The Unity majority brought out the retired troops to Wednesday’s Delegate Assembly (I saw people I have not seen in years) to make sure they had enough votes to pass an amendment to the UFT Constitution to expand the Executive Board and add to the voting power of the retirees in UFT elections. I voted no on the amendments as they will limit democracy even further as UFT elections for retired members are essentially rigged.
As usual I was not able to get the floor to speak to counter the Unity propaganda machine’s salute to the union’s retired members. President Mulgrew framed the issue by saying that it was necessary to change the Constitution because the UFT has grown so much over the years with the addition of the Child Care Providers who recently joined us and the expansion of the Retiree Chapter. He was right and adding twelve seats to the 89 seat Executive Board does make sense. Also, putting a committee together to discuss a possible new vice president for the non teaching members of the UFT seems logical. However, adding to the weight of the retiree vote in UFT elections is extremely unfair and undemocratic even though I agree with Mulgrew that the retired members are very helpful in our mobilization efforts.
Before Wednesday, the retiree vote in any UFT election was capped at 18,000. This means that if more than 18,000 voted, the tally was capped at 18,000 and the voting numbers were based on 18,000. For example, let’s say 20,000 retirees voted and 10,000 voted for caucus A and 10,000 vote for caucus B. Since the vote was capped at 18,000, Caucus A would receive 9,000 votes in the election and Caucus B would get 9,000.
This obviously flies in the face of the principle of one person=one vote but the union did not want its retired members to dominate, hence the cap. The amendment raises that cap to 23,500. This number is not that far off from the number of active teachers who actually vote so the retirees basically now control the union. That is not healthy at all but it is worse because any opposition group has virtually no legal right to reach out to retirees.
In 1997, New Action (a caucus within the UFT) filed a complaint with the state Public Employees Relations Board asking for the names and addresses of all the retirees so the caucus could send election materials to them. PERB dismissed the charge. In his account of the dismissal, PERB’s Phillip L. Maier said, “The Board affirmed the Director’s dismissal of the charge as deficient on the grounds that retirees are not public employees under the Act, do not have any terms and conditions of employment and are not in the UFT’s bargaining unit. Therefore, the UFT owed no duty to New Action to supply this information.” (Phillip L. Maier: The Taylor Law and the Duty to Fair Representation) If retirees are not in our bargaining unit, then why can they vote at all for who represents the actual members of the bargaining unit? They should vote for their own vice president.
Let’s get this straight: Retirees are not in the UFT’s bargaining unit but retirees have a huge say in deciding who will represent the active members of the bargaining unit. On top of this, an opposition caucus has no right to addresses (or emails I presume) to send out election literature. That is an incredibly unfair election process.
Unity argues that it is a fair process because they run an election advertisement for each caucus at every election. They never mention that the ad is buried in the NY Teacher newspaper once every three years.
Imagine this on a national scale: Suppose that only the Republican Party was allowed to contact the voters in almost half the states and they said this was fair because they put in an advertisement once every three years for the Democrats but the rest of the time they just flood them with their own literature. That is basically the election process for the UFT. The New York Teacher is fundamentally a Unity Caucus publication that is filled with scores of pictures and stories about Mulgrew and the leadership every two weeks. When election time comes, the opposition gets its two page ad. Any political science student knows this is not sufficient contact for a serious campaign. Essentially, UFT elections at the retiree level are rigged. In the schools it is a little different which is why opposition groups have successfully won the high schools and even once the middle schools.
The infamous Stalin once claimed that it isn’t who votes that matters; it’s who counts the votes. For the UFT, it is a matter of who has access to the voters. Since only the Unity leadership has the names and addresses of retirees and an opposition group is not entitled to send literature to what is essentially half of the actual voters, an opposition caucus cannot possibly make the number of contacts that any political scientist would say would be necessary to have a reasonable chance to win an election.
Unity called out the retirees en masse on Wednesday to make sure the amendment to increase the retiree voting percentage passed and it carried overwhelmingly. I raised my card but never had the opportunity to speak to make the points I just made above on why increasing the retiree share of the vote is just an insurance policy for the Unity Caucus, which has ruled the UFT for around half a century.
Perhaps Unity is worried that the active membership has finally had it with their policies as we are under siege in the schools and so we might rebel against Unity. The retirees who are spread out all over the country (and abroad) but can only be reached by Unity (except for one advertisement every three years) give them some nice insurance just in case the active membership comes alive.
As for the rest of the meeting, there was only a report from the President as we left early to head off to
for the Panel for Educational Policy Meeting to protest the latest round of
indefensible school closings and the DOE walking out of negotiations on
In his report, President Mulgrew said that the current unsatisfactory rating appeal process was corrupt and keeping it was a non starter in negotiations. He went on to tell us that the city is trying to split the union and this will be another ugly fight. He continued by noting that he wants to settle the NYSUT lawsuit on evaluations but it looks like State Education Commissioner John King is supporting the mayor which makes it difficult. He told us the Governor wants the lawsuit settled and many districts upstate are just waiting for a negotiated settlement. He also told us to expect a pounding from the Daily News and NY Post but that he enjoys it and the membership understands it. He said we have to do the grassroots work in the communities and that he has full faith that the union will not be divided.
On pensions he told us that we have paid for every pension benefit we have and we will not surrender our benefits. He then talked about appointing a committee to add another officer for the UFT since the functional chapters are growing. Then he motivated the Constitutional amendments. Subsequently, Mark Torres called a point of order and demanded that Mulgrew leave the chair since he motivated a resolution. Mulgrew turned the chair over to Secretary Michael Mendel for what was the usual mostly one sided pro Unity debate.
The body then voted overwhelmingly for the amendments (no surprise there) and we left to head to the PEP where Mendel and VP Leo Casey made emotional presentations attacking the DOE. Mendel asked the DOE how they sleep at night and Casey said that just as the DOE walked out on us in negotiations over the evaluation system, we were now walking out on them.
Overall it was just one more nauseating afternoon and evening as a DOE employee and UFT Chapter Leader.