Friday, June 13, 2014


As soon as there was the slightest hint of controversy at the June Delegate Assembly, UFT  President Michael Mulgrew gave up any hint of required chairperson impartiality. Instead, as usual, he treated someone who disagreed with him in an unfair and inappropriate way. This month's target was the Movement of Rank and File Educator's (MORE) Megan Moskop.

The issue up for discussion was democracy, a subject our President is not too well acquainted with at DA meetings. During the ten minute new motion period, Joan Heymont from the Progressive Labor Party had introduced a resolution saying the following: "Resolved that we, as educators will join our class brothers and sisters at a rally sponsored by Congregations for Justice and Peace calling for welfare benefits and food stamps adequate for workers to live." 

Since the resolution was for this month's agenda, no debate was allowed and 2/3 of the Delegates needed to vote to add the resolution to the agenda.  After Joan read the resolution, which had been properly disseminated before the meeting, there was a vote.  It looked from where I was sitting that most people didn't vote but that a significant number of people who voted wanted to add the resolution to the agenda.  It did not look like it was the 2/3 necessary but someone could have reasonably made a motion to divide the house (ask for an actual count).

Ms. Moskop rose and stated that the vote on the last resolution looked awfully close.  Mr. Mulgrew, instead of being an impartial chair, said the vote wasn't close and then added, "You're out of order."  Megan responded, "You're interrupting me."  To which Mulgrew replied, "I can interrupt you because you're out of order."  She never had the chance to make a motion for a count.  Democracy at its finest again as a Delegate who was seeking clarification on what looked like a close vote was instead put down by our chair.  But wait, it gets worse.

Later in the meeting, there was a resolution on political endorsements that the leadership forgot to put on the agenda so they had political director Paul Egan ask the Delegates to add it during the new motion period.  Here is the language: "Resolved, that the United Federation of Teachers' Delegate Assembly authorizes the Executive Board to consider, make or modify endorsements that will be recommended to NYSUT during the summer in order to have a timely impact on any such campaigns." 

NYSUT does make our recommendations for state offices but there is no reason why the UFT can't have our picks ready for endorsements by June for most State Assembly and State Senate seats in NYC.  Instead, our political team just expects the Delegates to defer to the much smaller, mostly elected at large, Executive Board.  Megan objected to this resolution as an affront to democracy.

She made a passionate plea that the Delegates should not cede their authority to make endorsements to the Executive Board.  She wondered aloud why this resolution was added at the last minute and thought maybe this was done so people wouldn't have time to think about it. 

Rather than being an impartial chair and just listening, once again Mulgrew interrupted the speaker to say that Paul Egan made an error (in not bringing this resolution up sooner) and was a "bad boy" but he also cut in because Megan made a remark about how we are making back room deals exchanging money for support (routine stuff in Albany's pay to play culture although we do it in a more sophisticated way).  Mulgrew responded by acting as if he was shocked by such an assertion.  He should have kept his mouth closed and just let Megan finish.  He has no right to circumvent Robert's Rules like this. Megan declared that we should be discussing endorsements out in the open. She called for a special DA in the summer on endorsements or electronic voting (very possible in 2014).   

The head of Unity Caucus, Leroy Barr, followed Megan and said something about how this is what democracy looks like.  UFT democracy maybe, but not a real one.  The resolution was rubber stamped by the Unity Caucus majority but a minority including me voted no.  Megan made some very valid points. 

It was troubling seeing how she was treated but heartening to watch her persevere in spite of the difficult time given to her by the Chair for just having an opinion different from his.  At least he is asking for speakers against each motion but his new method of killing debate is to just interrupt anyone when they say anything he does not like (read the May DA report for further details). A sad ending to the school year at the DA.  I will have a more thorough report on the routine items later.



DA=Don't Attend said...

You know why I love hitting my head with a hammer? Because it feels so good when I stop.

Anonymous said...

God bless Megan. God bless you, James.

So Michael Mulgrew isn't a nice guy. I appreciate that you try to force him to follow RROO.

But you and the folks in MORE need to stop thinking that what you do during open reso parts of the DA has the slightest thing to do with "creating real democracy" in the UFT or changing the life of a single teacher in Bensonhurst, Corona or Parkchester. Not a single teacher in Bensonhurst, Corona or Parkchester knows what goes on in a DA meeting, what blows you or anyone else is making for democratic procedure over the handling of not-earth-shaking resos or whether Mulgrew acted well or badly.

I'm not saying stop. I'm asking you to reflect closely on whether your actions and your reporting on your actions amounts to a hill of beans.

ed notes online said...

In response to 9:21AM -- I agree it doesn't amount to a hill of beans to most rank and file teachers. But without organizer like Megan and James who go beyond r&f and put themselves on the line we get nowhere. I too feel the DA is mostly a waste -- but for newer activists like Megan, this is the place to get some practice standing up to hostile crowds and union leaders. I can make the same case with the NYSUT event where another one of our young activists, Lauren Cohen, calmly stood up to Unity Caucus heckling and stared them down. Yes, the DA is a waste, but we cannot just sit by and let them continue to run rampant over our rights with no fight back. If you don't want to go don't> But if you do you can't sit there and watch the accident take place in front of you without acting. As for James -- this was his final DA after many years of service and we salute him.

Megan Moskop said...

OH WOW! James's final DA! We need to give him an award for all the years he's been doing this work, and we have really big shoes to fill. Thank you for leading the way James. It's an honor to know you and to stand with you.

Thanks for the blessings Anonymous and the "humor" DA=Don't Attend. You're right that going to the DA is frustrating, but that's part of why people like us need to go.

This past week, I went into the meeting feeling hopeful and excited about all the resolutions on the agenda. I wasn't planning to speak, much less planning to get shouted down...which made it even more heartbreaking when there were (as usual) huge and surprising-only-to-me affronts to democracy. (Maybe I should be used to it- I've been a delegate for 2 years, but as we tell the kids, if the status quo is bad, change it!)

So, I'm not going to stop going to the DA, and I'm not going to give up hope on it. I don't think anyone should.

After the DA, lots of brothers and sisters who I had never met came over to talk and show solidarity, and of course, MORE folks were ready with huge hugs.

We can't only do this work inside the DA, and it's only a small part of the work we do. But the work we do all over the city is making a difference, and it is exciting!

So, I'm hopeful, and I'm excited for MORE discussions next Wednesday and this summer!

See you there?

Also, now that school is out for the weekend, I'm working on some of my own writing about this. Look out for it. :-)

Anonymous said...

People like Megan are the future. It makes some of us optimistic.

Gloria Brandman said...

Bravo to Megan for the important work she is doing inside and outside of the DA! Mulgrew's inappropriate behavior has already been addressed.
Yes, many of us do understand that the DA is only one small piece of the puzzle that must be fixed in order to make our union stronger and more democratic. Sadly, even some of the folks that DO go to the DA don’t know what’s going on and don’t really care. I see people reading email, playing games and leaving early. But if you want to move up the UFT Career ladder, one must attend the DA, pretend to be interested and vote the UNITY way. (This is a small minority, hopefully.) If we can’t have true democracy at the so called “main decision making body of the UFT” then what type of example are we setting for the students we teach.
(Definition of democracy –“a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.”)
Leaving important political endorsement decisions to the executive board does not constitute a democratic system. Until we have some form of proportional representation in our union elections, many of the voices of the members –even those in Bensonhurst, Corona or Parkchester - will not be heard or counted.

Megan Moskop said...

Exactly Gloria! Bravo to you for speaking up at the DA this week too, and for all the good work you do! So much respect and love- you and James and Norm are all giants, who luckily have big shoulders that the rest of us can climb up on to see a different vision for the future.

Another thought from while I was walking home today: I know we're all busy busy busy teachers, but delegates are elected by their chapters with the sole responsibility of attending the DA. If I didn't go to the DA with regularity (and I admit, I missed a few last year) I'd feel like I wasn't serving my colleagues well. I'd also feel that way if voted based on a mandated party line instead of voting with their best interests and opinions in mind.

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Anonymous said...


We must give credit to those who attend the DA, for they are not fools and are quite capable of saying "No" when it compels them. The comments here concern a group who covets the need to lead. However, when there are no concrete answers or solutions to contention, then we have folly. The resolution on endorsements is ancient history, but the results of that history have been positive. Thank you for your time, Dr. John Marvul.

ed notes online said...

To John Marvul: You know full well that no group can take over the UFT given the way "democracy" is structured. What MORE seeks to do at this point is inform people of alternative sides of the issues, not one line pushed by the Unity leadership --- to build an informed membership capable of making decisions and leading a fight for public education abdicated by the leadership. Right now that is the important battle and one the Unity leadership has proven itself incapable of leading and winning. The contract with its reverence for PD which basically places blame on teachers for being "untrained" lines up with the ed deformers.
Yes, 77% voted YES. But the 23% that voted NO demands to have its views heard. As long as the next generation of activists like Megan are around, they will have that voice heard no matter how much Mulgrew and Unity tries to stamp that voice out.

Anonymous said...

I go to the DA meetings and Mulgrew is just rude. And, he does it to women more than he does it to men.

I go to every meeting. I sit there and I often grade or do puzzles or play games because I can do more than one thing at a time. I also do this because I usually get mad at what is being said and it keeps me calmer. I only stop to take notes, but most of the time he is talking about Rah Rah things and i don’t need to write that down.

I would’ve liked to be told things like when we would actually get that $1000 payoff, I mean bonus. I would like to know what next year’s teacher choice amount would be. I would like to know what teachers can do about MOSL’s and how they keep changing in HS’s but teachers don’t know about it. I want to know about CL’s who are in bed with the Principal, but are Unity members so they seem to be untouchable. Since I don’t get those answers, I play games.

Anonymous said...

And you won't get answers to those questions in the near future.

Swift Heart said...

I come from a union family. When I tell my father, who is a retired union carpenter, of the allegations that are made to our president at the assembly he is shocked. His first question was, what were the basis of the allegations?

This is ALWAYS my question as well. Megan and MORE often stand up and makes allegations of corruption and "back room deals" without any proof or basis. When things don't go your way it doesn't mean you scream corruption.

Anonymous said...

When a president refuses to listen to anyone who opposes him, that's antithetical to democracy.

Megan Moskop said...

Dear Swift Heart,

Thanks for commenting on this and other blog posts. I'd love to chat in real life.

Making allegations of corruption was in no way my intention when I rose to speak, which is part of why I was so shocked when I was interrupted both times. I don't believe that the UFT is corrupt, and I don't think I made allegations as such. When Mulgrew accused me of "casting aspersions" I felt that my words and intent were twisted.

It's true that a lot of our union business goes on behind closed doors- that's what I mean when I say back rooms, and it's problematic when we don't know why or how our union makes the deals it does. (Our reasons behind the endorsement of Bill Thompson, and our initial demands going into contract negotiations remain a mystery, don't they?) This style of working opens us up to huge critiscism from anti-union forces, and I think a more participatory, transparent democratic process would serve us better.

In my mind, it's a huge problem that the membership of the UFT, and even very active members, like myself, have so little information about how the union does its business- what is being prioritized, and why. I think every member should feel they have input into the large decisions our union makes.

I also believe that the Delegate Assembly should be the place for us to have those tough conversations, not for us to get shouted down when we have a different ideas.

Every time I speak at the DA, I come from a place of constructive criticism and positive vision-setting, and, despite how I am cast, I will continue to carry that spirit with me. I hope others, especially our chair, can find the courage to listen instead of interrupting or feeling threatened.

Thanks so much for being an active member of our union.

In solidarity,

myghty said...

Keep hope alive Megan