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The 70th Time is the Charm – Virtual UFT Delegate Assembly

May 13, 2020 pm31 9:57 pm

After my 69th call I switched back to my e-mail. I had a new message from my Borough Rep, with a new number, and instructions. And on call #70 I joined the May 2020 UFT Delegate Assembly, already in progress.

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Earlier in the day I had mixed feelings. I like going to live DAs. Sometimes their is corridor business. I can always schmooze. People save me seats (I’m usually late) Kate, or Eliu, used to be Alan or Lynne. Annette. We used to sit together. When I started out Dave and Cathy. Lately Arthur. But this wouldn’t be a live DA. It would be on the phone. With no one to shush my bad jokes. Or my loud jokes. And the phone’s not fun.

But I had some work. I put two resolutions onto the list to be considered – This one on protecting us from the DoE I will probably try for again in June unless the leadership has already adopted something similar – not a shock that it wasn’t gotten to – bottom of the list (#12). But they were also moving two political endorsements – and one of them I planned on speaking against.

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I have temporarily relocated north. My signal is spotty. So I preprogrammed the number in my phone, copied the code onto the phone’s notepad, and hopped in my car. Four miles ENE, by the highway on-ramp, there’s a pretty wide strip. And good signal. That’s where I was headed. Perfect day, opened the windows. And turned off the car. Then turned it on. How quickly was I going to run my battery down?  Charge it, and idle? Or drain it? It was just after 4. I was going to keep changing my mind over the next two hours.

I brought my talking points up on my phone. I hadn’t written sentences, but the notes would work. The Brooklyn machine candidate had pushed everyone else off the ballot. The details, how Cuomo helped, that was too far into the weeds. But I was going to talk about Sandy, and about the machine candidate. And I would make sure that one name was more prominently mentioned. And that I tied this kind of garbage NYC politics to voter suppression. They really are first cousins. Plus Sandy is more than progressive, she’s radical. And Bella, who rarely advises me, advised me. Other organizations were just staying out of the special election. The UFT should too.

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And then it was 4:16. I’d let the minutes slip. I made my first call. Busy. My second. Busy. Third? You can guess. I found a pattern. Call number 6 got through, but I flubbed the number. And then back to the first pattern. See this?

I tweeted to @UFT – nothing. I emailed by DR, cc’ed my borough rep, VP, and Sill and Barr. I kept calling. Michael SIll wrote back with a different number to try. Now I could get through, but my code was being rejected. I kept trying

. 30… 35… 38 calls. I asked on FaceBook if anyone was having problems. Some were, some were in. Someone offered to put me on a zoom call so I could listen – but I wanted in. I wrote back to the UFT officials, and kept trying. And trying. And… Calls 68 and 69 were at 4:54. I checked my email. My borough rep had written back, with a new number for me to try. I dialed at 4:58, and was in at 4:59.  That was call #70

50 + 2 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 2 + 1 = 70

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Mulgrew was giving his report. I’ve been following closely, so there was not much new. And I’m not much of one to take notes, not on his talks, where he circles back and leaves thoughts half-said so often. And when the windows were down it got loud. But when they were up the sun heated the car quickly. I tried to be not too distracted, though I may have missed things. But I did jot this down – it must have struck me:  “Need to customize social distancing to your building.” I guess I thought that might be a Big Deal.

Mulgrew’s last remarks were to recognize that some people had difficulty logging on, and that we (UFT) would goof and correct our mistakes. That’s what teachers do. He apologized. I’m quick to blame him when he’s wrong. So I have an obligation to pause now and to recognize that Mulgrew’s apology was genuine, and that I appreciated it. Then came the question period. I also did not write down the questions. But they are often the most informative part of the Delegate Assembly – especially when most of the questions are not plants.

Then the motions. A Unity stalwart ate up half the ten minutes motivating a reso in support of the US Postal Service – like how much time to motivate apple pie?  I missed not having people next to me. I would have predicted that she would eat up time. Might have run a pool on how many minutes. And then we voted to put it on next month’s agenda by 96% – 4%. It was kind of cool phone voting by pushing a button. And nice getting an actual count. I noticed a motorcycle in the weeds, on the opposite side of the road. Rider just sitting there. The next two resos failed to get on – one by a wide margin. The third by 49% – 50%. The guy announcing the votes, Rasheed, had the coolest voice at the DA. He should have been doing a late night FM album only show. Time was up – and we were not even close to my resolution #12.

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There were two resolutions, both to endorse in a special election for City Council. The first passed without opposition – 92% – 8%. The second they were endorsing the Brooklyn machine candidate. There was no one else, since the machine had knocked the others, including progressive community activist Sandy Nurse, off the ballot. I pushed the button to get on the speaker’s line. I had a little trouble. The Brooklyn Political Action Director motivated the machine candidate.

A DR spoke first, supporting the candidate. Another Unity exec board member spoke next. And then they called me. I was uncomfortable, sitting in the car, parked, for two hours, and asked Mulgrew how he was doing, forgetting that not all the delegates were sitting in cars trying to figure out whether to keep the engine on or off. He was fine, but didn’t like not seeing the delegates.

And then I talked a little about Sandy Nurse, that she shared our values, how she was a fine progressive community activist, housing, food, LGBTQ, how the machine’d knocked her off the ballot, and how unions, progressive organizations, and other politicians were withholding endorsement until the regular election. And that we should not endorse the machine candidate.

Ryan Bruckenthal, followed by supporting those points, and talking about how dirty the machine was. And Marv Reiskin backed the leadership. Marv used to be Political Action Director, now heads the retiree chapter. Big gun, I guess. His speech included that the machine candidate was the only one left. And that she was a public school parent – a claim that only one million New York women (and a similar number of men) could make.

In the end it didn’t matter, as the leadership wanted to go with the machine, and they prevailed 74% – 26%.

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I trust the technical stuff will be better next month. The modifications of the rules are problematic. Points of Information are generally misused. But Points of Order are not. And Points of Personal Privilege are rarely used, and in my experience, always justified.

We had nothing that needed amending, but amendments are an important part of discussion. We need to find a way to get them back in.

But the times are off. Questions are very useful. They should not be limited to 15 minutes. Honestly, at every DA they could do half an hour of questions, and that would be time well-spent. Motions directed to the agenda – and this would not have got mine up – but there needs to be more time. And Unity, if they hate a resolution, vote for it not to get on the agenda. The use of the thinly-disguised filibuster is wrong – not that anyone besides Unity could stop it.

And as we’ve learned during remote teaching, everything takes longer. I wouldn’t propose shortening the president’s report – delegates want that information. I think we should recognize that we conduct the business of the union one time each month, and that an hour 45 minutes right now is not adequate.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeff A permalink
    May 14, 2020 am31 9:14 am 9:14 am

    the motion that lost 25 % to 75% was a motion to temporarily suspend DA and SBO voting until thorough explanation of process is done. 25% of us think that we should know more about the provider and the process. Apparently blindly choosing a remote voting platform and vendor is ok for 960 delegates.

    Is it strange or sad or both that our union and it’s leadership cannot even muster up half it’s delegates for a virtual DA?

    • May 14, 2020 am31 11:54 am 11:54 am

      I think the motion to suspend DA and SBO voting lost by 25 – 75%. I believe those numbers. Is there anyone who does not?

      I think we have a lot of problems. I don’t think that’s anywhere near the top of the list.


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