Tuesday, May 24, 2016

#MORE2016 - Ma Nishtona - UFT Elections: Why Is This Election Different? Or is it?

Is the 2016 UFT election really different? Well, in some ways it is and in some ways it isn't. Let's explore the similarities and differences.

May 24, 2016

With the UFT election vote count 2 days away, this is a good time to do some speculation. I'm not going to claim flat out that this election is different but there are a few interesting wrinkles out there that might move the needle one way or the other, though I don't expect the needle to move very much either way. Like suddenly MORE/NA numbers double, which would be a significant break. Flying seat of the pants, I don't see those signs.

Expectations in the opposition are always higher than they should be - I can't think of one election where I wasn't disappointed in the numbers. In 2013, not having moved the needle much at all, I felt the results for MORE, given the combination of groups coming together, were below expectations even though all totals were somewhat higher for MORE than they were for TJC/ICE in 2010 while being much lower for Unity and New Action.

But all that told me was that some people had switched votes toward MORE but not of a hell of a lot of people and  not a lot of people who hadn't voted before were voting.

The newer activists in MORE were excited and when I arrived at the 2013 "victory" party where 75 people were celebrating, I was not exuberant. One guy came over and pleaded with me to be "up" and so I used my method acting skills to show enthusiasm. Then had a few beers and happiness was easy to find.

This time I'm going to drink before the party so I don't have to do any acting. Come on down and help me drown my sorrows in my last election hurrah Thursday at the Dark Horse: morecaucusnyc: Celebrate With Us Thursday Night!

I will be celebrating the end of my final election campaign as I edge into retirement.

Here are some speculations on this election and what may be different this time.

The Jia Lee and opt-out factor
The growth of the opt out movement and Jia Lee's connection to it should be a factor. Jia is certainly somewhat better known in some quarters than Julie Cavanagh was in 2013 due to opt out. One Long Island resident who is a chapter leader stopped by at the DA to say that she has no idea who Jia is but she is an opt out supporter and opt out leader Jeannette Deutermann likes Jia and that was good enough for her. People come up to Jia on subways or in the streets, so there has been some imprint.

Question for me is just how many NYC teachers are in favor of opt out or see it as a threat? If votes go up consider the opt out issue as a factor.

The 2014 contract impact
20-25% voted NO with a batch of others voting YES under the gun - with Mulgrew telling them we would bankrupt the city. How many are aware that soon after the city announced a $2 billion surplus and other unions did better?

Do people who don't like the contract and the retro make that connection to this election?

Don't count any chickens because so many people don't make the connections. Should MORE have done a better job of telling people that?

Will high contract vote carry over to this election?
In school voting is very different from ballots coming to the home but I don't favor in school voting as long as there are so many embedded Unity chapter leaders in charge of the ballot in the school.

But since around 94% of the 108,000 DOE UFT members voted in the contract vote, over 20,000 people voted NO, 16000 teachers and 4000 support (functionals). (Retirees and non DOE people did not vote.) An opposition wet dream is having them all vote against Unity but expect only the usual low turnout which given the past would translate about 4-5000 of these votes into the opposition - many of them the same anti-Unity suspects from 2013. 6600 anti-Unity votes this time from classroom teachers (out of 66000 ballots sent out would give the opposition 10% of the working teachers.

Are people unhappy in schools?
That's what everyone is telling me. That morale is low. But do they blame the UFT or the DOE for that? The late Gene Prisco used to always say that the Unity leadership has a missile deflection shield. The opposition up to now has not been able to get deep penetration into enough schools to make the point that the Unity Caucus is complicit. Unless MORE has an active person in the school to tell people this most people don't make the connection because they do not know about the role of Randi and Mulgrew and the UFT in supporting so many aspects of ed deform.

Unity ran a lower key campaign than in 2013
They didn't really go after MORE/New Action in public though behind the scenes the Unity people did a lot of trash talk in their schools. No open attacks on MORE as being a fringe socialist group though I bet that is what Unity people tell people.

I also didn't see as much glossy literature as last time -- and the drop in their votes in 2013 from 2010 was significant so it didn't do any good.  One theory is that Unity in house surveys said that negative campaigning suppresses the vote and so they toned it down.

Will Unity vote totals go up or down?
The needle really moved down for Unity in 2013. But that happened in 2004 and then they rose back up in 2007.

I think the Unity totals will move up this year despite people telling me that everyone is so unhappy and this is the first election since the 2014 contract. One can argue that the 75% who voted for it will carry over for more Unity votes this time. Unity seems to be paying more attention to getting out their vote this time.

The MORE/New Action campaign
A major change was not having a confusing first page of the ballot like the past 6 elections where in addition to Unity there were 2 other groups with the confusion that a vote for New Action was also a vote for Unity. But people who are aware and support Solidarity can open the book and check off their 32 candidates. Not heavy lifting - if MORE/NA supporters wanted to do that they would have to track down 300 candidates.

It was certainly easier to have New Action on board this time. More money and more manpower so more schools may have been covered with leaflets. But I don't believe that stuffing 100,000 leaflets necessarily has much effect.

Social media
What was different was a more effective social media campaign run by Dan Lupkin - but we don't know how much difference that makes and will make for an interesting post election analysis.

Impact of Solidarity
As for Solidarity, which ran a big social media campaign, votes for their individual candidates, while coming from MORE/NA totals are still opposition to Unity and when we tabulate the vote we can say that by combining the MORE/New Action and Solidarity totals we can get a snapshot of how many people feel strongly enough to vote against Unity.

I'll make a stab at 25% total between MORE/NA and Solidarity which would match the contract opposition vote. Anything above 30% would put up a danger sign for Unity. And for those who keep whining that if only all the groups had gotten together they could have won the election, get a dose of reality. Unity won 80% in 2013 and closer to 90% of the retirees' 23,000 votes.

The 7 Ex Bd high school seats
MORE came within 150 votes of Unity in the high schools but the 440 New Action votes went to Unity. We'd win those seats if the numbers stayed the same this time. It is hard to believe the vote totals in high school for Unity can fall below the 1580 they got last time (out of 19,000 ballots). They have so many CLs in so many large high schools. I'm going to guess that their upside this time is 2200 but hope I am wrong. MORE and New Action together in 2013 had around 1900. Can they pump these numbers up this time? If they don't it says something about growth of influence of the opposition in the high schools. Let's say they also increase to around 2200 which makes things neck and neck - except --

But add this time the Solidarity wild card. Since they are not on the first page of the ballot as a caucus people have to vote for individual candidates. Watch the numbers for their high school people since every one is one less for MORE/New Action and if the election is close even a couple of hundred votes for Solidarity can give Unity the high schools and 100% control of the Exec Bd. Even if high school people wanted to vote for Portelos there is hope they realize the possible outcome if they vote for the Solidarity high school people. Chaz seemed to take that approach.

If we don't win the high schools I get my Peter Lugers dinner from Mike Schirtzer. If we win the high schools I will gladly cover his dinner and maybe even take a few other MOREs with us.

Middle Schools - 5 Ex Bd seats
Unity totals were very low last time - around 1150 out of almost 12000 sent out. But MORE and New Action MS votes together were - and have been over the past 4 election cycles a joke. Theoretically if Unity stayed the same and MORE/New Action doubled their vote they win these seats. But Solidarity voters might skim off enough to prevent that. However it is hard to imagine doubling a vote from last time so don't expect that to happen - though it would great to be wrong.

Elem schools
For me this is the bellwether as to whether things are breaking bad for Unity. Only when the opposition can show they have enough outreach to the almost 1000 elementary schools (k-8 school included), will Unity have to worry. Their vote totals dropped heavily in 2013 while MORE ticked up but not enough to get within shouting range. MORE and NA last time were less than 2000.

MORE/NA would have to double their votes here and Unity would have to stay the same before Unity has to worry. Since these are not winnable this year any votes for Solidarity does no harm and if we add the totals we can get a sense of whether opposition to Unity is growing in elem schools.

While many people in the non-teaching chapters of the union are not happy, there has been too little outreach or connections to these chapters for MORE/NA to make much of a dent. I am not in touch enough to even dare to make a prediction.

We know that these numbers are very high for Unity. I expect an  uptick for MORE/NA due to the anger of recent retirees over the past few years. Given 23,000 retiree votes, 3000 votes would knock Unity down to 85%. 4000 would be wonderful.

The Bernie-Hillary battle, the AFT endorsement and the Randi connection
This a unique situation taking place simultaneously with the UFT elections. There are a lot of people pissed off at Randi and also Hillary for both their stands on education and how they try to cover their ed deform tendencies. But will that translate into votes for MORE? For those who are aware, maybe.

Given the demographics of the primaries to they translate into the UFT elections where younger Bernie supporters vote for MORE? How about race? Do black teachers vote Unity the way they voted for Hillary? I would bet yes -- the heavy  districts with a lot of black teachers like Brooklyn's Dist 13, 16, 17 and Harlem's Dist. 5. There is also the factor that many of the CLs in these districts are black and also in Unity.  And many are older which fits the Hillary demographic. Younger black teachers may be Bernie supporters and might connect to MORE.

Well, that is it for this pre-election analysis. The count is at the AAA headquarters which is surprising as in the past they rented a hotel with lots of space. Leroy Barr is usually there repping Unity - which  is a conflict of interest since AAA reports to him and asks him for directions. Mulgrew won't be there but expect Portelos and Jia Lee -- hey maybe Portelos can finally get that debate.


  1. When will we know the official results of the election? (Day and est time?)

    1. Thursday night or Friday morning. We actually get results of each division when counts are completed during the day. Thus we might know middle schools if they count them first by 11am.

  2. I certainly hope that the result tomorrow is gains for the slate in the HS executive board seats.

    I also hope that MORE/NA will conduct a full post-election assessment that doesn't simply ratify everyone's pre-election inclinations if the vote is less favorable. Meaning, that in 2019 if the slate has control of executive board seats and has used them well to raise important issues, fight again and harder. If there are no gains I hope that whoever is in power in MORE/NA will not assume, automatically, that opposition caucuses "are supposed" to run in union elections because they are such "great and effective" organizing tools.

    As I said, fingers-crossed for tomorrow. But, also, let's learn from experience, if experience is not so favorable and question deeply what opposition caucuses should do with their time, money and limited resources that advances a range of goals beyond "if there's an election, we must run."


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