“Going forward, he said he (UTLA President Duffy) would personally review committee requests for meetings at UTLA headquarters. If proposed gatherings are inconsistent with the union’s official political position, Duffy said, he could exercise “emergency powers” and deny usage. ”
So, only meetings that adhere to the party, er uh, I mean, union line, can be held? So how do positions change if only already approved decisions can be raised?
The role of committees is to raise issues pertinent to of their area of expertice. (Elementary Education, Budget, Human Rights, Special Education, Bilingual Education etc. ) Much of UTLA policy originates within committees. Reactionary responses to the BDS meeting have called for centralized control over committees, which in essence totally nullifies their purpose.
What is especially distressing is that this defeat to labor democracy occurs under the leadership of a progressive slate of activists, who in the past would have stood up to this type of top down tyranny, and the redefining and limiting of standing committees. Many of these leaders spent years demanding greater union democracy. For example, Joel Jordan, Solidarity member, Duffy’s right hand man, and the newly hired director of Special Projects, (after the victory of the slate, and upon the dismissal of two other staff members due to budgetary limitations!) pointed out in discussions on the left and democratic practices, that Trotsky had been so supportive of democracy that he argued for the forming of factions even under military conditions. Now that his position is attached to the election results of this slate, democracy takes a back seat to prestige and position. Joshua Peschtalt, UTLA AFT Vice President, in a personal email to Cafe Intifada Board Member, Andy Griggs, expressed outrage that the Committee might take up an issue that could be divisive and could threaten the future of the slate. Other slate members remained silent or only voiced dissent with President Duffy, in the safest, least controversial manner.
|October 19, 2006
Anti-Israel UTLA committee gets sent to the corner for a time out
|The United Teachers Los Angeles committee that came under intense criticism for planning to host a gathering calling for economic sanctions against Israel, including a boycott and divestment, has shut down its Web site and agreed to undertake a monthlong “self-evaluation.” The move came after a meeting on Friday, Oct. 13, with UTLA President A.J. Duffy.
Duffy said he hopes the self-examination will lead the 25-member UTLA Human Rights Committee to focus its attention on “issues that touch on the classroom and the school site that really have to do with education, rather than far-reaching issues, such as whether to boycott Israel.”
The event was to have been sponsored by the Los Angeles chapter of Movement for a Democratic Society Inc., an organization based in Connecticut that, according to its Web site, includes among its board members author Noam Chomsky, who has been sharply critical of Israel, and revisionist historian Howard Zinn.
Duffy said the majority of the UTLA Human Rights Committee now realizes that their actions have damaged the union’s reputation and diverted union members’ attention from salary negotiations for a new teachers contract. UTLA has 48,000 members.
Duffy said he has received more than 300 phone calls and e-mails, some from as far away as Russia, Israel and Great Britain, lambasting the Human Rights Committee for agreeing to host an anti-Israel meeting at the union’s headquarters. Some angry callers, Duffy said, accused the union of supporting terrorists. A few UTLA members threatened to quit the union.
After the outcry from UTLA members and others, including pressure from a united front of local Jewish organizations, Duffy denied the committee use of UTLA facilities.
Going forward, he said he would personally review committee requests for meetings at UTLA headquarters. If proposed gatherings are inconsistent with the union’s official political position, Duffy said, he could exercise “emergency powers” and deny usage.
Although the UTLA Human Rights Committee rescinded its offer to host the meeting that triggered the controversy, the Movement for a Democratic Society gathering took place at a different, unnamed site on Oct. 12, with some of the Human Rights Committee members in attendance, according to committee member Emma Rosenthal. The society is allied with Students for a Democratic Society, a student-activist movement that peaked in the 1960s. Cafe Intifada, which Rosenthal heads, and the Los Angeles Palestine Labor Solidarity Committee officially endorsed the gathering.
Rosenthal declined to reveal any details about the Oct. 12 event, except to say that the outcry by pro-Israel groups “created a whole lot of interest. We had a lot more involvement than we otherwise would have had.”
Founded in the 1980s, the Human Rights Committee has sponsored and hosted a variety of meetings and conferences over the years that have addressed the environment, support for striking Oaxacan teachers in Mexico and immigration rights, among other issues. In April, the group’s two-day “Conference on Human Rights and the Environment” featured workshops on topics ranging from the environmental impact of Israel “occupation” on Palestinian communities, to the Gulf War to climate change. A lunchtime plenary session included a discussion of “definitions of genocide and human rights in the U.S., world history and in the Middle East, specifically in Palestine,” according to the group’s Web site.
UTLA members can become voting members of the Human Rights Committee by attending its first meeting of the year or two consecutive gatherings.
The original release put out by the local chapter of the Movement for a Democratic Society said the anti-Israel meeting’s purpose was to support the Palestinian people and call for a boycott, divestment and sanctions.
“When Israel was created in 1948, 75 percent of the Palestinians were forcibly dispossessed of their lands and forced into exile,” the release says, adding that “Israel’s apartheid and racist system of oppression closely resembles that which South Africa once had….”
A Movement for a Democratic Society spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Amanda Susskind, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, has said the strategy for boycott, divestment and sanctions is really a “campaign for the elimination of the State of Israel, spearheaded by extremist groups who use the same hateful rhetoric as states like Iran and terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.”
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