I have read the multiple in-depth pieces analyzing the 2022 UFT election from Jonathan Halabi over at JD2718 and Norm Scott at EdNotes. Jonathan looks at the results from a number of different angles. Low turnout is a problem for sure but I would argue that United for Change did significantly better than the divided 2019 opposition to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus. That is the main message I took from this election. As such, the opposition deserves more of a say in how the UFT is run and should push for it in a non-stop campaign.
Here is a quick summary from one of Jonathan's insightful pieces:
Unity won 66% of the total vote, just shy of two-thirds, and 58% among teachers. Those are, for Unity, not good numbers, maybe horrible numbers – the lowest since I’ve been paying attention, probably the lowest since the first decade of the UFT, and maybe the lowest in the history of the UFT. But Unity also breathed a sigh of relief – sure they lost the high schools, but they have lost the high schools many times before – and they avoided losing anywhere else.
Jonathan and Norm analyze in great detail the very poor turnouts in the UFT elections among active members. Norm notes that the majority of the voters are retirees. Jonathan explains in simple terms how low the turnout actually was among in-service teachers:
With 79.5% of teachers not voting, I’m not sure that congratulations are in order for any of us. Unity won among teachers 11.88% to 8.65% for United for Change. Out of every 34 voters, 4 chose Unity, 3 chose United for Change. 27 did not vote. (numbers do not include D75 teachers – but those numbers should be similar) that even where the opposition does well in the high schools, it is still only a small minority of eligible voters who make up our majority in the high schools.
I believe a large part of the low turnout can be explained by the three fundamental questions of politics that must be answered yes by voters for a candidate or political party to get votes:
1. Do they know you?
2. Do they like you?
3. Do they trust you?
The opposition in the UFT doesn't get beyond question 1 while Mulgrew-Unity can't get past questions 2 and 3. Very few like or trust Mulgrew and with good reasons (another post) but those potential voters don't know or care enough about United for Change or our candidates so they throw the ballot out. The garbage can vote won.
Unlike others, I don't think that necessarily means overwhelming apathy toward the UFT. When we have a contract, the turnout will be huge in the ratification vote. Voting in the schools on actual working conditions, a contract referendum is conducted in schools, will have the effect of energizing members to be involved in the Union. They will vote.
Let's accept that the case has been made that turnout is way too low in UFT general elections. Among the thousands who do vote, the opposition has a fairly solid base in the high schools. Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus has not won a one-on-one Unity vs a united opposition in the high schools since 1993. Unity has won majorities in the high schools after 1993 but only by facing a divided opposition. Considering the opposition's lack of resources and how hard Unity battled for the high schools in this election, it is no small achievement that United for Change won. Unity's campaign included multiple professional leaflets in virtually every high school teacher's mailbox, putting up respected well known candidates for the Executive Board from big schools, and Unity implementing a campaign to silence the opposition at the Delegate Assembly by denying them speaking rights and calling them disrupters for insisting that the rules be followed (this should be challenged at the Department of Labor). It is a significant achievement for United for Change to come together, double the opposition vote totals from 2019, and win back the high schools so there is actual representation on the Executive Board (7 reps out of 102) that doesn't have a Unity Caucus endorsement.
The opposition also has enough of a margin of victory in the high schools so United for Change makes up a majority of not just high school but all secondary school teacher voters.
I copied this chart from Jonathan's blog:
Norm talks about an opposition goal being to win the high schools by enough of a margin to make up for shortfalls in the elementary division but still win the majority of voting teachers. United for Change actually did that to win the secondary schools.
High Schools UFC 2,508 High Schools Unity 1,981
Middle Schools UFC 938 Middle Schools Unity 1,202
Secondary Total UFC 3,446 (52%) Secondary Total Unity 3,183 (48%)
This is the slate votes only. The people who split their ballots wouldn't change that there is a UFC majority. It is a purely symbolic win but a victory nonetheless that the secondary school teachers who vote don't want Unity-Mulgrew. That is now a reality from this election.
In addition, we heard all over the place that Jonathan Halabi should be the Academic High School Vice President, and yours truly should have had the job in 2016 because both Jonathan and I got more high school teacher votes than Janella Hinds. Janella is in office only because Unity changed the rules after they lost a high school vice presidency in 1985 so that even retirees elect high school vice presidents. One of my friends calls it the UFT version of the Electoral College. Note that vice presidents are plural.
Nobody that I know of has yet pointed out that we have a wide enough cushion in the high schools, (12 percentage points) so that we probably have the majority of the teachers in both the Academic High School Division as well as the Career and Technical High School Division. The opposition is now probably being cheated out of not one but two vice presidents.
Leo Gordon is more than likely a Vice President in the Career and Technical Division just like Janella Hinds is in the Academic High School Division who has fewer high school teacher votes than their opponents who "lost".
We will never know if United for Change really won the Career and Technical High School Division but United for Change candidate Eric Severson is most probably the rightful CTEVP and should be credited.
We won't know who obtained the most votes among the CTE teachers who voted because the votes are no longer counted separately. Before 1999, the two divisions, Academic and Vocational (CTE) High Schools, were tallied as different divisions. It wasn't necessary to count separately after the constitutional change made both positions at large (elected by the entire membership as opposed to just the members in a particular division) but the UFT continued counting separately in 1995 and 1997. I remember sitting at the vote count in 1997 being oh so thrilled that we won the Academic High Schools so I was going to the Executive Board only to be told that they didn't count the Vocational High School (CTE) votes yet so not so fast. When they did count them, the opposition (New Action) easily won the high schools but Unity still had a majority in the vocational schools.
If Unity still has a majority in 2022 in the CTE schools which I doubt, then United for Change beat them handily in the Academic High Schools since we won by 12 points overall. It is more likely that our 12-point overall margin combining the votes of both divisions means we are the majority in both the academic and CTE schools in 2022 but as stated previously, we will never actually know because in 1999 they stopped counting the CTE votes separately.
When the secondary school teachers joined with the Teachers Guild to form the UFT back in 1960, it was agreed that there would be two high school vice presidents so the high schools would be adequately represented. The high schools, I think most of us would agree, are not adequately represented. The fears of founders Roger Parente and Sam Hochberg have been realized. High schools are a marginalized group that the Union frequently ignores (see higher class sizes, closing schools, unsafe schools, etc). My guess is that elementary school teachers and non-regular teachers in the UFT (functionals) have their own complaints about being ignored. However, I don't know if they can complain about their lack of representation the same way high school teachers can legitimately argue that they are underrepresented.
High school and middle school activists need to keep pushing for change in the Union. Having 7 seats on a 102-seat Executive Board is not enough. The opposition should be showing UFTers and the world how the UFT playing field is tilted in Unity's favor and we are no longer going to accept business as usual in how the UFT operates.