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Teachers union approves online voting by overwhelming majority

LA School Report | May 27, 2014

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UTLA approves online voting LAUSD* UPDATED

With an overwhelming majority, members of the Los Angeles teachers union (UTLA) have approved an online voting ballot initiative that will change how the Los Angeles teachers union elects its own leadership.

The initiative was launched last year by two teachers who were fed up with the low turnout among the union’s rank and file. “This is a sign of a new type of unionism, where activism and organization can be part of our daily lives, rather than something we only do at certain times of the year,” Megan Markevich, a middle school English teacher and one of the sponsors told LA School Report. “That will be how teachers affect positive change for students and schools in LA:  by participating in decisions that have the power to change our district for the better.”

The measure passed with 77 percent of the UTLA membership supporting it.

It’s highly unusual for policy at UTLA to be initiated by ballot measure. The online voting measure is one of only three initiatives ever passed by the union. When the measure reached the membership floor in a meeting last fall, it was killed for fear that it would disrupt elections taking place this year for UTLA president and other leadership jobs.

Backers then had to gather 500 new signatures to get it back on the ballot. “It was really difficult sometimes to see this through and I understand now why some of the best and brightest teachers stay away from union activism,” said Markevich.

The new online voting system will make the most recent internal elections, in which Alex Caputo-Pearl and his Union Power slate that swept into office in March, the last to use paper ballots.

In announcing the results of the vote, which was conducted by paper ballot, UTLA said 8,915 of its members voted. That’s about 28 percent of the membership, a small improvement over the 7,235 (23 percent) who voted in Caputo-Pearl’s runoff victory over incumbent Warren Fletcher last month.

“I hope we continue the dialogue on how to increase member participation,” said Linda Yaron, a 12th grade English at the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities and a UTLA Chapter Chair who worked to help the measure pass. “Low voter turnout rates are a symptom of a larger issue of member engagement. It’s important that we next examine the causes of low participation and explore how to get more voices of our teachers heard so that the union truly represents those it serves.”

* Adds updated response from Megan Markevich and Linda Yaron

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