Tuesday, April 08, 2008



by James Eterno - UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School

Members of the Independent Community of Educators welcome the city's 28,000 Home Child Care Providers to the United Federation of Teachers. According to the November 1, 2007 NY Teacher, there are now more than 188,000 UFT members. That means the 80,000 NYC teachers are now a minority in our Union, making up a little over 40% of the total membership. This piece in no way is being written as a criticism of non-teaching UFT members. We are aiming to tell our readers that the Union's Constitution is now completely obsolete and needs to be amended to fairly represent teaching and non-teaching UFT members.

To begin with, examine Article IV of the UFT Constitution which refers to officers. Five of the eleven officers must come from the schools. The Child Care Providers, the newly unionized Administrative Law Judges and others within the UFT who have nothing to do with the schools should not have all officers who are teachers. Most of the UFT's elected officers were at one time teachers. (Quite possibly all of them came from teaching lines; I'm not sure.) This structure is illogical as the majority of the people they represent are not active classroom teachers.

The at large, winning caucus (political party) takes all voting system makes absolutely no sense. There was never any legitimacy to a system that has Elementary School Teachers voting for the Vice President for Academic High Schools, but that is nothing compared to Home Child Care Providers and the City's Administrative Law Judges voting for the High School, Middle School and Elementary VPs. This system is absurd and cannot be justified in any way shape or form by Randi Weingarten and her Unity Caucus. However, if one accepts the argument that we are all one union and should vote together, then shouldn't there be proportional representation (win a proportion of seats based on the percentage of votes a caucus [political party] gets in a UFT election) on the Executive Board?

Representation on the 78 seat UFT Executive Board is now completely out of proportion to the job titles within the UFT. The majority of the UFT membership is now Functionals (non-teachers) and the Executive Board should soon reflect this. According to Article V, Section 1 of the UFT Constitution: "Thirty (30) shall be elected from the four divisions, namely the elementary schools, junior high/intermediate/middle schools, high schools, and functional chapters. Each division shall be entitled to that fraction of the thirty (30) which its membership bears to the local membership of the organization as of December in the year preceding the election."

If by the 2010 election there are 200,000 UFT members and 80,000 (40%) are teachers, this would mean that teachers would only be entitled to twelve divisional seats, plus six more because each division (high school, middle school and elementary schools) gets two additional seats for having over half of their members organized. Thus, one half of those 36 divisional seats would go to teachers who would not make up close to 50% of the UFT membership. The remaining 42 seats of the Executive Board will be elected at large by the entire membership as per the Constitution. With slate voting (put one X in a ballot for a caucus you like and you vote for every candidate from that caucus), the Caucus (political party) that gets the most at large votes wins all of the at large Executive Board seats and of course all of the officer positions.

It is theoretically very possible for a caucus to lose the teacher vote by an overwhelming number of ballots but still win the election and completely control the UFT by winning the non-teachers. This is ridiculous; we are called the United Federation of Teachers. The Union has clearly outgrown its archaic electoral structure. It's time for all of us to demand a restructuring of the UFT.

Here are some suggestions for democratic reform that would require a series of Constitutional Amendments and/or DA motions. Please read them and tell us what you think. (Some of these suggestions are official ICE positions while others are new and not necessarily anyone's position.)

1. Restore divisional voting to each school division for Vice Presidents. High School members only vote for HS VPs; Middle School members only vote for Middle School VP and Elementary School members only vote for Elementary School VP.

2. Create a vice president for the Retirees. Create a vice president for other non DOE employees including the Home Day Care Workers. Create a vice president for all functional school chapters to vote for. Only members of these particular Functional Chapters can vote for their own VP.

3. Teachers and other school employees only vote for a Teacher President who will negotiate for teacher issues.

4. Functionals (non-teachers) not in the school system including retirees vote for a Functional President. (The total would be 15 officers.)

5. Make the District Representative into a Constitutionally elected position (voted on either by Chapter Leaders in a district or by all UFT members within a district).

6. Allocate all at large Executive Board seats by proportional representation. If a caucus (political party) wins ten percent of the at large vote, they should win ten percent of the seats on the Executive Board as well as 10% of the AFT and NYSUT Delegates.

7. Divisional Executive Board seats should also be allocated based upon proportional representation determined exclusively on the percentage of votes in that particular division.

8. At Delegate Assembly Contract ratification votes, only members of a particular Functional Chapter or the Teachers should be able to vote on their Contracts. All it would take is different colored voting cards for different functions and teachers.

9. Give email addresses of all of our members to registered caucuses so each caucus can send campaign emails to the membership.

10. Open up the NY Teacher to dissenting voices in every issue, not just in the two election issues every three years.

The alternatives to these suggestions are to split the Union into smaller more manageable locals including one for the retirees and home childcare workers, or to keep the current totally undemocratic system where thousands of members feel completely disenfranchised and a very small percentage actually bothers to vote in UFT elections.


Anonymous said...

This makes sense but unfortunately very few people will take the time to read it. That is the problem with the UFT. It would be nice if some members would wake up.

Anonymous said...

Many of us have better things to do than read the nonsense hear.


I'm on hold for customer service- a fate worse than death.

Next worse fate: eternal damnation with this blog as the only accessible site.



Anonymous said...

Nice job James.

There are interesting times ahead of us.

John Powers

Old School said...

James ...You are the best!!

Your College Friend ,

Anonymous said...

James, hope you are retiring soon!

John Powers

Anonymous said...

I very much doubt that John Powers sent the last comment. I guess the Unity people are back.

Anonymous said...

With teachers no longer the vocal point of the UFT, it goes to explain why they would take our TRS money into some kind of entitlement program that would build housing for non-teachers. Unions should focus on how to build up their membership's education in order to afford good housing. Our TDA money needs to be protected, especially in these economic times and times ahead.

It is not the responsibility of this union to build housing.

Anonymous said...

Can't the Unity guy make an argument instead of a personal attack?

Anonymous said...

You want to know how stupid teachers are??? My CC is allowing an SBO to turn extended day into an actual full-class teaching period because some teachers think it's a better idea than dismissing twice a day. My CC's view: It doesn't matter to her one way or another.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone vote for that SBO? It might not be allowed at all because Article 8B says: "The Union chapter in a school and the principal may agree to modify the existing provisions of this Agreement or board regulations concerning class size, rotation of assignments/classes, teacher schedules and/or rotation of paid coverages for the entire school year." I don't think there is anything in there about adding classes.

Anonymous said...

The wording was keeping your whole class during extended day. Meaning--more than 10 students of course.

The real question is why any rep would even allow this to come to a vote given the implications.
(Keep in mind I work with idiots.)

Anonymous said...

As ICE complains about the different job titles in our union, they seem to forget that there is strength in numbers.

Anonymous said...

Funny that the hack who just commented had nothing to say about a union leader allowing the SBO vote that would literally turn extended day into an extra period.
Can it be that the UFT is leaning this way? Are we looking at a longer school day and year? Be honest Anon 3:15. Do I really want health care professionals picking my education union leader?
Do I want them voting on issues that really don't relate to them?

Strength in numbers??? We had very healthy numbers in '05, yet Randi never even brought up a strike vote to the DA.

Anonymous said...

"Funny that the hack who just commented had nothing to say about a union leader allowing the SBO vote that would literally turn extended day into an extra period."

On an already ridiculous thread, people are supposed to comment when it goes off topic too? That's funny.

In any case, I'll comment now. That CL is probably a new ICE or TJC chapter leader. It seems apparent that ICE and TJC don't really prepare their CLs well when it comes to real school issues. They only train (ie. brainwash) them on Randi bashing.

Hah! My own comments cracked me up so much, I almost shot coffee out of my nose.

Anonymous said...

She was trained at Princeton. Isn't that where Randi trains the CCs????

Anonymous said...

That chapter leader sounds like the piece of doo Teaching Fellow CL from my school! You know, the morons from the business world brainwashed with that Teacher's College crapola.

Anonymous said...

Strength in numbers? Are the home health aides going to strike with the teachers? It would help so much if the Unity person could read?

Anonymous said...

We would still have the numbers if the changes asked for in this post came about.

The ICE-TJC chapter leader remark is just plain dumb. How is it that Licari, Colen, Eterno, Wainer, Lazarus, etc...keep getting reelected? They must do more than trash Randi or their members would get rid of them.