Deciding not to Vote in UFT Elections – A Rational Choice?
Pretend you check into a resort, plan on staying there three weeks. It’s an unusual place with an assortment of lodgings: a big hotel, some smaller hostels, bungalows, cabins… And there seem to be crazy guests running all over the grounds. Turns out most guests are short term, like you, but there’s a reasonable number of long-termers.
One day there’s a huge ruckus over shuffleboard. One long-term group has agreed with management to slightly shorten the hours the courts are open, and the other, slightly more disheveled looking long-term group is angry and yelling. You move on, because the argument was weird, and you don’t play shuffleboard. Maybe you’ll try to keep your distance, spend more time with short-termers.
Later that week there’s a todo about whether the hotel should be managed as one entity, or whether there should be one manager per floor. The calmer group likes the new plan, and it makes some sense, more personal. Not that it will matter to you, but they are fighting right outside your door, so you’re forced to think about it.
The next day some of the same people are fighting again – this time one of the pools, the nice outdoor one you prefer, is going to be cleaned more regularly – well that makes sense – but will be unavailable a few more hours each day. The disheveled group is angry again, and this time they have a point. The pool matters to you, but you are only here two more weeks anyway. And the calm group does all the talking with management anyway.
Few days later, they come around to your door with two petitions – one of them to get the windows replaced with better windows before winter, and the other to leave the windows alone, but lower room rates by 3%. The disheveled people are apoplectic. The windows are SOO important. And they have a point. And they were right about the pool. But you won’t be here in the winter, even if you feel bad for them, and that discount would be useful… You sign for the lower rate.
Finally, with just a week left, you learn there will be a new liaison to management – one of the cleancut people, or one of the sad disheveled ones. You can go to the third floor to help make the choice, but it’s at the same time as when the pool is open, and you really need that swim.
It was a rational choice.
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Obviously I’m thinking of many newer teachers. When many sit out the UFT election, I do not believe they are being apathetic. That implies that this stuff matters to them. I believe they are making a rational choice, a choice based on being a “short-termer” – someone with little invested in changing the system.
There are a lot of lousy reasons not to vote. Apathy is one of them. Feeling distant from the decision-making is another. Too many undelivered ballots is a third. And we can do better in all those areas.
And, honestly, both sides in this election did better outreach than in the past. Getting the teacher vote to move from 20% to 27% is a big deal – credit all around. And having the election committee run a serious, non-partisan Get out the Vote operation was impressive.
But what about those short-termers? How do we make voting – forget that. How do we make involvement in the union a rational choice for them?
It is something that both sides have an interest in addressing. There are plenty of issues that divide us. This one draws us together.
Retention. Better retention would help. But how we get there is not easy.
I started blogging in April, 2006. Ten years and a month ago. For those of you who were counting. And guess what I wrote about first? Retention. Maybe there were some ideas there worth thinking about. Take a look.