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Online Voting a Step Closer for UTLA Membership

Hillel Aron | September 5, 2013

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Will teachers soon be voting on their district-bought iPads?

Will teachers soon be voting on their district-bought iPads?

An initiative that would move voting by the LA teachers union from paper ballots to online has gathered enough signatures to put the change to a full membership vote, according to the architects of the proposal, Marisa Crabtree and Megan Markevich, both teachers and Teach Plus fellows.

“Our goal is to make sure that our union is representing as many people as possible,” said Crabtree, an English teacher at Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights, referring to UTLA. “It’s not about a power struggle or a political movement. It’s about making  the union more receptive to the common teacher’s every day needs.”

The organizers said they collected 650 signatures, well above the 500 required to seek membership approval. Once the signatures are verified, the union has 60 days to put the measure to a vote.

UTLA holds elections for its president, elected officers and area chairs. It also holds referendums and votes on policy positions, such as the “Initiative for the Schools L.A. Students Deserve,” which mandated that the union take a more aggressive approach in making various demands from the school district. Another vote expressed “no confidence” in Superintendent John Deasy.

But these paper votes are typically delivered to teachers’ homes and must be mailed in or dropped off at UTLA headquarters, which Crabtree thinks discourages many from weighing in.

“Most people think the logistics of elections are onerous and time consuming,” she said.

Crabtree said the response to the online voting proposal has been mostly positive.

“There have been a few negatives,” she said. “Some come from teachers who are still a little technology shy. Some have questions about security and all that. That’s been only a few people.”

Crabtree and Markevich plan to turn in their signatures on Monday. Statements for and against will be published in the union’s newspaper, the United Teacher, before the vote.

Teachers union President Warren Fletcher could not be reached for comment, although Secretary David Lyell told LA School Report that he supports the proposal.

“I do believe UTLA should transition to online voting,” he said in an email. “Many unions conduct elections online nowadays, as it’s a secure and more efficient voting method.”

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