More Questions than Answers: We need Transparency, Democracy and Accountability (TDA) protections in the UFT
UFT rank and filers are now faced with an impasse with leadership about their TDA (Transparency, Democracy and Accountability) during the current COVID 19 pandemic. Rank and filers reported to numerous Chapter Leaders that they need protections via a signed, transparent, and enforceable Remote Learning Memorandum of Agreement. In addition to the urgency for Transparency, Democracy and Accountability demands at our workplace, there is a similarly urgent need in our union as well. Voting at the Delegate Assembly was introduced to the UFT delegates and many questions have been raised about the process. Most recently, UFT President Michael Mulgrew addressed the Delegate Assembly on May 13th virtually. At least 50 delegates did not have access to call, due to reasons unknown. Eventually members of the MORE Caucus contacted the union leadership and President Mulgrew apologized publicly . The president informed attendees that we should email him questions and he would answer every question sent to him after the meeting. Whether this was a “Talking Piece” or “Talking Peace,” using a restorative justice analogy, to repair the hurt I took up his offer. I liked the idea that Transparency, Democracy, and Accountability (TDA) was developing and sent the following email.
Hello gentlemen ,
I hereby request a printout or record of all my votes that I Dermott Myrie submitted today via telephone.
In addition is there any information on the platform that was used – name of vendor, reliability and validity.
Thanks in advance for your response
On May 20th I sent another email and I received a dismissive and defensive response from the UFT General Counsel. A rank and file member asks a question and it is transmitted to the UFT Legal Department. Go figure.
Please read the full response below, but among other things, Counsel Beth Norton states that “UFT leadership made a decision that such a report from the vendor would violate our Delegates’ anonymity.” Yet votes at a normal Delegate Assembly are far from anonymous—we all raise our cards in full view of our union brothers and sisters, district reps, and the leadership.
She also argues that “leadership is under no obligation to seek membership approval for operational decisions.” But every decision could be considered an ‘operational’ decision. Of course, the UFT leadership must organize virtual meetings during this pandemic, but to do so without any possibility of transparency, democracy or accountability is an abdication of their responsibility, not its fulfillment.
If you are concerned about TDA in our union, we urge you to email the leadership and ask for a report on the way that you voted at the May 13th DA, and for reports of your votes in the future.
There was a controversial vote, for example, to endorse City Council Candidate Darma Diaz, which had serious opposition. Delegates spoke about the need for the UFT to either support Sandy Nurse or abstain from the endorsement, yet the result was 74 % for Diaz and 26% against. The question I ask everyone is “How can you verify your vote?” I challenge all of you within the reach of this blogpost to ask for verification of your vote at future Delegate assemblies. Email the leadership, tag them on social media and tell it like it is. Unity happens when we have TDA (Transparency, Democracy and Accountability) within the union that we all belong to. The struggle continues…
Beth Norton (UFT General Counsel) response of Wednesday May 20th:
I am in receipt of the email you sent to President Mulgrew and Secretary Barr regarding the May 13, Delegate Assembly and they have asked me to respond.
As you are well aware, during these challenging times large organizations, including the UFT, are working to find ways to continue to conduct business and maintain standard processes and procedures as much as possible without compromising standards. Indeed, the Governor has issued an Executive Order to allow statutorily required meetings that were traditionally held in person to proceed via remote means. The UFT leadership takes its responsibility quite seriously and has worked diligently to achieve this goal. Leadership also worked closely with the Parliamentarian to ensure that proposed changes to the DA rules were in compliance with Robert’s Rules of Order, the governing rules for the conduct of DA meetings. The leadership believed that the process put in place for the May 13 DA accomplished all of these objectives and 92% of the delegates who voted approved the changes to the process.
With regard to your requests for information regarding the vendor, Union leadership has been duly elected by the members and, as such, has full authority to conduct the business of the Union. Leadership is under no obligation to seek membership approval for operational decisions. Indeed, such a requirement would be unduly burdensome and bring the business of the Union to a grinding halt. Accordingly, the UFT worked with the AFT and its tele-conference provider, IV Broadcast, to provide the necessary technology for the DA, just as it has for other large-scale meetings such as AFT and UFT town hall meetings.
With regard to your request for you [sic] individual votes, the data does not exist in the format you have requested. While, theoretically, we could go through the PIN data and voting data to determine who voted which way for each motion or resolution presented, UFT leadership made a decision that such a report from the vendor would violate our Delegates’ anonymity. Accordingly, no such report exists and we are under no obligation to create such a report.
Beth A. Norton
United Federation of Teachers