In a genuine display of union solidarity with the Absent Teacher Reserves, teachers at Middle College High School yesterday elected me to be their Teacher Delegate for next year, in spite of the fact that there is a real possibility that I will not be returning to MCHS in the fall. I have been working as a Leave Replacement Teacher at MCHS since December.
As far as I know, this is the first time an ATR or Leave Replacement Teacher has been elected to the Delegate Assembly from a school. (Please correct me if this is wrong.) The teachers at MCHS put themselves in a bit of a handicap situation by electing me because if I am not returned to MCHS, I will have to be a long distance Delegate. One of the big questions asked to me during the short campaign was how I could represent the school if I am not in the building and yes it will be more difficult. Is the union now going to get me release time so I can go to MCHS and hear the views of the teachers on the union issues that impact them?
What really happened here is the UFT higher ups put election rules together that forced the ATRs to vote and run for office in the schools we happen to be in on May 4 because they had to allow us to vote somewhere or they would be violating federal labor law. They probably figured nobody would vote for strangers who were just passing through a school so it would look good on paper that they were not disenfranchising ATRs but in essence that is exactly what the UFT leadership was doing.
The union's election guide in my opinion is illegal so four of us have appealed these absurd chapter election procedures to the American Federation of Teachers which has not yet responded. I don't think the election of one or two Delegates weakens that case. Certainly having one ATR in the DA when there are over 1,000 ATRs and Leave Replacement Teachers is still grossly unfair and it wasn't even ATRs who elected me so technically I represent MCHS and not ATRs.
Several people at MCHS asked me why the UFT doesn't just give ATR's a Chapter because having us run for office and vote in schools we are passing through is ridiculous. The answer to this question is hard to figure out since it is now a decade since the infamous 2005 contract was passed that created the ATR mess by ending preferred placement for teachers when a school was closed or placement to a permanent job when UFT members were excessed from a school for other reasons. This is not a temporary situation, as the UFT previously argued, since there is now a whole ATR section in the 2014 contract. We proposed having a temporary Chapter that could dissolve if sanity returns to the school system and ATRs are finally placed permanently. The leadership turned that down along with other reasonable requests for ATR elected representation.
I want to personally say a huge THANK YOU to the people of MCHS for having enough confidence in me to send me to the DA to represent MCHS, even though I might not be at MCHS in the fall. MCHS is a great school to work at. Thanks to MCHS support, I don't have to sit on the 19th floor at the DA in the visitor's section next year watching the proceedings on closed circuit television.
The opposition to Unity Caucus has done some incredible work at the DA without me this year. I hope my presence doesn't set us back so I will be studying my Roberts' Rules of Order over the summer. Or maybe it's better if I don't study those Rules of Order.