After weeks of angst, the results are in. Bill Freeman announced at about 3:15 this afternoon that the Tentative Agreement passed. An incredible 4,501 SDEA members turned out to vote. The TA passed with 67% of members voting for it, and 33% of the members voting against it. Honestly, based on our experiences at the voting site for the past three days, a number of other members and I expected this to pass by a much narrower margin if at all, which does bring a few things into question.
Before I launch into that, I do need to commend the Election Committee on the job that they have done. When we arrived this morning, the process was first explained to us, step by step. The committee ensured that everything was visible to the observers at all times. We were told how the ballot box was secured at night, and were invited to go and look in the ballot box and ensure that no ballots remained in there once they were removed. We were also shown the empty cardboard boxes in front of the thirteen ballot counters, so that we could see that there were no hidden ballots.
The counters then tallied their envelopes to make sure that the number of envelopes matched the number of signatures on the sign-in sheet. At first there was a discrepancy with the numbers, so the envelopes and signatures were counted and recounted. Eventually, the numbers were only off by one, and in some cases it was difficult to decipher whether there were one or two signatures on the adjacent lines.
After that, the envelopes were opened. Then the ballots were removed and separated into ‘yes’ and ‘no’ piles by each counter and tallied. Each ballot stack was then recounted by another counter to ensure that the numbers matched. Once this was done, the results were recorded and Bill Freeman was called in to read the results.
Again, I must say that the process conducted by the Election Committee today was professional and above board. However, what happened in between the time the polls opened and when the vote was counted today? The ballot box was securely stored at SDEA. There is a lock on the side of the ballot box to open the door, and the committee chairs each had a copy of the key. While the Election Committee take their job very seriously, it is still debatable to some members whether or not someone could have tampered with the ballots. Many SDEA staff and leadership have keys to the SDEA office and the room the ballot box was stored in, and were on the overnight access list provided to the security guard. Detecting such tampering would be nearly impossible due to the lack of the exterior envelopes signed by each voter. In any case, these results are not a mandate by any means. Even if the votes are accurate, at least a third of the voters disagree with the current course of action our union is taking, as do many people who were out of town and unable to vote. And many ‘yes’ voters cited their lack of faith in the ability of SDEA leadership to negotiate a better deal than the one presented as their primary reason for voting to ratify the TA. Some serious improvements and/or changes need to be implemented to restore member confidence in the leadership abilities of the SDEA Board.
We hope you will continue to work with us on these concerns in the future.