DA Report- 9/18: Mulgrew Stifles Dissent

September 22, 2013 — 7 Comments

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By James Eterno

Teacher/Chapter Leader- Jamaica High School

ICE/TJC 2010 UFT Presidential Candidate

UFT DELEGATES ENTHUSIASTICALLY ENDORSE DE BLASIO FOR MAYOR BUT MULGREW ONCE AGAIN STIFLES ANY DISSENT

On Wednesday there was a special Delegate Assembly meeting called to endorse Bill de Blasio for Mayor. UFT President Michael Mulgrew used a major part of his report to talk about how he brought Democratic mayoral candidates Bill deBlasio and Bill Thompson together last weekend for a meeting at UFT HQ.  His unity meeting obviously succeeded as it was one of the reasons Thompson was persuaded to drop out of the race for mayor on Monday even though all of the votes in the primary were not yet counted.

While Mulgrew appeared magnanimous with the mayoral candidates, he did not treat his Delegates the same way as he cut off debate on the deBlasio endorsement resolution before anyone was allowed to speak against the motion. Instead, to kill time he spent several minutes telling jokes while Delegates waited for deBlasio to show up to address them.

I raised a point of order and read the following line from Robert’s Rules of Order (the parliamentary procedural rule book), “Ending debate.  Debate of a question is not ended by the chair’s rising to put the question to vote until both the affirmative and the negative are put;” It goes on by saying that “a member can claim the floor and thus reopen debate.” That is clear language.

Now look up the meaning of the word debate from Webster’s Dictionary: “Debate-1: To discuss a question by considering opposing arguments.”  The leadership of our union does not understand the words opposing arguments as in this so called debate, two Delegates from the majority Unity Caucus spoke in favor of supporting de Blasio and then a third, a retired teacher, rose to call for the end of the debate.

Since members of Unity Caucus sign a pledge that they will support decisions of the caucus in union and public forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath), Mulgrew knew how the Delegates from his party would stand on the issue and the only Delegate who wanted to oppose the de Blasio endorsement was Marjorie Stamberg, a person whose call for an American working class party is known throughout the DA.  She should have been permitted to address the body so we could hear an opposing viewpoint.  That is the whole purpose of debate.

Mulgrew not only ignored my point of order, instead he erroneously stated that a point of order is a question. What was he talking about? A point of order according to Robert’s Rules is “an assertion that a rule is being violated and a request that the rule be enforced by the chair. It takes precedence over any pending motion out of which it arises.”

At this point, the UFT’s parliamentarian just fumbled through a book that looked from a distance like Roberts’ Rules but said nothing.  Mulgrew, as previously mentioned, had nothing to say so he told jokes while waiting for de Blasio to arrive and then as soon as he had word that the Public Advocate was in the house, he called on Delegates to vote on the endorsement.  The vote was nearly unanimous (I voted for the endorsement as readers of this blog know I endorsed de Blasio prior to the primary) but I was once again disgusted by the lack of democracy at the DA and I wish that all of the people who complain about the DA would vocally show support when someone attempts to see that democratic protocol is followed.  Delegates came to me after the meeting and said I was right but during the meetings there needs to be a movement for real democracy.

PRESIDENT’S REPORT
Since this was a special Delegate Assembly, there was only a report from President Michael Mulgrew and the resolution to support deBlasio. The President covered much of the same ground he touched on last week in the Chapter Leader meeting.  However, before he began there was a moment of silence for Florence Wilpon, a UFT activist from PS 137 who recently passed away.
Concerning the opening of school, Mulgrew reported that the problems were the evaluation system and the lack of curriculum. He stated that the parents were upset with the recent test results and we need to be there to support them.  He talked about the desperate situation for teachers nationally.  He then took a poke at Bloomberg calling him the worst education mayor in history.
He followed by speaking about evaluations and said we would not go back to the old system even though the current process is not that great.  The biggest concern is the Measures of Student Learning portion of the system. He said we had an agreement with the Department of Education in March that fell apart that was much better than the system State Education Department Commissioner John King imposed in his arbitration.
He added that there are contradictions in the arbitration and that it isn’t going to work but that the point of the new evaluation system is supposed to be to support and develop the work that teachers do.  He told us he can’t understand how a teacher who does not teach English can be held accountable for English test results.  He then stated that this is not the evaluation system we would want a year from now and said it would be fixed in contract negotiations.
The remainder of the report concerned politics.  Mulgrew said that our candidates won the vast majority of the 54 campaigns we were involved in this year.  He then spent time saying how Republican Joe Lhota wants to continue the Bloomberg education policies so we must defeat him and elect a Democrat as mayor.
On Thompson he pointed out that it is unconscionable that 10% of the primary votes are still not counted as of today and as a Thompson supporter, he respected the wishes of the candidate.  Then he talked about the meeting that was held last Saturday between Mulgrew, Thompson and deBlasio where they all agreed to do what is best for the city that they love by electing a Democratic mayor in November. Then, there was the aforementioned motion and the usual one sided debate.  Mulgrew then stalled and finally deBlasio came in and addressed the crowd.
DE BLASIO SPEECH
De Blasio told the Delegates that we must fix what has been broken.  He thanked Mulgrew for handling a delicate situation well.  He said there was now a danger of complacency.  He stated that he saw the poll showing him way ahead but he wasn’t fooled because vicious attacks against him would soon be coming because of his proposal to tax the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten as well as after school programs for middle schools.  He said they would throw the kitchen sink at him because of his alliance with the teacher’s union.
He then declared that we can have a safe city and a strong city.  He spoke about his “Tale of Two Cities” theme noting that it is a patriotic act to acknowledge it and fix it. He said it is not anti-business to build affordable housing or for people like car wash workers and fast food workers to organize into unions.  He complimented the UFT for organizing the child care workers and said that he was honored to be a part of that campaign.
He pointed out that he is trying to be the first mayor to have a child in the public schools.  (Someone in the crowd yelled the name of his son Dante and received a warm reaction from the candidate.)
He then concluded his remarks by saying that he thinks of teachers as heroes and that in the next seven weeks we will need to give it our all as we must fight back against the brutal attacks that are coming and we must achieve a strong victory on November 5.  He received a thunderous standing ovation and the meeting ended.
Note- James Eterno will be filing reports for MORE after each UFT Delegate Assembly during the 2013/14 school year. These are his thoughts and may/may not represent the official position of the caucus.
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7 responses to DA Report- 9/18: Mulgrew Stifles Dissent

  1. 

    I still don’t understand why the rank and file has not initiated a vote of no confidence and started the impeachment process. Nothing Mulgrew has done has been in the best interest of the rank and file that he is supposed to be representing. How long will he be allowed to continue misrepresenting the teachers of this city??

  2. 

    Thank you for a very informative report. I look forward to reading them so we really know what is going on.

  3. 

    Interesting that de Blasio had precious little to say about the NYCDOE and all that has happened in 12 years. Granted he can’t get too specific in such meeting but at some point he needs to have a briefing re the networks- what are they costing each school and what do they really provide, school budgets vs. Tweed budget, monies given to vendors like Wireless Generation, Amplify, Pearson, McGraw Hill, ARIS, the student surveys of teachers (just another 9 million), their worship of technology without making sure schools have updated computers - Bloomberg crowed last January about how so much more money is spent on education under his tenure – yet it never reaches the schools never mind the classrooms. “Fair Student Funding” is a crock, but who even knows what it is?The very notion that ‘individualized learning” really means getting each kid in front of a computer, and then there is inBloom – facilitated by Klein and Murdoch’s Amplify,the new dashboards being provided by the same vendors that have been raking in so much of the money already. More money paid by the schools and students’ data made available to the same vendors listed above.

    Sorry if my list is somewhat chaotic, as disgusted as I am with UNITY, I’m not really that concerned with the fact that they didn’t want to hear one dissenter – the deal was already done. What UNITY and de Blasio do need to hear about is the grievous misuse of the budget, discrimination against teachers of color, the complete exclusion from the discussion of how poverty effects children’s learning – If they aren’t going to address poverty in communities then class size is the next best thing – where did all that Contract for Excellence money go all these years?? and the closings and co-locations that are ripping apart our communities and school system.

    Also might it be possible to tap into John Liu’s information re the budget before he leaves?

    and thank you for your updates James, I really appreciate being able to hear about the DAs on a regular basis

    In solidarity Prudence

    ________________________________

  4. 

    I am glad MORE placed the disclaimer at the end of its report, as I am a member of MORE and support neither DeBlasio nor Thompson and feel COPE money is being wasted on such candidates.

    DeBlasio is big on talk, but as a former resident of Kensington, I can attest to his use of his position as a stepping stone, choosing one or two visible causes to help the more affluent members of the community while advancing his reputation and simultaneously improving his relationship with the Clintons. To trust him to defend us against state and national attacks on teachers is a mistake.

  5. 

    Mr. Mulgrew’s ( et al) unyielding confidence in Mr. Thompson has always struck me as odd. ( Not surprising; but ODD.) Most teachers I know ( and certainly most MORE members) were for de Blasio from the get-go… having had no trouble at all identifying him as most progressive of what the media insisted on calling “first tier” candidates.

    Presumably the leadership enjoys a personal relationship w. Thompson, the 8 year former city comptroller who clocked in uneventfully from 2002 to 2010 ( someone check my dates) without any publicly identifiable negative consequences to the union leadership itself.

    My guess it that’s pretty much the extent of their interest ( i.e. the quality of their personal relationship w. whomever is elected mayor) and they will now set about trying to forge a comparable arrangement w. Mr. di Blasio. Hence the union elite’s frantic post-primary huddling, the subsequent scuttling of inconvenient public debate, and assorted machinations as chronicled above.

    I guess we… the hapless dues-paying membership… will have to wait and see where, if anywhere, that goes. In the meantime, it will be interesting also to see where Mr. Damato, Ms. Tisch, and the other improbable elements of Mr. Thompson’s unwieldy coalition end up.

    Maybe Mr. Mulgrew knows something that we don’t know. That *is* the way he likes it. Isn’t it?

  6. 

    Mulgrew finally mentioned the absurdity of teachers getting evaluated in other subjects, but was fine with leaving it in place now to try and negotiate it away later. This is an admission we are wasting precious school time and taxpayer money which could be useful in demolishing Lhota as Bloomberg’s blind, pro-privatization heir apparent.

    The fact that this is not obvious should concern us, because the underlying mandate for the MOSL evaluations comes from Obama’s signature education policy, Race To The Top. What we need to know is the extent of Mulgrew’s ability to tell John King, Gov Cuomo and Arne Duncan that we are knowingly wasting time and money using inaccurate measures and that they can’t even pretend to believe out-of-subject evaluations are rational.

    What are the political strings attached to Mulgrew, preventing him from protecting taxpayers, preventing him from protecting teaching jobs, protecting kids from lost learning time, protecting parents and students from exploitation as guinea pigs in a useless experiment.

    The same goes for DeBlasio – will he fight back against Obama’s version of NCLB? He should be immediately asked about NY state Assembly measure A7994 which seeks withdrawal of NY state from the Race To The Top program, and he should be asked about the recent petition for an evaluation moratorium in NYC.

  7. 

    I shilled for de Blasio, but I agree with the points here. Where does he stand on the destruction of the past 12 years?
    Absolutely, our endorsements should carry some sense of sanction, and should never be mindlessly unqualified, as seems to be the rule with Unity.
    Samuel Gompers stands as a leftie in contrast to the Unity phoneys, where he said, “reward your friends and punish your enemies,” with Unity it is “reward your enemies and betray your friends.” And what are we gaining for this?
    Your and my COPE money endorsed Cuomo who gave us a tough Race to the Top agreement that carried the APPR, which is the foundation for the Advance program in NYC.

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