Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Shades of Unity Caucus: Palm Beach County Teachers Union Refuses to Recognize Newly Elected Leader

If by some miracle Jia Lee or Julie Cavanagh had managed to get more votes than Mulgrew, do we actually think Unity would have accepted that outcome? So read the story on Palm Beach (and Syracuse and remember Hawaii) where someone not connected to the organization apparatchiks wins a teacher union election and is challenged. But first a reminder of what Unity did over 30 years ago.

Back in the mid-80s, Michael Shulman, the New Action Coalition of 3 caucuses' candidate for High School VP-- this was before the current New Action formed--- actually got more high school votes than George Altomare, the Unity candidate. That would have put an opposition person on the AdCom which runs the UFT for the first time. Unity protested the election that they ran and refused to seat Shulman for 8 months, going to court to call for another election - which they got and which Shulman won again. Years later Unity changed the constitution to make the VP positions open to votes by everyone in the union - at-large voting. So the high school VP now gets votes from retirees, elementary teachers, nurses, etc.

That is why I refer to James Eterno, who got more high school votes in last year's election than Janella Hines, as the defacto HS VP.

I first noticed the Palm Beach story in a post from my friend Schoolgal in Florida where some progressive teachers were posting about this story. Then Mike Antonucci posted on EIA:

Union Election Dispute in Palm Beach County; What Else Is New?

Dateline – Palm Beach County, Florida:
Palm Beach County’s teachers union declined Monday to certify the results of its presidential election after the losing candidate called for a recount.
Results tallied Saturday showed that Park Vista High teacher Justin Katz narrowly edged out Pahokee Jr./Sr. High teacher Gordan Longhofer by 28 votes out of 1,356 cast, a 2 percent margin of victory.
…But Katz, 33, said that the company that oversaw the voting process has already handed over the ballots to union leaders, many of whom opposed Katz’s outsider campaign.
“The ballots have been in the possession of the current CTA executive director (a supporter of my opponent) since the initial, objective third-party counting this past Saturday,” Katz wrote. “The lack of security and integrity surrounding any recount, given that fact, is of great concern to me.”
…Union leaders had tried to block Katz from running, removing him from the race in January after ruling that he was ineligible because his dues lapsed in 2015 when he took family leave to care for his dying grandmother.
He was reinstated later after the state teachers union called for him to be permitted to run and said that the county union’s leaders lacked “sufficient evidence to support their position.”
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because the last election led to a takeover of the local by the Florida Education Association.

And here is the story from the Palm Beach Post

PBC teachers union won’t certify outsider’s win after opponent calls for recount
Andrew Marra



Results tallied Saturday showed that Park Vista High teacher Justin Katz narrowly edged out Pahokee Jr./Sr. High teacher Gordan Longhofer by 28 votes out of 1,356 cast, a 2 percent margin of victory.

NEW: PBC teachers union defends decision not to certify outsider’s presidential victory

But Kathi Gundlach, president of the Classroom Teachers Association said the results “are unofficial at this time.”
“A recount has been requested as the vote differential was 28 votes,” she told The Palm Beach Post in a text message Monday evening.
The union’s elections committee will meet on Wednesday, she said, and “at that time a determination will be made how to handle the requested recount.”
Katz said in a statement on Facebook Monday night that Longhofer, who is a member of the union’s board of directors, had called for the recount.
In his statement, Katz said that the union has no policy about recounts in its rules and bylaws, but that he was told that the recount was being requested due to the “closeness of vote margin.”
One problem: the company that oversaw the voting process has already handed over the ballots to union leaders, many of whom opposed Katz’s outsider campaign, Katz said.
“The ballots have been in the possession of the current CTA executive director (a supporter of my opponent) since the initial, objective third-party counting this past Saturday,” Katz wrote. “The lack of security and integrity surrounding any recount, given that fact, is of great concern to me.”
 
ORIGINAL STORY:
Palm Beach County’s public school teachers have narrowly chosen a 33-year-old high school instructor as union president, according to preliminary returns, handing the leadership role to a young newcomer to union politics who ran an outsider campaign and was initially blocked from running by union leaders.

According to unofficial results tallied on Saturday, Justin Katz, a Park Vista High School teacher who is also a Boynton Beach city commissioner, narrowly defeated Pahokee Jr./Sr. High School teacher Gordan Longhofer, according to two officials familiar with the vote tally.
The union’s board of directors will meet today to discuss the results.
Katz ran for union president as an outsider, hoping to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the county Classroom Teachers Association’s recent track record. Billing his relative youth and lack of prior union experience as assets, he vowed to bring “fresh blood and some more youthful leadership” to an organization that advocates for the county school district’s roughly 12,000 teachers.
Longhofer edged him out in a crowded field in the first round of voting but Katz pulled out a narrow victory in the runoff. Out of roughly 1,300 votes cast, Katz won by a less than 60, two people familiar with the results said.
Union leaders had tried to block Katz from running, removing him from the race in January after ruling that he was ineligible because his dues lapsed in 2015 when he took a family leave to care for his dying grandmother.
He was reinstated later, after the state teachers union called for him to be permitted to run and said that the county union’s leaders lacked “sufficient evidence to support their position.”
All told, union leaders tried to disqualify four of the eight candidates who filed to run for president. All four, including Katz, were reinstated after the state union criticized their actions.
In a message posted on Facebook Saturday, Katz expressed gratitude to his supporters. The high school government teacher, who declined to comment for this article, is believed to be one of the youngest teachers to be elected president of the county’s teachers union.
“I’d like to thank all those that ran and put in the time and energy fighting for CTA to improve moving forward,” he wrote.

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