UFT Solidarity launched their election campaign in June 2015. For months we worked on activating and educating the membership. To officially be on the ballot, we had to have candidates collect nomination signatures. The nomination period was from February 3, 2016 to March 10, 2016.
We promised ourselves, we were not going to let the election distract us from helping members. So in that month, while other caucuses planned petition signature parties, we planned and lobbied in Albany for a bill to combat workplace bullying. UFT Solidarity Throws its Weight Behind the NY Healthy Workplace Bill. We also supported and planned a rally at PS 89 Bronx. Bronx UFT Chapter Leader’s Review of UFT Solidarity’s Rally at PS 89 X- A Voice for the Voiceless. We also answered countless messages and calls from members who felt they had no one else to turn to. Over 100 UFT members emailed us at firstname.lastname@example.org alone.
The bipartisan UFT Election Committee met on Monday March 21, 2016. By bipartisan we mean:
Our representative on the Election Committee, Quinn Zannoni, and his wife, just had a baby, so Francesco Portelos took his place at that meeting. The candidate lists were distributed to all, some questions on candidate eligibility were raised and two candidates were shifted around to other positions. One from MORE/New Action and one from Solidarity. We then proceeded to pick the order of candidate’s last names for the ballot. After that, Election Committee Chair, Amy Arundell, ended the meeting.
As members began to leave, Francesco saw New Action’s Michael Shulman walk to Amy Arundell and whisper something a few feet away. Francesco was able to make out “How can they—– with only —–?” Amy Arundell then went to Ray Frankel, who has been working the election for many years, and must have repeated Michael Shulman’s question. Ray Frankel was packing up her papers and while looking puzzled responded “Well, I didn’t think it was going to be an issue.” Amy Arundell then responded, “Well someone has now just made an issue out of it.“
At this point Francesco asked out loud “Is there a problem?” to which Amy Arundell responded “No. We just have to discuss something.“
It turns out that New Action’s Michael Shulman and MORE’s Kit Wainer were pushing for Solidarity to have no slate designation on the ballot. In other words, instead of members voting for all our candidates with a Solidarity slate checkbox, they would now have to check off each candidate individually. Unity and MORE/New Action would have their own check off boxes to expedite their votes. MORE/New Action referenced a section in the election notice (see below) that states that in order for slate designation, a caucus must have at least 40 candidates. Even though Solidarity had over the required 40 candidate petitions, only 33 had the required signatures. We’d like to note that he Teamsters, TWU, 1199SEIU, DC37, and 32BJ have no such slate requirements. The nurses union requires only 9 to make a slate.
UFT Solidarity continues to focus on members in need. Most of our support is from members who want to work and then live their lives, be mothers, fathers, husbands and wives. Not everyone can be an activist, but every member needs one. Our low candidate numbers are in no way indicative of our strong support.
Politics over Democracy
As previously stated, there was leeway in the election committee. A MORE/New Action candidate, that collected signatures to be a convention delegate, was moved to an Executive Board position on the ballot. Solidarity did not argue that. However, MORE/New Action was determined to give members less of a choice. They fought this election notice more than Unity did.
When we spoke to other New Action members, they stated that Michael Shulman pointed the finger at MORE’s Kit Wainer as the one who was pushing this attack on democracy. On the other hand, when we spoke to MORE members, they pointed the finger at New Action’s Michael Shulman. No one wants to take the credit, because they know how undemocratic it is.
On Wednesday, March 23, 2016, after New Action’s Michael Shulman and MORE’s Kit Wainer continued to push the issue, the UFT Election Committee made the undemocratic decision to not give voters the option to vote Solidarity using a check off box.
Solidarity is a recognized caucus of the UFT.
Solidarity will have election ads in the NY Teacher newspaper, like the other caucuses.
Solidarity election literature will be emailed by the UFT like the other caucuses.
The word “Solidarity” will be listed next to each Solidarity candidate’s name.
Yet when it comes to slate voting, the ballot will look something like this below? Does this look democratic to you?
UFT Solidarity doesn’t know how not to fight back. We have been in communication with the US Department of Labor investigators and are filing a UFT constitutional violation complaint with the UFT Executive Board. We are asking the Executive Board to investigate whether preventing slate voting options for Solidarity is in violation of Article II of the UFT Constitution and also a violation of the US Department of Labor OLMS Union Officer Election guidelines Chapter 13 – Ballots http://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/localelec/localelec.htm.
The claim we are making with regards to an Article II violation is that removal of slate voting is undemocratic and in violation of our union’s objectives.
The claim we are making with regards to Chapter 13 is that election rulesit state:
“Candidates may be listed on the ballot according to affiliation with a particular slate; however, a voter must also be able to choose among individual candidates if he or she does not wish to vote for an entire slate.“
See another letter and evidence below, and please comment in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
IN MAY, BREAK FREE. VOTE SOLIDARITY 33.
How to vote: