Last Wednesday at the DA, I told UFT President Michael Mulgrew he was out of order every month. I stand by that assertion and will use this space today to explain some rudimentary parliamentary procedure. My aim is to have some assistance in upcoming meetings to compel the UFT President to adhere to a few simple rules to ensure that the voices of the rank and file we represent are heard at the DA.
I don't take lightly the fact that I clearly stated that the UFT President is out of order every month at the DA. The fact is he is in error often but very few ever call him on it. Here as some basics from Robert's Rules that are violated constantly at the DA.
President Mulgrew, when chairing debate at the UFT DA, does not comprehend or want to comprehend the meaning of the word debate. Mulgrew thinks he is doing the opposition to his Unity Caucus a favor by asking for one person to speak on the negative side of any issue. According to Robert's Rules, the negative side is entitled to half the speakers in a debate. That is correct; half of them.
What is a debate?
Webster's New Explorer College Dictionary says in its first definition of the word debate: "to discuss or examine a question by presenting and considering arguments from both sides." By definition, both sides need to be presented for a discussion on an issue to be called a debate. End of story.
When Mulgrew asks if there is a speaker against a motion, as if he is doing something out of the goodness of his heart to call for a negative speaker usually after several Unity Caucus reps speak, he is wrong. Every other speaker on all debatable motions should be opposed to the motion if the opponents want to speak.
Has anyone ever seen Mulgrew adhere to this minimal democratic principle except when he is called on it?
Chapter 2, Section 3 of Robert's Rules is called "Obtaining and Assigning the Floor." On page 31, Robert's Rules explains in 3) how the floor is supposed to be assigned:
In cases where the chair knows that persons seeking the floor have opposite opinions on the question..., the chair should alternate, as far as possible, between those favoring and those opposing the measure. To accomplish this, the chair may say, for example, "Since the last speaker spoke in favor of the motion, who wishes to speak in opposition to the motion?" or "Since the last speaker opposed the motion, who wishes to speak in its favor?"
The chair at the DA knows that all of the speakers from his Unity Caucus are on the same side as the Unity person who motivated any particular motion because everyone from Unity signs a paper saying they will support caucus positions in public and union forums.
Representatives from MORE, New Action, Solidarity or independents are normally the only ones who ever speak against Unity motions. Rotating between speakers for and against something is not complicated. It is a fundamental principle of a deliberative democracy that is violated every month at the UFT Delegate Assembly.
In the introduction to Robert's Rules on page xxxiv, it explains the origin of this rule. It states,
Alternation between opposite points of view in assignment of the floor: 1592. It was made a Rule, That the Chairman shall ask the Parties that would speak, on which side they would speak... and the Party that speaketh against the last Speaker, is to be heard first.
Mulgrew is incapable of adhering to a concept that was accepted in England's Parliament in 1592!
We have mentioned these simple procedures before in this space. Apparently, Mulgrew is not a very fast learner.
Now for a new one: Last week Mulgrew stopped me for trying to raise an amendment when I had the floor as a speaker against a motion to support JHS 145. As it was presented at the DA (actually, it was already watered down at the Executive Board two nights earlier), the resolution needed some meat on its bones so I wanted to amend it to call for the UFT to initiate or join a lawsuit to save JHS 145. Mulgrew stopped me by saying I could only speak against. He was out of order again.
Let us proceed to Chapter XII of Robert's Rules, ASSIGNMENT OF THE FLOOR; DEBATE.
On page 386 on a part of Section 45, Rules Governing Debate, on Line 23 it says,
While debate is in progress, amendments or other secondary (subsidiary, privileged, or incidental) motions can be introduced and disposed of--and can be debated in the process, if they are debatable--as explained on pages 116-118. A member may both speak in debate and conclude by offering a secondary motion, which is a particular application of the principle that a member having been recognized for any legitimate purpose has the floor for all legitimate purposes.
Once again this isn't a complicated procedure. Once a member has the floor, he/she can raise an amendment.
Mulgrew was totally in error to shut me down last week. I had every right to propose and speak to an amendment on the resolution on JHS 145.
Furthermore, if we read further on page 386 it talks about concluding debate which also is done improperly at the DA on many occasions. There is no need to get a motion to close debate if no Delegate wants to speak. The DA wastes time on many "Motherhood and Apple Pie" resolutions that nobody in their right mind would oppose by having separate votes to close debate and then vote on the resolution. We don't have to vote to end debate when no one wishes to speak. Debate is by definition done at that point.
Of course, Leroy Barr was wrong last month not to even hear my point of order.
Why is the flagrant abuse of the rules allowed to continue? Simply because the non-Unity Delegates are mostly silent.
Fellow Delegates who are not in Unity Caucus: The few of us who fight for procedural rights require backup when we demand that the rules be adhered to.
Most sane people go to the DA and see that it is totally rigged by Mulgrew/Unity Caucus. They think it is hopeless and vote with their feet by leaving and never returning unless there is a contract. This is an understandable reaction to what is essentially a totalitarian system. The only way to stop it is for the opposition and neutral people to work together to see to it that our voices are heard.
I ran in a contested election for the Delegate position in 2015 at Middle College High School so I could be a voice on behalf of the rank and file. I was trusted by members in a school where I was only there for a few months and was still an Absent Teacher Reserve. Having that voice continually silenced by a Unity regime that has no interest in fundamental fairness is an insult not just to me but to the members who elected me and every other non Unity Delegate.
Will anybody else join me in demanding basic fairness?