Friday, October 24, 2014

Ukiah Teacher’s Association circumvents democracy, emulates the United States Congress


The Representative Council of the UTA (Ukiah Teacher’s Association) looks a tad bit bigger than I remember.  It also looks vaguely like the House Ways and Means Committee, the tax-writing arm of the United States Congress.  Nah, unions…taxes…they don’t share the same space.

“The UTA Executive Board is recommending a $6 a month Local Dues increase. This money will allow UTA to send more teachers to conferences and qualify for California Teacher Association (CTA) crisis intervention funds. Most importantly the proposed dues increase will balance our budget.”

Typical.  The teachers get a raise and the union decides that they need more money to send members to propaganda functions and balance the budget.  But I am but one of many so let’s let democrat process play itself out.  Here was my response:

As with the contract raise, can it be requested that the fee increase be put to a popular vote?  That worked very well in June. 

In June the District and the Union worked out a contract agreement that our Union was not going to let membership vote on.  After some very pointed e-mails the Union set up an electronic polling site and we conducted a very simple vote.  The contract passed and all was well.  Since over $60 a year more was going to be taken out of our paychecks, I just assumed that the membership should be able to decide for themselves.  Well….. 

“We will vote in Rep Council. Please feel free to engage in the process. And to work with Rep Council to get a technical component integrated into our bylaws? Or, at least, to work at the high school level on democratic/representational delegation.”

Well that door totally closed quickly.  It’s an absolute conflict of interest that the group that reaps the benefits of a fee increase votes for a raise.  So the popular vote, the vote by the people getting fined, is out of the window.  Ok, they mentioned a “technical component”, so let’s start with getting an initiative process going for any and all dues increases.  Sounds good.  And since my Union is having a budget problem, how about we look at it!  So, I wrote this:

“I only request this because it is money taken directly from the membership.

But if we are not allowed to vote, then can each member be sent a copy of the budget so we can see where spending has outpaced current income?  You are requesting thousands of dollars from the membership without consent, and I think that at the very minimum we should have the information available about how that is being spent.  And your presentation is a one hour block that prevents many teachers (including myself, a coach) to get adequate information or have a voice in the process.”

The response I got….

“….if this is as important an issue to you as you make it sound, then re-arrange your schedule to make the meetings!”

I coach.  For Ukiah Unified.  And the practices and games happen to be at the same time as the meetings.  And a dues paying member is treated like this when requesting budget information that he helps pay for.  Interesting and disturbing.

Instead I was sent a copy of the bylaws.  Fine.  I tried the legal approach using the bylaws and wrote these words and these words only:

“I request a copy of the expenditures and incomes of the UTA.

I also request the standing rules for referendum and initiative created by the Executive Board.”

Silence.  Nothing.  A dues paying member to my Union and not only could I get no information about how my money was being spent, I couldn’t get information about the simple democratic processes that are supposed to exist within the worker’s friend that is this labor union.  I sent that request on October 7. 

On October 17 we were given this message:

“Last night (Oct. 16, 2014) we had a special UTA Rep Council meeting at 4:30 to vote on a proposed amendment to our bylaws.

Motion from Oct. 7th Rep Council Meeting read as follows:

“The Associations portion of the basic annual dues shall be established by action of the representative council as part of the annual budgeting process commencing with the first representative council meeting of the
school year.”

The Proposed Amendment was unanimously approved at this meeting by 12 UTA

And now it’s all legal under the UTA bylaws.  It’s now October 24 and I still haven’t seen any information.  Ignore requests from the membership and take their money anyway.  Yep, sounds like Congress.

This is why I detest our Union.  I’m forced to pay into an organization that;

A)  Can’t manage a budget.

B)  Raises money by taxing members without their consent.

C)  Won’t respond to simple requests for information.

D)  Suppresses the power of membership by actively denying a majority membership vote.

I don’t quite understand why you wouldn’t make a rule that says that anytime anything that requires either a direct addition or subtraction to a teacher’s income is introduced, it requires a popular vote.  It would maintain legitimacy, it would answer to the will of the membership, and it would create a more participatory labor union. 

Of course, being a totally political organization, it’s probably exactly what they don’t want. 

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