Monday, December 17, 2018

UFT Election Update: I'm a Petition Consultant

UPDATE: I was accused by someone in one of the other caucuses of favoring Solidarity in this post since both New Action and MORE have experienced people who know how to petition. I reject this idea. I feel that over the past 5 election cycles I have learned a lot about petitioning from experience. In 2004 and 2007, Ira Goldfine led the effort and he is one of the smartest people I know and he came up with some new wrinkles the other caucuses weren't using. I embellished what I learned from Ira. In 2016 I ran the campaign for MORE/NA in using my system. If I do say so myself it was the most efficient petition campaign run so far and we had what we needed 10 days early and turned everything in days before they were due. (I brought in Julie Woodward, the most organized person I've every met, on the Saturday before things were due to lead the collating of the petitions - the smartest thing I did.)

So what you find below is for any caucus that is running. In fact I hope there are even more groups - all you need is 40 to run. So since there are already 3 to split the vote, why not others?

I am the self-proclaimed UFT election petition czar. Along with Ellen Fox. We ran the MORE 2013 petition campaign and the 2016 MORE/New Action campaign. We also ran the 2010 ICE petitioning. So along the way I've learned a lot of lessons. By 2016 I had the process nailed down. I'm so happy to be sitting this election out. The pressure was intense and took 6 weeks out of my life. We ran 300 candidates and a lot of trees died for us.

It is no surprise that I am getting requests for advice and despite urging a boycott of the election, I am maintaining friendly relations with all caucuses and non-caucuses associated with the UFT. So if asked I offer advice. Petitions will be available at the January 16 Delegate Assembly.

With 3 caucuses running this time, each will be running a more limited campaign with less candidates --- probably aiming for the 40 minimum needed with a bumper of 10 extra in case people get bumped. (Last time we had some people bumped - ie - not a UFT member.) If you come in with 40 and one gets bumped you don't have a slate.

Here are a few basics:
You can run all 11 officers on one petition, which needs 900 signatures. In 2013 I made the mistake of only giving this petition to the people in large schools and was pressed at the end. In 2016 I gave everyone a copy (you can make copies after you fill in all the info for the candidates). I made 100 copies and ended up with almost 3000 signatures. Any UFT member can sign. By the way -- there is only room for 60 sigs on one petition, so give people in big schools two copies.

These are positions where any UFT can sign. That includes 48 Ex Bd and the 750-800 AFT/NYSUT delegates. You need 100 sigs for each candidate. Everyone who runs should carry their own petition and the officer petition.

Divisions - Ex Bd: These are where things get complicated. Each division can only be signed by people in the division. Which means if you are working your school you cannot have a functional sign for a teacher and vice versa. So it gets complicated.

There are 4 divisions: elementary (11), middle (5), high school (7) and functional (19), which includes retirees. Each needs 100 sigs.

I set up packets for people to carry around in their schools where they could get people to sign for all the candidates running in their division. Some found that people balked at signing for people they didn't know. It is tough to get 100 sigs in your own school, so the packets was a way around by getting a lot of people to try to get 20 - 30. Our elem people carried 11 petitions plus the officer and it took a lot of time. In 2016 MORE's Dan Lupkin was the champ, not only getting 15 colleagues to run, but also coming up with about 70 signatures on all 11 petitions. And he did it in a week. That took the pressure off on the elem schools.

Middle schools are always tough because there are not as many pure middle schools. K-8 counts as elem and 6-12 as high schools. So technically  MS are 6-8 only. Only 5 petitions to carry around. In 2016 MORE's Kevin Prossen was the champ with almost 90 sigs and for New Action Greg Di Stefano came through with the Staten Island MS.

High school is easy - in big schools. Arthur Goldstein alone covered them all for all 7 candidates. I went there to help him organize the signing. We also had a packet of 19 for functionals -- this is the toughest one. Finding only non-teachers in a school. I remember we got about 20-25 in Arthur's school. Ellen Fox did major work with this packet.

Depending on the number of candidates, you will still need to hold signing parties where you invite people for pizza and petitioning.

In 2007 and 2010 ICEUFT ran massive signing parties at Murry Bergtraum HS hosted by John Elfrank. We had 50 or more people show up to sign hundreds of blank petitions. These are tricky to organize, so be careful here. Ira Goldfine had the brilliant idea to get people to agree to sign in advance and we printed their name, school and file # on a master and then made hundreds of copies. All they had to do at the signing parties was sign their names 2-300 times next to their printed name. Took very little time - considering.

Well, good luck everyone. Have fun. I know I am.


  1. James, I wish you had allowed comments on your final post. I bet you might have been pleasantly surprised by the love and admiration for everything you have done over the years. I still hope to meet you one day and shake your hand. I had the pleasure of a nice lunch with Norm once back in 2016. I was honored to have my name on the ballot for MORE. Although, not an official ICE member I always sort of thought of myself as one. My own little delusion, but one I was proud of. I delivered most of my school for MORE. I wish you all the best in what ever you endeavor to do. I do play golf, so maybe one day we'll play.

  2. UMG- You have been one of the most loyal voices of the opposition for a long time. It was an honor to have you run with MORE in 2016. MORE's recent decision on running a limited campaign basically cuts supporters like you off. That is the tragedy of the way the faction in charge has decided to run the caucus. I used you as an example recently in conversations with some of the leaders of MORE and how their narrowing of MORE has disrupted the opposition to Unity. Deaf ears. Like Unity.

  3. Thank you. You are very kind. I always wished I could have done more. It's really sad how things have disintegrated. It pretty much guarantees a 100% Unity circus at the Executive Board. With out any opposition EB will become an even bigger farce than it is. Just my opinion, but I don't think Paternity Leave would have happened or anything else of value if not for those 7 thorns in their side. Those 7 witnesses forced them to at least pretend to have an agenda.


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