Union Election Follies

Teacher union elections are often pro forma affairs with little controversy and even less rank-and-file participation. For example, the three executive officers of the California Teachers Association were re-elected last week without opposition by the 760 members of the union’s State Council.

That’s right. Fewer than 400 v0tes can get you elected to the presidency of a 325,000-member union.

The Delaware State Education Association is unusual among state affiliates in that it allows a full membership vote for president. Last month’s election produced a 20 percent turnout, and a tie.

Incumbent vice president Karen Crouse and local president Michael Matthews received the exact same number of votes in a four-way race. This led to numerous complaints about ballots and notifications not being received. DSEA has also been slow to communicate with its members about the status of ballots.

Considering the problems, the candidates expect there will be a runoff, rather than an attempt to resolve the election with possibly contested and questionable ballots.

Meanwhile, candidates are gearing up for the New York State United Teachers presidential election. Incumbent Karen Magee ousted Richard Iannuzzi in 2014, and will face a challenge from his slate’s new candidate, Mike Lillis. But now a NYSUT insider suggests Magee may not run, or will also be challenged by incumbent vice president Andrew Pallotta.

The endorsed candidate of New York City’s Unity Caucus is virtually unbeatable in any NYSUT election, so we’ll have to wait and see who declares and who the kingmakers choose.

Finally, we have an election dispute in Palm Beach County, Florida, where the local teachers’ union disqualified a presidential candidate for taking a semester of unpaid family medical leave to care for his sick grandmother.

During that time Justin Katz didn’t pay his union dues, which was the reason cited by his local for the disqualification. He noted the union’s bylaws were silent on the issue, and appealed the decision to the Florida Education Association, which ultimately ruled in his favor.

The state union’s recommendation is not binding on its Palm Beach local, however. The local board of directors will have to make a final decision. I think it will be difficult for them to rule against a sick grandma, union dues notwithstanding.