UFT Staffers and Union Democracy

We at New Action and in United for Change value our UFT staffers. The vast majority of them are highly competent individuals who do important work for our membership. Yes, because Unity Caucus almost exclusively hires their own people, we are critical of the apparent patronage system that exists to hire said staffers. But, if we win this election, we have no plans to ‘clean house.’ We owe it to our members to keep good unionists on the payroll, helping our educators. And when future staffers are hired, we’ll hire them based on their competency to do the jobs at hand–not their caucus affiliation. For some positions that are currently appointed (e.g. District Representatives), we will also let members decide who gets the gig directly through elections. This is all in our platform.

Indeed, what we really care about is restoring our union democracy. Recently, United for Change Chapter Leaders and Delegates have noticed that people on UFT payroll can sometimes disrupt the democratic process during the Delegate Assembly (DA). Specifically: (1) Staff without voting privileges sometimes take up seats that could be made available for volunteer delegates and chapter leaders with voting privileges. Remember, space is limited due to the pandemic, and you can only motivate a resolution if you are there in person. (2) At times, it has appeared that staff without voting privileges have vocalized support or applauded Mulgrew (and done the opposite for opposition), which sways the appearance of support for both sides. (3) Many paid staffers with voting privileges are repeatedly called on by Mulgrew to raise motions or other points on the floor. Opposition, on the other hand, is rarely called upon. Clearly, Mulgrew knows who he is calling on–the staffers literally work for him. (4) When a paid staffer is called upon by their boss to make a point or motion, there is a possible conflict of interest, so other delegates should have a right to know their UFT employment status – just as we already announce our school and title (Chapter Leader or Delegate).

To this end, we at United for Change worked on a resolution to improve the democratic conditions at our Delegate Assembly. Below is the text of that resolution, which we passed out at the December DA, but were never called on to motivate:

Resolution concerning the presence of paid staffers with and without voting privileges on the DA floor

Whereas safety during the ongoing pandemic requires social distancing, which has reduced indoor seating availability to a fraction of the usual number of in-person delegates at Delegate Assemblies, and

Whereas elected delegates should not be turned away to make space for paid UFT staffers without voting privileges, and

Whereas elected delegates to the Delegate Assembly volunteer their time in service to the members they were elected to represent and deserve to exercise their democratic duties in the union hall, free from outside influence from un-elected, non-voting, UFT employees, and

Whereas delegates who hold hourly, part-time PM Staff positions at the UFT are, rightfully, not permitted to cast votes at Delegate Assemblies if they are on-the-clock while the DA is taking place, and

Whereas some full-time UFT employees, District and Special Representatives among them, do enjoy voting privileges at Delegate Assemblies though they are salaried, non-hourly employees, and

Whereas some full-time UFT employees, District and Special Representatives among them, are not delegates and do not have voting privileges at Delegate Assemblies, yet sit among the voting delegates, and

Whereas paid UFT staffers, with and without voting privileges, have been recognized to speak or otherwise vocalize/gesture both for and against various resolutions and motions, potentially influencing the subsequent vote, and

Whereas there is adequate space and adequate options outside of the union hall for UFT staff to greet, direct, and help credentialed delegates, and as there is also space (19th floor) – and remote options – for UFT members and staff to listen to Delegate Assemblies, be it

Resolved, that non-voting UFT employees, except those engaged in the business of running the Delegate Assemblies or special invitees of the union (i.e., safety staff, technical staff, and speakers making special addresses from the podium) shall not remain in the voting room during assemblies, nor be recognized to move motions, speak for or against motions, resolutions or amendments, nor be recognized to raise points of order, information, or privilege, and be it further

Resolved, that salaried, full-time UFT employees who do enjoy voting privileges at Delegate Assemblies shall identify themselves as salaried employees of the union when they are called on by the Chair to identify themselves pursuant to questioning the Chair, moving motions, introducing resolutions or amendments, or speaking for or against motions, resolutions, or amendments.

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