(I will be sending updates based on rough batch counts to the MORE and ICE listserves but probably won't be able to post on ed notes unless I find wi-fi access.)
Yesterday, Ellen Fox and I spent a few hours at the AAA a few blocks north of UFT HQ in a chilly below ground room "observing" the vote count for MORE - through a glass window. I observed people opening envelopes and putting ballots in piles. (See photo for my view).
|Our view of the vote count -|
As of Monday morning, 72,000 ballots had been received with more school packages coming in all day - Tuesday morning would be the last pickup -- ballots had to be postmarked as of 4PM last Friday. 106,000 ballots had been sent out, representing the total number of UFT members employed in the public schools.
Leroy Barr (who left at noon to go to the UFT retiree dinner at the NY Hilton to eat the rubber chicken) and Chief Financial Officer David Hickey were also present - not as observers for Unity Caucus but as UFT officials. I know, they are basically one and the same thing. AAA is hired by the UFT and are issued instructions by the UFT. You'll see why I make this distinction.
We had some fruitful conversations out of the line of caucus politics --
Here is the way the process works. Sunday and Monday the envelopes from the schools were opened. The names on the ballots inside were matched to the names on the enclosed printout that teachers signed when they voted in the schools. The instruction sheet to CLs noted: The printout is essential for the American Arbitration Association to verify the ballots. Note this was in bold.
An AAA official came into the room and asked Leroy what to do about the packages that did not include the printout. Up to that point, the process was like watching paint dry. Hearing this news, my ears perked up. I asked "How many schools, which ones are they, how can those votes be valid if not verified through this process?"
I asked for the list of those schools. Leroy said "No." He mentioned the blogs (UFT Leaders seem obsessed with the blogs as NYC Educator has been pointing out -
The official said up to that point it was about 30 schools without printouts but since some large schools had sent in more than one package the printout could be in one of the other packages. Plus the UFT had provided duplicate (unsigned) printouts for them to check. "Not good enough," I said. "What if a CL didn't hold a vote at all and just filled out all the ballots on their own?" Shouldn't the ballots be put aside while an effort was made to contact the CL and try to get those printouts?
"Too late," the AAA official said. "We didn't get any instructions from the UFT to do that." Meaning: those ballots had already been dumped into the general tool.
Clearly an oversight I believed, but my paranoia did kick in. "Can't someone protest the election and go to PERB since these ballots were not verified given the essential printout was not included?" Thus began an interesting dance of sorts between the 4 of us that led to a wider range discussion of elections. But first to settle this one -- we asked that CLs at these schools be contacted ASAP to get them to make those missing printouts available - and Leroy and David immediately set that in motion. I don't know the outcome but I certainly wouldn't mind seeing that they came in, even after the vote.
Now it was only 30 schools and I don't believe CLs could really get away with not holding the vote and voting for everyone themselves and Ellen and I did point out that it could be any CLs - even MORE people - and that we should hold them accountable for following the rules - especially if a decision is made to hold the 2016 UFT elections in the schools instead of the usual mail to homes process.
Some of us support such a move because we think there will be a much bigger turnout in the general election if people vote in the schools.
School by school outcomes?
I asked Leroy why we can't get a school by school vote total? That wouldn't be a hard thing to do in this case. Just take the ballots out of the school envelope and put them in the machine -- and Voila - Leroy didn't seem interested - it was too late this time -- but I argued that the UFT as a whole would benefit -- which schools with older/younger/other factors voted which way? Leroy brought up the privacy issue. I argued that it was still a secret ballot - individuals wouldn't be identified -- just the school as a whole outcome.
I didn't think I convinced him - but I think that if we have in school voting in the future we should fight for school by school outcomes in the name of transparency.
Ellen brought up online voting for the 2016 elections. David pointed to the complexity of the UFT election ballot where different people vote for different divisions. I suggested we rewrite the constitution to make it simpler -- each caucus gets a proportion of the Ex Bd and AFT/NYSUT based on percentage of total votes. And I happen to have a rewritten constitution in my pocket. There was just a bit of laughter at my idea.
I was freezing down there and had to get out in the sun- so I took a walk and got some lunch. When I got back the paint was still drying and I questioned myself as to why I bothered coming -- but MOREistas wanted someone there.
David Hickey and Ellen were still there, and surprisingly, still awake. I learned that there are a number of color coded ballots - I think they said 16 or 17, each voted on by its own group - like Secretaries, paras, etch. What if one of them turned the contract down? The UFT would have to go back to the bargaining table and the leadership seems to have some concern they will turn this down.
Leroy was expected back at 3PM and they were staying till 9 and coming back at 8AM today -- so I better get my ass down there.
Ellen was hanging out 'till the 6PM Exec Bd meeting for the free meal. Ellen, a former Ex Bd member when she was in New Action, is an EB junkie.
I headed home to do some gardening.
I'm off to another day of drudgery. I will have to take a break to get into the sunshine and head over to visit my pal Sally Lee of Teachers Unite, whose office is nearby.
Hmmm - I bet she has wifi.