Wednesday's Delegate Assembly saw UFT President Michael Mulgrew sink to new lows as the biased chair. This blog has been screaming since Michael Mulgrew took over as UFT President how he has mangled democracy beyond recognition at the DA. Mulgrew and I battled each other repeatedly over the years because he routinely violates the neutrality of the chair to advocate for himself and Unity Caucus, the political party he controls that
ruins runs the UFT. He's gotten away with more of his bias chairing after I retired because he usually is never challenged.
In addition, during the pandemic when DAs went remote and could easily be controlled by the leadership, Mulgrew's buddy Rasheed can just cut off in midsentence anybody who says anything undesirable on the phone which was done on Wednesday in the new hybrid format (some live and some on the phone) that will be used this school year. After over a year of remote meetings where Mulgrew could screen the questions coming in and so he got used to almost never being challenged, he had to deal with a partially live DA and he couldn't handle people who were not on the Unity gravy train.
Many, probably most, of the Delegates Mulgrew calls on are receiving a paycheck or some other kind of largesse from the UFT. If they belong to Unity Caucus, they sign a pledge to support Unity Caucus positions in union and public forums. It doesn't take much talent to stack an auditorium with people on the Union payroll. This is what the rest of us are up against.
It is very troubling, or maybe it is encouraging, that at the first DA of the new school year with hundreds of new Delegates either attending for the first time on the phone or in-person, Mulgrew showed that he has learned nothing about being impartial.
First up was a Delegate named Martina who was a young woman who asked the President during the question period about the New York State Health Act. This is how Arthur Goldstein reported the exchange between this new Delegate and Mulgrew:
Q--NY health act--Delegate Assembly supported it, but UFT ran ad against it. Why are we paying COPE dollars against things we supported.
A--We will not support NYHA. Will take thousands of dollars out of UFT pockets. If we can get our health care at no cost, we would do it. Not what NYHA will do. I know facts on social media are what people go on. But our lawyers say otherwise.
Here is how we reported it:
Question: New York Health Act, we passed a resolution at the DA supporting it in 2015 and now we put out an ad against what we support?
Answer: We will not support the New York Health Act. It would cost members thousands of dollars. NY Health Act will not give us everything we want and have money left over. People go on what is on social media but our lawyers don't agree. Facts, people, not rhetoric.
Both reports are basically identical but neither can show the degree to which Mulgrew talked down to this woman in an angry and dismissive tone. His suggestion that this is social media spreading lies is just plain wrong. The Delegate asked about why the UFT isn't upholding its own policy. It was embarrassing to listen to Mulgrew talk down to the Delegate while he didn't explain why the UFT has a policy but Mulgrew claims that he and his lawyers can make policy that goes against what the DA decided. The proper way to change UFT policy after the lawyers give advice is to go back to the DA and vote to change it and not to yell at a Delegate who asks a question about it.
Second, Peter Lamphere from MORE (one group opposed to Unity) raised a Point of Order because during the ten-minute new motion period, Mulgrew didn't call on anyone from the opposition. Mulgrew first called upon a Delegate who introduced a motion for the UFT to urge the City Council to pick a woman as Speaker. This was followed by a motion on 9-11. Neither was very controversial. Peter said wait a minute as his Point of Order quoted Robert's Rules that the Chair is required to be impartial. By not recognizing anyone from the opposition to Unity who were supporting dozens of retirees who were outside protesting for transparency in healthcare negotiations, Mulgrew was stifling dissent. Mulgrew screamed that Peter was out of order because he called on him in the past. Peter then made a motion for the motion period to be extended. Mulgrew went on as if Peter wasn't even there. A group of from 20-35 Delegates got up and took matters into their own hands chanting, "Hands off of our healthcare!" Mulgrew tried to ignore them too and he was quite fortunate that they walked out so he could continue the meeting.
Why I say this undemocratic chairing was both troubling and encouraging is because there are Delegates online who are as outraged as I usually was at DAs. They expressed themselves online and Norm Scott over at Ed Notes printed their reactions to Wednesday's DA:
The first delegate assembly of the 2021-22 school year displayed the full disarray, disorganized, and unhinged leadership of the union.
Since the start of the pandemic we have had a union that is far removed from its members. Yesterday we saw a leadership that is now in open contempt of its own members.
The president of our union, paid by our union dues, actually yelled at his own members, working classroom teachers, elected by their chapters.
Our union leadership refuses to address changes in retiree healthcare which reduced coverage which is bound to happen to active members in the upcoming contract.UFT leadership endorsed a Mayoral candidate they previously opposed, they were forced to call on executive board members who are no longer in the classroom and retirees that last taught in the 1980’s.
Mulgrew sounded like “my angry drunk father."
A resolution was passed calling for woman leadership of our city council “but we have all men running the largest union of women in the city” -- Chapter leader and long time teacher
Mulgrew’s report was like the worst PD I ever had to sit through” -- New chapter leader
Mulgrew and his Unity caucus are more disconnected than ever before. They haven’t been in the classroom since the pandemic, they have no clue about anything teachers or paras deal with daily and it shows when he talks... Veteran chapter leader
Every single health care speaker was chastised, interrupted, and deemed out of order. As a new delegate it appears I'll need clarification on when we're allowed to talk about health care, because this happened during multiple parts of the agenda... New delegate
And one more concerning Mulgrew exclusively calling on Delegates wearing pink:
I had a discussion with the UFT's parliamentarian in 2014 after five years of frustration with Mulgrew not letting dissenting voices be heard. Some of what was stated then:
During my discussion with the Parliamentarian, I even went back to the preface of Robert's Rules and read a portion where it gives the history of parliamentary procedure. Right there on page xxiv, it says in 1592 the principle was established to alternate speakers between those for and against. Here is the wording: "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."
Maybe with your help we can finally catch up to where England's Parliament was in the 1590s at the UFT in 2021.