My monthly Chapter Leader meetings are for me to give you important information....It is not the place nor the time to get on a soap box and speak about what you want to speak about. The information that I present ..is information passed down from our leadership to you so that you can act as the conduit of information to the membership in your school. We present the information, not to be filtered by you or to be changed in any way, it is to be presented to your members as you have heard it from me or any of the leadership in this union.... UFT District Rep in letter to Chapter Leaders in districtApparently there's no interest in the passing of information from the rank and file slaving away in classrooms. I have sad news for the people running out union. Chapter leaders do not work for them or in their interests (unless they are Unity Caucus.) They actually are supposed to work for the people in their school who elected them. The hierarchy in the UFT doesn't see it that way, especially since Randi killed district rep elections in 2002. I know the old pre-2002 system elected Unity people too but they were at least subject to some accountability to the chapter leaders in their district and could not be so cavalier in their attitudes.
As many signs are leading to the UFT caving in on the evaluation issue (they want to make E4E happy, don't they?) by Jan. 17 -- it is just not in their DNA to resist I guess --- and the postponement of the UFT elections may be for the purpose of giving them time to work the members over --- but I'll leave this for a follow-up ---the revealing letter from a Unity District Rep to the chapter leaders that has been circulating has received a bunch of comments from various bloggers. James Eterno published it on the ICE blog and NYC Educator wrote a scathing piece (UFT Democracy), though I was surprised he was surprised that the union has this view of chapter leaders as their servants.
It was a chapter leader associated with ICE who last week challenged his district rep to deal with the issues of concern to the membership instead of force feeding the Unity Caucus agenda on ed evals by treating chapter leaders elected by the schools and functional chapters as union employees required to push union policy down the throats of the people they supposedly represent. The chapter leader sent out this:
At the dist monthly chapter leaders meeting our dist rep did his unity/scum caucus duty by elucidating as to the wonders that Mulgrew and company were accomplishing vis-a-vis the new teacher termination(evaluation scheme). When I and 2 other chapter leaders began to raise questions and to attempt to shift the discussion away from unity spin and closer to reality he became upset. After all how dare we question and deviate from the script???The e-mail from the DR was send out later that day. A former CL echoed this sentiment:
This is what surprised me most when I became a chapter leader. I had thought the district chapter leader meetings would be a place for chapter leaders to discuss what was happening in their schools and how we could and should respond. NO, NO, NO.....there was a list of items to TELL us. Any discussion was quickly snuffed out. I was often yelled at by my DR...."whose meeting is this", he would yell at me! Unfortunately the other chapter leaders would support him, but over time they often came to me after the meeting to find out more information since he did not give any background to what he said.The leadership has rarely, if ever, evidenced concern for what the members really think -- see MORE's report of the Dec. DA, Unity Votes Against Democracy, where they voted NOT to allow the members to vote on an evaluation deal that will change the contract in terms of the way teachers are rated, a violation of the UFT constitution.
This line below has to be the funniest line in the Dist Rep's letter. As if the Unity Caucus which the DR belongs too is not one and the same as the union leadership.
I do support my union and the leadership of this union, however, I do not preach where I stand in terms of the caucus that I belong to or don’t belong to, I do not bad mouth the leadership even if I don’t agree with what is being done.Given that Unity Caucus chapter leaders have agreed to pushing the union line down the throats of the teachers in their schools -- the very people that elected them ---- since the advent of the caucus 50 years ago, the UFT is not trying to Unityize the rest of the chapter leaders by claiming it is their responsibility to enforce union policy.
If Unity could get away with it they would appoint the chapter leaders like they appoint the district reps. I mean, what a drag to have to recruit a new batch into Unity every time there's an election for CLs. Here is another gem from the Dist Rep's letter.
I support them because they are the leadership of this union and trust that they have the best interest of our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.How has that trust worked out for the teachers in NYC over the last decade and a half? What he really means is:
I trust the union leadership because they got me this great gig as a district rep where I teach one period a day, earn a 6 figure salary and get a double pension.Here is the MORE response followed by the letter itself.
An incredible letter is making its rounds. It was an email written by a District Representative of the United Federation of Teachers to the Chapter Leaders in his district. The email is posted on the ICE-UFT blog:
This letter crystallizes very clearly and honestly the leadership philosophy practiced by the Unity caucus. We are being led by a group who believe our union is a top-down affair. This is what corporate unionism looks like.
The final sentence of the letter says “I support them (our union leaders) because they are the leadership of this union and trust that they have the best interest of our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.” MORE believes that our union needs to put the mechanisms in place to ensure that our union leaders have “our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.”
Unfortunately, when our union leadership describes the job of a chapter leader to be “the defender of our contract and to represent, support and guide our members, but also to pass down the information given as was presented to you”, then it is obvious that we are a long way from having the tools as union members to hold our leaders accountable.
Not only do chapter leaders have to faithfully pass down all information from Unity to the members, they cannot “speak about what you want to speak about” at the monthly district meetings with their District Leaders. That means there is absolutely no way to meet with our DLs as a district to highlight common problems and ensure they take steps to address them. Combine this with the fact that members no longer can vote for their District Leaders, since they are now appointed by Unity, and you can see that our union leadership, from District Leaders on up, are totally insulated from the will of the membership.
All we have is faith that Unity is working on our behalf. They represent us in name only, since there is no way for us as members to ensure that their priorities are our priorities.
The first step is allowing membership to elect their District Leaders again. When that happens, district meetings will no longer be a one-way transmission of information and orders from the top-down. Chapters will be allowed and even encouraged to bring up the issues that matter to them so our leaders can act upon them.
But district meetings are not the only places priorities are set. The main forum for this is the monthly Delegate Assembly. As of now, Unity keeps a tight rein on the parliamentary workings of the DA. Everyone knows how Unity wants members to vote and they usually get their way. Some District Leaders have gone as far as to pressure all of their chapter leaders to sit with them at the DA as a way to monitor which way they vote.
MORE believes that any organized UFT meeting should be open and democratic with chapter leaders, delegates, and all members given the opportunity to raise issues of their constituents’ concerns.
Join our chapter leader e-mail list by request at firstname.lastname@example.org--------- Full letter below
Subject: My Apologies
Date: Friday, January 4, 2013, 8:09 PM
I must apologize for today. Not for my behavior, but for not being able to present to you important information in the way that I had planned to.
My monthly Chapter Leader meetings are for me to give you important information, to teach you about different aspects of what we do as union representatives on a daily basis, to have presenters in specialty areas so that you get great information first hand from the experts in those areas and to have useful conversations about what is going on and what we are to be doing as a union representative.
It is not the place nor the time to get on a soap box and speak about what you want to speak about. The information that I present or any other presenter speaks about is information passed down from our leadership to you so that you can act as the conduit of information to the membership in your school. We present the information, not to be filtered by you or to be changed in any way, it is to be presented to your members as you have heard it from me or any of the leadership in this union. You might not personally agree with the information given you, however, you were elected as a representative to not only be the defender of our contract and to represent, support and guide our members, but also to pass down the information given as was presented to you.
I feel that our conversations can be good and useful to others if we are all on the same page in terms of who we are as representatives and what it is that we were elected to do. We are not there to preach about one caucus or another, we are not there to talk about how you personally feel about something, we can do that one on one anytime. I do support my union and the leadership of this union, however, I do not preach where I stand in terms of the caucus that I belong to or don’t belong to, I do not bad mouth the leadership even if I don’t agree with what is being done. I support them because they are the leadership of this union and trust that they have the best interest of our members in the forefront of every decision that is made.
I thank you for your time and for what you do everyday for our members. I truly do appreciate you,