On Binding Delegates

As we creep towards the unprecedented NYSUT election on April 5th much has been made of locals who are committing all of their delegate votes to specific groups of candidates in the election.  We would like to make it clear that this is not how the PJSTA operates.  Our NYSUT/AFT delegates are elected by our rank and file membership in even numbered years.  Those delegates, full-time teachers in our district, are charged with speaking to colleagues, understanding the needs and concerns of our membership and voting in the way that they feel best represents our membership.

PJSTA President Beth Dimino, highly involved on the state level, has been vocal in her support of Arthur Goldstein for Executive Vice-President, the six MORE Caucus candidates for the At-Large Director positions, and the Stronger Together team of Dick Iannuzzi, Maria Neira, Kathleen Donahue, and Lee Cutler for the officer positions they seek.  This does not, however, bind our other two delegates from voting exactly the same way.  While it is certainly possible they do vote this way, the PJSTA leadership does not believe it is democratic to instruct all delegates to vote the same way.

It is encouraging to see that the Yonkers Federation of Teachers is conducting itself in the same way.  Via Capital New York

Yonkers Federation of Teachers president Patricia Puleo said her union’s delegates are free to decide for themselves who they’ll vote for in April, and she questioned whether new leadership would make a difference in how the state Education Department goes forward with implementation of the Common Core standards. But she recognized that the city’s teachers have grown frustrated.

“People are so upset that they are willing to make whatever changes they can,” Puleo said.

Unfortunately, NYSUT’s largest local, the UFT, does not conduct itself in this way.  UFT elections are run with slates competing against each other.  It is “winner take all”.  Last year, for example, the Unity Caucus, who has run the UFT for half a century and rigged the system in their favor, ran candidates against the opposition caucuses.  The MORE Caucus had significant support in their favor (in excess of 40% at the high school level).  However because they did not have the largest number they ended up with zero of the UFT’s 800 NYSUT delegates.  They literally have no voice at the state and national levels.  In essence it would be as if our country voted either Republican or Democrat in elections.  Winner taking every single position within government, with the winner also allowed to then structure the voting system to benefit them going forward.  It’s insane.

As for this year’s NYSUT election, we know all 800 UFT-Unity Caucus members will vote as they are told to by their leadership.  Posted at the bottom of this post is the invitation for Unity Caucus membership.  You’ll see that it is invite only.  Among the responsibilities…

  • To express criticism of caucus policies within the Caucus;
  • To support the decisions of Caucus / Union leadership in public or Union forums;
  • To support in Union elections only those individuals who are endorsed by the Caucus, and to actively campaign for his / her election;
  • To run for Union office only with the support of the caucus;
  • To serve, if elected to Union office, in a manner consistent with Union / Caucus policies and to give full and faithful service in that office;

In other words, you can only disagree with them in private, you must support them publicly, you must vote for the candidates they endorse, you will only run for an office with their blessing, when in that office you will do as you are told to do.  

It is this arrangement that stifles the voice of rank and file teachers within the UFT, as well as within NYSUT and the AFT.  With the UFT being the largest voice within NYSUT it stifles the voices of teachers across the state as well.  Here’s hoping that more locals across the state will take the lead of Yonkers and release their delegates to vote as they see fit, rather than the top down approach taken by the UFT.

Below is the full Unity Caucus application…

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