The IEA Retired election for RA delegate: A mess.

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From the voting procedure video on the IEA website.

I’ve been posting about the IEA election for Retired delegate to the state convention.

Understand that active teacher, ESP and other delegates from locals are elected by their locals in their buildings and the elections are run by the local.

Only student members and Retired members have state-wide elections. In the past the voting has been done by mail-in ballots. The participation is low. Less than 20% of retired members vote.

IEA Retired does not control how the election is run. It is entirely handled by staff with the ultimate responsibility belonging to Executive Director Audrey Soglin.

Since becoming a retired member I (and others) have asked why the voting can’t be done online with the hope that online voting would increase participation.

I was told that online voting violated federal labor law.

Apparently that is not true. This year the election is being held online (and by mail-in ballot if one is requested). No law has been changed.

  1. Members have told me that they received nomination forms in the mail on the day of and after the nominating deadline.
  2. Only 25 members are running for 21 delegate slots. Last year there were 39 members running for fewer slots. That is a huge drop in the number of candidates.
  3. We have been told that this is a “pilot” election to assess online voting. Leadership says that I mischaracterize this. “The process is being piloted, not the election,” IEA VP Kathi Griffin told me. I need an explanation about the difference between an election and a process. 
  4. How can an actual election be a pilot? Delegates will be elected who will vote on IEA budget, officers and program. If the process is compromised, so are the results.
  5. If there was advance notification that this would be an online election, it still caught many members unaware and by surprise.
  6. For me to finally cast a vote I had to email IEA half a dozen times. Calls to the private company that is running the election were answered by voice mail with a promise my call would be returned.   I received no return calls after I left two messages. How many retirees will go through so many steps in order to vote?
  7. Retired members who are not comfortable with online voting were told that they would need to submit a request for a paper ballot each year. The deadline to request paper ballots is weeks before the deadline for online voting. I had one day to request a paper ballot before finally receiving my password and pin to vote online.
  8. There is no confirmation of your online vote. Once I voted, a message appears that I voted but I have no record of the vote. I received no email confirmation, for example.

Mail-in voting keeps participation low in a state-wide election. Low participation keeps insiders in and those with connections connected. Online voting should increase participation. If the evaluation of the “pilot” is that it doesn’t work well or doesn’t increase participation, IEA leadership will have an excuse to return to mail-in voting.

Beyond all that, we had former IEA President Bob Haisman, a current IEA Retired Council member and candidate in the election telling members on his Facebook page to contact him, offering to help members vote, a violation of the IEA’s own voting rules and procedures.

5 Replies to “The IEA Retired election for RA delegate: A mess.”

  1. This IEA Retired election for RA delegates “mess” seems to reveal
    a) incompetent leadership
    b) collusive intentions
    c) incriminatory procedures
    d) All of the Above
    e) None of the Above

  2. And my question–right in step w/your comment, Glen–is: does Pearson Publishing own Election-America? Also, our dues money is going to a company located in Mineola, NY, rather than to one in Illinois?
    Although, I guess, that somehow makes sense, considering all the bad politics in Springfield.
    .And that would, indeed, include the offices on East Edwards.

  3. Bob has “helped” member vote for years.  I remember a fellow retiree tell me that she had always asked Bob how to vote, and she’s been dead at leat seven to ten years.  With Bob it’s been a “tradition”Now you have the audacity to say what he’s been doing is illegal!!!

    Another story, this time in the Reader, about P-fac. This one has some info on why P-fac left the IEA:

    In 2013, things were looking up at Columbia College. After several years of dicey relations between the administration and P-fac—the part-time faculty union that represents the majority of Columbia’s teachers—a new college president, Kwang-Wu Kim, was in place. It seemed to P-fac’s president, Diana Vallera, like the beginning of a new, much more congenial era.

    But it was only a honeymoon.

    “It’s heartbreaking,” Vallera says now. “The president said and did all the right things for about a year, then brought in a new labor attorney and a new provost, and packed his administration with new VPs. And everything changed.”

    She ticks through what she sees as the biggest changes: “Columbia has always been about open enrollment, small classes, individual attention, and part-time faculty who are working professionals. Now what they’re doing is making larger classes, fewer course offerings, getting rid of senior faculty, gearing toward putting everything online. It’s becoming a completely different institution.”

    The college included faculty, staff, and students in the development of a strategic plan last year, and is changing “because the world of creative work has changed, and we must prepare our students to succeed in that world,” according to a Columbia spokesperson.

    “Although unfortunate that some members of P-fac have reacted negatively during this time of rapid and needed change,” the college added, “we reiterate our support for the skilled and valued part-time faculty.”

    Among those rapid changes: a drop in enrollment from about 12,500 students in 2008 to fewer than 9,000 this year.

    In September P-fac announced that its membership had passed a vote of no confidence in the administration. And last month the union filed two lawsuits in federal court. One charges the college with refusing to arbitrate employment grievances; the other accuses the school of interfering with the union’s organizing and bargaining rights by providing support to an upstart faction of part-timers, Columbia Adjuncts United.

    This is where things get complicated. In January P-fac broke away from its state and national affiliates, the Illinois Education Association and the National Education Association. In a disaffiliation vote promoted by its leadership, P-fac made the unusual choice to go it alone.

    Vallera says P-fac faced a chronic lack of service from the umbrella unions—which she says collected more than $200,000 in annual dues from the group. But P-fac’s departure was precipitated by the fact that the umbrella groups also represented the staff union, United Staff of Columbia College.

    That was a conflict, Vallera says: “They were advocating for full-time staff to teach, in opposition to our contract. They couldn’t represent both groups.”

    The IEA denies her characterization, and in a recent letter to P-fac members notes, among other things, that it provided $350,000 in legal help to P-fac between 2010 and 2014.

    The opposition group Columbia Adjuncts United popped onto the scene early this fall—when Vallera was up for reelection—with a website, a Facebook page, notices that landed in P-fac members’ mailboxes, and a conciliatory, pro-IEA/NEA agenda. James Nagle, an adjunct English professor, describes the group as “a caucus within P-fac” of people upset that the disaffiliation vote was taken over a winter holiday break, when no one was on campus to discuss and debate it.

    Neither CAU nor anyone else formally opposed Vallera’s reelection, but the group has been calling attention to an audit of P-fac conducted last spring by the federal Office of Labor-Management Standards. That review found numerous record-keeping violations—along with payments to officers for expenses that included “doggie care”—but nothing serious enough to merit more than a warning and a promise of another audit “within the next several years.” Vallera doesn’t know what triggered the audit, but says she was notified of it about two weeks after the disaffiliation vote.

    P-fac, which now hires its own legal help, has also hired an accountant to review the college’s finances.

    “They say they’re making these changes because of financial straits,” Vallera says, citing, for example, the replacement of small-group freshman seminars with a large lecture course. According to the accountant’s report, Columbia’s endowment grew from $88 million in 2010 to $135 million in 2014—which Vallera interprets as a sign of the college’s financial stability.

    Meanwhile, she says, “They’re making all these cuts,” running the college like a business that cares less about students than the bottom line.

    Columbia takes issue with that interpretation. The college says, for example, that the number of courses are tied to enrollment, which it is working to bring back up.

    That doesn’t stop Vallera from seeing these changes as “a corporate-style takeover.”

    “It’s not the Columbia that Dr. Kim promised to uphold,” she says.  v

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