Saturday, March 9, 2013

Legitimacy of UFT Election in Jeopardy as Unity Chapter Leaders and Principals Block Mailbox Access

Federal labor law permits campaigning by rival sections of unions at the workplace. For public schoolteachers the question comes, are you working or are you campaigning. Thus, of course, school employees may only do their politicking during non-work-hours. Careful reading of New York City Board of Education statements supports such a stance.

Indeed, as the Education Notes blog reminded us a little over a month ago,
During election periods, the Baizerman decision allows any UFT member to go into ANY school -- even not their own -- and place materials in the mail boxes. Now this is not always a slam dunk as most principals, secretaries, etc. are not made aware. So if there is a problem a phone call has to be made to someone at the UFT (I hear Amy Arundel is in charge of getting these calls) who then calls the DOE and the school gets a message. Since that can take time it is best to do leave and go on to another place and come back another time. Sometimes I call the school first to let them know I am coming.


However, in the present (2013) election season, allies of the new alternate caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), are repeatedly having difficulties practicing their legal right to insert campaign literature in staff mailboxes of UFT members at city schools. At a disturbingly high rate, variations are happening, for several weeks now:
-principals are barring box access
-chapter leaders are barring box access
-other school staff are barring box access.

And DOEnuts blog notes how Unity-allied officers have been sending pro-Unity messages on union time:
what I heard was that MORE has been receiving reports of how Districts Reps advocated for the Unity Caucus during meetings reserved for union business. Specifically, they distributed leaflets during Chapter Leader meetings (meetings that are, again, union time, not election time) and have been using email lists to advocate for the same. Just recently, an email was sent to a list identifying seven reasons why Mulgrew should be re-relected (on a mailing list that was collected for union business. Not union election business). My understanding is that MORE has brought these issues to the attention of the election committee and asked for equal access to the members. But they haven't gotten a reply.
Unity has access to UFT member emails, access which MORE does not have, as noted here and here. (Kind of reminds you of election challenges for public office.)

The Unity caucus, which has run the union for the last 50 years, has been able to project its interpretation of the issues, its interpretation of the current union leadership's performance through the "New York Teacher." Yet, the MORE caucus is newer and has fewer resources than the Unity political machine. How fair is the election if one side is having access to mailboxes barred?

Everyday that Unity's Amy Arundell and Leroy Barr, the persons fielding complaints of election misconduct, drag their feet, the greater the net benefit to Unity in preventing name and caucus recognition of the MORE caucus and its slate. Again, the complaints have been coming in for weeks now. Arundell and Barr have "made phone calls" and have recently informed chapter leaders of leafletting rights. However, this is ineffective. This writer and other MORE supporters have been barred access in the last 72 hours; obviously many people didn't get or read the memo. Or the chapter leaders are conveniently failing to inform principals or other office staff of the memo. It will be a shanda, as the saying goes, if this box access problem only gets addressed properly after the election.

A quick googling of phrases such as Baizerman decision or Baizerman Step III grievance will indicate that this kind of Unity chicanery of denying mailbox access to other caucuses goes back to past election seasons. See for example, these posts from March 2005 and November 2006. It is a little disingenuous for Arundell or Barr to feign shock when this game playing has quite a legacy with the Unity caucus. The games such as District Representatives campaigning for Unity on union time is merely history repeating itself.

If the current leadership gets re-elected by a similar percentage as in the past, it will crow about how strong it is and how the members are not interested in the alternative.
The union must reach out now, to secure the cooperation of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) and the New York City Department of Education, to get the message to all principals, that rival caucuses have the right of mailbox access; the union must reach out now to all district representatives, to reach all chapter leaders --via personal visits-- the email messages aren't cutting it, to get out the message of the right to free access to faculty and other UFT member mailboxes. (The UFT's Chapter Leader Update sent out a notice indicating mailbox access; however, even after this notice, the very high rate of mailbox access denial is occurring.)
Ms. Arundell, Mr. Barr, take action now, or the legitimacy of the election and its result will be seriously tarnished.