Dear Leadership of United Teachers of Los Angeles:
It’s time for The Talk. I think we need to discuss the items on our relationship agenda to figure out where all of this is going.
You know a family is dysfunctional when its members malign and belittle each other in public. But you know it’s coming to the bitter end when communication sours into silence. UTLA needs to have The Talk before it reaches that point.
Dysfunction in UTLA
It pains me to be critical of our internal processes just at a time when we teachers need unified strength to negotiate a desperately overdue salary adjustment. However, at the January UTLA House of Representatives meeting, here is what I saw:
- The president didn’t take the podium until almost twenty minutes past the scheduled start.
- Once President Fletcher got to the mic, three members of the leadership team stood up and walked right off the stage.
- We barely had a quorum to begin with, apparently because the teachers serving within the HoR have become so discouraged they no longer show up.
- Speakers grandstanded, scoffed, and electioneered from every available microphone.
- The agenda listed 135 items. Think about it, that’s just over one minute per item, if you start the three-hour meeting on time. That’s not even enough time to answer that many multiple-choice questions, much less read, discuss, and vote!
- Unsurprisingly, a 17.6% salary increase received unanimous support, but then was subject to so many arguments and sub-motions that the whole proposal as a package was left unfinished.
The chaotic and disrespectful conduct of our union leadership effectively filibusters genuine communication. And this same leadership has been giving members the runaround for years.
Unlike in our classrooms, we cannot send them to the dean, make a call home to their mothers, or arrange a meeting with their counselors. Maybe it’s time for the membership to take the reins themselves.
A Meaningful Agenda
We can start with this ridiculous agenda.
Most membership-initiated motions take more than a year just to get on the agenda in the first place. The majority languish and die there before they see a vote.
We should spend dedicated additional time clearing the agenda items before they sour and spoil — pulled because they are past their expiration date.
Here’s an idea:
- Add more meetings so that members of the House of Representatives can adequately discuss and vote on existing motions until we have a timely and realistic agenda.
In fact, I proposed a motion that UTLA’s House of Representatives hold special meetings specifically dedicated to clearing the agenda of motions more than three months old. Of course, at this rate, even if the motion makes it past various committees and onto the agenda, it probably won’t see the light of day for another year.
Here’s another idea:
Let’s find a more efficient, technology-based voting system that would work within the meetings to quickly tally votes.
Many meetings are consumed by “dead air” time, while votes are being counted. We should respect the time and work of the teachers who are giving their personal time to to make school life better! An efficient voting process is essential.
Let’s Have The Talk Before It’s Too Late
Teachers should not be getting the silent treatment from union leadership.
It is bad enough that LAUSD rarely asks for teacher input on policies that affect our students and our professional life day in, day out. It is beyond exasperating for it to happen in our union.