Thursday, March 7, 2013

A UFT Election Primer as MORE Petition Campaign Ends

Penny gives paw of approval
With the deadline to turn in petitions to get on the UFT ballot ending at 5PM yesterday (March 6) Joan Seedorf and I for MORE turned in all petitions two days early on Monday, March 4, the first caucus to do so. We assume that Unity and New Action got theirs in yesterday, so expect 3 caucuses on the ballot (there will be a drawing for the ballot order on Friday) but only 2 candidates for president as New Action tries to maintain the fiction that they are independent despite endorsing Mulgrew.

Penny signing petitions
As retirees, Ellen Fox and I, with the help of Penny, took charge of the petitioning. While Ellen controlled the collection data for the 185 MORE candidates and Penny checked out work, we devised a petition gathering strategy, making some good and some so-so decisions along the way and driving the MOREs to distraction with calls to work harder. At times I felt like the slave driver in Les Mis. We made a very good recovery after losing an important Saturday to a snow storm.

Petitioning is time consuming as teachers go around their schools asking people to sign packs of petitions so MORE could get on the ballot. Officers need 900 signatures to get on the ballot and all their names are put on one petition. All other candidates need 100 signatures each. With so many people wanting to run with MORE (we could have had a whole batch more but we didn't have the time to do all that paperwork) even as late as this past weekend, we had a strategy to cover people who decided to run too late to get their own petitions signed by holding mass signing parties where 120 people agreed to sign 200 petitions. For the officers, we had everyone in MORE carry their petitions so we could gather the 900. The campaign was so successful we got over 2000 before we told people to stop.

For the divisions we developed another strategy, asking our 11 elementary, 5 middle school and 7 high school people to carry a pack of petitions for all the others running with them in their category. This worked out extremely well and we were basically covered about 2 weeks ago.

If one wanted to take the temperature of the potential strength of MORE, viewing it solely through the lens of how the petitioning went (and the ease of recruiting people to run), and given that I played a similar role in every UFT election since 2004, this time was a relative breeze with a lot more people involved.

Will this translate into votes? 

In locations where we have people it will. A UFT election is a ground game and building that ground game is one of the benefits of the petition process and from my narrow perch, this was the most successful petitioning effort I have been part of. Over the next 6 weeks with ballots having to be returned no later than April 24, it is about getting out the vote and hitting as many schools as possible with another MORE leaflet.

The election process explained
Now we are into less than a month of campaigning before the ballots go out on April 3. So it is time to explain the process.

Let me say that I tried to do this a number of times at MORE meetings and no one seems to get my explanation. So you are excused if you don't but feel free to ask questions.

Everyone in the union gets to vote for the 12 officers, 48 at-large members of the Executive Board and over 700 delegates to the AFT/NYSUT conventions. These are termed "at-large." This is where the retiree vote becomes important as 23,500 will count this time and with over 40% of the retirees returning ballots and 85-90% voting Unity (most retirees don't feel the pain of working in the schools), before we start counting the score will roughly be: Unity around 19,000 with MORE and New Action, which still has some retirees who always voted opposition still believing NA did not sell out, splitting the rest. (Mulgrew was recently spotted in Florida retiree environs trolling for votes.)

Adding the officers to the Ex Bd and the 42 divisional positions described below makes the total EB 101 members. Understanding the voting process gives you a clue to how Unity manages to assure control of the Ex Bd and the union. In essence, only 23 of these 101 positions are elected by working teachers in the school divisions. Thus, if MORE were to win even an overwhelming vote in the schools they would get only 23 out of 101 seats on the board -- the only positions retirees do not get to vote for. Let me explain.

Different groups of teachers vote for certain sets of divisional executive board candidates. There are 4 different, color-coded ballots sent to the members, depending on which division they are in: elementary teachers get to vote for 11, middle school teachers 5 and high school teachers 7 executive candidates specific to their division. Thus the total of 23. Any non teacher in the schools (secretaries, social workers, paras, psychologists, etc are lumped all together along with retirees into a massive-sized "functional" chapter and get an entirely different ballot with 19 candidates for executive board which are in essence at-large given the retiree vote, thus stacking the executive board with 78 members who the retirees get to vote for.

All the at-large candidates appear the same way on all the ballots.

In a more perfect democratic union, the teachers in the schools, who total 70-80,000 would get the majority of seats on the board. And instead of one functional chapter lumping everyone else together, each group -- social workers, secretaries, paras, retirees would elect their own members, not as one lump sum.

But we live in a far from perfect union. Which is why I'm still trying to form a more perfect union for the last 43 years.

Well, just as Joan and I were turning in the petitions, Ellen was taking off for a 3 week jaunt in Spain. Ellen is our rep on the election committee so now this falls to me and I keep forgetting stuff. This past Saturday a small group of MOREs gathered at Gloria Brandman's (MORE candidate for VP for special ed) to collate and organize the petitions and 3 hours later we had tidy bundles. Thanks to Julie Woodward for coming down to lend her invaluable help and also to Pat and David Dobosz' daughter, a future member of MORE, for helping. Joan Seedorf was there as usual as she has been throughout the formation of MORE.


  1. Great detailed description Norm. You've explained this before and it still seems overwhelming.

    You've done a great job with this and I'm sure it will pay off.

  2. Norm, once again I believe that you are wrong when it comes to the feelings of retirees. So many of us have been forced into early retirements and/or have left the system in the past few years angry as much at the UFT as at the DoE. We want a change from the self-serving and -- dare I say it? -- outright corrupt union mucky-mucks. MORE needs to find a way to get the word out to the retirees and I KNOW that they will vote out the old. But how? Clearly the union holds all the cards and will not allow MORE, or any group they see as a threat to their status quo, to get access to the retirees.

  3. I agree that the newer retirees may vote MORE but even with access to retirees -- which is basically impossible - without sending me to Florida --the vote will be at least 75-80% Unity -- which would be a victory of sorts. Unity runs a massive retiree operation-- cheap courses, meetings, etc. Until MORE can challenge seriously at the school level there is not point in wasting resources on retirees. Win the schools and grow MORE membership into the thousands and THEN we would have the money to take on that challenge. But We also want to challenge the level of influence that are allowed to have. WE don't want to replace Unity and keep their system. So I imagine retirees will be a bit miffed at MORE's position.


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