UFT Solidarity listens when UFT members have valid suggestions to try to fix our union. Last week Solidarity's Council discussed how their resolution calling for the UFT to take a strong position against remote Danielson never made it to the floor at the Delegate Assembly. This issue needs to be debated by the UFT but never was. Solidarity did have a discussion on how undemocratic UFT electronic meetings are.
Democratic procedures are essential in any labor union. I went right to Robert's Rules of Order to see what it says about electronic meetings. There is nothing there about questions being screened or rewriting rules for the duration of a pandemic to limit debate, to suppress open discussion or not allow members to question if the rules are being adhered to.
Electronic meetings are supposed to be the equivalent of regular live meetings. UFT leadership has used the excuse of the pandemic to screen questions and create an even more controlled environment compared to in-person meetings. Some of Solidarity's leaders asked if I would like to join them in a push to bring back some democracy at UFT meetings. I said yes.
Step I is to let UFT leadership know they are out of order. We can go further if they refuse to change their electronic meetings' undemocratic rules.
Our email to Staff Director Leroy Barr in full:
Dear Mr. Barr:
Recently we have been reviewing Robert's Rules of Order as it pertains to remote meetings. We are thrilled that the UFT is hosting Delegate Assembly, Town Hall and Executive Board in these tough times. But we are alarmed at how these sessions are carried out. Members are muted, unable to freely ask questions, they cannot engage easily in the Delegate Assembly for motions and someone screens questions ahead of time (so people known to be vocal or problematic will not be called on).
Additionally, the rules for remote DAs eliminated the ability of participants to raise a point or order, a point of information, a point of personal privilege or any other motion that interrupts debate. The body is ultimately responsible for enforcing its rules, not the president or even the parliamentarian.
We read Robert's Rules of Order on electronic meetings after a UFT Solidarity motion against Remote Danielson was ignored. We believe the way the UFT does them is not exactly proper. For an electronic meeting a group using Robert's Rules of Order must have "conditions of opportunity for simultaneous aural communication among all participating members equivalent to those held in one room or area."
Having someone screen questions and not being able to make a motion would not meet that definition. Elminating the ability of participants to raise a point or order or a point of information does not meet this definition as well. Pressing 0 should be all a member needs to do to get the floor.
We want you to change the way you do meetings, assembly's and town halls. Let us engage in democratic discourse and not a watered down version meant to stifle dissent.
FYI, here is a link to the sample electronic rules that do not include limits on member rights.
Please let us know when you receive this and when you plan to make these changes.
Lydia Howrilka, James Eterno, John Lawhead and Quinn Zannoni