Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Everything you wanted to know about UFT Elections (Part 3): How Unity Stacks the Deck - What can be done to break the stanglehold? - Norms Magnus Opus

Hi Norm - I'm a former chapter leader and recently elected UFT
I want to be a part of a movement to defeat the Unity Caucus in 2022. As a former member of Unity I see it is clearly a cult and it is so important to defeat them.... 
from a contact from UFT Delegate Assemblies.

In UFT elections, if the overwhelming majority of  70,000 classroom teachers were to vote against Unity Caucus, they would only win 23 out of 100 Executive Board and zero officer positions. And therein lies the essence of "democracy" in the UFT.

At-Large block voting—also known as the “plurality-At-Large voting method[1]—has been called the oldest trick in the book.... the web

Oy! Another election - at my age? After being deeply involved in the 04, 07, 10, 13, 16 elections? I missed the 19 election (thankfully) after the MORE Caucus purged me (double thanks, I didn't need the drama.)

This guy is right about the Unity cult but actually defeat Unity?  While there are some intriguing new possibilities for the 2022 UFT election, the first step is to understand how the process works and the enormous obstacles the anti-Unity forces face. So let's do a deep dive on the process for today's post and explore elections possibilities in follow-up posts. First -- the appetizer, which explains a lot:

Sept. 1, 2021
Good afternoon. Welcome to the September 1 jitters - and joy for retirees.

The UFT is a democratic organization --- isn't it?  

There are elections every three years (it used to be every year in the early 60s, then every two years through 2001) and the majority winner has been Unity Caucus since 1962. That is democracy. But there's democracy and there's "democracy." Let me 'splain. 

First, some basic facts:

UFT membership breakdown (all numbers approximate):

In-Service Total: 115-120,000

Classroom teachers: 70,000  

    Elementary (includes k-8): 37,000

    Middle (6-8 grades): 12,000

    HS (9-12 and 6-12): 20,000

Functional chapters - Support - Paras, secretaries, guidance, soc workers, OT/PT, attendance, home bound, speech etc. --- include non-school based teachers. etc): 45,000

Retirees are also considered functional: So add 70,000 to the 45,000- In elections, 24,000 votes are allowed and fractionalized if there more vote but in recent elections 23-24000 have voted. 
Total UFT membership: Over 185,000
If Unity wins 80% of the vote how can the UFT be undemocratic?
The Don't Give a Crap Caucus
Less than 30% vote, with retirees having the highest returns, over 40%. Over 70%of working UFT members are in the DGAC - Don't Give a Crap Caucus. A key to seriously challenging Unity is to make them give a crap.
But let's face facts: Unity gets almost 80% of those who do vote, with only high schools breaking around 50-50. How can we be critical of the leadership on democratic grounds? Maybe it's the failure of the groups opposed to Unity? They never take blame and only point fingers, which should be pointed at themselves.

But let's examine the ways the UFT is not democratic and in future posts lay out what the opposition could do to create more democracy since actually winning an entire elections is almost not possible.

Read parts1 and 2 of this series that will go on through infinity - or at least through the final outcome of the UFT/2022 election ending in May.
At-Large Elections - A key to Unity Caucus control -
The Bias of At-Large Elections: How it Works

“The Oldest Trick in the Book”

If you want to rig a local election, there’s an easier way than stuffing a ballot box, gerrymandering a district, or amassing a campaign war chest to scare off challengers. Have your city or county adopt winner-take-all “At-Large” voting, where, instead of using districts, all or most council or school committee candidates must run “at large, city or countywide.

At-Large block voting—also known as the “plurality-At-Large voting method[1]—has been called the oldest trick in the book.[2] Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg cited this method, along racial gerrymandering, as a preeminent second-generation way to deny equal opportunity for minority voters and candidates.

Congress has banned At-Large voting for all federal elections. It’s been discarded by most states. No voting method has been subject to more litigation for its discriminatory impact on local elections. Yet, while the covers are off the discriminatory impact and intent of At-Large voting, it persists in hundreds of local jurisdictions....
 Read more about at large voting

I will leave the "What can be done to break the Unity stanglehold, if anything?" to Parts 4 or 5- First let's understand how the UFT election game works.

How UFT elections work

General elections every 3 years. Next, spring 2022

Officers (12) - President, Secretary, Treasurer, and including VPs for elementary, middle and high schools. All voted for at-large - which includes retirees.*
* Until 1994, the 3 divisional VPs - elem, ms, hs - were elected by classroom teacher votes only from their division, not at-large (all union members). When Unity lost the HSVP in 1985, they changed the rules to at-large in 1994 to prevent that from happening again. 
Why is this important? Because retirees don't vote in elem, ms and hs and until 1995 they also didn't vote for the VP of each division, now, not only retirees, but every UFT member decides on the HS. MS, El Veep who are part of the 12 officers. This assures Unity total control of the Adcom, which runs the entire union. 
*** - only teachers in the schools vote for the three division VPs -- non-teachers in schools vote as functional.
Exec Bd (100 members, including the 12 officers):
The Ex Bd is a rubber stamp - it meets every 2 weeks, usually on Monday's at  PM and is open to all UFT members. It doesn't have to be a complete rubber stamp if opposition win enough seats to push back.

Just think - even with Unity dominance they still make 12% of the Ex Bd the officers. 
What about the other 88 members? How are they apportioned?

Remember this point that --- if the 70k classroom teachers were to vote against Unity, even if overwhelmingly - say 70% - they would  not even have a quarter of the Ex Bd seats, which are apportioned this way:
At large Ex Bd - 45 - add the 12 officers and Unity is guaranteed 57 EB seats, a clear majority.
Non- At-Large Ex Bd seats -- 43
Elementary: 11   Middle School: 5   High Schools: 7 - total 23
These are the most winnable positions because they are not at-large and retirees don't vote.
Functional chapters: 20  - Support personnel - a bastion of Unity support (until recently).  Retirees are part of the functional chapter and can run for these ex bd seats.

 In essence, the functional chapter functions as at-large by lumoing all the chapters together instead of each chapter getting a seat on the board. Thus, add these 20 to the 57 and you get 77, leaving only 23 winnable EB seats. In a future post I will lay out how to win these seats and posit how doing so would be a major cataclysm for Unity even it they are a minority -- it would demonstate the leadership has lost the classroom teachers.
Retiree vote
The general election is riddled with at-large voting to assure Unity Caucus of control. And a key is that retirees vote for most positions: all officers and the majority of Ex Bd seats.

There are 70,000 retirees, though the current limit is 24 thousand that count - that limit has been raised over the years and often accounts for well over 40% of the total vote.
AFT/NYSUT Delegates: 750-800
I didn't mention this category in UFT elections but it is a key to controling the state and national unions, as winner take all gives Unity all of them and is a major perk of joining Unity. If the opposition were to get 49% of the vote it would get no delegates. 

The Delegate Assembly (about 4000 members) and Chapter elections - every 3 years -- last one just ended - next 2024.
In some ways these elections are more important than the general elections as a way to challenge Unity control. The general UFT elections have no direct impact on what is termed the chief democratic body of the UFT -- the DA, which consists of all chapter leaders from the schools and functional chapters -- there are supposedly around 1800 - and school and functional based delegates in a 60-1 ratio -- Unity pushed its members to run for these positions as a way to control the DA. The retiree chapter alone gets 300 delegates winner take all Unity delegates and they play an important role. In the recent election Retiree Advocate received 30% of the vote and no delegates. Imagine how retired UFT opposition activists could bring their experience to delegate assemblies. 

Generally, no more than 700 show up, mostly Unity Caucus, with a handful of opposition people.
These elections are important because if the opposition ever could elect a few hundred and they acted together, they could begin to take some control over the Delegate Assembly -- though if they ever got close, Unity would change the rules. 
MORE claims to have elected 100 and other groups also elected people -- if they all work together --- rather than each caucus use the DA to focus on its own caucus building -- there could be an impact to counter Unity dominance of the DA. Caucus hegemony has been one of the major obstacles to mounting an effective opposition.
We will know where things stand at the first DA of this new 3 year cycle in October. Meeting in person is a threat to Unity so don't be shocked to see the leadership use the pandemic as an excuse to move that meeting to Zoom, while at the same time advocating for teacher to go into classrooms.

More to come on where things stand in forming a united front, the only way to challenge Unity. Here are a few previous posts:

The United Front: Retiree Advocate/UFT brings frie...

Retiree Advocate/UFT Caucus joins call for United ...

UFT Elections  ICE/UFT meeting calls for united front...

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