Are there missing votes? Did deceased UFT members vote in this past election? Who traded ballots for money? These may sound like the questions of conspiracy theorists, but when our union leadership disregards transparency, and feeds skepticism, this is what happens.
There are many perks to being in charge of the UFT. You can have voting bodies, such as election committees and executive boards stacked. You have access to millions of dollars to buy votes and loyalty. See the $37 million UFT payroll. You can also disregard transparency and throw it out the window. Who is going to question you? Well, actually, we are!
These official complaints below are not about being sore losers. That’s not what this is is about. It’s about a David forcing the hand of a Goliath. We have a simple overarching mantra at UFT Solidarity – “Is there something wrong? Then let’s fix it.” We leave no stone unturned and in the end, even if we are wrong about every complaint, good.
As you know the UFT election results came out around 5PM on May 27, 2016. Despite very low member morale, low retention and increased workload, Michael Mulgrew and Unity somehow received about 5,000 more votes than they did in 2013. Solidarity had observers watch the tally at the American Association of Arbitrators (AAA), but the viewing wasn’t without issue and arguments. In fact, about seven of the sixteen complaints were launched before the results even came out.
Here’s a a quick summary with the detailed descriptions in the two files below. The process to file the complaints is to first start with the UFT. They have to respond to each one. If we are not satisfied with the decision, then at that point we take those complaints to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Once they deny or dismiss we then take it to the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL has the authority to investigate the complaints. All data, ballots etc. have to be preserved for a year, so for those of you who suspect foul play, there is still hope to at least prevent issues from transpiring again.
- Bronx Unity Chapter Leader, who is a Bronx UFT part time staffer making over $12,000 a year was allegedly giving $1 bills and water to all members at her school who gave her their ballot.A Staten Island Unity Chapter Leader was allegedly giving out UFT paraphernalia as part of another ballot collection event. It should be noted that ballot collection is frowned upon by the DOL.
- UFT Ballot Rules 2016 were changed from 2013 in that a clearer “Non-slate vote” instructions were omitted causing further confusion over voting for individuals.
- The DOL union election rules state that any candidate can pick an observer to oversee aspects of the ballot handling. This includes non union members unless the union’s constitution states otherwise. Unity prevented designated observers from viewing the collection of ballots from the post office and viewing handling of election ballots.
- Unity allegedly used union resources to email members about election while promoting only their candidates.
- Unity UFT staffers allegedly traveled to schools to discuss a US Supreme Court case and in doing so, while on union time, promoted current Unity candidates.
- Bronx UFT staffers were involved in collecting nomination petition signatures for incumbent caucus during union work hours, specifically at the front desk of the UFT Bronx office.
- The UFT Election Committee is set up to have ten Unity members and only one representative from the other three caucuses.
- On May 24, 2016, following DOL protocol, Solidarity presidential candidate Francesco Portelos went to observe the collection and handling of ballots at AAA. He was told to leave. In addition, prior to leaving, he noticed staffers handling what appeared to be original ballots envelopes with address windows.
- There is supposed to be a full accounting of all ballots and a report furnished. This includes numbers of all ballots ordered, sent, extra, duplicate, voided and returned. AAA can also easily furnish a report with a list of everyone who voted. Sharing that list, and publicizing it, will not only be points for transparency, but might actually open up questions that Unity doesn’t want us asking. Perhaps questions such as “How did this retiree vote when I went to his funeral two years ago?”To date, despite many requests, none of the information we requested has been furnished.
- During two days of ballot observation, arbitrary rules were made up by Unity members to keep other observers back. For example a 4 foot rule that required observers to stand at least 4 feet away from ballots and ballot handling. DOL rules state “close enough to inspect.”
- Ballot data and analysis was furnished by AAA to only Unity. Unity members would not share information with Solidarity, giving them an unfair upper hand on analytical data related to the election.
- The Unity dominated Election Committee voted against having every voter include the entire ballot in the return envelope. This caused the thickness of the secret ballot to possibly give away whether an envelope contained a one sheet slate vote for Unity or MORE / New Action or a booklet requires Solidarity candidate vote. Coupled with illegal ballot collection, this could cause one to discard ballots based on thickness.
- After the collection, checking, opening and scanning of over 50,000 ballots, the final count came from a Microsoft Excel printout and not the 3rd party OCS World FAQSS system. When OCS World was called by Solidarity to inquire about the output, return communication came from AAA, forbidding Solidarity from calling this Long Island vendor. MS Excel can be easily edit and votes can be entered by human input.
- It was reported that 53,046 ballots were counted. Of those it was reported that 49,752 of those votes were submitted by first page slate votes. This leaves 3,294 individual candidate votes. The top Solidarity votes were roughly 1,450. Even if voters didn’t use slate, but still voted for Unity or MORE New Action, their top officers received only roughly 100 more votes than their slate count. This leaves roughly a 1,600 vote discrepancy.
- The UFT election Committee was supposed to work off consensus. When there were challenges, Solidarity were voted down and it was stated that minutes will be distributed. Despite there being many election committee meetings, no minutes were ever distributed.
- The Unity lead UFT leadership scared members into not reading or engaging in union related emails on their DOE account. They further stated that it was a violation of the DOE’s policy, yet months later the union has shown to be more strict than the actual employer.