MORE-UFT Statement on the April 14 UFT Delegate Assembly
Last night’s Delegate Assembly of the United Federation of Teachers interrupted politics as usual in NYC. Rank and file delegates voted down UFT leaders recommendations for candidates for City Comptroller, Manhattan District Attorney, Brooklyn borough president, and 2 other offices, in a rare rebuke to UFT leaders. Normally, when UFT leadership brings forth an election endorsement resolution, the Delegate Assembly agrees by an overwhelming majority.
This time, when the vote was called, 55% of delegates voted “No”, apparently tiring of the policy of ‘package deals,’ endorsements resolutions that endorse for multiple positions at the same time and cannot be amended because of special rules for the remote meetings.
Leadership has tried to add a veneer of democracy by hand selecting members to take part in committees to make endorsement recommendations for the DA, which itself is fraught with an outdated and ineffective phone format, and these endorsements, complicated and undemocratic as they are, take up the majority of the DA’s resolution period. But only 400 or so educators take part in these committees, so most members feel little input into the choices made by the UFT leaders. Once these endorsements are introduced they cannot be amended, according to remote DA rules. This leaves the elected representatives of rank and file members with no opportunity to openly debate individual endorsements. One leadership caucus member spoke in favor, and then two members spoke against the package endorsement. Tom McDonough, MORE member and chapter leader at the Columbia Secondary School, spoke against, arguing that the resolution was “rushed”, arguing “each candidate’s nomination deserves a vote.”
As the June mayoral primary approaches, one of the most significant unions in the city has yet to endorse. The UFT’s leadership attempted several strategies to keep opposition caucus members in MORE-UFT from advancing positions on a range of topics that include questions about the mayoral endorsement process and a resolution to call for more funding of counselors, teachers and nurses, instead of supporting the City Council bill on School Safety Officers. UFT’s Unity Caucus was not successful though. Now it will be very difficult for union tops to push through their favored candidate past a restless rank and file, especially a charter advocate like Eric Adams or a corporate executive like Andrew Yang.
What does a ‘no’ vote on endorsements mean? That there is more dissent within the Delegate Assembly than there ever has been. That teachers are split on their positions in the primary races. That potentially, the Delegate Assembly will vote against leadership on the mayoral endorsement. If so, this would be a strong rebuke of the endorsement process as it usually runs – opaque, unreachable by the average member, playing out in backroom deals with President Mulgrew, without a process that reaches the rank and file or even adequate time for public debate before the question is called to a vote.
Why does this matter and what can you do as a teacher or school worker, slogging through another April in a pandemic? It means NOW IS THE TIME to put public pressure on your union leadership to support the mayoral candidate or policies you want, and it might actually have an impact on union policy. The special Delegate Assembly to endorse the mayor might happen in the next week – now is the time to make your position clear. Tell your delegate and Chapter Leader. Tweet publicly and tag the UFT. As we know too well, the mayor has an outsized role in decisions concerning our profession, our health, our wellbeing. Our union leadership should be actively seeking rank and file member perspectives as it gears up to vote on one of the most undecided elections in recent history, with ranked choice voting.
Chapter and delegate elections are happening in the next few weeks – the deadline for nominating yourself or someone you know at your school is Monday April 19 (individual schools may have earlier deadlines as well)! – and you can elect the next round of representation to this body (terms starting next school year). You can elect representatives who will not just vote as leadership votes, but who will talk to you, engage your perspective, and build a strong union chapter that fights for better working and learning conditions for students and teachers alike.