Monday, March 22, 2010

Assembly minutes (3/17/10) from EDU

Assembly minutes (3/17/10) from EDU

Attendance 110 - 120

The Assembly was very well attended. It was not well advertised and the card I received only talked about “Constitution and Bylaws ratification and more’ so there was no publicized indication of the importance of this Assembly meeting. The improved attendance seems clearly a result of the March 4th organizing that went on before it, also it is clear sites came prepared with questions on bargaining, and I think the controversy over the union stance on Ethnic Studies and Dennis Kelly’s “Hitler Youth” comment clearly brought out partisans on both sides.

It was also the longest (ending at about 8pm), and ultimately one of the most contentious Assembly meetings I have ever been a part of in my 7 years of attendance. I will try and break down what I think happened and what it means below.

The Agenda was:

Special Order of Business

1) Election Committee Report

2) UESF Bargaining Report


3) Constitution/Bylaws Ratification Proposal

4) In support of Ethnic Studies (Part I)

5) Call for Apology by President (Ethnic Studies II)

6) Allegations Against the Union by the School Board Member

Dennis Kelly delivered a bargaining report which made it clear that UESF was trying to be reasonable about finding alternative money sources (particularly within parts of Prop. A that was not seen as essential). The District rejected virtually every proposal (both monetary and non-monetary) that the UESF made. DK was clearly painting a picture of SFUSD as being uncooperative and combative in its posture. He also seemed to indicate an awareness that UESF might have to respond with more than just ‘Blue shirts’.

EDU members spoke to the possibility of UESF giving more vocal support to sites refusing to sign on to cuts that are being asked to be made by SSCs (a part of the EDU strategy for fighting the cuts). UESF has already drafted a good letter giving legal cover for the act, and now steps could be made to build support for that by UESF. DK did not commit to such a strategy but they seem to be leaning toward it. In addition, UESF now seems to be behind building an activist presence at the next school board meeting on March 23rd (and building it as a member meeting to be updated on bargaining). This is a good step that had been pressed by EDU in a letter campaign to Dennis Kelly. At the same time, there seems to be no clear framework for bargaining put forward. If UESF members show up at the school board on Tuesday....what will the picket signs handed out by UESF say? No lay-offs? Cut adminstration, not educators? or "Two furlough days is enough!!!! or Increase our class size!!!just don't freeze our pay?

UESF leaders took some heat for already accepting furlough days at the bargaining table and giving in before SFUSD had matched our goals of fiscal transparency. UESF leaders countered that they needed to give ground to show ‘good faith’ bargaining and not to arrive at impasse and have a solution imposed from the outside. UESF seems to be committed to not going fast (a good thing) but also not really yet in organizing mode for preparing members to act (not a good thing). The bargaining team also seems to believe that ‘Time is on our side’. With 900 layoffs staring our members in the face, I am not clear how that is, but the union is also in not currently in a rush to settle and I think has been surprised by the hard line taken by SFUSD.

Still UESF leaders pressed on the notion of ‘fiscal realism’ and used the well-attended meeting to try and douse people’s expectation s of what could be done. EDUers countered very well with saying that “we should not be the ones being asked to make sacrifice, because we always are.” EDUers also gave an unapologetic defense of having a militant attitude and re-made the argument that we need not settle for layoffs and cuts (because the money was there, or could be found). This discussion was significant and found real audience in the room.

In particular, Jeramiah’s CAT proposal (more below): which shows “OUR BUDGET CAN BE BALANCED WITHOUT TAKING AWAY OUR CHILDREN'S TEACHERS, PARAPROFESSIONALS, NURSES AND OTHER SUPPORT STAFF!! These cuts would be felt on the administrative level and would leave our class size intact, and maintain the adult to child ratio that we currently have.”

This proposal generated a lot of interest. While Jeremiah’s motion to have this proposal endorsed by UESF was tabled because of the lack of information on it, there is clearly an opening to push CAT at the EB and next assembly as a viable alternative to the current SFUSD budget process.

The resolution on a ratification was passed without much discussion and seemed unanimous. This was a joint effort by Dennis K. and Tom E. and is significant in that it ensures that members will get a full vote on a new contract wither by ballot or membership meeting (if we get a quorum).

By 6:15, we finally arrived at the discussion on Ethnic studies and people were starting to leave but the room was still surprisingly crowded at this late time which showed people stayed to be part of this. The first resolution called for an unapologetic support of Ethnic Studies in the context of UESF raising some concerns of losing jobs if Ethnic Studies was adopted. This issue was raised again, but countered fairly successfully by the authors of the Ethnic Studies resolution. Also, some PLC members again expressed their irritation of having to wait until Ethnic Studies supporters had spoken at the Board of Ed meeting. There was clearly still only partial support for Ethnic Studies in the room. It did bring up a debate about the nature of institutional racism (does it operate within UESF). EDUers said it did. And about what the value of UESF support of such issues was in building alliances outside the union to our communities of color we serve. There was attempt to defang it politically which were unsuccessful and ultimately the resolution passed 35 – 20.

Which brought us to the apology resolution. Jerimiah introduced it and was simply making a statement of fact that DK did refer to the students as “Hitler Youth”, that he admitted it was unfortunate and apologized to individuals, and this admission should be made public and made to outreach to out students communities of color and people who fought for Ethnic Studies. Dennis essentially countered that his comment was taken out of context and that it was his opinion that this whole operation was politically motivated and led by Jane Kim to embarrass him and weaken the union. He cited (twice..ouch) an e-mail I had sent him that I had received from a teacher ally very early in the controversy in which Jane Kim expressed criticism of his remarks and urged UESF members to criticize the comments. This laid the basis for the strategy of calling for a substitution of the Apology resolution for the a resolution introduced by Sandra Mack to call on Jane Kim to apologize for ‘her’ allegations or racism against Dennis Kelly and called on UESF to file an ‘Unfair labor practice charge” against SFUSD if she does not respond.

This was clearly an attempt to deflect all attention that came to Dennis for his comment onto a Board member that UESF does not politically support. The worst thing though was as the allegations made that the authors of the ‘apology’ resolution were merely acting as Jane Kim’s political representatives and denying any political critique or outrage that came outside of Jane Kim (from our students, from other teachers or from community allies). Secondly, a PLC very quickly called the substitution to question before many EDUers or even Ethnic Studies representatives could speak to the substitution and their own independent anger at DK’s comments. This maneuver clearly raised the tension in the room significantly. Particularly after it passed 30 – 18.

Jerimiah called for a ‘point of personal privilege’ to counter any allegations that the resolution was a result of actions of Jane Kim. He was then hooted down and drowned out by members of the audience that backed the ‘call to question’ maneuver and was even approached by the Sergeant at Arms to take a seat an not speak. This was quite an ugly site to watch as a person who had reached out to Dennis (even in criticism) to resolve this was set upon by a loud mob. It was ugly, undemocratic and racist, plain and simple. The maneuver was even more exposed when the ‘substitution resolution’ was then tabled after it had removed the apology.

What to make of all this? This was an exhausting meeting. After putting these LONG notes together I do see that for all its drama. EDU is clearly having an impact on shaping the agenda of the union on bargaining. We should continue to press. To open up the debate on “No cuts, No layoffs, Emergency Funding Now!”. To call for the union to look at CAT as a budget alternative (which is something that shold be discussed and debated in EDU), to get UBCs and SSCs to reject their budgets and to get our union to actually call on its members to fight. The initiative around this is actually there and we should press forward on it.

On Ethnic Studies, there was a victory in getting it passed (although I was surprised by the resistance to it). As for the apology, we were outmaneuvered, but it’s worth remembering they had weeks to plan a strategy and EDU helped support this in the context of March 4thorganizing, supporting SSCs to reject budgets and taking on the attack against the “poorest performing” 12 SFUSD schools. I personally regret sending DK that e-mail when I received it but I did it in good faith at the time, and got burned for it. I apologize for that to our allies in Ethnic Studies and in EDU who fought around that.

This was a difficult meeting, but EDUers again comported themselves very well, and did not get into the gutter tactics that ultimately this meeting descended into. We were open about how we operated with Dennis the whole time and tried multiple ‘behind the scenes’ methods for resolving this and getting him to heal the damage from his comment. We were met with brick walls, with a surprise resolution and maneuver at the Assembly and then final by “Robert Rules” methods used to silence our members who had stayed hours to speak on the issue. It was a new low for the PLC.

Still, I believe we need to build March 23rd Board of Ed. meeting and push forward on the fight on the district. That is the priority and no matter the ugly end to the Assembly.

Monday, March 15, 2010

NEA Representative Assembly and the CTA State Council

EDU: Educators for a Democratic Union

Support progressive and democratic unionism in the UESF delegations at the NEA Representative Assembly and the CTA State Council!

Vote for the activists who helped organize massive grassroots participation on March 4th!

Vote for EDU-supported candidates for
[Note: the number next to the name is the person’s number on the ballot]

National Educational Association
Representative Assembly:
# 2 Lisa Gutierrez Guzman
# 16 Darlene Anaya
# 21 Jeremiah Jefferies

CTA Golden Gate Service Center Council for
NEA Representative Assembly:
# 47 Lisa Gutierrez Guzman

CTA State Council:
# 35 Darlene Anaya

CTA State Council alternates:
# 42 Lisa Gutierrez Guzman

BALLOTS DUE by MARCH 26thth: Please mail by March 19th

Build a broad-based fightback:
Against cuts and for progressive taxation and majority rule.
Fight the testing regime and the race to the bottom!

Contact us/Educators for a Democratic Union: