SDEA’s declaration that the TA has passed brings one real piece of good news: 1,480 educators will be recalled sooner than later. While we truly believe that these recalls would have occurred without the deep contract concessions we are now taking, a fundamental and founding platform of the Breakfast Club has always been NO layoffs. We could not be happier that our union is now close to that goal (with the exception of 41 ECE members, as well as roughly 200 educators who remain laid off from last year).
But to be clear: The events of the last few days in no way mark an end to the journey we have started together.
Our work to achieve NO concessions and a strong and transparent SDEA does not end with this TA. The School Board has already begun to lay the groundwork for yet another repeat of this year’s layoffs-vs.-concessions ploy next spring, and the reality is that our current SDEA leadership has just demonstrated that it will work.
We Have HOPE
We have HOPE that SDEA members will engage in the real organizing work required this summer and fall to ensure that our union doesn’t end up right back here again this coming spring. Our increased attention on SDEA’s leadership over the past few months must continue, and we must work to make sure that we have elected SDEA leadership whose actions are transparent — a quality that many members who spoke to us during the voting process believe has been lacking this spring (regardless of how they felt about the TA). Democratic unions are those with an active and engaged membership. 4,500 of us just showed that we are absolutely active and engaged. We need to STAY that way if we are going to ensure that our membership is never put in this unfortunate position again. Our union deserves better leadership. We as engaged union members are the only ones who can make that happen, and together we will.
We Also Have Legitimate Questions
We’ve received an influx of questions via emails, calls, and in-person conversations over three days of the voting process about the integrity of the election. We firmly believe that the Election Committee engaged in their best democratic efforts to ensure a clean election (see our voting summary post). Unfortunately, the Election Committee controlled only a small part of the process. We think it is important to share the questions raised with us over the past week about the voting process in order to ensure that we can all have absolute confidence in our future union elections:
- Why was there no method for out of town members to vote, disproportionately disenfranchising more senior members and secondary teachers who are more likely to be traveling in late June?
- Why didn’t SDEA hold any informational meetings about the TA prior to voting so we could have discussions face-to-face as union members, as has historically been the case before ratification votes?
- Why did SDEA choose for the first time in memorable history to NOT have voters sign an external envelope, which ensures that the Election Committee knows that the ballots they are counting are the ones that members actually cast?
- How many SDEA staff and leaders had access to the building/room where ballots were stored overnight for three nights? How many of those people were also on the overnight admit list?
- Does the lock on the President’s door still match the lock on the Executive Director’s door (the room where the ballot box was kept)?
- Did any SDEA/CTA/NEA staff touch any of the election ballots or envelopes at any point in the process (a prohibited act)?
- Why were administrators called to an emergency meeting about the staffing implications of the SDEA TA early Wednesday afternoon, while SDEA didn’t even announce the results until 3:15 p.m.?
- Finally, ask yourself, does a 2-to-1 approval rating resonate with what you experienced yourself?
With 4,500 members voting on this TA (an SDEA historical record of which we should all be incredibly proud), we would like to be able to trust the results. The level of doubt hanging over the voting process makes it hard to celebrate what should be a real validation of the democratic process. It is worth noting that a 66% approval is by far the lowest in SDEA’s ratification history, and signals an unprecedented level of discontent with SDEA’s leadership. Generally, ratification votes pass with a 90% or higher approval rating. Even a 2-to-1 voter approval ratio demonstrates a lack of faith in SDEA’s concessions bargaining team and leadership, and reflects the real concerns that members shared with us about SDEA’s leadership over the three days of voting, no matter how they intended to vote.
The SDEA Board needs to immediately clarify our elections procedures to prevent similar distrust from occurring in future votes. The problem is NOT the Election Committee; the problem is the SDEA bylaws and room for abuse that they create. Members who are out of town should not be disenfranchised. Internal ballot envelopes should always be contained within an external signature envelope so we know that the ballots being counted are the ones actually cast. SDEA ballots should not be accessible to SDEA staff and leadership overnight. These issues MUST be resolved before SDEA elections occur for open Board seats this fall, so that we SDEA members can all have faith that our elections are clean and secure. The SDEA Board is scheduled to meet on July 11. Join us in calling on the SDEA Board to take up these bylaw changes as their first order of business on July 11, and to ensure that these changes are approved before the elections to fill open seats in the fall.
The work to make sure we don’t end up right back here again in nine months begins today. We can’t wait to work together with all of you to return democracy and strength to our union. The level of energy and commitment demonstrated by the Breakfast Club volunteers over the three days of voting has been truly inspiring. We have accomplished SO MUCH together over the past three months, and we are going to continue to grow from here. Here’s our summer project: invite your friends to sign up. If every single one of us recruits one new friend this summer to join our shared efforts, we CAN be effective in accomplishing our goals of a strong and democratic SDEA!
–The Breakfast Club Action Group