Yesterday's UFT events show how little will change with a different person in the presidency. Falling back on over twenty years of undemocratic tradition, the UFT Executive Board nominated only one person, Vocational Vice President Michael Mulgrew, to succeed Randi Weingarten. Friends at ICE considered nominating yours truly for the position as I have declared that I will run in 2010, but were not allowed to speak.
This is how this process works. UFT presidents plan their exit. Going back to Al Shanker, the UFT President at some point takes both the presidency of the UFT and the national union, American Federation of Teachers, at the same time. The UFT is by far the largest AFT local. The last three UFT presidents, Al Shanker, Sandy Feldman and Randi Weingarten, have simultaneously held the AFT and UFT presidencies. When they are ready to go full time to the AFT, they resign the UFT presidency in the middle of their term. The UFT Constitution allows the Executive Board, not the membership, to pick a successor.
It says in Article V, Section 17: "A vacancy occurring in the Executive Board or in an elective office shall be filled by the Executive Board. Nominations shall be made at one meeting and elections held at the subsequent meeting." The Executive Board is elected mostly at large so even though a group like ICE-TJC received 36% of the high school teacher vote in the last UFT election, we get no representation on the Board. Therefore, the group of ICERs who went to yesterday's Executive Board meeting was muzzled. They could not even nominate a presidential candidate even if they wanted to.
This is not that big a deal as caucus obligations require Unity Caucus people to vote as their caucus tells them so we are under no illusions that we could have won an Executive Board election for president. The point is that the UFT runs like a corporation and not as a democratic labor union. Do you think the membership knows how the process for picking a new president is rigged?
This procedure allows each new president of the UFT to go around to schools for a year as president, promoted by the union's propaganda newspaper, New York Teacher, and then run as an incumbent with a huge advantage over any opposition candidate in the ensuing general UFT election. This is completely undemocratic but it was used when Shanker left in the eighties, Feldman in the nineties and now with Weingarten. UFT leaders are so predictable.
What has changed is the nature of the opposition. New Action (NAC), the long time opposition party which made deals to not oppose Weingarten in 2004 and 2007, now has eight Executive Board seats even though they received fewer votes than ICE TJC in the last UFT Election. In the eighties and nineties NAC opposed Feldman and Weingarten with their own candidate. Now, they support Weingarten's replacement: Mulgrew.
The ultimate irony here is how the Constitution is twisted by Unity. Ed Notes reported that NAC's Michael Shulman said that there was no need for an election as Mulgrew was the only candidate, but UFT Secretary Michael Mendel called for a second special Executive Board meeting and an actual election for later in the month. He wanted to do it by the book.
If he really wants to go by the letter of the Constitution, then Mulgrew cannot be a candidate for President at this time, nor can any other UFT officer. Article IV, Section 9 of the UFT Constitution states, "No person in any elective position may be a candidate for any other elective position during the term of office, unless a resignation is submitted effective as of July 1 of that year." I very much doubt Mulgrew has resigned his Vice Presidential position as of July 1 because if he did, there would have had to have been nominations for that position too.
The reality is the Constitution to UFT officials is just like the Contract. It is selectively enforced by the UFT Unity leadership. Since the Executive Board is the body in charge of UFT elections, it makes very little sense to spend any energy appealing. After all, they all come from the Unity Caucus where they signed what we call the Unity loyalty oath and the rest are from New Action which is no longer a real opposition group.
The only way to change any of this is for people in the schools to become educated educators and realize that no matter who the UFT President is, as long as he/she comes from Unity Caucus, his/her main responsibility will be to protect the caucus.
Our first promise as a presidential candidate is that if elected, nobody will ever have to sign a piece of paper saying that they will support decisions that ICE-TJC come up with. We take the word independent in Independent Community of Educators very seriously.
More on yesterday's proceedings later.