Monday, March 27, 2017


Last Wednesday at the DA, I told UFT President Michael Mulgrew he was out of order every month. I stand by that assertion and will use this space today to explain some rudimentary parliamentary procedure. My aim is to have some assistance in upcoming meetings to compel the UFT President to adhere to a few simple rules to ensure that the voices of the rank and file we represent are heard at the DA.

I don't take lightly the fact that I clearly stated that the UFT President is out of order every month at the DA. The fact is he is in error often but very few ever call him on it. Here as some basics from Robert's Rules that are violated constantly at the DA.

President Mulgrew, when chairing debate at the UFT DA, does not comprehend or want to comprehend the meaning of the word debate. Mulgrew thinks he is doing the opposition to his Unity Caucus a favor by asking for one person to speak on the negative side of any issue. According to Robert's Rules, the negative side is entitled to half the speakers in a debate. That is correct; half of them.

What is a debate?

Webster's New Explorer College Dictionary says in its first definition of the word debate: "to discuss or examine a question by presenting and considering arguments from both sides." By definition, both sides need to be presented for a discussion on an issue to be called a debate. End of story.

When Mulgrew asks if there is a speaker against a motion, as if he is doing something out of the goodness of his heart to call for a negative speaker usually after several Unity Caucus reps speak, he is wrong. Every other speaker on all debatable motions should be opposed to the motion if the opponents want to speak.

Has anyone ever seen Mulgrew adhere to this minimal democratic principle except when he is called on it?

Chapter 2, Section 3 of Robert's Rules is called "Obtaining and Assigning the Floor." On page 31, Robert's Rules explains in 3) how the floor is supposed to be assigned:

In cases where the chair knows that persons seeking the floor have opposite opinions on the question..., the chair should alternate, as far as possible, between those favoring and those opposing the measure. To accomplish this, the chair may say, for example, "Since the last speaker spoke in favor of the motion, who wishes to speak in opposition to the motion?" or "Since the last speaker opposed the motion, who wishes to speak in its favor?" 

The chair at the DA knows that all of the speakers from his Unity Caucus are on the same side as the Unity person who motivated any particular motion because everyone from Unity signs a paper saying they will support caucus positions in public and union forums.

Representatives from MORE, New Action, Solidarity or independents are normally the only ones who ever speak against Unity motions. Rotating between speakers for and against something is not complicated. It is a fundamental principle of a deliberative democracy that is violated every month at the UFT Delegate Assembly.

In the introduction to Robert's Rules on page xxxiv, it explains the origin of  this rule. It states,

Alternation between opposite points of view in assignment of the floor: 1592. It was made a Rule, That the Chairman shall ask the Parties that would speak, on which side they would speak... and the Party that speaketh against the last Speaker, is to be heard first.

Mulgrew is incapable of adhering to a concept that was accepted in England's Parliament in 1592!

We have mentioned these simple procedures before in this space. Apparently, Mulgrew is not a very fast learner.

Now for a new one: Last week Mulgrew stopped me for trying to raise an amendment when I had the floor as a speaker against a motion to support JHS 145. As it was presented at the DA (actually, it was already watered down at the Executive Board two nights earlier), the resolution needed some meat on its bones so I wanted to amend it to call for the UFT to initiate or join a lawsuit to save JHS 145. Mulgrew stopped me by saying I could only speak against. He was out of order again.

Let us proceed to Chapter XII of Robert's Rules, ASSIGNMENT OF THE FLOOR; DEBATE.

On page 386 on a part of Section 45, Rules Governing Debate, on Line 23 it says,

While debate is in progress, amendments or other secondary (subsidiary, privileged, or incidental) motions can be introduced and disposed of--and can be debated in the process, if they are debatable--as explained on pages 116-118. A member may both speak in debate and conclude by offering a secondary motion, which is a particular application of the principle that a member having been recognized for any legitimate purpose has the floor for all legitimate purposes.

Once again this isn't a complicated procedure. Once a member has the floor, he/she can raise an amendment.

Mulgrew was totally in error to shut me down last week. I had every right to propose and speak to an amendment on the resolution on JHS 145.

Furthermore, if we read further on page 386 it talks about concluding debate which also is done improperly at the DA on many occasions. There is no need to get a motion to close debate if no Delegate wants to speak. The DA wastes time on many "Motherhood and Apple Pie" resolutions that nobody in their right mind would oppose by having separate votes to close debate and then vote on the resolution. We don't have to vote to end debate when no one wishes to speak. Debate is by definition done at that point.

Of course, Leroy Barr was wrong last month not to even hear my point of order.

Why is the flagrant abuse of the rules allowed to continue? Simply because the non-Unity Delegates are mostly silent.

Fellow Delegates who are not in Unity Caucus: The few of us who fight for procedural rights require backup when we demand that the rules be adhered to.

Most sane people go to the DA and see that it is totally rigged by Mulgrew/Unity Caucus. They think it is hopeless and vote with their feet by leaving and never returning unless there is a contract. This is an understandable reaction to what is essentially a totalitarian system. The only way to stop it is for the opposition and neutral people to work together to see to it that our voices are heard.

I ran in a contested election for the Delegate position  in 2015 at Middle College High School so I could be a voice on behalf of the rank and file. I was trusted by members in a school where I was only there for a few months and was still an Absent Teacher Reserve. Having that voice continually silenced by a Unity regime that has no interest in fundamental fairness is an insult not just to me but to the members who elected me and every other non Unity Delegate.

Will anybody else join me in demanding basic fairness?


Anonymous said...

Another reason why i hope gorsuch and trump wipe the uft out.

James Eterno said...

That'll really help us.

Anonymous said...

Mulgrew just wants any opposition to just SHUT UP and GO AWAY. You are treated with the same contempt as the average UFT member, you know the ones that voted for the last contract and the same ignoramuses that voted this clown back in as president.

Anonymous said...

Parking Permit Guy here again. There was a "resolution" passed back when DeBlasio first got elected as mayor stating that the UFT would open up discussions with him to get our permits back. As we know, nothing has happened since that resolution passed. What is the procedure at a Delegate Meeting to re-address this issue?

waitingforsupport said...

He asked if anyone will join him?
What can be done James--I would like to help.

Anonymous said...

Good for you James for trying. There's an official RONR Q&A forum where parliamentarians help to answer questions regarding Robert's Rules. Here's the link:

Last year I tried to convince Mulgrew to allow more member voice at the DA. He actually agreed with my point of order but then Leroy Barr challenged it and blabbered on about it being the way they've been doing it for 40 years and made it sound like I wanted to have unlimited debate (which I didn't). Anyway, even though the parliamentarians on the site were very helpful, in the end it was very discouraging. You can read my thread here:

Good luck!


Michael Fiorillo said...

Randi is an intelligent, if duplicitous, person, and as a lawyer she always seemed to enjoy argument and debate. She also had the chops to be able to control the discussion. She was/is grossly manipulative, but you could at least respect her skills.

Mulgrew, on the other hand, is a small, stupid man, an insignificant placeholder who on some level knows he doesn't deserve his position of leadership, and bobs and weaves and dissembles to hide that fact.

You have my admiration and respect James, since for years I've found it unbearable to see my union leadership demonstrate a contempt for the rank and file that's all too similar to the contempt we get from the DOE. Add to that the willful stupidity and herd mentality of Unity apparatchiks, and the writing on the wall is painfully apparent: this bankrupt leadership is going to take the whole union down with it, while the membership stands by passively, breathing through its collective mouth.

ed notes online said...

I get the idea James is putting forth here because fighting for democracy in the union must take place on all levels but question the context given the makeup of the DA.
Let's say Mulgrew gives equal time -- say 3 speakers on each side of a debate. That would be a good thing but I would bet the voting outcomes would be roughly the same.
Now would more people come to DAs if it were more democratic? Possibly - so that would be worth the fight.
I have been handing out materials at the DA for 20 years and get a good feel for who is attending.
We try to supplement the debate with lit we hand out before and after the meeting. Many Unity people won't even take it so good luck in having them listen to a debate. And a number of what looks like independents also don't want to read different points of view.
Even many of our own MORE contacts don't bother to come to DAs. They don't think it worth their time. And they may be right. But A first step in putting up resistance would be to get 30-50 people to attend and work together which even the opposition can't seem to do. I think they are wrong since this is the only somewhat gathering of union people and even if only 100 independents, coalitions can be built.

Anonymous said...

Raise the parking permit issue as a question.

Anonymous said...

Do you have to get approval to ask a question or do you just sign up before the meeting to ask a question?

James Eterno said...

Just raise your card if you are a Delegate.

Anonymous said...

I am not a delegate. I would love to see someone ask about this at an upcoming DA meeting.

Anonymous said...

It's also disgusting when certain Unity folks get up to "call the question" before debate on a topic is over lest some folks actually begin to critically think about what they are hearing and decide to vote their conscience.

Anonymous said...

Don Quixote (James),
The question you are posing carries an implication of offense. That offense is based on the assumption that Mulgrew is a gentleman and as such and as UFT president must confine himself to established conduct and decorum. Mulgrew is no gentleman. He is the de facto dictator of the UFT, as Randi is of the AFT. He follows no rules other than his own and Randi's. Unfortunately, 52 Broadway is not Camelot and Mulgrew isn't King Arthur.

James Eterno said...

It is up to us to change that 9:04. No more sitting back and taking it. My point here is to say I can't do it alone.

Anonymous said...

So, 5% of the delegates should have 50% of the Floor? That hardly sounds democratic to me.

Anonymous said...

James didn't say 5% of delegates should have 50% of the floor. He said Robert's Rules say alternate pro and con. It doesn't say take a poll as to percentage of people whose minds have already been made up. Of course it also doesn't account for 95% of the people on the floor having signed loyalty oaths either.

James Eterno said...

The idea of debate is that by hearing both sides equally on an issue, someone undecided can make up his/her mind. For it to be a deliberative body, debate needs to be half pro and half con. This concept is obviously foreign to the 7:21 commenter who is most likely in Unity and as the comment at noon said, their minds have been made up for them before the debate even starts.

Anonymous said...

Mulgrew is the Head Coward and will never cross his Tammany Hall bosses DiBlasio & Farina...he is the Resident Sell-out whose main job is to fatten the plate he & His underlings feed off of

Quinn Zannoni said...

I have been infuriated every time he does this sort of thing. I did not know prior to your blog writing that it was a violation of Robert's rules -- just a violation of democratic principles is all I knew. I'm with you all the way.

There are other tricks he pulls and I'm not sure what Robert's Rules says about them. One trick is that he calls on a certain person in the front row (who I like a lot more since he made that speech against endorsing Gorsuch) whenever he wishes to cut off the debate.

One time (I can't remember the issue), he called a different person from the audience who happened to call to question, and everybody voted to end the discussion. But since Mulgrew wished to continue discussion, he indicated by his tone of voice that he wasn't happy to end debate, then re-voted(!) and everybody switched their vote so the discussion would continue.

James Eterno said...

Thanks Quinn. Anyone can make a motion to kill debate and then if there is a 2/3 vote in favor, it is over. However, the Delegates in favor of a motion are only entitled to half of the speaking slots so if there are Delegates against a motion who want the floor, those who are opposed to a motion are entitled to be called on half the time while debate is in progress. That does not occur at the DA. This is how it should work: after there is a speaker in favor of something, the Chair is obligated to call on a speaker opposed as the next speaker. It is a fundamental principle of debate to hear both sides equally. Anyone who has the floor can make an amendment or a motion to end debate.

Tony Da Fighter said...

Most unions in general, and the UFT in particular, are undemocratic and bureaucratic outfits designed to keep the rank-and-file passive and away from struggle. It is an illusion to think that we will achieve democracy at the DA, which is essentially rigged. That said, it is a good thing to fight for principles at the DA mainly for the purpose of educating the so-called independents first and foremost, and secondarily, to challenge the bureaucrats and then exposing them in our blogs, e-mails, listservs and newsletters for the rank-and-file to learn. Our main task today is to build an autonomous education workers movement of the rank-and-file strong enough to challenge reactionaries of all stripes.

ed notes online said...

I believe we can call a point of information asking if the speaker is employed by the UFT -- it will be turned down but it will make the point.
I would argue that the body has a right to know how the speaker is connected.
Don't forget that Unity has a plan for the meeting. One Unity guy told me they have a speaker's bureau that used to meet the day before to plan -- even said Mulgrew has a seating plan.
Greg Lundahl - hi Greg - is a designated call the question guy -- he should be called out on that every time he does it.
Same with Pecoraro --
ROBERTS Rules say they can do that
But doing some of this requires some planning before the meeting and I have been urging MORE for some time to organize a committee to address how to work together at the DA with some plan- even a mass walkout in protest if enough people can be recruited to do that.