Friday, December 14, 2007

UFT Election Analysis: How New Action Did in the Past

(as of April 8, 2001)

by Marian Swerdlow
UFT Delegate FDR High School
member, Teachers for a Just Contract/Class Action

The opinions expressed are those of Marian Swerdlow and do not necessarily reflect those of other members of TJC or Class Action.

Some of the results of the 2001 UFT election are now available, and we can compare them to the results in the last election in 1999.
Total number of members:
1999: 135,452 2001: 145,431
Total number of votes:
1999: 47,995 (34%) 2001: 53,385 (38%)
Votes for Weingarten (Unity):
1999: 35,596 (74.2%) 2001: 40,636 (76.6%)
Votes for Shulman (New Action):
1999: 11,366 (23.7%) 2001: 11,411 (21.1%)
Votes for Macklin (01) and Pessin (99) (PAC:
1999: 1,033 (2.1%) 2001: 1,338 (2.3%)

New Action won back all six high school executive board seats it won in the last election.

A little analysis: We can see that New Action did not lose any absolute support to either Unity or Progressive Action. In absolute numbers, Shulman lost fewer than fifty votes. What happened was that Unity gained in absolute numbers, hence its increased percentage. We may have a better idea where that increase in absolute numbers came from when we see some of the results by divisions. We also see that the membership of the union grew considerably, by about 10,000
members (around 7%). The fact that new hires continue to enter the workplace, while retirees continue to vote in union elections, accounts for some of this increase, although the information is not available to tell how much.

Some personal opinion: There is enough blame to go around for these shameful results. It may be tempting for some to blame New Action. They did run a campaign that was too brief, desultory, and unimaginative. I would argue, however, that they ran the best campaign their activist base permitted. Which leads to the question of why their activist base is so inadequate for the job of challenging Unity effectively.

New Action certainly has not strenuously reached out to attract activists. In fact, it makes it difficult for new people to get involved in New Action. They don't make it as easy as possible to contact them, they don't advertise their meetings and they don't have open meetings. They don't have activities for activists to get involved in, or to do in their chapters. The main activity they offer to activists is putting literature in mailboxes. Not the way to build leadership.

On the other hand, even if they did everything possible to attract, involve and develop activists, it is by no means clear they would be successful. The membership has grown dependent on being told what to do from above. If the leadership calls a rally at City Hall, they will show up in heartening numbers. But they have no initiative, no desire to organize themselves. They may want things to happen, but they don't want to be the ones to make them happen. That is not the fault of New Action. Nor is it patently clear New Action, or anyone, could change that. But New Action has done little or nothing to try.

New Action has approached this election, as every other, with the assumption that Unity was its best organizer, that by its failures, Unity would convince people to vote for New Action. Some New Action leaders felt that taking place as it did in our fourth month without a contract, they would increase their share of votes in this election. That did not turn out to be the case. The reason may be that the membership has grown accustomed to working without a contract: we have worked almost one-third of the last ten years under expired contracts. It is no longer something extraordinary. We have diminished expectations. I think the members accept Weingarten's argument that the best thing to do is to wait out Giuliani. The alternative is militancy, and most members don't accept that alternative.

Ed. Note:
Rumors that New Action is blaming its defeat on critcisms leveled at them by Ed. Notes have not been confirmed. We do know that they will NOT change the way they do things, no matter what the outcome of elections. See next issue for more analysis.

To Our Union Leaders: 92,000 people DID NOT vote for you

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