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Mr. Mulgrew, Open up this union. End the ‘Three Men in a Room’!
I was able to speak on the ‘open mic’ at the UFT’s exec board meeting and ask some burning questions in the minds of the rank & file. They remain unanswered.
On Monday, October 23rd, I was able to speak during the “open mic” period at the UFT’s executive board meeting and ask some burning questions in the minds of many in the rank and file.
I joined several others in our union family who voiced deep concerns and discontent with the direction of our union leadership in regards to redressing our grievances related to diminishing healthcare, lack of union democracy and transparency, our continuing micromanaged work conditions, and the lack of due process for many of us. The latter are exemplified most recently with the reassignment of Amy Arundell, Queens borough representative, whom supporters pleaded be reinstated at this meeting.
Many more of us would have loved the opportunity to speak on Monday but it is one of many examples that highlights how our union proud and union strong voices are intentionally limited, and often stifled in our own union meetings.
Below, you’ll find the questions I asked that went unanswered but were followed up immediately by a brusque tirade by our union president, Michael Mulgrew, in which he paternalistically chastised those gathered to not listen to the “fairy tales” of those he conspiratorially painted as aligned with the “enemies of our union”.
Many of us in Shanker Hall sat agape in dazed, awkward silence. A handful nervously laughed only to be scolded and gaslit by him. He then left the executive board meeting claiming he had another meeting. He was seen dipping out of our dues-funded headquarters building at 52 Broadway, 15 minutes later, using a side exit.
Here were my questions during “open mic”:
How is it that when a duly elected executive board member of this union asked a question, here, about the status of the RFP —that will change the healthcare for every city worker in this city — a leader with direct knowledge answered “I don’t know”?
When we know that a report of the 2 remaining bidders Aetna and United -Emblem was given to the MLC, weeks prior on September 14th.
Did our leadership vote for Aetna already in a preliminary committee vote in the MLC?
How does a union leadership keep good faith when we collectively fought against the privatization of Medicare for decades while now they seek to force retirees into a privatized Medicare Advantage plan?
Why weren’t we told that the deal that brought the retro pay in 2014 was the result of union leaders inappropriately dipping into the Health Stabilization Fund to the tune of a billion dollars for wages?
How can leadership act like we have no right as a dues-paying membership to ratify major changes to our healthcare when it is collectively bargained under our local’s certification?
How did we enter into a labor deal in which we acknowledge owing the city 600 million dollars in healthcare cost savings, every year … IN PERPETUITY?
How do we continue to dare preach DUE PROCESS as a union, when our new teachers go through a tenure Olympics with abusive admins, or otherwise are discontinued? Where is the due process of those fired at the changing whims of a Mayor with unilateral control? Where is the due process for at-will union reps who are dismissed based on wanton political decisions?
There are many more questions but questions in this Hall are often heckled, rehearsed or never truly answered.
It’s time we end this culture of tyranny of the few in our union.
This is now much more than the rank and file feeling and being unheard with our working conditions. Our living conditions within this beloved union hang in the balance.
Mr. Mulgrew, open up this union to the rank and file. No more “3 men in a room”!
More Burning Questions
If I could have dropped a few of more questions I would have, but again speaking time for regular folks, the rank and file, is tightly controlled and constrained by Unity leadership at executive board meetings — and most other of our meetings.
At exec board meetings, we are allotted only 10 minutes total for all who want to speak. This Monday those who signed up only had a minute and 20 seconds each.
Here are some more questions I wish I could have also asked, but the rationed time did not allow:
How can we say that the ultimate decision making body of this union is the delegate assembly but when we voted to support the New York Health Act twice, union leadership has actively ignored our wishes and has actively worked against its implementation?
How is this a representative democracy when the executive can undermine our collective decisions? Even as officers claim they have the numbers to show NYHA won’t work but have failed time and time again to produce them even as executive board members have asked for their crunched data for over a year.
How is it that our leadership seeing that only 25% of our union members vote in our general elections won’t upgrade from archaic mail-in voting to other safe and secure methods of casting ballots such as online voting or in-school chapter voting to ensure full participation? Are they relying on voter apathy to maintain the status quo?
How can this union leadership arbitrarily decide to cancel out a bargaining unit’s vote against an unfair contract that failed to address their need for pay parity based on ever changing totals of non-disclosed emails, but won’t take action when thousands are calling for a membership vote on major changes to our healthcare? Or the thousands now asking for the reinstatement of a competent union staffer who was reassigned from her position because she holds a widely held geo-political view?
Where are this union’s by-laws? Does this union even have an HR manual for its at-will staffers? Seriously?!
We refuse to yield our time, energies or organizing efforts. This is OUR UNION.
Leadership, these fires continue to burn in our collective consciousness and they are converging.
Once more and until justice prevails, just as the parable of the needy widow before the unjust and ungodly judge, we demand…
Mr. Mulgrew, open up this union to the rank and file.
No more “3 men in a room”!
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