On Wednesday there was a special Delegate Assembly meeting called to endorse Bill de Blasio for Mayor. UFT President Michael Mulgrew used a major part of his report to talk about how he brought Democratic mayoral candidates Bill deBlasio and Bill Thompson together last weekend for a meeting at UFT HQ. His unity meeting obviously succeeded as it was one of the reasons Thompson was persuaded to drop out of the race for mayor on Monday even though all of the votes in the primary were not yet counted.
While Mulgrew appeared magnanimous with the mayoral candidates, he did not treat his Delegates the same way as he cut off debate on the deBlasio endorsement resolution before anyone was allowed to speak against the motion. Instead, to kill time he spent several minutes telling jokes while Delegates waited for deBlasio to show up to address them.
I raised a point of order and read the following line from Robert’s Rules of Order (the parliamentary procedural rule book), “Ending debate. Debate of a question is not ended by the chair’s rising to put the question to vote until both the affirmative and the negative are put;” It goes on by saying that “a member can claim the floor and thus reopen debate.” That is clear language.
Now look up the meaning of the word debate from Webster’s Dictionary: “Debate-1: To discuss a question by considering opposing arguments.” The leadership of our union does not understand the words opposing arguments as in this so called debate, two Delegates from the majority Unity Caucus spoke in favor of supporting de Blasio and then a third, a retired teacher, rose to call for the end of the debate.
Since members of Unity Caucus sign a pledge that they will support decisions of the caucus in union and public forums (the so called Unity loyalty oath), Mulgrew knew how the Delegates from his party would stand on the issue and the only Delegate who wanted to oppose the de Blasio endorsement was Marjorie Stamberg, a person whose call for an American working class party is known throughout the DA. She should have been permitted to address the body so we could hear an opposing viewpoint. That is the whole purpose of debate.
Mulgrew not only ignored my point of order, instead he erroneously stated that a point of order is a question. What was he talking about? A point of order according to Robert’s Rules is “an assertion that a rule is being violated and a request that the rule be enforced by the chair. It takes precedence over any pending motion out of which it arises.”
At this point, the UFT’s parliamentarian just fumbled through a book that looked from a distance like Roberts’ Rules but said nothing. Mulgrew, as previously mentioned, had nothing to say so he told jokes while waiting for de Blasio to arrive and then as soon as he had word that the Public Advocate was in the house, he called on Delegates to vote on the endorsement. The vote was nearly unanimous (I voted for the endorsement as readers of this blog know I endorsed de Blasio prior to the primary) but I was once again disgusted by the lack of democracy at the DA and I wish that all of the people who complain about the DA would vocally show support when someone attempts to see that democratic protocol is followed. Delegates came to me after the meeting and said I was right but during the meetings there needs to be a movement for real democracy.
Since this was a special Delegate Assembly, there was only a report from President Michael Mulgrew and the resolution to support deBlasio. The President covered much of the same ground he touched on last week in the Chapter Leader meeting. However, before he began there was a moment of silence for Florence Wilpon, a UFT activist from PS 137 who recently passed away.
Concerning the opening of school, Mulgrew reported that the problems were the evaluation system and the lack of curriculum. He stated that the parents were upset with the recent test results and we need to be there to support them. He talked about the desperate situation for teachers nationally. He then took a poke at Bloomberg calling him the worst education mayor in history.
He followed by speaking about evaluations and said we would not go back to the old system even though the current process is not that great. The biggest concern is the Measures of Student Learning portion of the system. He said we had an agreement with the Department of Education in March that fell apart that was much better than the system State Education Department Commissioner John King imposed in his arbitration.
He added that there are contradictions in the arbitration and that it isn’t going to work but that the point of the new evaluation system is supposed to be to support and develop the work that teachers do. He told us he can’t understand how a teacher who does not teach English can be held accountable for English test results. He then stated that this is not the evaluation system we would want a year from now and said it would be fixed in contract negotiations.
The remainder of the report concerned politics. Mulgrew said that our candidates won the vast majority of the 54 campaigns we were involved in this year. He then spent time saying how Republican Joe Lhota wants to continue the Bloomberg education policies so we must defeat him and elect a Democrat as mayor.
On Thompson he pointed out that it is unconscionable that 10% of the primary votes are still not counted as of today and as a Thompson supporter, he respected the wishes of the candidate. Then he talked about the meeting that was held last Saturday between Mulgrew, Thompson and deBlasio where they all agreed to do what is best for the city that they love by electing a Democratic mayor in November. Then, there was the aforementioned motion and the usual one sided debate. Mulgrew then stalled and finally deBlasio came in and addressed the crowd.
DE BLASIO SPEECH
De Blasio told the Delegates that we must fix what has been broken. He thanked Mulgrew for handling a delicate situation well. He said there was now a danger of complacency. He stated that he saw the poll showing him way ahead but he wasn’t fooled because vicious attacks against him would soon be coming because of his proposal to tax the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten as well as after school programs for middle schools. He said they would throw the kitchen sink at him because of his alliance with the teacher’s union.
He then declared that we can have a safe city and a strong city. He spoke about his “Tale of Two Cities” theme noting that it is a patriotic act to acknowledge it and fix it. He said it is not anti-business to build affordable housing or for people like car wash workers and fast food workers to organize into unions. He complimented the UFT for organizing the child care workers and said that he was honored to be a part of that campaign.
He pointed out that he is trying to be the first mayor to have a child in the public schools. (Someone in the crowd yelled the name of his son Dante and received a warm reaction from the candidate.)
He then concluded his remarks by saying that he thinks of teachers as heroes and that in the next seven weeks we will need to give it our all as we must fight back against the brutal attacks that are coming and we must achieve a strong victory on November 5. He received a thunderous standing ovation and the meeting ended.
Note- James Eterno will be filing reports for MORE after each UFT Delegate Assembly during the 2013/14 school year. These are his thoughts and may/may not represent the official position of the caucus.