Saturday, April 13, 2024

UFT's 3 Consequential Elections: Petitions are in and the Game is On

Saturday, April 13, 2024

The UFT holds spring chapter elections every 3 years and 2024 may turn out to be one of the more consequential elections in its over 6 decade history. 

I've always maintained that chapter elections every 3 years are more important than the officer/exec bd elections which also take place every three years, a year later than the chapter elections (spring 2025). Chapter elections can be precursors of possible weaknesses in the Unity machine. I always have hope that we will see some changes, hope that is often unfulfilled. But there are always glimmers. 

Over the past few days, petitions were turned in for 3 consequential elections taking place in the UFT: TRS, Retirees and Paras, each one with some level of future consequences for the union. But together they represent a serious challenge to the 6 decade Unity Caucus hegemony. 

TRS Election

I've been covering the unexpected election in the Teacher Retirement System, the first in 40 years, with the challenge mounted by Ben Morgenroth to the Unity candidate.  I receive the mailed petitions and they came in from schools and people I've never heard of, evidence of surprising grass roots support. The campaign committee met the other day to review the petitions before handing them in and in a short campaign there were over 1600. We needed a thousand.

There are lots of reasons to support Ben's campaign - which I elucidated the other day: Teacher Retiree System (TRS) Pension Election - Why You Should Care and Vote for Ben.

What I didn't mention was the energy and enthusiasm coming from Ben himself and how he has galvanized an election that 6 weeks ago he wasn't aware existed. I've known Ben for a few years and he has made his bones on his fantastic analysis of the horrors of Tier 6 and has placed it front and center and has spurred the leadership out of its lethargy to try to make a few modest changes to undercut the threat to them given that 55% of the members are in Tier 6. Unity will try to take credit - despite the fact they put up no opposition when Cuomo instituted Tier 6 in 2012 with Bloomberg's support. I'm guessing in their thinking they were trading off the pensions of future members in exchange for a hoped contract. 

Read James Eterno comments from 2012: 

See the Tier 6 slides prepared by Ben.

Let's face reality. The incompetent DOE is running the elections in the schools and there is no institutional memory of how to even run an election and Unity has loads of chapter leaders in the schools. But the outcome will offer an insight to how strong that Unity machine is. Leadership is very much perturbed that they even have to bother campaigning. Since we rotate the 3 pension reps every 3 years, there is an election held every year. I hope there is someone running to challenge the Unity reps every time. Make them defend their turf on every field.

Remember, retirees don't vote in this election. Someone left a comment on Ed Notes asking how functional chapters will vote in this election on May 8 and here was the response to Ben:

We have not finalized the election process yet – we are likely going through qualified members directly rather than principals to avoid the issues that you’ve mentioned below. We do not have an obligation to have the final process in place until early May – when it is finalized, we will share.
Oy! This will go well.

A tale of the two largest functional chapter elections totaling almost 100,000 UFT members

Retiree Chapter election: A win for RA over Unity would be bigger than last week's earthquake - 7.0 on union political Richter Scale
RA turned in a full slate of 300 candidates, the first time we were able to do this. Ballots go out on May 10 and we have a leaflet included, which I will share in a few days. We are handing it out at the chapter meeting this Tuesday. And party at the White Horse Tavern after.

Three years ago Retiree Advocate ran against Unity in the Unity dominated retired teacher chapter, which with its 60-70 thousand members, helps decide the general UFT election. The health care changes, which leadership tried to keep undercover before the election, had just been exposed, but too late for us to campaign on that issue. Still, we received 30% of the vote, doubling from the year before. In the general election two years ago, 27,000 retirees voted out of 52,000 votes -- that is enormous and the UFC slate received the same 30% a year after the Medicare Advantage scandal broke, a disappointment.

Can we make up the difference this time? Unity seems worried that we have a chance to win this time, which would cause cataclysmic changes in the UFT and offer an opportunity to actually topple Unity and Mulgrew in the 2025 general election - if the opposition manages to get itself together - a big IF. 
Can we close the 70-30% gap? There seems to be a bit of apprehension in the halls of Unity, and even rumors Tom Murphy may be dumped as CL. I speculated about Carmen Alvarez replacing him last month when she gave a long presentation at the March RTC meeting. (Unity has not announced its candidates as of this date, but the betting is on Murphy because Mulgrew values fealty over competence). Carmen spoke mostly about paras, which is interesting. There were rumors lasts summer that Unity was so worried about the RTC election it considered removing paras from the RTC into its own retiree chapter but that clearly hasn't happened - yet. Instead they are moving to turn the 7000 retired paras into a force for themselves by gathering their contact info and all of a sudden taking an interest in them and pushing to organize working paras in the chapter election to counter the impact of a loss in the retiree election. (See para election story below). Arthur has a great report on the March meeting:
Can we win and do we have to?
Assume a Unity loyalty vote of 16-18 thousand but add some erosion we hear from some people. Assume gains for RA over the last few years from their losses but also from new voters. Still a big gap. UFT pundits believe that even if RA doesn't win, closing the gap into a 55-45 range is still a game changer because it opens up the possibility of making up the difference in the general election a year later. Smelling a possible opposition win would shed some Unity supporters who don't want to be on a losing side.

The wild card here is Marianne Pizzatola and her massive outreach to retirees. The Chief did a big story on her the other day.
She has the outreach to mobilize UFT retirees who had not voted before, which is crucial.

UFT Paras for A Fair Contract

Fix Para Pay Now - The Para chapter election: Say What? 
An election in the para chapter? Holy Cow. Well there was one last year with 5 candidates opposing the Unity gang and two were elected. I had a report on the election: Contentious UFT Para Chapter Election - Does Unity... and some updated info here.
So Unity for the first time instituted slate voting for the para chapter, pointing to the fact that this election is almost as major for Unity as the retiree election, with 27K paras in the system. If Fix Para Pay Now slate carves out a substantial vote, that can be another major threat to Unity in the 2025 general election. 
There's a petition - the Fix Para Pay petition - going around and signed by thousands of paras -- will they be a force in this election?

Arthur has some background: Those Wacky UFT Bosses and Their Zany Antics

Let’s go to another issue—[Unity's] abysmal treatment of paraprofessionals. For one thing, Unity thinks paraprofessionals are too stupid to select their own representatives. That’s why elected members of the Unity Patronage Cult have offices and jobs. That’s why Migda Rodriguez, an elected non-Unity member, is working full-time as a paraprofessional, with no office, no time off, no UFT job, and not even a UFT email. How stupid does UFT Unity think paraprofessionals are? Last week, they butchered a resolution at Executive Board. Paraprofessionals should demand change, but not “meaningfully.” They doubled down at the Delegate Assembly, saying paras already have it pretty good, and shouldn’t bother negotiating for a living wage. However, Unity has not totally neglected the paras. Last weekend, they gave them a fancy party. And their Unity leader has now given them a handbook. Who needs a living wage when you have a party and a handbook?

More from Arthur: Paraprofessionals Need a Raise, Not a Tip

Migda has a newsletter. Read it here.

Unity is on the attack and trying to recruit 300 paras to run on their slate. We hear they are not having an easy time of it.

To summarize:

If the outcomes don't go Unity's way -- like taking a big bite out of their majority, these 3 concurrent elections represent a threat to Unity and would encourage a united opposition in 2025. If not, it may be time for some golf.



It's hard to judge where things are going at the 1800 or so schools where the chapter leader and at least one delegate from each school will be elected and can influence the delegate assembly, which is packed with Unity delegates and staffers and an big influx of delegates representing the functional chapters like retirees and paras. The caucuses are doing training for chapter leaders and delegates who want to run. But they have always done trainings and even brag about how many of their people are elected. But I go to the DA every month and the number of oppo people are very slim, though even these few can have an impact. 

And for a bonus:

Junket City

How Unity spends our dues from April Adcom:

 Motion:      To send 9 members to the National Association of School Nurses Conference on June 28-July 1, 2024 in Chicago, IL at a cost of $2,568 per person. (9x2568= 23,112)
Motion:       To send 1 member to the Early Educators Leadership Conference on October 16-19, 2024 in Washington, DC, at a cost of $3,030. (3,030)

Motion:       To send 3 members to the National Art Education Association National Convention on April 4-7, 2024 in Minneapolis, MN at a cost of $1,982 per person. (3x1,982 = 5,946)
Motion:       To send 5 members to the Coalition of Labor Union Women National Executive Board and 50th Anniversary Gala on May 8-11, 2024 in Niagara Falls at a cost of $1,461 per person. (5x1,461 = 7,305)
Motion:       To send 4 members to the IEL-National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference on May 29-31, 2024, in Atlanta, GA at a cost of $2,595 per person. (4x2595= 10,380)

total = $49,773

And this:

 Motion: To authorize up to 50 retirees to participate in the 2024 AFT Convention and retiree activities associated with the Convention.
 Let's Estimate the cost -- plane fair, hotel, meals --- let's call it 2 grand per x 50 --- $100,000.

And Jonathan reports:

UFT Welfare Fund nest egg – bigger than most nests

Do you smell the rot?

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