The teachers union will vote on its final stance on term limits this afternoon, at a meeting of the union’s delegate assembly that is beginning now. (“It’s standing room only!” my source at the meeting just said via cell phone.) The expectation is that the delegates will support the resolution passed last night by the executive board, which urged a voter referendum rather than Bloomberg’s proposed City Council route for changing term limits.
But new amendments could be added, and whatever debate occurs will likely turn on how strongly the UFT should oppose Bloomberg. The resolution passed last night does not state a position for or against term limits, and it does not challenge the mayor on any points; rather, it projects, as president Randi Weingarten’s first statement did, a sense of the seriousness of the economic crisis — and keeps open a door for supporting a third Bloomberg term through a referendum. The idea communicated last night, according to one source who was there, is not to spend too much “political capital” on fighting the mayor on term limits, when other fights (such as the budget) are around the corner.
Not everyone at the union wants to play this safe route. Among teachers, there is a lot of animosity toward the Bloomberg administration, especially among the veterans who are the most active in UFT politics, and some are voicing that. Today, an opposition group that often pushes Weingarten, the Independent Community of Educators, will push its own resolution, which would have the union cut off funding from City Council members who vote for changing term limits, a member of ICE’s steering committee, Jeff Kaufman, told me. (The union’s PAC, UFT COPE, gives thousands of dollars to Council members each cycle.)
So far Weingarten has tended to angry members by drawing a line between him and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein: Klein is the bad guy, and she agrees he’s bad; Bloomberg is okay. But it’s hard to imagine Bloomberg tossing Klein, so supporting Bloomberg will be very difficult for Weingarten.
We’ll keep you posted on how the union votes.