Friday, January 2, 2015

Retro UFT History Lesson: How Unity Killed Divisional Vice President Elections

Most teachers don't know that Unity changed the UFT constitution to preclude high school teachers from selecting their own academic VP. This is because Mike Shulman committed the unpardonable sin of winning with New Action one year. That was back when New Action was a real opposition, before Randi bought Mike and the rest of them off with patronage jobs....
NYC Educator, Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Dues Deduction Without Representation is Tyranny
Prepping for today's meeting with Bruce Markens, Ira Goldfine and Vera Pavone for some insights into the past and how that affects the present and future, Mike Schirtzer found this old Ed Notes post from Dec. 2006. It looked to be well-written so I assumed it was from NYC Educator. But no, it was actually me. What a pleasant surprise. We'll get into more details on the history of New Action and the impact of its sellout to Unity in 2003/4 in future posts.

By the way, Mike Shulman collected $12,500 for his UFT patronage job as reported in the most recent LM-2 (2013) report. There is some fiction going around that New Action people only make around $1200 a year and that is too little to make them sell out. Most do but not at the top.

One note -- the 1995 contract battle where the membership voted it down the first time was led by NAC (or New Action -- not clear it the merger of TAC and New Directions had taken place yet) and also by Bruce from his position as District Rep.

Here is the Ed Notes post from Dec. 28, 2006:
Unity Spins and Grins: A History Lesson

NYC Educator has posted a proposal for a petition calling for divisions to elect their own VP's instead of at-large. Here is an explanation of the history of the change.

There is a debate going on at the NYC Educator blog in UFT democracy, or lack thereof. Since 1994 Unity caucus amended the constitution to eliminate the direct election of divisional vice-presidents -- e.g. Academic HS, Vocational H.S., Middle Schools, Elementary Schools--by constituents of each division and instead had these Vice Presidents elected on an at-large basis by the entire membership, including retirees.

A Unity spinner on the blogs actually claimed this is a good thing, ("The notion that the executive branch should be elected together, in order to provide a minimal unity for governing, is hardly an anti-democratic one.") even trying to compare this to having the US President and VP come from the same party. Naturally he distorted the facts of what really happened to make his case, which NYC Educator trashed in his response.

I asked former Manhattan HS district rep Bruce Markens what occurred while his memory is still intact. (Bruce's long tenure as the lone non-Unity Dist. Rep. despite constant attempts by Unity to defeat him was one of Weingarten's motivations in ending the election of DR's.)

In the mid-80's the opposition was still a coalition called NAC (New Action Coalition, a combo of 3 caucuses with a piece of the name from each one -- some of the founders of ICE were with the Coalition of NYC School Workers).

Mike Shulman won the 1985 election for HS VP by 94 votes over the Unity incumbent George Altomare, one of the founders of the UFT. This sent shock waves throughout Unity and they got Alomare to challenge the election claiming improprieties, a joke since the Unity machine ran the elections.

Naturally, the election committee upheld the protest and they refused to seat Shulman. They finally agreed on an arbitrator and his report called for a new election. This time, without a slate headed by Shanker at the top, Shulman got 62% of the vote. He was not allowed to take his place on the AdCom until Jan/Feb 2006.

With the next election coming in 1987, Unity dumped Altomare and recruited John Soldini from SI (where they could get the large HS vote out for him) to run against Shulman and Unity geared up all forces for the ‘87 election. Schulman almost won again, losing to Soldini by only 21 votes.

He lost again in '89 and by 110 votes in '91 election. But in that election, NAC also won the junior high ex bd seats, giving them 13, the most they ever had. Their JHS VP candidate also lost by about 150 votes. With the opposition seemingly getting stronger, Unity clearly had to do something to keep the wolves at bay.

Their opportunity came after the '93 election when inexplicably, New Action lost the high schools and junior high schools, giving the opposition no voice on the ex bd.

Unity formed a task force to "improve" the election process. It had no specific mandate to deal with the issue of changing the divisional vps to be elected on an at large basis.

At an ex bd meeting in early Jan. '94 they sprung the " improvement" - taking all divisional elections of VP's out of the divisional and making them at-large. A few days after, they sprung it at the Jan. DA, (historically one of the least attended of the year). There also just happened to be a snowstorm that day (Did Unity rig the weather?) guaranteeing an even lower attendance of non-Unity people.

But Unity assured a quorum would be there to make the act legal by threatening Unity Caucus members with the loss of their part-time union jobs and banishment from the slate, which assured a free trip to the AFT and NYSUT conventions. Thus, Unity was able to steamroller through the "improvement" in the election process.

In our so-called democratic union the Unity way, you can change the constitution without having to get membership approval.

But even if they had gone that route, the Unity machine would have spun this “improvement” to the members in some fashion. Without an effective opposition to oppose it (the inability of New Action even at that time to put up a semblance of a fight is indicative of some level of ineffectiveness) the members are helpless against the machinations of Unity. One more argument for the building of an effective opposition to Unity as opposed to the phony bogus opposition New Action has become with all their leaders on the UFT/Unity payroll.

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