Sunday, July 13, 2014

#AFT14 Report: When Will the UFT/AFT Reclaim the Promise of a Democratic Union?

....independence of thought is a liability in Unity.  The democracy is a sham and I pledge to challenge it as I also pledge to challenge misguided corporate reforms... Arthur Goldstein 
AFT President Randi Weingarten kicked off the AFT national convention.... by outline a bold plan to both fight back and fight forward to reclaim the promise of America and create economic and educational opportunity for all.... AFT News Press Release 
You know I'm not all negative, having had some great conversations with so many people here and even with Unity folk -- we often get along great when we are away. And I even hear what some of them are saying. But you cannot watch some of the stuff I've seen and heard from Mulgrew and Randi that are so hypocritical and in some cases outright lies.

Who can disagree with the "Reclaim the Promise of America" theme of this convention? It is an attack on the people who have deformed not only education but the economy, the political structure and just about anything else that could be deformed. [And let me say here that my creation of the "ed deform" term has even made it her as part of some official events. Darn, I shoulda trademarked it.]

But behind it all is the fact that the very concept of a democratic society has been deformed and unless that is reclaimed - or claimed in the first place - there is no reclaiming any of the rest. Yet the slavish devotion of Randi, the AFT, the UFT and most of American labor to the deformed Democratic Party - see one Andrew Cuomo as exhibit #1 -- undermines the very nature of the "reclaim" theme.

But even worse, is the lack of democracy in the AFT/UFT Union Educational Industrial Complex (thanks to Lenny Isenberg for this one). Let's brand it UEIC - which can be morphed into YUCK!

At last night's social justice unionism SRO event with Mulgrew, Karen, Alex and others - which Randi just had to crash - I heard statements that had us MOREistas smacking our heads and rending our garments. I won't get into this astounding event that mixed dozens of Unity people with dozens of CORE and LATU people in one space. I have some video which will say it all (and I'll leave it to the readers to find the mis-truths and outright lies.)

Alex and Karen both said social justice unionism is not possible without starting out with a democratic union down to its roots. So at this point I'll let my pal Arthur Goldstein take over and address the point that Randi must first reclaim the promise of a democratic union that doesn't send a block of 800 votes with one brain or that doesn't have a 100% Executive Board endorsed by Unity Caucus.
Will Weingarten Pledge to Stand with Us in Supporting True Union Democracy?

Ms. Weingarten sent me a pledge from the halls of the AFT Convention in L.A. today.  The pledge concluded with these words:  "While we're fighting for big things, no action is too small.  We need you to do whatever you can.  Commit to engage your colleagues in the fight.  To build power at the ballot box.  To share our work online and in person.  To work hand in hand with the communities we serve."
I must know whether Ms. Weingarten is sincere and if her invitation applies to all.  Will UFT Unity delegates be able to engage their colleagues and their communities if the views differ from those of Unity's leadership?  The AFT can never truly represent the views of its rank and file in a democratic sense so long as UFT Unity, the tail that wags two dogs,  both NYSUT and the AFT, is not truly democratic.

Some of the most committed and experienced individuals have faced a Unity lockout for years now because, put quite simply, they refuse to swear to vote the Unity line and adhere to all Unity policies in public.

How will I know whether our Union truly wishes to represent its rank and file and tolerate free discussion or whether it merely wishes to represent the views of a mysterious few in leadership positions whom largely seem out of touch with active members?

1.  UFT Unity would need to discard loyalty oaths and palm cards (which instruct delegates how to vote), cutting the purse strings of a vast patronage system that provides lucrative employment in union offices, double pensions, fancy trips and other privileges only to those who sign away the right to vote their conscience or that of their constituency if they differ from the Unity party line.

2.  The slate voting tied to a winner-take-all system in UFT elections would need to change.  MORE received 40% of the high school vote in the last election.  Yet, not a single MORE rep. is allowed to sit on the Executive Board.  This is not democracy.

3.  District Reps. would need to be elected.  In the past, chapter leaders were allowed to pick their reps.  Now, they are appointed, in a completely undemocratic way, and they are all Unity.

4.  The UFT would need to allow more debate in which all sides are allowed equal time and the voice of critics, who are die-hard unionists, are not summarily dismissed or stifled.  There would need to be far greater transparency as well. We deserve to know a lot more about how our representatives vote on each issue and we need to hold them accountable.

5.  The U.F.T. should stop the charade of empowering retirees with greater voting power as a means to guarantee its stranglehold on elections.

If Unity cannot share power with those who have differing views, it is really no better than a bully on the playground. It intimidates its own caucus members to fall in line by threatening to withdraw lucrative benefits and access to the party.  It bullies nonmembers by marginalizing them and failing to give them the representation they deserve.

As an educator, I favor free thought and expression. As it stands now, UFT Unity doesn't want its delegates to choose wisely, as advised by Roosevelt in the quote above; it simply wants them to rubber stamp leadership decisions.  They don't need much of a brain to do that.  And, it's a terrible shame; as an educator I hate to see intelligence go unrecognized.  Yet, independence of thought is a liability in Unity.  The democracy is a sham and I pledge to challenge it as I also pledge to challenge misguided corporate reforms. 


  1. You're absolutely right! I was a delegate to the AFT Convention in LA. This was my first time attending a convention and I was appalled with the election process. Kudos to Kate Henderson for running as an independent, but I think we need a strong caucus to oppose the Unity/Progressive Caucus. The Bamn Caucus is too radical for most union members. I'd like to work with you to oppose the Unity/Progressive crew. NYC should not be allowed to send 800 members and dominate the entire convention. Regards, Gary Hoffman

  2. You're absolutely right! The NYC delegation dominated the convention. There was no real opposition to the Unity Caucus except for Bamn Slate whose members are too radical for most locals. We need a new caucus to oppose Unity. Regards, Gary Hoffman AFT-NH


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