Posts Tagged 'union democracy'

Winner-Take-All is Undemocratic

The United Federation of Teachers sends hundreds of delegates to the New York State United Teachers Representative Assembly and to the American Federation of Teachers Convention. And of those hundreds of delegates, all, every one, vote exactly the same way on every issue.

The UFT has Vice Presidents for Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, Academic High Schools, Vocational High Schools, non-DoE, Ed Issues, and Special Ed. All belong to the same caucus.

The UFT has 32 District Reps. All are appointed by the president, and belong to the same caucus.

We have a diversity of voices in the UFT, but they are stifled by electoral gimmicks and chicanery.

Each division used to elect its own vice president, but after New Action’s Michael Shulman was elected UFT Vice President for Academic High Schools in 1985, Unity changed the UFT Constitution to assure that it would not happen again. Ultimately they made the vice presidents “at large” to prevent a division from choosing its own VP.

The Chapter Leaders in each district used to elect their own District Reps, but Unity eliminated this 40-year tradition, and made the DRs presidential appointees. Who represents the voices of the chapter leaders? On April 7, 2014 the New Action representatives on the UFT Executive Board submitted a resolution calling for UFT District Reps to once again be elected by chapter leaders in the districts. Unity tabled the motion, arguing that appointment is more democratic than elections.

Our union’s strength is our membership. We rely on membership involvement. But by shutting down member voices, Unity has discouraged thousands of members from participating in the life of our union. This weakens us. New Action supports proportional representation for election of NYSUT, AFT and NEA delegates, we support a return to direct election of divisional Vice Presidents, and we support a return to election of DRs by Chapter Leaders.

Abusive? Unqualified? Both? – The Office of Adult and Continuing Education

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the April 2014 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: April 2014 Leaflet Front 2014 and back

Most New Yorkers are unaware that thousands of adults across the City attend free ESL, GED, and job training programs run by the NYC Office of Adult and Continuing Education (OACE), a branch of the DOE.  Many of the adults who come to improve their lives are parents of children in NYC public or charter schools.  OACE teachers are dedicated adult education professionals.

Since September 2012, the OACE has been run by an elementary/middle school superintendent, Rose-Marie Mills, and her numerous elementary and middle school administrative appointees, whose mission has been to impose an elementary school curriculum for teaching adult students. Large sums have been squandered this year on children’s books with inappropriate elementary themes to be used in adult education classrooms.  Teachers had absolutely no input in selecting these materials.  Moreover, all suggestions for adult appropriate materials were ignored or denied.

There are boxes and boxes of unused warehoused children’s books, and OACE teachers have been left with a dearth of appropriate instructional materials.  Nevertheless, Superintendent Mills demands test scores gains, and teachers who don’t make the cut will receive unsatisfactory ratings.

Mills is obsessed with data.  OACE teachers have been harassed and disrespected nonstop since she commenced her reign of terror. Morale is at an all-time low.

The new DoE administration needs to take a close look at the OACE.  Misspent funds?  Completely data driven program?  Terrorized teachers?  Is this any way to run an educational program?

UFT Executive Board Resolution: Election of District Representatives

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the April 2014 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: April 2014 Leaflet Front 2014 and back

The following is drawn from a resolution, motivated by New Action’s Jonathan Halabi at the Executive Board meeting of April 7, 2014. Before any discussion occurred, Assistant Secretary Leroy Barr, a leader of Unity Caucus moved to table, which passed, cutting off debate.

In June 2003 the UFT Executive Board changed the District Representative position, an elected position for 34 years, to an appointed position, and then President Weingarten argued that the change was necessary based on the DOE’s move to Regions and would not have a negative impact on the service relationship between the chapter leader, the members, and the DR. She also maintained that with the movement to Regions we were not going to have districts and an appointed position would be a better one for our UFT. Regions no longer exist and networks appear to be on the way out. The democratic process is best served when elections determine who will represent the membership, and the election of DR’s by Chapter Leaders can only cement the relationship between the two and further union democracy.

“Therefore be it resolved, that the UFT Executive Board calls for a change from the current appointment to the election of District Representatives.”

From the Archives – June 2003 – Appointment of District Reps

(from the New Action leaflet distributed at the January 2014 Delegate Assembly).
For a printable version click: January 2014 Leaflet


The Department of Education is likely returning to a geographically-based organizational structure. The UFT will be making that as a recommendation. Regions, Networks, LSOs, PSOs, Clusters – all should be a thing of the past.

When Bloomberg and Klein abolished geographic districts, over ten years ago, Unity Caucus responded by taking the right of selecting District Reps away from Chapter Leaders. Here’s what New Action wrote then:


The Appointment of District Reps. No Time to Retreat from Democracy!

Last Tuesday, June 4, 2003, the UFT Executive Board over the strong objections of New Action/UFT, changed the District Representative position, an elected position for 34 years, to an appointed position. It is a sad day any time an elected job, where accountability is to the people who elect you, is changed to an appointed position.

The resolution was morally offensive to New Action; we vehemently oppose any attack on the democratic process. Two years ago when Rudy Guiliani tried to use the September 11 attack on NYC as an excuse to lengthen his term as Mayor by three or four months, President Weingarten was outraged about the Mayor’s affront to democracy. At last week’s Executive Board meeting, NAC’s James Eterno (chapter leader Jamaica HS) pointed this out to President Weingarten and the Unity Caucus majority when he spoke against the resolution. Eterno also told the Executive Board that last year Mayor Bloomberg wanted to change the line of succession so that he could appoint a successor if he were not able to finish his term as Mayor. President Weingarten was aghast that the Mayor would try to replace himself with a non-elected person. NAC’s Bob Dehler (chapter leader Seward Park HS) also spoke in opposition, citing the aspect of the resolution assigning people for next year. The resolution doesn’t say the UFT is extending the terms of elected district reps. It says the union is appointing them in place. Even an election for a limited one year term, until we figure out the new DOE structure, would be fairer than appointing people in place.

Is Appointing DR’s the Best Choice?

In her e-mail to chapter leaders and delegates President Weingarten stated, “So we have tried to ensure that the service relationship between the chapter leader, the members, and the DR is maintained. This way the continuity, the contract and other services we provide members as well as the dissemination of accurate information can be maintained despite any changes the Department may make.”

If we’re keeping the present system why can’t we continue with the election process? Whether elected or appointed in place, the DR will be dealing with new people at the region. How does an election, in any way, disrupt or interfere with “continuity, the contract and other services” that are provided? We maintain that an election ensures that those services continue as smoothly as possible because the chapter leaders, where there is a contested election, will select the best candidate.

Whatever the structure the UFT finally adopts, we can certainly maintain the present one until we see how the Board’s new regions function. We are sure the DR’s involved and the borough reps will be able to work within the regions. There may have to be changes next year, but that individual who works most closely with the chapter leader must continue to be elected.

Times are tough today with the schools changing structure. It’s in difficult times when democracy must be enhanced, not diminished. The U.S. didn’t try to limit democracy during the Civil War or World War II. All of the elections were held during those two periods of crisis in American history. The restructuring of the schools is no reason to limit democracy in any form.

Content Policy

Content of signed articles and comments represents the opinions of their authors. The views expressed in signed articles are not necessarily the views of New Action/UFT.
January 2020
« Dec