Much of the 12/12/12 Delegate Assembly was dedicated to teacher evaluations. This isn’t surprising, as the Unity crew knew that MORE caucus was showing up with petitions and a resolution in hand. For the better part of an hour, delegates were told how UFT President Michael Mulgrew is fighting this evaluation battle for us and how Unity is giving its all to protect teachers from the evil machinations of Mayor Bloomberg. You’d never know from all this that it was the UFT leadership, headed by Mulgrew, who agreed to the new teacher evaluations in the first place–without input from the members.
MORE showed up with a single purpose and a single request: that the membership be allowed to vote on any new evaluation agreement made outside of a contract agreement. It seemed a pretty reasonable request; teachers — NOT union leaders — are the ones who will be most severely affected by any new evaluation scheme. We are the ones who will be evaluated on what Randi Weingarten herself recently called “junk science”, or value-added scores. We are the ones who will lose our jobs if this junk science determines that we are ineffective based on a mathematical formula that attempts to reduce our students to a set of variables. It only makes sense that we–the teachers–should get a say in any new evaluation method.
So that, of course, is not what happened.
MORE’s resolution merely called for a democratic referendum:
“That the UFT conduct a broad and democratic discussion about the new evaluation system which would include that: our union immediately poll the membership with regard to the new measures and host forums at chapter, borough and city-wide levels where members can discuss this new system”
“That if a new evaluation system is negotiated with the city outside of a new contract, the UFT hold a membership-wide referendum on whether to accept the system, conducted in the same manner as contract approval votes.”
Kit Wainer, one of MORE’s High School Executive Board candidates, spoke passionately on behalf of teachers. He pointed out that we are constantly having policies imposed on us by the DOE, that we are demoralized, and that we must have a voice in matters that so deeply and personally concern us. Wainer also said nearly one thousand educators signed the petition calling for a rank and file member vote on any new agreement and over a dozen school chapters endorsed it.
It was an elegant plea, but Unity was prepared. They presented UFT Staff Director and Executive Board member Leroy Barr to speak against a democratic vote among the members. He said the Delegate Assembly is a duly elected body that represents the wishes of its members. Barr claimed that the DA holds the authority to make decisions for its members, and that anyone who questions that authority (presumably MORE and its supporters) ought to be questioned themselves.
The vote was 70% to 30% against the MORE resolution. Against a democratic vote. Against the right of teachers to have a say in a matter that fundamentally threatens our professional lives.
Overall, this was a loss for union democracy. Nevertheless, there are some bright spots. In a delegate assembly overwhelmingly dominated by Unity, MORE gathered a significant percentage of the votes on this resolution. Many delegates spoke to MORE members following the meeting. Momentum may be swinging in favor of a more democratic union. Perhaps most significantly, the UFT is feeling the heat and knows it is in a fight for the hearts of its members.
You can help. Let your chapter leader, delegate, and Mulgrew himself know that you demand a say in your professional future. Tell them that you don’t want fundamental changes to our current contract and evaluation system without a referendum. Tell your colleagues and ask them to spread the word.
And join MORE–for a more democratic union.