher, I saw him as the underdog, voted for him out of sheer instinct, and he won. This was quite upsetting to UFT Unity, which fought the result. For a year, Shulman was not permitted to take his seat. After another election, and a year with no VP, the high schools elected Shulman again.

UFT Unity then determined that the high schools had no right to choose their own VP, since they might choose someone like James Eterno (and of course they were right, because we just did).  Imagine if someone like GW Bush decided that New York should no longer elect its own governor, because they might vote too liberal. Imagine he therefore granted votes to Oklahoma and Texas to balance it out.

There would be outrage. It would be an affront to democracy. But that is precisely what UFT Unity did.

 I didn't even know about it until years later. On the one occasion where I spent 45 minutes splitting my vote, I wrote "NA" on the part where I was asked to vote on Elementary and Middle School VP. And few teachers, even now, are aware that VPs are elected "at large," or why that is. Three out of four of us, in fact, still couldn't even be bothered to walk to a mailbox with a ballot.

Furthermore, though the high schools chose us to represent them, we still have no vote in NYSUT or AFT. This is outrageous. We pay dues to both organizations, have no voice whatsoever, and this is nothing less than taxation without representation. And though the high schools chose MORE/ New Action, the high school VP is Unity. (To be clear, this is not a personal attack on the High School VP, but rather on a system that denies us the right to choose our own representative by ourselves.)

We will work to make the UFT an organization that gives voice to working teachers rather than entrenched leadership. That's democracy 101, and we believe it applies to UFT members too.
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