UESF communications are at a low point, for a bunch of reasons. Here is part of the story, based on my personal experience and efforts working within the union. I don’t just stand around and criticize, and I’m avoiding naming individuals.
- The union has a legal relationship with its members, part of which is access to their personal contact information. As an minority member of the Exec Board and as an outreach worker for UESF, I have argued frequently for greater support for building reps and UBC members who do the day to day union work while teaching! As recently as last spring UESF shared the rosters and contact info of UESF members at each site with the building reps (because I requested it for the sites to which I was assigned). This year I was told it was okay to share just the names of UESF members at school sites, but not their personal contact info, but even this was never carried out, despite my repeated requests. UESF leadership is currently drawing a very conservative line as to who is the union, I think due to fears about controlling the message and also due to internal factionalism (not wanting the other side to have a win). I think building reps, who are elected, should be included and have access to those contacts! I know from my experience as BR at Balboa HS, it takes a lot of doing to locate everyone in the building, in particular the paras and itinerant workers. The union database should be used to help with this.
- Elected Building reps and UBC members should be trusted with the union work and encouraged to communicate and share with each other. This has been promised by UESF leadership for the last 3 years, but again, never happens. Other unions have pass-word protected sections of the union website that allow BR to communicate with each other. Some unions have databases of grievances filed. I requested access to the UESF grievance database several years ago and first they lied about it and then they admitted that it didn’t exist. It would be so useful to know what has been grieved in the past and what has worked what has not, to be informed, instead of every BR having to start from a place of ignorance and figure it out on their own.
- The Division meetings fulfill some of the need for info and communications. But, again, they need to be done better. Again, in my dual role within UESF, I tried to improve communications around the divisions. Here is what I argued for (the division chairs agreed but it was never carried out, because they are working teachers as well, and communication is not prioritized by the leadership): a work order be given to the membership secretary (who does great work!) to list and provide the contacts for all BR to the appropriate division chairs so that the email lists they use are complete! UESF outreach workers should spend time with each BR explaining how the divisions work, and the union leadership should make this kind of outreach a priority! Every month there should be a call for agenda items sent out, and then the agenda shared with ALL BR for that division, and then the minutes from the meeting and the agenda for the following meeting with the asst superintendent shared and then the minutes from that meeting shared out again. Its basic, it would be SO useful, and it is the responsibility of the leadership to make it happen. there should be a password protected place on the UESF website that BR can access that has past minutes of division meetings. I think decades of neglect have allowed these union structures to become rusty and forgotten and weak.