Thursday, February 4, 2010

UFT Election Back Stories

Gotham Schools' Anna Philips has a report on the upcoming UFT elections (ballots go out March 7 and must be returned by April 6 - count is April 7 and is open to UFT members). I left a comment.

The reason Randi got 74% in her first election was that New Action, the main opposition at the time, was still a force and able to pull a quarter of the votes. Now they have sunk to below 10%, with many of those coming from retirees.

For a comparison of voting patterns over the lst few elections, see a spreadsheet we prepared 3 years ago at

You wiil note that Randi's % dropped in 2007, but her vote total really dropped from 42,000 to 35,000 between 2004 and 2007 while the number of retirees voting for Unity remained constant at over 18,000 votes. Can it be that half if Unity's votes come from retirees? It's late and my eyes are bleary. But here's the skinny on the HS vote.

Elaborating on the high school executive board seats and why they are up for contention:

First of all, our 6 great candidates.

From ICE
Arthur Goldstein, CL of Francis Lewis HS, who you all know very well from his writings on Gotham.

Michael Fiorillo, former CL and current delegate from Newcomers HS who has also commented very astutely on many issues at Gotham.

John Lawhead, CL of Tilden, a soon to be closed school. John used to be at Bushwick HS which also was closed, so he is an expert on the politics of closing schools. He is also has been an expert on the high stakes testing issue for many years and has taught many of us in ICE the implications of the high stakes testing game.

From TJC
Kit Wainer, CL from Leon Goldstein HS, who headed the ICE-TJC slate in 2007. Kit has been a long-time activist and is one of the founders of TJC.

Marian Swerdlow, FDR HS, also a long-time activist in UFT politics and a former delegate.

Peter Lamphere, CL of Bronx HS of Science, who has been active for many years.

Some facts about this particular piece of the election

These 6 high school seats have been Unity's problem for over 20 years (the high school vote always split around 50/50), as they consistently lost them to the opposition, which used to be New Action.

But in 2003/4 New Action started making deals with Randi - they wouldn't run against her if she wouldn't run Unity candidates for these 6 seats, thus ceding them to New Action. Many New Action members also got part-time jobs at the UFT.

This dirty deal led to the formation of ICE (many from the Education Notes circle) for the 2004 elections and an alliance with TJC, which had been around for a decade but had never run in an election before 2003. Both groups had a lot to learn and had to build a new infrastructure from scratch.

With Unity not running candidates for these seats, the direct confrontation with New Action led to ICE-TJC winning those seats, which placed people like Jeff Kaufman and James Eterno (who has been on the EB as a New Action rep but left them over the Unity deal) on the EB. As someone who had been attending the EB meetings for a while, they brought a breath of fresh air to the meetings over their 3 years on the board, forcing Unity to address many issues, including the rubber room (Kaufman's short trip to the RR as an Ex Bd member made some headlines and his experience there and support for his colleagues, plus his legal background, brought many issues into the light.) Their voices were loud and strong in fighting the disastrous 2005 contract.

In order to still these voices, in 2007 Unity guaranteed New Action 3 of the HS EB seats by co-endorsing - which means a Unity vote counted for New Action- and took 3 seats for themselves. ICE-TJC got 36% of the vote and could not top the combined New Action (12%) /Unity (51%) totals, though ICE-TJC outpolled New Action in every division of the union except retirees. (Since New Action sold out their vote totals have dropped consistently amongst working teachers from the mid 20% to single digits in 2007). To make it clearer. New Action got 3 HS EB seats while getting only 521 votes while ICE-TJC received over 1500 votes and got no seats. UFT democracy inaction.

You can see a vote comparison of the 2004 and 2007 elections at

New Action also received 5 additional EB seats for a total of 8 as a reward for keeping the independent voices of ICE-TJC off the Board.

We assume that a similar deal will be in operation in this election. If ICE-TJC can increase its vote in the HS to 50%, not an impossibility given the conditions, then the 6 people mentioned above, although an extreme minority out of 89 EB seats, would serve on the Board and give voice to a large group of disenfranchised teachers, paras, secretaries, etc.

And it would further drive a stake through the heart of New Action's bogus claims to be an opposition. If they lose, will it threaten their jobs at the UFT? Probably not, but if you detect an air of desperation on the part of New Action, you know why. Unity will probably offer a similar deal like last time and hand them additional seats in order to make phony claims of bi-partisanship. If ICE-TJC does win these seats, just watch New Action EB members line up on most votes with Unity.

Unlike ICE/GEM people, New Action has been absent from the line of fire of closing schools and charter school invasions (they supported the UFT charter school invasion of 2 public schools in East NY). Will the rank and file be aware of these differences? While the word has been out about New Action to some areas of the UFT, we theorize that a batch of New Action votes come from people who still believe they are the old New Action.

You can follow the UFT elections at the new ICE blog:

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