Let's Move Forward as a Union Family (and adults)
How to handle the UFT 2022 election fallout as ONE UFT. But mainly, how to deal with our member apathy crisis.
Having read the dossier of election complaints filed by United For Change slate concerning major irregularities in the election process for the 2022 UFT citywide general elections, and witnessed the accusations thrown back and forth at our meetings, while processing the typically low turnout of our members in our general elections, all I can say is: What a hot mess!
Many of the highly-charged election complaints are fact-filled and credible. They seem to show clear violations and non-compliance with long-settled federal labor law.
Yet, more troublesome to me is why so few even care about getting involved in our union processes.
≤25% member voter turnout in our union elections is UNACCEPTABLE.
C’mon, it’s downright dysfunctional and unhealthy.
It has led me to think that these two realities are linked — our current union processes and member apathy.
But, more importantly, there is no reason that a union of our magnitude, influence, storied history, collective ingenuity, and resources cannot correct these matters before this mess is continued to be put on display in public and legal arenas.
We are a union family, after all.
Here’s my personal wishlist of what I think would result in increased democracy, involvement, equity, and justice for all our members, in light of this last election.
1. We need a more detailed and comprehensive election policy/bylaws that detail the do's and don’ts of the election process as prescribed by federal election labor law and based on best fair practice.
2. We need the increased representation of all voices in our union. This means increasing the percentage of dissenting minority voices on our executive board, based on our elections. Also, we need parliamentary reforms so that dissenting voices are heard and valued in our delegate assembly. Our DA is our highest decision-making body, after all.
3. We need 21st-century union election voting. It is time we move to electronic voting and allow voting to take place in our local chapters for our general elections. The technology and security exist with our present election monitoring service (AAA).
4. We need detailed bylaws for our union’s representative bodies. Namely, for our executive board and delegate assembly. Our sister unions have these.
5. Lastly, we need published HR guidelines and policies for UFT staffers, especially for those who work in our schools.
Many of these aforementioned items seem basic for the running of any trusted organization and should have been defaults. Of course, these are only effective if implemented with fidelity.
Maybe, all of this shows the complacency we’ve created by relying on just one set of voices controlling the direction of our union for so long?
Simply put, we have an engagement crisis in the UFT. Within our own family.
Too many in our union family do not know their rights and responsibilities as active members. A primer education campaign about our rights and responsibilities seems necessary.
There is way too much apathy in our ranks during a time in which unions are at record popularity and are making historic strides. Too many of us are watching from the sidelines, feeling exasperated, powerless, and voiceless.
We do not garner the trust of our members if we are not transparent and press hard for increased participation in our decision-making.
Creating more democratic checks and balances in our processes is healthy and vital.
Decorum in our dialogue should be the desired goal, but, before decorum comes DIGNITY FOR ALL.
We cannot continue to kick this can down the road or hide our heads in the sand.
Acknowledging the problem, and being present, in this current crisis of our union member apathy creates the possibility for us to work together intentionally on consensus-rooted solutions to foster solidarity, and a more mobilized, organized vigorous union.
Let’s also be reminded that over 42% of the teachers that did vote want to see a different direction in our leadership. We must heed the "whys" of their growing discontent within our beloved union.
All of our voices matter in this common struggle.
Many are saying to leadership: Don’t placate us with a trite, “We hear you”, because we know what active listening and authentic partnership IS and ISN’T.
We can do better. We must be better. Let’s do better.
Still union proud and hopeful,
Dan Alicea, UFT delegate
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