UNITY DOMINATED EXECUTIVE BOARD DEFENDS ITS INDEFENSIBLE POWER GRAB!
UNITY MESSAGE TO MEMBERSHIP:
"NON UNITY MEMBERS NEED NOT APPLY FOR FULL TIME UNION JOBS"
UFT district representatives provide direct services to chapter leaders and members within a particular school district. The Unity dominated UFT Executive Board after a spirited debate on Monday voted to continue the corporate style top-down system where President Randi Weingarten appoints district representatives while a newly created committee will study the issue of whether it's better for the Union to have elections for DR positions or to continue the present undemocratic hiring system.
The corporate style presidential appointment system has been in effect since 2003 when Unity used the excuse that the Board of Education was restructuring to cancel DR elections and allow Randi to appoint people to vacant DR positions. We know of no non-Unity member who has been selected by Randi for a District Rep position or any other full time Union job for pedagogues for that matter. Their message is clear that if one is not willing to sign the Unity loyalty pledge, forget about working full time for the UFT.
ICE strongly endorses elections for district representatives. Between 1969 and 2003, DR's were elected on a weighted vote of chapter leaders within a district; the more members a chapter had, the more votes the chapter leader had in the DR election. While this system was not perfect, it functioned well enough so that the accountability for DR's was to the chapter leaders who the district representatives serviced directly, not to Randi. The problem for Unity was that two non Unity chapter leaders were elected to district representative positions: Bruce Markens and then Tom Dromgoole when Bruce retired. Even though the overwhelming majority of the DR's were Unity, two non Unity DR's were too many so Unity used the excuse of the Board restructuring to cancel DR elections in 2003. (Districts still exist by state law.)
Unity sun-setted the 2003 district representative resolution every year and so they had to annually renew it. They overlooked that detail this past June and were caught off guard when Jeff Kaufman from ICE raised the issue on September 11 and told the Executive Board that the President was making illegal appointments since the end of June. Kaufman called for immediate DR elections. Two weeks later Unity had a new District Representative resolution that will continue the top-down presidential appointment process until a committee that is formed by the resolution decides how to hire future DR's or what to replace them with. ICE-TJC Executive Board members were outraged. ICE doesn't want a committee; we need elections.
The ICE-TJC reps on the Executive Board all gave passionate speeches opposing the policy of Randi appointing DR's. James Eterno, Jeff Kaufman and Arthur Colon each spoke about how flawed the current DR hiring process is. Our reps pointed out how the UFT uses a committee to recommend candidates for a district rep vacancy to the president who makes the selection. It is similar to the C-30 process that the Board of Ed utilizes to hire school principals and assistant principals that the UFT constantly criticizes. The UFT in the past created two committees to advocate for reforms to the C-30 system. One of those UFT committees recommended that the Board or Ed allow staff in a school to elect their supervisors. Ironically, the UFT when hiring DR's now emulates the Board's hiring procedures that we called unfair.
In fact, the UFT goes one step further than the Board of Ed because the Board at least allows each constituency on a C-30 hiring committee (UFT, CSA, DC37, parents, students) to choose their own representatives. The UFT committees that submit names to Randi for DR jobs are hand picked by Unity. In addition, it was pointed out in debate that the UFT made a similar power grab back in 1994 after it lost a high school vice presidency to the opposition a few years earlier. Unity then changed the rules to allow at large voting so all UFT members, including retirees and non high school personnel, now vote for the HS VP, instead of only members working in the high schools. Finally out of complete frustration, one of the ICE reps asked Unity why they are so afraid of elections?
Unity argued that things must settle down before the committee created to examine this issue could decide how DR's should be selected. This is the same argument Rudy Giulliani made when he unsuccessfully tried to postpone the 2001 Mayoral election after 9-11. A Unity member even said that he works well with the two non-Unity DR's. (Those two were elected under the old system and would never have been selected under the current arrangement.)
Randi left the chair to debate from the floor and argued that the issue was about servicing the members and how best to do it. She urged opposition members not to boycott the committee that will decide on the selection process in the future. She then tried to resume chairing the debate but was forced to sit down when ICE protested that she cannot participate in debate and then moderate the same debate. Finally, a vote was taken and the overwhelming Unity majority obeyed their loyalty oath and voted to allow the President to continue to appoint DR's, instead of reverting to elections. The ICE-TJC members all dissented.
The only way this decision can be overruled is if the Delegate Assembly uses its power and decides to review the issue. We would like to hear from any delegate who advocates for Union democracy as this is a core issue that separates Unity from ICE.
On a positive note, the Executive Board on Monday voted unanimously to donate $50,000 to the Transport Workers Union Local 100. TWU is suffering under the draconian fines that were imposed after last year's transit strike.