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UFT election results – watching the count

April 8, 2010 am30 8:00 am

I arrived hours after it started, but not much had happened. A dozen observers were watching scores of election workers sort, separate, flatten, roll, separate, did I say sort? fifty thousand or so pieces of paper.

That’s not true. Mostly we did not watch. Just hung around the corridor and the room at the end of the hall. And waited. And waited. And, for some, left. With comings and goings there were at one point or another 2 of us from New Action, looked like a bunch more from Unity, maybe five from ICE?  It’s funny that they seemed to take it very seriously, but their partners, TJC, did not send anyone. At the very end, close to 9PM, there were fewer than ten observers, and Ray Frankel who chairs the election committee.

They reported turnout before I arrived. Ballots mailed were 168 thousand, up from 162 thousand in 2007, and 152 thousand in 2004. More importantly, the number returned which had fallen from 54k to 47k, returned to 54k. The percent returning ballots which had fallen from 35.6% to 29.3% rebounded partway, to 32.1%. Turnout is a proxy for interest, and even a small increase in member interest is good for our union. (Think of the story if the number instead of rising 3% had fallen another 3%)

High schools were the first division reporting. New Action/Unity beat ICE/TJC 3369 to 1369. New Action (and obviously I was watching our totals carefully) came in after ICE/TJC (2 caucuses, 1 slate, we would have been 2nd or 3rd out of 4 if each caucus reported its own vote.) Our numbers had improved: from 700 in 2004 we fell to 521 in 2007, and rebounded to 774. ICE/TJC had 1417 in 2004, rose to 1524 in 2007, but slumped to 1369 this time. This was not good news for them, as they had put significant effort into this division. At that point we knew all the winners and losers, as no other races were closely contested, but we didn’t know the margin. As for New Action, surpassing our 2004 percentage was good news, but we still reported the lowest total (ICE/TJC were reported as one slate). And where they doubled our vote in 2004, and tripled it in 2007, they didn’t manage to double us this time.

Little did I know, this would be the worst news of the day.

Middle schools came in. I still don’t know why ICE/TJC did not run anyone for middle school exec board, but there it is. So I was not shocked that their vote fell from 444 to 248, and that we picked up from 273 to 421. They had beaten us in this division in 2004 as well, so I noticed that we came in second. And then I started looking at combined Unity + New Action figures, IOW, Michael Mulgrew’s vote. And he was running even with 2004 in high schools (by per cent) and 3 points up in middle schools. If that pattern held, he could top Weingarten’s high vote total. My colleague from New Action listened. I told a guy from Unity, but he didn’t think so. But I saw the numbers.

(Plus, there was massive waiting time, during which we could really poke at the numbers)

Finally, late, Functionals came in. New Action’s total doubled from 548 to 1175. ICE fell below its 2004 and 2007 marks, from a peak of 1032 down to 708. And by percent, Unity stayed steady (80.4, down to 79.6). We doubled our vote? And we finished second. I nudged someone, Mulgrew’s vote would clearly break 89%

Retirees votes are scaled to keep the division from dominating active members. Unity’s vote increased 2000, but their percentage fell slightly from 87.6 to 86.4. New Action’s vote increased 600, and our percentage increased from 7.5 to 9.3.  ICE’s numbers were flat: they lost a few dozen votes from 1061 to 1037. Ironically, this was the only division they did see a sharp drop in.

New Action finished second in the elementary schools as well. In the last two elections we had around 550 votes, this time 978. Unity added 1500 votes, and raised their percent back over 80. And ICE lost 600 votes, from 1337 down to 703. Their percent fell from 16.4 to 7.4.

At the end of the night, New Action had increased votes from 3500 to 5500, passing ICE/TJC which fell from 5400 to just over four thousand. Our percent of the vote (after weighting) climbed from 7.3 in 2004 to 8.0 in 2007 to 11.3 today. Unity’s vote increased by 5000 (unweighted) and their percentage ticked up (from 79.8 to 79.9). But combined, and with the non-slate votes, Mulgrew broke 91%.

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With time there will be deeper analysis. For now, New Action campaigned hard. Our message – critical of Unity when they are wrong, support them when they are right – played well. Having Mulgrew on the ticket was clearly a plus. And having a record to stand on, many years of opposition, and almost a decade of bipartisanship – this combination of support and pushing for tougher stances – this record played well.

For Mulgrew, he has in his months as president emphasized his roots (not only what he says, but how he says it). He has been willing to speak plainly, and to stand up to the DoE and the City. The members rightfully rewarded him.

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