Sunday, April 28, 2013

Revised (Corrected) Update: UFT's MORE Caucus Wins the Moral Victory

MORE (Movement of Rank and File Educators) Bests New Action 2 to 1, Taking New Position as #2 Caucus, across a few divisional levels.
Considering the brazen negligence of the union to emphasize the United Federation of Teachers election, what with the buttons and posters for the municipal elections while keeping the union election on the hush-hush, this is a relative victory for the new MORE caucus.
Also, the union, cynically knowing that it has a lock on the retiree vote, rigged the rules to allow the retirees to have greater power.
An interesting question is how many unions allow their retirees to vote?

* * *
It is very telling how the Unity capitalizes on voter alienation, demobilization and simple apathy; yet in spite of all this, MORE bested New Action. The most striking voting result feature is that Unity won a minority plurality (45 percent) at the high school level. Translation: at the high school level, a majority oppose the Unity leadership.
The stark facts as reported at the ICE-UFT blog:
Here are the slate numbers for the 2013 and 2010 elections.

2013 High Schools Ballots Returned: 3808 Votes Counted: 3595
MORE: 1430 (40%) NEW ACTION: 452 (13%) UNITY: 1592 (45%)
The remainder are people who split their ballot.
2010 High Schools Votes Counted: 5203
ICE-TJC: 1369 NEW ACTION: 774 UNITY: 2595

2013 Middle Schools Ballots Returned: 1879 Votes Counted: 1875
MORE: 398 (21%) NEW ACTION: 161 (9%) UNITY: 1185 (63%)
The remainder are people who split their ballot.
2010 Middle Schools: Slate Votes Counted: 2881
ICE-TJC: 248 NEW ACTION: 421 UNITY: 1981

2013 Functionals (non teachers) Ballots Returned: 7704 Ballots Counted: 7113
MORE: 951 (13%) NEW ACTION: 754 (11%) UNITY: 5167 (73%)
The remainder are people who split their ballot.

2013 Elementary Schools Ballots Mailed: 34,163 Ballots Returned: 7331 Ballots Counted: 6870
MORE: 1140 (17%) NEW ACTION: 534 (8%) UNITY: 5111 (74%)
The remaining votes are those who split their ballot.
2010 Elementary Ballots Returned: 10,292
ICE-TJC: 703 NEW ACTION: 978 UNITY: 7337

2013 Retirees Ballots Mailed: 58,357 Ballots Returned: 22,462
MORE: 1490 (7%) NEW ACTION: 1880 (8%) UNITY: 18,155 (81%)

TOTAL SLATE VOTES, 2013: 40,400
MORE: 5409 (13.4%) NEW ACTION: 3781 (9.4%) UNITY: 31,210 (77.2%)

Something is wrong with the UFT electoral system when New Action gets only 13% of the high school votes but wins half of the UFT Executive Board seats for the high schools while MORE's 40% will get MORE no representation on the Executive Board.
It is obvious that a clear majority of the high school teachers who vote do not want a Unity monopoly on power. Had this been a traditional two party UFT election, there would be truly independent opposition representation (no Unity cross endorsement needed).
Two other stories emerge at first glance. First, the turnout was pitiful as only 43,138 ballots are being counted. More significantly, 22,462 of those votes are from retirees. That constitutes 52% of the voters. I would question if having retirees as the majority of the electorate is healthy for the union.
In addition, Mulgrew's vote will more than likely drop in a major way compared to 2010 among active UFT members. It appears many members did not vote for the opposition but they certainly didn't vote for the incumbent. For the next election, those members need to be persuaded to vote.
* * *

Before any Unity operative or any media journalist bandies about president Michael Mulgrew's apparent 84 percent victory, certain hard facts need to be acknowledged. A close examination of these facts will blow away any pretense that this election victory is any kind of victory that Unity or New Action can be proud of, let alone claim a mandate.
A crucial part of the story is that 52% of the voters in the 2013 vote were retirees, as the ICE-UFT blog, the source of the above details, attests.
(This is an essential fact that Unity caucus' press release, hosted on the UFT website, conveniently skips over.) This shows that Unity is very cynical in terms of how deeply it attempts to cultivate support among the rank and file.
--That it relies on people that are finished with the New York City educational system.
Unity cultivates the retiree bloc, touting member benefits. Yet, as an observer of the UFT scene noted three years ago, this allows Unity to ignore actual conditions of working in the classroom.

NEW ACTION GETS 9% - ANTICIPATES GETTING 18 PERCENT OF EXECUTIVE BOARD SEATS New Action, the caucus that fuses with the dominant Unity caucus, is such a bemusing entity. Sells its soul for seats at the table. It is a total cognitive disconnect, it ignores that its partner Unity brings on the train of conditions that are destroying our working conditions. Their latest blogpost acknowledges that its nine percent of the vote was a set-back. It ignores that it lost its number 2 position to MORE. Yet, due to its power sharing agreement (in exchange for not challenging president Mulgrew [Unity]) it gets executive board seats. By my math, if they are getting 10 seats out of 55 they are getting 18% of the executive board seats.

Furthermore, Unity, recognizing the huge pro-Unity skew among retired voters, and their greater proportional turnout, reconfigured the voting rules in January, 2013, to expand the pull of retired members. See this piece from Gotham Schools, this March:
Certain to make an impact are retirees, whose votes go overwhelmingly to Unity. It’s worth watching how big that impact turns out to be, since those votes have gained influence through a rule change made by the UFT this January. The total number of retirees’ votes counted had been capped at 18,000 since 1989, which meant that an individual retiree’s vote counted for less than an active member’s vote — about seven-tenths of a vote in 2010. The union raised that cap to 23,500 retiree votes in January, and because a high percentage of retirees vote, Mulgrew could potentially receive an even higher share of the votes than in 2010.
But, why the January, 2013 expansion of the retiree vote allotment? Could it be that Unity was facing a strong challenge from the MORE caucus? Note how no division other than retirees went over 74 percent for the Unity slate, yet the winning percent that Unity is able to cite is 84 percent. The retiree vote was instrumental in allowing that to reach that level.
Serving, retired 2007 2010 2013
In-service 24989 29005 20722
Retirees 22427 24978 22462
Total 47416 53983 43184
Yet, the counted retiree votes were capped at 18,000 in the 2007, 2010 elections. As Anna Phillips said, writing during in the 2010 election, the concern was that retirees could “outnumber active UFT members and effectively govern the union.” The cap was raised in January, 2013, to 23,500. (Funny how that figure was reached. 22,427 was the number of retirees voting in 2007.) Given that retirees voted at 52 percent of the total voters in 2013, for the first time in the majority of votes cast (see above table), they do now govern the union.
In March, Mulgrew went to Florida to speak at a retirees' luncheon. We imagine that if he were an in-service teacher, like Julie Cavanagh, the MORE presidential candidate, he might be inconvenienced to make a long-distance trip during a non-vacation time.

Nevertheless, this should not be a point of antagonism by progressive teachers. What we should be pointing out is that the Unity faction is collaborating with conditions that will make it far harder for teachers to have the opportunity to reach and enjoy retirement as the retirees are enjoying. Unity has ceded the narrative of education failure to the deformers. Related to this is Unity's agreeing to the quota of seven percent of teachers per year targeted for termination via unsatisfactory ratings. With all the ramped up stress that teachers are going through --that Unity is not fighting, but just counseling teachers on how to comply with the mandates that it has never questioned-- the Danielson Frameworks, the Common Core, the data binders, the increased administrator/network leaders (or consultants) harassment, it is likely that there are thousands that will quit the profession, for their physical and mental health, and thus not be able to enjoy a full UFT retirement. Progressive teachers need to find a way to reach retirees to let them know how their union has acceded to working conditions that are thoroughly nightmarish compared to what they experienced.
Division Ballots mailed Ballots returned Percentage participating in vote
High schools 19040 3808 20.0 %
Middle schools 10807 1879 17.4 %
Elementary schools 34163 7331 21.5 %
Functional, 51040 7704 15.1 %
Retirees 58357 22462 38.5 %

It is striking that that there has been a fall-off in turn-out, across the school level types.
The anemic turnout can really be cast as the doing of the Unity caucus, for the union did little to authentically get the message out that there was an election. Beyond that, before and during the election, it has kept the members in a passive alienated state, it has the president and district reps speak in a loud barking style, as though that serves the members. It does not foster mass participation; it fosters a jolted state on the part of the listener. This is how Unity likes things.
Never will you hear Unity sincerely reach out and listen to the members, as UFT ELECTIONS: A VICTORY FOR MORE," as MORE pledges to do in the next three years.
TURNOUT IN SOME OTHER RACES The turnout among the practicing teachers was pronouncedly low –even lower than the turnout of registered New York State voters in the last presidential election.
Entity Election Turnout measure Turnout rate
New York State, 2012 presidential election, general election Voting-eligible population, ballots counted turnout rate 53.6 %
Source: “2012 General Election Turnout Rates,” United States Election Project, Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University, March 25, 2013
Excerpt from April 12, 2010 piece by Rick Hess, "Voice of Classroom Teachers Stifled... By UFT Election Rules," at Education Week, April 12, 2010
What you might find surprising about the UFT election, though, was the degree to which it was dominated by people who aren't teachers. Might this help explain the UFT's focus on gold-plated health care, pensions, and employee prerogatives, even at the expense of measures to attract talent or address instructional quality?
In last week's UFT election, 28% of the 36,907 elementary teachers voted, 20% of the 11,697 middle school teachers voted, and 30% of the 19,931 high school teachers voted. The result: a total of 18,713 ballots were cast by elementary, middle, and high school teachers. (These data are all available at New York City's Education Notes Online).
Those teacher ballots were swamped by votes from retirees and "functional" teachers. What exactly is a "functional teacher," you ask? Good question. The UFT New Teacher Handbook reports that examples include "attendance teachers; guidance counselors; hearing educational services; laboratory specialists and technicians; nurses and therapists; paraprofessionals; school secretaries; social workers and psychologists; [and] speech teachers." There are 45,889 functional teachers. Twenty percent voted, yielding 10,629 ballots.
And the union's 53,560 retirees voted at a 50% rate, yielding 24,978 ballots. Now, a recent rule change diluted the impact of retiree votes so that they count "only" for about 0.7 of a standard vote. This adjustment meant that the retirees cast the equivalent of about 18,000 votes. As Anna Phillips at GothamSchools reports, active union members voted at about a 24% rate, while the 53,000 retired members voted at a rate of about twice that.
So, do the math. From classroom teachers: 18,713 votes. From nurses, lab specialists, school secretaries, and such: 10,629 votes. From retirees (after their votes were diluted): 18,000 votes. So, 60% of the votes counted were not cast by active classroom teachers. That doesn't make it easy for reformers focused on improving work conditions and pay for today or tomorrow's teachers to marshal the votes for change.
Another observer of the election scene, Mike Antonucci, addressed this skew and Mulgrew's special advantage:
The largest teacher’s union local in the nation sent out 173,407 ballots, of which 43,138 were returned (about 25%). The most interesting detail is that Mulgrew received 34,919 votes, even though only 20,722 ballots were returned by working public education employees. How is that possible? Because 22,462 ballots came back from retirees – including many from Florida, where [the] UFT has offices, and Mulgrew can visit on the union’s dime, but his challenger cannot.
Is it any wonder, then, that the NYC Educator blog penned its latest post, "The United Federation of Retired Teachers"?

UNITY NEVER DEBATED IN ANY FORUM, live or Internet-discursive
MORE has won the moral debate. MORE and its lead members have consistently expressed deep concern for the issues surrounding education today. For example, here is Julie Cavanagh's November, 2012 statement on Race to the Top. And here is a critique, April, 2013, of Unity/New Action's Mulgrew's endorsement of Race to the Top, and a lengthy piece, also this April, with a deep analysis into the profound threats to New York City teachers, and Unity's role in abetting by these threats.
Unity and New Action's leader, Michael Mulgrew, shied away from ever debating MORE's presidential candidate.
Aside from a few weakly argued posts at a pro-Unity blog, Unity never defended its atrocious record. All of that receding from engaging the issues or defending its strategic posture or record, all the while, MORE's blog and about half a dozen blogs in New York City (in fact, all teacher blogs except for one) consistently plugged for MORE.
MORE on the other hand, has had its members appear in print, radio and television media, opposing the Unity perspective of education in the couple of years prior to the election. Never did Unity's Mulgrew appear in like media and directly articulate why he takes the strategy of mass professional suicide that Unity is pursuing.

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