Monday, January 07, 2013


A member driven union should be the goal of any labor union worthy of the title. The UFT was described by one time AFT President David Seldon as operating more like an insurance company than as part of a movement.

Last Friday, a UFT District Representative sent the email copied below to the Chapter Leaders in the district.  Apparently, someone raised their hand and spoke some blasphemy about President Mulgrew at a district Chapter Leaders' meeting. Elected Chapter Leaders need to get information from the union leadership but just as importantly Chapter Leaders  need to raise issues that are concerning members in their schools. Without open discussion where people can make statements on what is happening with their constituents, a union is not a democratic organization.  The email explains just what is wrong with the UFT structure and why there needs to be change.  If this is happening in one district, I wonder if this is how other districts operate.

We have supported elected District Representatives for many years and were appalled when then President Randi Weingarten stopped District Rep elections in 2003. DRs were elected by Chapter Leaders in a District in the past.  Therefore, DRs were accountable to the Chapter Leaders they serviced; now they are accountable to the UFT hierarchy. Someone who was not a part of the ruling Unity Caucus, Bruce Markens, was actually elected as a DR and Manhattan High Schools functioned truly independently.  When Bruce retired, Tom Dromgoole, another non-Unity DR, was elected to follow him.  The UFT changed the rules to mirror the C-30 selection process for Principals.  Now a committee with Chapter Leaders and union officials interviews candidates and makes a recommendation to the President who picks the DR.

A committee was formed by Weingarten to come up with a fair process for DR selection several years ago.  It met once.  I know I volunteered to serve on this committee.  It never met again.  We are stuck with the results.

Subject: My Apologies
Date: Friday, January 4, 2013, 8:09 PM

I must apologize for today. Not for my behavior, but for not being able to present to you important information in the way that I had planned to.

My monthly Chapter Leader meetings are for me to give you important information, to teach you about different aspects of what we do as union representatives on a daily basis, to have presenters in specialty areas so that you get great information first hand from the experts in those areas and to have useful conversations about what is going on and what we are to be doing as a union representative.

It is not the place nor the time to get on a soap box and speak about what you want to speak about.  The information that I present or any other presenter speaks about is information passed down from our leadership to you so that you can act as the conduit of information to the membership in your school. We present the information, not to be filtered by you or to be changed in any way, it is to be presented to your members as you have heard it from me or any of the leadership in this union. You might not personally agree with the information given you, however, you were elected as a representative to not only be the defender of our contract and to represent, support and guide our members, but also to pass down the information given as was presented to you.

I feel that our conversations can be good and useful to others if we are all on the same page in terms of who we are as representatives and what it is that we were elected to do. We are not there to preach about one caucus or another, we are not there to talk about how you personally feel about something, we can do that one on one anytime. I do support my union and the leadership of this union, however, I do not preach where I stand in terms of the caucus that I belong to or don't belong to, I do not bad mouth the leadership even if I don't agree with what is being done. I support them because they are the leadership of this union and trust that they have the best interest of our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.

I thank you for your time and for what you do everyday for our members. I truly do appreciate you,



Paul said...

I believe I've heard that argument before: "You may not agree with the President (Nixon? Johnson?) but he's the only President we have." And look where that got us.

jed said...

A model DR... It's why they are appointed. They are functionaries... they are accountable to their Boro Reps and get testy if you, the CL, challenge them. They get upset if you get uppidy as a CL because you get them in trouble with their true boss, their boro rep, VP and President.

Anonymous said...

This is why the uft is in such lousy shape.

Anonymous said...

Whenever the UFT has some leverage they give it up. The union won twice in court back in 2010 with regard to the school closings for that year. They turned around and negotiated a settlement agreement with the city. The city did not honor there end (not a surprise). I am sure there are a lot of NYC teachers in suspense about the exact outcome of these negotiations (myself included). Let's hope these negotiations fall apart or we get the best possible outcome from an agreement (wishful thinking).

Anonymous said...

I agree