After passionate debate from both sides, delegates rejected four proposed constitutional amendments that would have eliminated one of NYSUT's five officers and allowed regional voting for NYSUT Board members and statewide officers.
The proposed amendments called for:
- eliminating NYSUT's second vice president position;
- allowing regional election district meetings so certified delegates could cast ballots without attending the RA;
- allowing special election district meetings to fill all officer and director at-large vacancies as they occur, rather than having them filled by the NYSUT Board; and
- electing at-large directors by a majority of representatives of their respective constituencies, rather than by a statewide vote by delegates at the RA.
Earlier in the day, approxinately 200 members of the Constitutional and Bylaw Amendments Committee recommended nonconcurrence for all four measures.
Nate Hathaway, president of Malone Federation of Teachers, spoke in favor of the amendment eliminating one statewide officer position to save money. "This organization is under economic stress. Given that, this would be a move in the right direction ... And save over $350,000."
Mahopac TA's Tom McMahon spoke against the idea, noting the officers have come up with a reorganization plan that will save three times more than eliminating a single officer position. "I don't think we should be asking our officers to do more with less," McMahon said. "Something will fall by the wayside."
In a voice vote, delegates confirmed the committee's recommendation to reject the idea, agreeing to keep all five statewide officers.
Michael Lillis, Lakeland Federation of Teachers, spoke in favor of the second proposal, which called for regional voting for statewide officers and board members, in addition to voting at the Representative Assembly,
"Democracy should be the lifeblood of this organization. We should do anything we can to expand participation," he said. Lillis noted a delegation from Buffalo was forced to drive through a blizzard because their flight was cancelled -- just so they could vote for their statewide officers. Under the proposed amendment, the delegates could have voted at their regional office, Lillis said.
But Pamela Malone of United University Professions said allowing regional voting would diminish RA attendance. "These RAs are an opportunity to network, promote solidarity," she said. "As a higher education member, I rely on these to learn about my brothers and sisters in K-12."
Martin Daly of New Rochelle FUSE asked how many locals were represented at the RA. Evelyn DeJesus reported that 88.19 percent of eligible delegates were registered and that 47.55 percent of locals were represented.
When it came to a vote on allowing regional voting, NYSUT President Karen E. Magee was unable to gauge a voice vote so it took an old-fashioned count by tellers who used hand-held clickers to count the number of delegates standing for each side. By a vote of 997 to 713, delegates let stand the "nonconcurrence" committee recommendation.
On the third proposed amendment, Alan Trevithick of Westchester CC FT made the case that NYSUT's legislative program calls for early voting and other measures to promote the "sacred right" to vote in general elections.
"This amendment would promote stronger participation in NYSUT," he said. "You'll be voting for real inclusion and real unity."
Others argued that allowing regional voting would add costs and be difficult for retiree representation. The measure failed with a standing vote.
On the final amendment, Rob Ciani of Commack TA said allowing representatives to be elected by their respective constituencies would eliminate frustration and anger by those who believe that a statewide vote is unfair. "It's a healing for brothers and sisters who feel their voice has been lost," he said. "It would empower so many locals across New York State."
Sandie Carner-Shafran, an SRP member of the NYSUT Board, noted the importance of NYSUT's many constituencies — SRPs, retirees, health care and higher education — to be elected on a statewide basis. "We should be expanding their representation, not limiting it."
Delegates rejected the constitutional change.