Sunday, May 24, 2015

UFT Election Analysis (2001): How New Action Did in the Past - Ed Notes Redux, April 2001

In 1999, 33% (10,391) of active members voted for opposition candidates. In 2001, that went down to 30% (10,474)... Marian Swerdlow 2001 election analysis in Ed Notes, April, 2001.
MORE is going to use some of its summer series to address UFT elections, past present and future.  I thought I would start getting into the debate ASAP.

Even before New Action made its dirty deal with Unity, some people had their knives out for the way NA did business. I was one of these people.

Ed Notes published a preliminary analysis by then FDR HS Delegate (now chapter leader) Marian Swerdlow of Teachers for a Just Contract in April 2001 right after the UFT elections, the last election that New Action ran independent of Unity support. And the last time they ran their own candidate for president, someone not named Weingarten or Mulgrew.
34% of the votes in the election were cast by retirees in 2001 -- in 2013 the retiree faction was up to 52% of votes cast.
Marian came back for the May 2001 edition of Ed Notes with a follow up. Both are included below, along with my own Ed Notes report card grading of New Action (Marian was kinder than I was).

(I published Marian whenever she would let me because she often had some of the sharpest analysis of the issues.) 

The opposition Caucuses (New Action and PAC) received 11,400 and 1,300 votes in 2001, slightly more than in 1999, but Marian's analysis points to an erosion of support. I believe the 01 election results and the prospect of further erosion in 2004 is what made NA susceptiblt to Randi's offer to make a deal in 2004, 7, 10 and 13 and I would bet in 16 too.

I refered to the first Serdlow article 6 years later after another New Action election sell-out to Randi and Unity Caucus - Is New Action Really a Caucus? -- in an Ed Notes Dec. 14, 2007 blog post.

Check them out, given some of the recent talk (New Action, Positioning Itself for UFT 2016 Elections and here) about the role New Action plays as a Unity stalking horse.

Anyway, back to Marian's excellent analysis - and my report card for New Action, in the April and May 2001 editions of Ed Notes.

UFT Election Analysis: How New Action Did in the Past 

April, 2001 edition of Education Notes (hard copy)

(as of April 8, 2001)

by Marian Swerdlow
UFT Delegate FDR High School
member, Teachers for a Just Contract/Class Action

The opinions expressed are those of Marian Swerdlow and do not necessarily reflect those of other members of TJC or Class Action.

Some of the results of the 2001 UFT election are now available, and we can compare them to the results in the last election in 1999.
Total number of members:
1999: 135,452 2001: 145,431
Total number of votes:
1999: 47,995 (34%) 2001: 53,385 (38%)
Votes for Weingarten (Unity):
1999: 35,596 (74.2%) 2001: 40,636 (76.6%)
Votes for Shulman (New Action):
1999: 11,366 (23.7%) 2001: 11,411 (21.1%)
Votes for Macklin (01) and Pessin (99) (PAC:
1999: 1,033 (2.1%) 2001: 1,338 (2.3%)

New Action won back all six high school executive board seats it won in the last election.

A little analysis: We can see that New Action did not lose any absolute support to either Unity or Progressive Action. In absolute numbers, Shulman lost fewer than fifty votes. What happened was that Unity gained in absolute numbers, hence its increased percentage. We may have a better idea where that increase in absolute numbers came from when we see some of the results by divisions. We also see that the membership of the union grew considerably, by about 10,000 members (around 7%). The fact that new hires continue to enter the workplace, while retirees continue to vote in union elections, accounts for some of this increase, although the information is not available to tell how much.

Some personal opinion: There is enough blame to go around for these shameful results. It may be tempting for some to blame New Action. They did run a campaign that was too brief, desultory, and unimaginative. I would argue, however, that they ran the best campaign their activist base permitted. Which leads to the question of why their activist base is so inadequate for the job of challenging Unity effectively.

New Action certainly has not strenuously reached out to attract activists. In fact, it makes it difficult for new people to get involved in New Action. They don't make it as easy as possible to contact them, they don't advertise their meetings and they don't have open meetings. They don't have activities for activists to get involved in, or to do in their chapters. The main activity they offer to activists is putting literature in mailboxes. Not the way to build leadership.

On the other hand, even if they did everything possible to attract, involve and develop activists, it is by no means clear they would be successful. The membership has grown dependent on being told what to do from above. If the leadership calls a rally at City Hall, they will show up in heartening numbers. But they have no initiative, no desire to organize themselves. They may want things to happen, but they don't want to be the ones to make them happen. That is not the fault of New Action. Nor is it patently clear New Action, or anyone, could change that. But New Action has done little or nothing to try.

New Action has approached this election, as every other, with the assumption that Unity was its best organizer, that by its failures, Unity would convince people to vote for New Action. Some New Action leaders felt that taking place as it did in our fourth month without a contract, they would increase their share of votes in this election. That did not turn out to be the case. The reason may be that the membership has grown accustomed to working without a contract: we have worked almost one-third of the last ten years under expired contracts. It is no longer something extraordinary. We have diminished expectations. I think the members accept Weingarten's argument that the best thing to do is to wait out Giuliani. The alternative is militancy, and most members don't accept that alternative.
Editor's Note, Apr. 2001 -

Ed. Note: Rumors that New Action is blaming its defeat on criticisms leveled at them by Ed. Notes have not been confirmed. We do know that they will NOT change the way they do things, no matter what the outcome of elections. See next issue for more analysis.
Some further analysis of the 2001 vote 
by Marian Swerdlow
Published in Education Notes, May 2001.

Further analysis shows that even if we look only at active members, the opposition slates lost overwhelmingly, and showed a loss of relative support.

Retiree votes-Weingarten: 16,067 (87.5%) ,  

Non-retiree votes -NA/PAC 2,275 (12.5%)  
Active votes- Weingarten: 24,569 (70%),  
Non-active votes- NA/PAC 10,474 (30%)  
Even among active members, Weingarten won overwhelmingly. However, 34% of the votes in the election were cast by retirees. Weingarten received almost 39.5% of her support from retir- ees. The opposition received only 17.8% of their support from retirees. 

Compared with 1999:
In 1999, 33% (10,391) of active members voted for opposition candidates.
In 2001, that went down to 30% (10,474).

The opposition lost relative support but not absolute support among active members. Weingarten gained both absolute and relative support among active members. In other words, the increase in the number of both retirees and active members voting went almost completely and entirely to Unity's benefit. 

In 2001, Weingarten received an additional 1,252 retiree votes, and an additional 3,788 votes from active members. The opposition received an additional 267 votes from retirees, and an additional 83 votes from active members. 

Marian Swerdlow, Teachers for a Just Contract
These views are Marian’s and do not necessarily represent TJC

New Action Post 2001 Election Report Card 
 by Norm Scott
Plays well with others U
It was incumbent for New Action to reach out to Progressive Action & Teachers for A Just Contract/Class Action. TJC had shown it could de- liver 75 people to demo in front of UFT headquarters. Ed. Notes started asking non New Action opposition people back in November whether they had been approached by NA about a joint election campaign. The answer was NO! I spoke to Marc Pessin of PAC in Dec. and asked if NA had contacted him about elections and he didn’t even realize there were elec- tions. Yet he was able to mount and run a campaign on such late notice. 

Regular newsletter U
A serious caucus needs a regular consistent voice that does more than have biographies of their Exec. Bd. members or have short punchy statements. Clearly, the membership needs some convincing arguments to vote an op- position into power. NA literature does not go into depth on the issues. One recent leaflet used only one side of a page and it had little more than slo- gans. When questioned about why waste an entire side of a page (Ed. Notes has to scramble for every inch) the response was: this is easier for people to reproduce for their schools. You could just see people running to their copy machines to get that one out. 

Quality of literature D
See above 

Way to run an election campaign D
No election literature out until February. The campaign should have started 2 years ago.

Level of activity of caucus: D
Where are those over 700 people who ran? Where are they at the Delegate Assembly? Where are the chapter resolutions? 

Executive Board Meetings: C
NA Exec. Bd members often seem overmatched. They try initiatives and then drop them. Their questions are often mere responses to Unity. They don’t pick up on contradictions in leadership positions which could then be used in future literature. It is frustrating to watch NA miss numerous oppor- tunities at these meetings. Witness our consistent campaign and exposure of the weaknesses of Weingarten’s position on school-wide merit pay. 

Graciousness in losing A
In a lovely leaflet distributed at the April DA, NA congratulated Weingarten on her victory and promised to work together in a spirit of Unity. I would have started the next election campaign. OK, it’s 3 years away, but I believe in early starts. I also believe in total war, no holds barred. 

Overall D
NA seems content to be the main opposition rather than forming a united front and engaging in an all-out fight against Unity. They certainly lack the militancy and activism of other groups. Not a week goes by that emails and phone calls go out from PAC announcing meetings and forums around the issue they are interested in. They have gone to court for unlicensed teachers and hold demos when needed. Yet NA considers them failures because of their low vote count. TJC pulled 75 people to a demo at UFT headquarters in Nov. and they are currently leading a fight against merit pay. And of course Ed. Notes, though not strictly an opposition party, has pushed the limits of what 1 person can do in being critical of the union leadership. 

New Action Goes CURR
The non-Unity active membership has declared New Action a CURR (Caucus Under Registration Review). In dropping from 31 to 21% of the vote in 10 years ( a 32% decline) New Action has clearly failed to meet the standards. If there is no improvement in the next election, New Action will be closed and reorganized into a debating society.

Ed. Note: Unity’s share of the vote has grown from 69% in 1991. New Action received 31% in ‘’91, 24% in ‘99, 21% in ‘’01. Despite this steady erosion, NA has made few changes in strategy or tactics. Circumstances may be beyond their control, as Marian Swerdlow pointed out in our March edition. Randy Weingarten’s incredible abilities as a politician cannot be overlooked. She has an ability to reach out to people and make them think she feels their pain (sound familiar?). And she never stops working. (NA attacks about the salary she makes were rediculous.) So what’s an opposition to do? Stay tuned for the fall edition of Ed. Notes for some ideas.

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