Thursday, June 25, 2015

Revised - The Unity 300 - UFT Retiree Chapter Sends 300 to Delegate Assembly - Why I Am Boycotting the Election

Note the weakness of this argument as a reason to vote for RA against Unity:
Voting and participating in our nation’s elections and our union’s elections are the only way we can have a voice in issues that determine the way we live. By actively participating in the process we become a vibrant force in retirement.
The only way to have a voice? Where is the call for a democratic process in the UFT that would make elections mean something?
Why don't people vote? Because Unity has so locked up the process as to make it impossible to win anything.
Here was the one opportunity every 3 years to reach every retiree in the union and expose the sham of Unity caucus.
The worst thing about this is that it doesn't even talk about what this election is really about for Unity -- packing 300 more Unity delegates into the DA. It is not enough for the general UFT election process to be rigged -- but they make sure to fill the seats at the DA with loyalists who no longer have anything to lose in the assault on teachers.

This is pablum and what we would expect from the loyal opposition - if you can call it even that. Participating in this process without attacking it is endorsing some of the most fundamental undemocratic processes in the union. I'll pass on voting until RA or any other group of retirees really takes on Unity..... Norm to ICE mail
It may seem counter-intuitive for me to sit out the current retiree election and not vote for the Retiree Advocate, which is running against Unity in the retiree chapter election. I will vote for independent Roberta Reid - I give Roberta credit for putting in the effort - and a very few candidates I know). I consider RA to be New Action light.
Catering at Unity Caucus meetings

[See NYC Educator: New Action Takes a Position on Semi-Democracy]

Think of it -- every 3 years RA can send out something to 60,000 retirees and not a word of real criticism or exposure of Unity Caucus.

What does it mean to a union when retirees no longer facing the travails of daily teaching have a major say in UFT policy bodies? A lot of people complain about retirees voting in general UFT elections, especially when 52% of the votes cast in the 2013 election came from retirees. But that doesn't bother me that much and won't until an opposition can capture the majority of votes of the working teachers. Then I would go to court. So far that is not happening.

To me the more insidious undemocratic actions are the current chapter elections going on in the functional retiree chapter for chapter leader, an exec board and for 300 delegates to the UFT DA. The UFT constitution calls for one delegate for every 60 members in a chapter. That the retiree chapter, with probably close to 60,000 members, is treated the same as a school is beyond outrage -- (I believe the max number of delegates is capped at 300.)

When I retired I attended a few retiree meetings and found them worse than the DA -- the Unity leadership is only interested in using retirees for its political campaigns - but also the Unity 300 as a force to make sure they don't lose control of the DA.

This allows old Unity loyalists to participate in the DA - and in fact pack it when needed. Let me explain. The 300 don't show up at every meeting. When there is challenge from the opposition for an upcoming DA, Unity Caucus calls a post-DA meeting - with catering - to get those retirees out to the DA -- and I believe attendance is taken too.

The DA is packed with Unity loyalists - as Arthur points out today at NYC Educator - Why Aren't People Standing for UFT Delegate?
I represent the largest high school in Queens, we have multiple delegates, but making them come would not make a dent in the pre-determined results. When Unity leadership sends the message, everyone knows and acts accordingly. It's infuriating to see the DA represented as a place where decisions are made, as opposed to a place where people are telegraphed how to vote, with virtually no subtlety whatsoever. 

I have tried to get  dissident voices heard by leadership, and the DA is just about the worst forum in which I could do it.
Arthur talks about how James Eterno was shut down at the May 2014 contract DA. Julie Cavanagh who ran against Mulgrew was next at the mic and Mulgrew shut down the debate because he was so afraid of Julie's getting a chance to speak -- even people in Unity raised their eyebrows at this -- big, bad Mulgrew - afraid of a girl.

There are over 3500 delegates and the 300 retirees are less than 10%. But rarely do more than about 800 - if even that - attend. As Arthur points out - what is the point? To his credit, he shleps in from eastern Queens every month and writes up the meetings -- and then we head to Chipotle for dinner. Next year Eterno will be back as the only ATR delegate elected from a school to add his wisdom.

Let's assume half of the Unity retirees - 150 - come to the DA - the number jumps to 15-20% of the delegates. No wonder they voted down the major MORE resolutions this year on protecting ATRs by giving them a chapter, a reso opposing high stakes testing and support for the opt-out movement.

Now back to the Retiree Advocate, which advertizes itself as an independent caucus in the UFT retiree chapter with members from various groups, including ICE and New Action. But it is overwhelmingly New Action and their literature reflects the New Action non-militancy. There is not one word of criticsm of Unity Caucus or its undemocratic process, especially in this election that puts 300 delegates in the DA. Even a minimal call for proportional representation would make sense. (Meaning if RA gets 30% of the vote they would get 90 of the 300 delegates). And there is no call for controlling the influence of retirees in the general UFT elections. They refuse to take on these issues because they are pandering for votes.

-- RA is New Action light.

New Action, which has ran Mulgrew as its presidential candidate in 2010 and 13 (and Randi in 2007) is a major force in RA with some of their key people running. Two years ago, the leaders of RA acted as a front group for New Action in pushing hard for a MORE/New Action alliance and set up a meeting - which was controversial in MORE because many did not want to meet with New Action until they renounced their deal with Unity. But in a close vote, the meeting was set up and Eterno, Julie and I were chosen to rep MORE. James had an emergency and couldn't make it. NA and RA people pushed for cooperation. Julie made eloquent statements about how we cannot work with people who support Mulgrew -- we told NA to call us when they were ready to talk about alliances when they decide to rejoin the opposition. (There is an audio tape of that Nov. 2013 meeting.)

New Action, many of whom are running on the RA slate have jobs with the UFT - and in fact they are running New Action leader Michael Shulman, who makes 15 grand a year working for the UFT, for Retiree Ex Bd.

On this issue RA is silent. Thus I can't vote for slate that echos New Action to such an extent.

By the way -- I am a forgiving soul - the second I hear New Action gets serious about abandoning the dirty deal with Unity, in the interests of uniting the opposition, I would urge MORE to open a dialogue. But my guess is that New Action has too much to gain - in terms of Ex Bd seats - to give up that deal.


  1. I had never really understood the unions resistance to creating an ATR chapter. Norm, I think maybe you nailed it on the head. Maybe they are are afraid of them organizing and electing delegates.

    1. Yes - certainly a factor - it would be the one functional chapter they couldn't control and with the 1 to 60 ratio they could elect 20 ormore anti-Unity delegates - which would bolster the oppostion in the DA -- may seem trivial to some but Unity takes this stuff very seriously.


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