Thursday, September 22, 2005

Unity Uses Unfair Tactics to Push their "Vehicle" For a Contract on Us at DA


By James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader Jamaica HS, HS Executive Board Member

Tuesday's special Delegate Assembly was another exercise in futility for those of us who favor full and fair debate. The DA is the highest policy making body of the UFT.  Chapter Leaders and Delegates from every school are represented there.  Non teaching chapters and retirees are represented also. 

Knowing full well that they might lose if there were an open discussion on the subject of the fact finding report that contained givebacks for teachers that would reduce the UFT to little more than a dues collecting organization whose members would have few of the rights they now enjoy, UFT President Randi Weingarten and her Unity caucus leadership had to resort to making up biased rules of procedure to push through a resolution that will allow the UFT to continue negotiations with the city based upon a fact finding report that is so loaded with givebacks that any real union leader would have three words to say about it : "Dead on Arrival".

According to the UFT Constitution, Roberts Rules of Order should be used at the Delegate Assembly and all other bodies of the UFT.  Randi Weingarten violated those rules so much at Tuesday's DA that it rendered whatever came out of the meeting meaningless. 

Roberts Rules are there to ensure fairness in a deliberative body.  Watch CSpan for a few minutes when Congress is in session and it will be clear that the presiding officer in either the House of Representatives or the Senate does not engage in debate.  The Chair is supposed to be impartial in order to make sure the debate is fair.  The presiding officer should leave the chair and speak from the floor if he/she wishes to engage in debate on an issue and then not return to the chair until the matter that he/she spoke on is voted on.  A neutral chair is a fundamental rule of debate.  President Weingarten violated the rule when she started speaking in favor of a resolution to use the fact finding report with all of its givebacks as a vehicle to jump start negotiations on a new contract. 

When Jeff Kaufman, a trained lawyer and now a teacher as well as chapter leader and UFT Executive Board Member from ICE rose to a point of order saying that Weingarten was violating a basic rule by speaking in favor or a resolution from the chair because the chair has to be impartial, Weingarten arrogantly refused to rule on his point of order, nor did the UFT Parliamentarian.  Randi just kept on speaking, and speaking and speaking.  (A point of order takes precedent over a speaker who is speaking in favor of a motion according to Roberts Rules because a point of order is saying that a rule is being violated.).  

Randi went on filibustering for another forty minutes in favor of using the fact-finding report as a vehicle to jump start negotiations.  After she finally finished, Kaufman asked that the Union's parliamentarian rule on his point of order and amazingly he ruled against Roberts Rules.  He said that Kaufman had no right to interrupt Randi.  She was allowed to speak in favor of the resolution and then preside over the debate as the impartial chair.  The ruling was a disgrace!  

Kaufman also asked if the opposition could now have equal time (40 minutes) to speak against the resolution.  Weingarten said she would allow a speaker against but she was silent as to the time that would be allowed for the opposition.  Carolyn Eubanks from John F. Kennedy HS took the floor to speak but after about a minute, Weingarten's followers from the Unity Caucus began to shout her down.  This tactic was not surprising since Unity Caucus members are tightly controlled by the leadership of the UFT. 

Unity members sign a membership obligation where they agree to support the decisions of the caucus in union and public forums.  Most receive perks from the Union in exchange for their absolute loyalty to the caucus.  Some get to go on all expense paid trips to conventions while others get part time after-school union jobs.  At the top of the Unity food chain are the people who are relieved from full time teaching duties in schools and instead work all day for the Union. 

These are the folks who have the six figure salaries and receive a NYC as well as a UFT pension when they retire.  While many of these individuals are hard working union supporters, they are also loyal to Unity caucus.  Add to this that there are 300 retiree delegates who all belong to Unity and enjoy their perks and you can see why the opposition from the schools has a difficult time breaking through at the DA. Many delegates don't even show up because of the futility of fighting the well oiled Unity machine whose main aim it would seem is to protect itself.
 
When Eubanks finished her speech in opposition to the resolution on the fact-finding report, Randi then called on David Peccararo, a Unity member from Beach Channel HS.  David spoke in favor of the resolution to use the fact-finding report as a vehicle to get us a contract.  A person opposed should have been called next, right. 

Wrong! 

Randi called on Michelle Bodden, the Unity VP for elementary schools who voted twice previously in favor of the resolution at the Administrative Committee (11 Union officers) and the Executive Board (89 member body that directs the affairs of the UFT).  I couldn't take yet another direct assault on democratic procedures so I rose to a point of order.  I was so angry that the role of the chair was being totally abused by Weingarten. 

I questioned the Parliamentarian's competence and cited Roberts Rules chapter and verse by stating that the chair is supposed to alternate between those who favor and those who oppose a resolution during a debate.  Randi at first hesitated but when I would not relent she backed off and for at least a few minutes she alternated between those who were for and those who were against the resolution.   However, by that time it was clear that those in favor of the resolution were on the side of the chair.  The whole process made a mockery of Union democracy.

Soon thereafter, Sam Lazarus, Chapter Leader from Bryant HS, made a motion to amend the resolution by taking out the clause that says that the fact-finding report could be used as a vehicle to get us a contract and Sam said we should just stick to the other parts of the resolution that called for us to step up our action campaign and have a deadline for negotiations. 

Marilyn Voight Downey was given a couple of minutes to speak in favor of the amendment and then there was a Unity speaker against.  The vote on the amendment which was a reasonably fair debate was closer than the vote on the original motion where the chair was clearly biased. The Union told the Post that it was 80% in favor of Randi's position and today that figure moved up to 90% in favor of Randi on the UFT website.  The reality is that it was a  more divided house and the Daily News story was much more accurate than the Union spin about the raucous tone of the meeting and anger on both sides  .  

Ever wonder why so many UFT members don't trust the Union's leadership?  We try to be good trade unionists but we are thwarted at every turn by a leadership that will use any means at its disposal to have its way.  I would like to pose a challenge to the people who run the UFT: level the playing field and level with us. Follow Roberts Rules of Order.  Let the UFT Constitution be more than words on paper.   If you can prevail in a fair fight, then so be it.  However, the way it is now it's about as democratic as a Soviet style government. 
 
Educate yourselves fellow UFT members.  It's your union.  Recapture it!

(I consider myself pro-union but pro-fairness.)

16 comments:

bronxdelegate said...

I was at the delegate assembly, the problem with your analysis is that it doesn't read as the same DA as the one I was attending. In favor of the fact finding report? The speech was very much a plus and minuses speech, and the recommendations have little to do with PERB except for using the recommendations to try one last time to get the Mayor back to the table. Some of the people you demean in your essay, because they are working at the union, they somehow care less about Classroom teachers? I'm happier to have them there than political hacks like those who exist in the leadership of other unions.

finally, where is talk of this mayor? where is talk of the chancellor? the anti-union environment that's grown in this country? We can rail against our leadership all day to score a point here, but the true enemies to unionism are in city hall and at the DOE.

Anonymous said...

Alright, ICE listen to me.

I have the UFT talking points with me right now.
There are 3 plusses.
There are many more negatives.

Would the Union like a contact? Yes.
Would the Union like the contract the Mayor is offering/has offered in the past? Nooo.
What about the Fact Finding -- Is it acceptable?
Nope.
But its the only hope of bridging our wacko mayor and some basic rights all teachers should have.

Understand that if there is a strike vote:
It will pass.
The problem is when the UFT goes on strike, atleast 20% of the members who votes pro-strike will cross the picket lines and go anyway - and thus splinter the union.

what do you want?
A union?
Or some broken organization that used to support its member?

Anonymous said...

bronxdelegate must be looking for a unity patronage job.

jameseterno said...

I wish bronxdelegate would merely respond to any of the factual points made in the essay. Show me where Jeff and I were wrong. Randi even said she was motivating the resolution and then she became the impartial chair

I agree that the Mayor and the Chancellor are a problem but phony union democracy and one sided debate will not unite us when we need to be united. If you want people united, then you have to be fair.

bronxdelegate said...

broxdelegate doesn't give a shit about a union job. Bronx delegate has seen unions torn apart in her lifetime by right wingers. Broxdelegate even went to Pennsylvania to try to help mineworkers strengthen their voice. Broxdelegate only cares about destroying the right, which has tried to destroy everything she believes in.

My response to the factual points were simple, I was at the Delegate Assembly, and I remember Randi making the pints about the problems with the PERB report. I didn't get the idea that we were playing into Bloombergs hand by fighting him. If you think we should strike immediately say so, but you don't! You don't like the PERB report, and to be honest I'm not happy with the PERB report either, but having seen the process, and followed the process, I'm not willing to demagouge Randi for the problems with the report.

If we're playing union politics, I think we'd be in a worse situation if you had the reign. Having said that, I just want to teach. I want to see my salary go up. i'm willing to shed blood to get more, but I'm not wlling to follow whiners.

bronxdelegate said...

anonymous, if i disagree with you, if i'm a delegate, if i agree with a union and Randi--- must i be looking for a unity patronage job? Is that the only way I could possibly believe what I believe? I work in a tough school, it's not the toughest in the city, but it's tough none the less. I just finished getting ready for tomorrow. Can't I believe in what Randi's doing without being a complete hack, or must I be a hack for voting for the resoltion? I don't know the answers to these questions, and I get the feeling that you didn't think I'd come here again.

jameseterno said...

It's nice to see that bronxdelegate came back. I have no problem with debate.

I can't imagine anyone who knows the ramifications voting to accept the fact-finding report as a "vehicle" to get a contract. If there was a full and fair debate with both sides getting equal time, I think the people in the schools would agree with our position in opposition to the anti-teacher report.

The report basically takes away some basic rights as we won't be able to grieve file letters and we will be getting about 30% more time in our day at the discretion of the principal in secondary schools for 11% more pay. This is not exactly a good deal to say the least.

In addition, whatever happened to "Let teachers teach?" It looks as though we have given up the fight against micromanagement by Tweed. The fact-finders did not address our concerns.

As I pointed out at the Executive Board (It would have been nice if the opposition executive board people were given equal time to respond to Randi at the DA.), once we accept the fact-finding report as a vehicle, then we go into negotiations based upon the report as the starting point and not negotiations based upon the old contract. The center of gravity for negotiations has shifted to the abysmal fact finding report that everyone says they hate because of the resolution we passed at Tuesday's DA.

What this means is if we want to eliminate one of the substantial givebacks in the fact finders report from the final contract, for example the ten extra unpaid coverages, then we will have to give back somewhere else. What else do we have left to give? History shows us that in 1993 and 2002 the fact-finding report essentially became the contract. What makes anyone believe that this year will be any different?

As for a strike, I am fairly certain that my chapter is ready. However, we have to do it right and I would have a difficult time getting people to strike for this report. At some point the fact finding report must be condemned by the UFT.

Gustavo said...

Yesterday the NYT published a report that stated the Bloomberg will accept all the recommendations in the Fact Finding Report. Why not? He probably wrote it in first place. Where does this leaves us madam President Weingarten?
Your actions in the delegate assembly of Thursday Sep. 22 succeeded in weakening the membership struggle for a just contract.
Madam President Weingarten you succeeded (temporarily) in sabotaging the righteous indignation of the UFT rank and file.
I agree with James Eterno, and I will add, those union hacks, bureaucrats, could care less what happens to us in the classroom, they sold us out for power, for privileges, perks, long ago, including and most of all Madam Weingarten.
This fact finding report is an insult to all teachers and educators, and to our students and parents because it is not about education.
There is only one way we can win, by energizing the membership to vote against the fact finding report first and later against a contract that will reduce us teachers to servitude. A strong rank and file movement in our union will force the bureaucrats hands, and strenghts our union!
.!

Gustavo said...

Sorry the DELEGATE ASSEMBLY WAS TUESDAY SEP. 20

Apapercut said...

I need to know if each school's union meeting is supposed to be run by Robert's Rules? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

The proposed contract is a sham. Why would you use this report to go back to the bargaining table and negotiate from a position of weakness? Randi gets on national TV, beaming, smiling and hugging Klein and Bloomberg. Is this someone who really supports and respects teachers.

Three tasks are ahead of us-- defeat this contract, get Bloomberg out of office and then get Randy out of office. Randy is finished -- she cannot be trusted to negotiate a future contract with htis mayor. With these
two operators, teaching in NYC will only get worse.

Anonymous said...

I suggest everyone dress up for Tuesday's delegate meeting(10/11). Look as professional as possible. Randi likes to paint anyone who protests as a 'crazy' on the fringe whereas there are many very serious 'middle of the road' teachers who are appalled at this proposed contract. Lets show them who we really are -- very professional and very angry.

Anonymous said...

Lets stay strong and think positive. We will defeat this contract. We will never re-elect Randi and we will institute a pro teacher union leadership. Bllomberg and Klein will ultimately fall by the wayside. What goes around comes around! We are all teachers. Why would we be so anti this contract if it were really in our favor?

Anonymous said...

Some of the issues I see coming up in the next contract (after this one) are: an attempt to eliminate tenure, an attempt to eliminate accumulated sick days (especially teachers who have 50 or 100 or 150 days in their bank), an attempt to eliminate the February break, some curtailment of medical/dental benefits and of course, a full 6th period which means teachers will have over 200 students per day. Remember, you are responsible for a student even if they do not come to class -- you spend your time calling home, writing letters, talking to guidance counselors-- essentally running after them. The sky is the limit -- the city's only goal is to save money by applying cut throat business principles to the schools. Buyer beware -- agree to this present contract and the next one will be even more malevolent and pose an even more difficult fight!

Anonymous said...

Some of the issues I see coming up in the next contract (after this one) are: an attempt to eliminate tenure, an attempt to eliminate accumulated sick days (especially teachers who have 50 or 100 or 150 days in their bank), an attempt to eliminate the February break, some curtailment of medical/dental benefits and of course, a full 6th period which means teachers will have over 200 students per day. Remember, you are responsible for a student even if they do not come to class -- you spend your time calling home, writing letters, talking to guidance counselors-- essentally running after them. The sky is the limit -- the city's only goal is to save money by applying cut throat business principles to the schools. Buyer beware -- agree to this present contract and the next one will be even more malevolent and pose an even more difficult fight!

Anonymous said...

Can't we consult a labor lawyer about the legality of all these givebacks and concessions?