Should the Teachers Union Vote Online? Members Will Decide
LA School Report | September 30, 2013
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A proposal to require the Los Angeles teachers union (UTLA) to adopt an online voting system for electing its leaders has qualified as a ballot measure (see petition wording here), LA School Report has learned. It must now be taken to the rank and file for a vote.
Megan Markevich, a middle school English teacher who has been a key sponsor of the initiative, said the proposal’s backers are aiming to “eliminate a lot of hurdles” to teacher participation and low turnout that plagues union elections. “Not enough voices are being heard from our dues paying members,” she said in an interview.
The initiative marks only the third time that members have used an obscure provision in the UTLA constitution that allows a petition with 500 verified signatures to be brought directly before the union membership for approval. Most decisions are reached through UTLA’s elected governing bodies, the House of Representatives, the Board of Directors and Board Officers.
If the proposal is approved, the election process for all leadership positions and contractual ratifications would change to an online system. Currently, union members cast votes by handing paper ballots to their union chapter chairs or election committees on school campuses, or through voting by mail.
The language of the petition, clearly states that online voting would become effective immediately, in time for the upcoming leadership elections slated for early next year, which will include Warren Fletcher’s bid for reelection as union president.
However, UTLA spokesperson Suzanne Spurgeon isn’t so sure a change could occur so quickly. “If it passes, there may not be time for this to take effect for the upcoming UTLA election,” she said in an email. “The election committee would need to solicit bids from firms that conduct online voting.”
The proposal will be voted on by UTLA membership in early November in an election that will be conducted the old-fashioned way — by handing out paper ballots through the chapter chairs at school sites.