New York House of Delegates Report
By Marjorie Stamberg
The UFT bureaucracy was playing to the left tonight (last week); one of those rare occasions when they pretend to be oh-so-democratic. Three new motions came to the floor: 1) from me on Ferguson, 2) from M.O.R.E, for support to the NYC teacher diversity petition and 3) from supporters of Progressive Labor, asking UFT endorsement for a demonstration, in protest against the kidnapping and murder of Mexican students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. The demo is this Friday 4 pm (Nov. 21) at the Mexican consulate.
There was a unanimous "resolution calling on Time Magazine to apologize to the nation's teachers," about their recent teacher union-busting front page showing a gavel smashing an apple (i.e., teachers are rotten apples). Don't hold your breath waiting for that apology!
I'm attaching here the three motions that came on the floor tonight..
It's an interesting political moment: all three of these issues resonate so strongly in the union that the bureaucracy felt it had to give lip service, while making sure they were covered from actually doing anything.
On Ayotzinata, the motion to support the demonstration actually passed, but only with an "if" clause added, i.e., IF the national AFT agreed to support it. It's possible the AFT is feeling enough pressure from the teachers unions in Mexico to actually come out and protest this cold blooded murder of students.
There was an amusing exchange with Abe Levine, the longtime Shachtmanite (supporter of Max Shachtman, who, by the time he became a mentor of Albert Shanker, was a screaming anti-communist supporting the Bay of Pigs). Abe rose to say, hey not so fast, this motion calls to support the "Ayotzinata social movement" and we really don't know what that is... I hollered out, hey Abe, I know and I'll tell you, earning me stern looks from the podium. (Remember Abe is the guy who brags about how the UFT never came out against the Vietnam War). Joan Heymont spoke and said Abe was correct in that it definitely was a struggle of left-wing unions, and the UFT has a history of only supporting yellow unions
The teacher diversity petition was presented by Megan Moscop. It is based on the research compiled by Sean Ahern and others that documents the increasing gap between the 67.5 percent black and Latino student body of NYC, and the whitening of the teacher force, notably due to preferences given to TFA and the Fellows program (and the evident fact that they are not hiring as much out of CUNY).
The bureaucracy's tactic here was to get out in front of it, with Leroy Barr speaking about the UFT's on-going projects on the diversity issue; whereupon they voted the motion down.
On Ferguson, I was given the floor and read a motion of three sentences, including the "RESOLVED, that the UFT affirms its solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Missouri, its opposition to racist repression and its rejection of any restrictions on the right to protest."
The vote on the motion was close, but it was declared to be voted down. Then Mulgrew spoke and said essentially the reason he didn't vote for it was the motion had to come from AFT national, but they are very involved. I said I wanted to get it on the floor anyway.
After the meeting a number of delegates and staffers came up to talk. There was a widespread sense that the preventive state of emergency bodes something very bad. "You kill a black child and then you want to criminalize all protest" was one remark. "Yes, and this is happening around the country" another person said. It was interesting to listen to the very dominant opinion of these teachers.
The rest of the meeting was Mulgrew's continuing praise of Carmen Fariña's new regime and how we supposedly have a voice now, and should use it. And that labor will get hammered with all the Republican governors who have been elected...and in NY too, he added.
In the Q&A period, I asked for details on the UFT/DOE deal over Automotive HS and Boys and Girls HS, where the entire teaching force has to reapply for their jobs. I said it seemed like the union was agreeing to create more ATRs. Mulgrew said the deal is a little more complicated, notably with teachers who don't reapply or are turned down getting full-year school placements for up to five years. And no 50% cap on teachers being hired back, as in the previous agreements which landed several thousand in the ATR pool. But the bottom line is, they're still going to have more ATRs, and the union is still dead opposed to a functional ATR chapter.