Dialectics of a change in policy
Progressive Politics and Labor Democracy
Q: When is free speech NOT free speech?
A: When it threatens the leadership of the Union.
Cafe Intifada has place in bold and italics, those portions of Duffy’s statements that CI wishes to highlight.
Letter 1: The HRC web page had been linked to the UTLA web page via a page titled “Human Rights Committee. This first letter was posted on October 3, 2006 to the UTLA Web page that had connected to the HRC’s Web page. UTLA cuts the link to the “outside page” of the HRC, but not to other outside pages, like the LAUSD. Nonetheless, defending union democracy and refusing to cancel the BDS meeting.
I have recently become aware of certain activities of concern related to the Human Rights Committee website. Please note that the activities of the Human Rights and other UTLA Committees, while part of UTLA, are not necessarily representative of UTLA policy nor are they sponsored by UTLA.
Therefore, I have decided to eliminate any links from UTLA Committee pages to outside websites. I apologize for any confusion this has created.
I will not interject my personal feelings into this matter and will simply remind you that this is a democratic union in a democratic nation and I will not sponsor censorship. As incensed as you or I might be, I would hope you would be ten times as incensed if I started to determine who can and who cannot speak on issues in our committees. The UTLA Human Rights Committee is one of 33 UTLA standing committees.
I encourage Jewish organizations to contact the Human Rights Committee to express their concerns and arrange for a presentation of their views.
Contact Stephen Seal, Human Rights Committee Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Press Statement; October 5, 2006, Canceling the Meeting in a “Democratic” Union: Open Debate Only On Issues That Are Not Emotional or Divisive.
For immediate release
Media Contact: Marla Eby
UTLA Communications Director
Press Statement – UTLA Human Rights Committee Meeting
October 5, 2006 – United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) has decided to cancel the use of our building for a meeting sponsored by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS), scheduled to be held on October 14, 2006 at UTLA Headquarters, calling for a campaign to boycott Israel.
The following statement was made today by UTLA President A.J. Duffy:
“After conferring with the Chair of the Human Rights Committee, a number of its members and others, we have decided to pull the meeting scheduled by the Human Rights Committee.”
“While as educators and union members we encourage a respectful debate on the important issues of the day, this event has provoked very sharp feelings among our members and concerns that this meeting is inappropriate.”
“We believe that to proceed with this meeting will only polarize our union members and members of the community. No one benefits from further hostility on these issues. We would hope that people of good will with differing views on the Middle East and other issues will find the appropriate settings for these discussions.”
“The following actions have been taken by UTLA:
- We have cancelled the UTLA location for this meeting.
- We have deleted the link on the UTLA web site to the Human Rights Committee web site and the information on this event.
- We will be reviewing our procedures for the request of use of our facilities by all UTLA Committees.”
For more information, contact Marla Eby at 213-368-6247.
3. Letter #2 Posted to the UTLA Web Page, and Sent to LAUSD School Sites, and Every Teacher’s Mailbox on October 16, 2006: Becoming Everything the Progressive Slate Fought Against For Years: Out of International Affairs and back to Union Basics: Contract Negotiations At All Cost.
Note: to say that Duffy “sat in” on the Human Rights Committee meeting, is an extreme understatement. He called the meeting, strategized before the meeting with key members and other leadership figures in UTLA, and directed the outcome. At the very least, the meeting was going to result in disassociation from “fringe” “extremist” groups, such as Cafe Intifada and from CI founder, Emma Rosenthal, and would produce the statement for the web page.
Duffy on the Human Rights Committee controversy
The recent firestorm surrounding the Human Rights Committee’s decision to host an extremist pro-Palestinian group’s meeting at UTLA headquarters has taken on global proportions.
We have received hundreds of emails and phone calls overwhelmingly opposed to this meeting. It has unfortunately diverted our attention from contract mobilization.
First, let me be perfectly clear: UTLA nor the Human Rights Committee endorses boycotts of or divestment in Israel. However, I am mindful of the fact that perception often becomes reality in the mind’s eye of some.
On a personal note, because as president I have taken the brunt of the anger, I feel I have the right to state my personal view. Many of you know that I am Jewish and a supporter of Israel. I had family who were slaughtered in the Holocaust. But my personal views cannot guide my judgment as president concerning our union. I must be guided by you, and I have never been more mindful of your concerns.
I have dealt with the issue in what I feel is a fair and even-handed way. I have cut the links between the UTLA website and the Human Rights Committee website. I also canceled the meeting in question from our building.
On October 13, I sat in on a meeting of the Human Rights Committee. At that meeting an overwhelming majority of its members indicated that they understood the damage done to our organization and agreed to take steps to make course corrections in the direction the committee is going. In this matter, they showed themselves to be thoughtful and agreed to take steps to heal the wounds that have occurred.
They agreed to shut down their website and send no further messages except to committee members internally. They further agreed to post a message on the website indicating that the Human Rights Committee will go through a month-long (or longer if necessary) process of self-evaluation concerning the committee’s core beliefs and to chart a different course for their work. I will also convene a meeting of all UTLA committee chairs with our lawyers to review current guidelines and possibly suggest changes and/or modifications to our committees’ rules of operation, which would then be presented to our House of Representatives for their review and approval.
Some angry UTLA members have demanded that I shut down the Human Rights Committee. I must point out that I am not an all-powerful potentate. UTLA has a constitution that guides me in determining what I can and can’t do.
I am proud to say that the Human Rights Committee made the decisions it did after thoughtful, calm debate with an understanding that we must keep our eye on the prize: Our contract mobilization. Nothing is more important.
The distractions of the past month only help our nemesis: the bloated LAUSD bureaucracy. We must put our differences aside and unite in order to stop the bureaucrats from nickel and diming us on salary and to implement class-size reduction and achieve genuine administrative support for teachers and health and human services professionals who are making a difference in classrooms and school sites around the District.