by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader Jamaica High School
All of the speculation about Randi Weingarten replacing Ed McElroy, who is retiring soon as AFT President, is rather sad and indicative of what our union has deteriorated into. The UFT has fully transformed itself from a labor union into what one time AFT President David Seldon termed in his book, The Teacher Rebellion, an insurance company. The Union functions like a giant corporation as opposed to a democratic organization.
There is all of this palace intrigue reported on in the NY Sun and on some blogs about who will be selected by Randi to be her anointed successor. We believe the guessing about who will succeed Randi is basically irrelevant to those of us who toil in the schools in New York City. The rank and file should demand that if she decides to take the AFT presidency and resigns as UFT President (the former is likely, but the latter is not at this time), then there should be a member election to decide on her successor. What a novel idea! Let the UFT members decide who should replace Randi by voting.
Most likely, Randi will hold onto both the UFT and AFT presidencies until after the next UFT election. She will appoint a successor when she is good and ready which might be years from now, but it will almost certainly be in the middle of her term so that the heir apparent can have some time as the president. The new leader will then be fawned over by the NY Teacher newspaper and ultimately get to run as an incumbent for reelection.
The truth of the matter is that it doesn't matter that much who leads the UFT because as long as the top-down Unity Caucus (political party) machine remains in control, there will be very little change at the Union. The President's job will be to maintain the institution of the Union and the Unity Caucus as a main priority. The loyalty driven corporate style patronage machine will carry on and those who want to advance to higher UFT positions will have to publicly spew the party line to members on virtually all Union issues. Real dissent will not be tolerated. Anyone who thinks substantial change will occur when Randi leaves is probably delusional.
We would love to be proven wrong on this but as long as the membership doesn't demand and work for fundamental reform within the UFT, it's very doubtful that anything will be very different, regardless of who the president is.