Four of us have filed a complaint with the Federal Department of Labor claiming that the UFT Chapter election process is unfair to Absent Teacher Reserves. The UFT made a ridiculous rule this past spring that compelled ATRs to vote in important Chapter elections in the school they happened to be rotated into on May 4, 2015 and probably knew nothing about. ATRs also could only run for Chapter office in the school they happened to be in on May 4.
We thought the process was completely unfair and effectively disenfranchised the ATRs so we contacted the Department of Labor. The DOL Office of Labor and Management Standards has jurisdiction over union elections. They informed us that we must exhaust all internal remedies before filing an official complaint with them so on April 12th we filed a pre-election protest with the UFT to try to have the rules amended so ATRs could have full democratic rights within the union.
It was no surprise that our protest was turned down by the Executive Board that is dominated by Unity Caucus, the group that makes its members sign an oath that they will support the positions of the caucus in public and union forums. Unity is led by Michael Mulgrew and Leroy Barr. Barr wrote the answer to our complaint and presented it to the Executive Board on May 4th. No Unity member would dare go against Barr. We lost the vote.
We next appealed on May 12 to the American Federation of Teachers where again we didn't have much hope for success with former UFT President Randi Weingarten at the helm but we had to exhaust our internal remedies. The AFT didn't help the ATRs either but they did issue a report on September 29th. That gave us a month from that date to appeal to the Department of Labor.
I personally had to think deeply about appealing as I respect the union and would rather settle matters internally but if there is no way to get any justice within the UFT, what choice did the four of us have other than to go to the DOL?
Yesterday, I met with an investigator from the DOL and filed a complaint. This will not be an easy case to win as unions are given wide latitude by the federal government as to how they set up elections but there are rules and the UFT is covered under federal labor law so we have a chance.
Thankfully, our calls the last few days for ATRs to come forward if they were not permitted to vote or run in Chapter Elections or they were never informed about the May Chapter Elections produced a fairly healthy response. As of now, over twenty ATRs have come forward to add their names.
If anyone else has knowledge of ATRs who could not vote last spring, get the information to ICEUFT@gmail.com. We'll see where it goes.