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The Hybrid Delegate Assembly Problem: My Open Letter to UFT Leadership
All Chapter Delegates have the right and responsibility to legislate in all matters at our UFT Delegate Assembly
Last June, I wrote to you after being invited to a Sunday evening meeting and the subsequent passage of a resolution that implemented rules for a hybrid setting for the UFT Delegate Assembly that strips duly elected chapter delegates who attend virtually of their UFT constitutional rights and responsibility to LEGISLATE IN ALL MATTERS.
This was my statement, last year, to you after this decision was made. It still rings true.
Tonight at the DA, a Unity caucus sponsored resolution to extend the hybrid rules for the 2022-23 school year that strips full deliberative rights from our chapter delegates who attend remotely was shared with our body. It passed.
In one breath, the virtues of the hybrid setting were extolled as it has increased participation exponentially and has accommodated those with long commutes and working parents with childcare issues. In the next, I was left aghast as arguments were made by the same against ensuring our full deliberative rights are reinstated, by blaming technology and misrepresenting our UFT constitution.
Notwithstanding, debate on the matter was limited by the chair only calling on 1 person who sought to support a proposed amendment that called for full deliberative rights of our chapter delegates. Meanwhile, multiple Unity delegates were given most of the opportunities to argue against the amendment, and once again, this partisan caucus sought to squash debate again using Robert's Rules to "call the question".
Despite this, an amendment that was offered on the floor to extend full deliberative rights received almost 49.5% of the DA votes, losing by 4 votes overall. We also did not hear the DA chair share the in-person votes against the amendment which left most of us wondering how the vote totals for the amendment were tallied. This did not happen with the other votes, tonight.
Those on the phone voted for this amendment, overwhelmingly.
The arguments against giving all of our delegates full deliberative rights, like allowing remote delegates to present or motivate their resolutions, as being somehow unsafe because there is limited security via technology falls flat when we know that delegates did so during the height of the pandemic in 2020-21, under all remote rules.
Also, would not the "limited security" also bring to question the validity of those presently voting on matters on the phone?
The pushback we witnessed tonight that seeks to suppress our full deliberative rights is flawed, ableist, harmful, and does not center equity of voice.
This inability to confront and ensure that our processes need to be more democratic is a major reason for the apathy many have expressed about union business, as we saw in our last election. This apathy and mistrust by the disengaged remain a major hurdle in organizing for us all.
To be clear, we need the hybrid DA option. The technology exists to ensure this can be done safely and securely. Just like the technology and wherewithal exists for our citywide union elections to also be hybrid -- mail-in, in-person, and digital.
This matter of full deliberative rights must be addressed, as half of our delegates who represent the rank and file believe this issue is of import. If not resolved, many of us among the nearly 400 delegates who asked for full deliberative rights for all may need to bring a complaint to PERB.
Consider this an internal formal complaint, on my part, against our current hybrid rules as I believe it violates our UFT constitution that reads that the Delegate Assembly will “have the power to legislate in all matters ...”. This decision-making delegated power is only subordinate to a referendum by all our union members. (Article 7, Section 6 of UFT Constitution).
I still believe this well-intentioned decision to be unethical, undemocratic and inequitable. It may violate our own union constitution, and may possibly be illegal in light of labor law (See LMRDA Sec. 101, and NLRB’s Fair Representation). It may also violate the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This matter, along with the need to have a joint committee to reimagine our DA protocols with codified bylaws for our Delegate Assembly, is something I ask that we all sit down to discuss in betterment of our union.
May justice prevail.
In solidarity and common struggle,
Delegate, MS 53, Far Rockaway