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UFT Makes Endorsements in May that it Rejected in April

May 16, 2021 pm31 1:19 pm

In April the United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly rejected a package of endorsements, including Comptroller, Brooklyn Borough President, and some City Council Members, 55% – 45%. It was a highly unusual occurrence – the DA, while occasionally noisy, is a fairly reliable rubber stamp for the leadership. Since I’ve been attending (2000), I do not recall a leadership resolution being rejected.

In May the United Federation of Teachers Delegate Assembly ratified the same endorsements, this time presented singly or in small groups. The votes ranged from 82% – 18% to 88% – 12%. All passed, all had a bit of opposition, but really not much. (at this DA 6% voted no on everything – so 94% would have been as close to unanimous as we would have gotten).

In April there were two speakers against the endorsement package:

  • Dave Pecoraro, a retired teacher and former chapter leader, objected to Corey Johnson for Comptroller and preferred Dave Weprin. He urged a No vote on the package, because it was not possible to separate out one race for separate consideration

Johnson, current City Council Speaker, is, in the context of NYC, a mainstream liberal. He is ambitious. He is willing to make deals. He has no special background or knowledge that makes him stand out as a Comptroller candidate. The UFT leadership is very comfortable with him.

Weprin is the son of a New York State politician, and has been a politician (city council, NY State Assembly) for a long time. Pecoraro talked about Weprin’s financial background. I think the demographic (white ethnic, outer borough, not conservative) better explains whatever appeal he has. I believe some of our delegates, especially older white delegates from Queens, are familiar and comfortable with Weprin’s name (they are probably more likely to remember his father, Saul, or have passing acquaintance with his brother, Mark).

(no one mentioned Brad Lander, the clear progressive in the race).

  • Tom McDonough, current chapter leader, mentioned his objections to Johnson, and to the Brooklyn Borough President endorsement not going to Antonio Reynoso (running as a progressive). But then Tom turned on the process. It is not right that the leadership does not present the candidates individually. Delegates should be able to discuss each race.

Tom’s argument probably swung the vote.

Outside of the pandemic, the UFT leadership brings a package of endorsements to the Delegate Assembly, but allows delegates to separate out controversial endorsements. Those are then debated separately, before a vote is taken.

During the pandemic the UFT leadership instituted different rules, including limitations on motions, amendments, and points of order. They are enjoying much higher Delegate Assembly attendance, which they want, and less discussion and debate, which they are happy to avoid.

Gjonaj Endorsed Without Debate

The first batch of endorsements that came up in January, Mulgrew asked for debate. I got in line – I was going to speak against Mark Gjonaj, a real estate lobby shill in the east Bronx who the UFT has shamefully supported in the past. But I did not get in line to make a motion, or to make an amendment. I was going to talk about who Gjonaj is, and why we shouldn’t endorse him. But Mulgrew asked if I wanted to separate him out. Sure. And then LeRoy Barr suggested that under the current rules this wasn’t allowed without a vote to suspend the rules. My mike was cut off without me having said a word about why I had asked to speak. Mulgrew made a motion to suspend the rules, which failed, 41% – 59%.

Mulgrew and Barr must have been slapping each other on the back, having so deftly avoided discussion. Of course, the proper sequence of events would have been Mulgrew asking “Jonathan, do you want to make a motion to suspend the rules?” to which I would have replied, “No, I will speak against the entire package” – but my mike was cut off, I had no way to object to the abuse.

Made You Look

But they should have paid attention. Their abuse of debate was flagrant, and someone, more than just some ONE, noticed. 41% voted to suspend the rules. That’s a lot of people. How many delegates know who Mark Gjonaj is? Maybe 5%? Maybe 10? In any case, rather than being so pleased with themselves, Mulgrew and Barr should have been concerned about so many delegates voting yes on such a small procedural resolution. At subsequent DA’s versions and variations of the same thing happened. One motion to suspend the rules actually passed.

Two fourth graders playing “Made you look” can play for hours and think they are amazingly clever, and not notice that no one around them is entertained.

This year active participation at DAs is way down. Conversation has become non-existent. Processes are less democratic. But attendance is up, way up. We dial in, instead of taking the train to Wall Street. And, sadly, we have time. Maybe attendance has more than doubled? Lots of regular teachers are tuning in on the phone conference, listening to reports, voting, listening to questions, and listening to debate, as minimal as it may be, for the first time. And regular delegates are hearing Michael Mulgrew, as clever as he thinks he is, playing “made you look.”

I don’t think 55% wanted David Weprin. I don’t think 55% wanted an all-progressive slate. I think most of that 55% agreed that the candidates should be presented and discussed individually, and further, that Mulgrew’s juvenile procedural shenanigans should stop.

Theory Confirmed – May DA

In May Pecoraro tried to get a Weprin endorsement on the agenda. It failed, 25% – 75%. Then Unity put up their Johnson endorsement. It passed 82% – 18%. Also, there were at least 6% voting no on every single vote. Look at 25 minus 6 is 19 and 18 minus 6 is 12. The support for Weprin was somewhere between 12% and 19%. Call it 15%.

In April, 55% voted down the Unity leadership’s endorsements. Around 5% vote no on everything. 15% or so wanted to support Weprin. That puts around 35% voting no because they objected to Mulgrew’s procedure. This “don’t be a jerk” vote is a breath of fresh air.

I have heard speculation that some Unity delegates must have voted no. I’m not so sure about that. I certainly have not heard from any. But I did notice Pecoraro openly breaking discipline. That’s unusual. But he won’t be a Unity delegate any more. As LeRoy once explained to me, their delegates need to vote in “lock step.”

Grumbles

I did hear grumbling about how long it took to get through all the endorsements. Starting with Mulgrew himself, several times during the process. And I heard more after the DA. The Assembly went until – I think 6:25 – we are usually done at 6.

But the extra time was not the delegates’ fault. Mulgrew’s over-long report can be shorter. What did he take, almost a full hour? And how much rambling and talking in circles was there? Better-prepared and better-disciplined he could have gotten us the same information in considerably less time.

But put the report aside. Assume the delegates like his style (I don’t know about that, but for the sake of this comment, let’s accept it). There was no need to make four or five separate endorsement resolutions (each with a too-long motivation, followed by 1. a Unity speaker using a prepared text, 2. another Unity speaker with a prepared text, Mulgrew asking for a speaker against, and getting 3. one speaker against, followed by 4. a final Unity speaker with a prepared text/summation.)

Instead, change the standing pandemic rules to allow any delegate to separate out any individual candidate – just like we did pre-pandemic. One resolution. A couple candidates would have been separated out for debate. Probably the same result.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. leonie haimson permalink
    May 16, 2021 pm31 3:06 pm 3:06 pm

    I don’t get this. Gjonaj announced in Feb. he is not running for re-election. Why should the UFT endorse him? See https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/campaigns-elections/mark-gjonaj-will-not-run-reelection-new-york-city-council.html and https://citylimits.org/2021/04/27/five-candidates-face-off-for-newly-open-council-seat-in-east-bronxs-district-13/ Unless he changed his mind since April 27, when the latter article was published?

    • May 16, 2021 pm31 4:45 pm 4:45 pm

      This was from the January DA: “The first batch of endorsements that came up in January, Mulgrew asked for debate.”

      The hyperlinks are to Arthur and James’ account of the January DA

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