Tuesday, January 12, 2016

morecaucusnyc- Union Democracy: A Life-or-Death question for the UFT

I'm reposting this. It is based on work ICE did on democracy in the UFT from 2003-2010. This is a surface presentation and at some point we need to drill down on some of these points to find practical ways to not only put them on the agenda but prepare for the Unity assault on these ideas.

While my colleagues in MORE seem to view a loss in Friedrichs as a negative thing I don't totally agree. More on why in the future.

Union Democracy: A Life-or-Death question for the UFT
As the Supreme Court is poised to remove the right for the UFT to collect mandatory agency fees in the Friedrichs case, threatening to starve our union of income and imperil its ability to maintain its organization, the question of how to involve members in the union becomes an urgent one for very survival of the labor movement.
How can the UFT motivate members to voluntarily pay dues to an organization over which they have very little democratic control?  This will become a life and death question for our union in the next couple years.

We need a union that is structured to insure that no matter who is elected to leadership they will be accountable to those of us who are working in the schools. An active, well-informed and honestly represented membership is the necessary backbone of a union that is capable of standing up to the attacks on teachers, children and the public schools.
Instead, what we have is a union that has become progressively weaker, members that are defenseless, demoralized, disengaged from unionism and resigned to tolerate all manner of abuse, and now fears that any change will be for the worse. A large part of the problem is the fact that our union is led by those that are removed from the reality of our schools.
Since its inception in the early 1960s our union has been dominated by one group, Unity Caucus which constantly adjusts its methods to insure that it monopolizes decision-making. President Michael Mulgrew knows how to portray himself as a tough leader at union meetings and in the pages of the NY Teacher, but his number one concern is to have a seat at the table with politicians and wealthy investors, rather than advocate for us and represent our best interests.
The three levels of decision-making in our union are the ADCOM (citywide officers), the executive board, and the delegate assembly. All three are tightly controlled by the overwhelming presence of Unity Caucus members, beholden to their caucus, recipients of patronage, who rubber-stamp all of President Mulgrew’s policies, even when they themselves disagree.
Our platform calls for “Democratic,Transparent and Accountable Member Driven Union” In order to achieve this MORE will propose the following when we serve on the Executive Board.
  1. Divisional vice-presidents (high school, middle school, elementary, functional) should be elected by those they serve, members in their respective divisions.
  1. The number of at-large members of the executive board should be greatly reduced and the majority of the executive board should be voted in by active members of their respective divisions
  1. The number of retiree members of the delegate assembly should be reduced and their election should also be on the basis of proportional representation.
  1. District representatives should be elected not appointed.

  1. Every issue of the NY Teacher and UFT’s website should be opened to every member’s viewpoints, with space available for the printing of statements both for and against ratification of proposed contracts.
  1. All caucuses who have met requirements to run in an election should be able to mail at least one piece of literature to all the members at union expense during election time.
  1. There should be an open microphone at all union meetings.
  1. Retirees should not vote for UFT officers, who are responsible for negotiating the contract for active members. 
  1. Monthly UFT borough and district meetings open to all members to discuss and direct union policies.
  1. UFT officers and/or organizers will visit every chapter throughout the school year to  listen to the concerns of their members, assist them,  and insure there is a functioning chapter.
Most important for democracy is an underpinning of active school chapters where meetings are held monthly and school issues are discussed openly. Chapter leaders are there to protect the interests of the members with respect to the administration and also to see that the flow of information between the chapters and the various levels of leadership of the union travels on a two-way street. This means that chapter leaders must do everything possible to encourage attendance at meetings and to carry out the wishes of the members, both within the school and as a representative to other union bodies. It is the concerns of chapter members, who are the best informed about the issues, that should be driving union policy.

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