Sunday, February 25, 2007

How Unity Uses At-large Voting to Control the UFT

UFT Election Notes - Feb. 25, 2007

Statistics (rough):
80,000 teachers in schools.
20,000 non-teachers (paras, secretaries, social workers, guidance, nurses, etc.)
55,000 retirees
Total: 155,000 members

If you break down the UFT election into categories, you can see the inherent lack of democracy built into the system. All 11 officer positions are voted on at-large — the entire membership, which includes 55,000 retirees. Even the divisional Vice Presidents -- elementary, high school, middle schools and vocational schools - are included. They used to be voted on only by their division but Unity changed the rules to assure they will never be threatened with having even one opposition member on the AdCom (Administrative Committee.) All 11 officers are also members of the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly.

Using at-large voting is the key to control, since retirees make up 1/3 of the union membership and vote overwhelmingly for Unity.

What about the other 78 members of the Executive Board?

42 members are also elected at-large. So far, 53 (42 + 11) for Unity.

14 functional (non-teachers, including retirees) are as good as at-large: make the total 67.

The 22 remaining members of the EB come from the 80,000 teachers actually working in the schools: Elem (11), Mid Schl (5), HS (6).

So let's say the majority of people actually teaching in the schools vote for ICE-TJC. Let's take an extreme case and say 75%- around 60,000 teachers vote to elect ICE-TJC in these three divisions. That would give the representatives of the 80,000 teachers in the schools only 22 out of 89 seats on the Executive Board, leaving Unity with over 75% of the EB seats.

If this scenario ever occurs (even with a 51% majority), the opposition would have a very good case to make with the members that there must be fundamental change in the constitution that can allow such blatant manipulation. We can guarantee Unity will respond in ways to try to maintain control. One way is to dilute the % of working teachers in the UFT by adding nurses, home workers, etc., a process that is already in the works. Thus, the United Federation of Teachers may one day be a union where teachers are a minority.

Unity Caucus will organize banana pickers to solidfy its reputation as running the biggest banana republic in North America.

So far, the opposition has been able to win the 6 high school seats on a fairly consistent basis and once won the middle schools. They have never gotten close in the elementary schools. When New Action, which had been winning these high school seats went over to the dark side and joined with Unity in the 2004 elections, that spurred TJC become active in elections for the first time, while leading to the formation of ICE in response to the New Action sell-out. The result was that the ICE-TJC high school candidates defeated New Action.

But holding 83 out of 89 seats is not enough control for Unity. This time they are endorsing the New Action candidates for high school Ex. Bd. so that a vote for the Unity or the New Action slates will count as a vote for the New Action candidates. If they win in the high schools there will be no ICE-TJC members of the Executive Board. In addition, Unity has guaranteed New Action at least 5 seats on the Board by running 5 New Action candidates at-large.

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That is why it is so important for high school teachers in particular to vote the ICE-TJC slate (DO NOT VOTE ONLY FOR INDIVIDUALS). The six ICE-TJC people running have a lot of experience as part of the opposition to Unity for many years.

James Eterno (Current EB member, and a member for many years, CL Jamaica HS)
Jeff Kaufman (Current EB member, CL Rikers)
Peter Lamphere (Teacher at Bronx High School of Science, former Delegate. Columbus HS)
Sam Lazarus (CL at Bryant HS and the instigator of the Region 4 rally against Reyes Irizzary.)
Nick Licari (CL at Norman Thomas HS for many years, TJC Pres candidate in 2004)
Marian Swerdlow (Del, FDR HS and active in the opposition for 15 years.)

(More extensive biographies will be posted soon.)

Election these 6 people to the Executive Board will preserve some vestige of representation for opposition voices to Unity.

A list of ICE-TJC candidates for officer and executive board can be found at

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