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'Certification of Election' was certainly strained... Was it a violation of federal labor law?

For almost one day, I have been carrying around a three page document that was (reluctantly) provided to me by Karen Kreinick, a member of the United Progressive Caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union and candidate for union office ('Trustee', a citywide position) who served also as chairman of the canvassing committee of the Chicago Teachers Union during the days of the "long count" for the first round of the 2010 CTU election.

Above: A copy of the first of the three pages of the "Certification of Election" that was all that was given to the canvassers and observers at the end of the long count on May 21, 2010. The other 2,000 pages, which were by then available electronically and could have been printed out as well, were denied to those who requested them, being told that they would be provided to the Chicago Teachers Union, which would then publish them on the union website. Hence, the observers were not allowed to see the results they were asked to "certify" before the election was declared closed at around 9:00 p.m. on May 24, 2010. I served as an observer for CORE (Caucus of Rank and File Educators), eligible to do so because I was not on anyone's slate. With 920 people on the various slates at various positions, that wasn't as easy to do as it might at first sound; the 2010 election was the most hotly contested in the history of the Chicago Teachers Union, and with the most candidates in CTU history. The other slates on the ballot for May 21 all had canvassers and observers as well — at least at first. When it became clear as the night wore on on May 21 that only two slates would remain (the election rules require that a candidate get a majority for union office, and nobody was getting more than 32 percent), the observers from the losing caucuses went home early. By night's end, only one or two observers from the losers were still there, along with two canvassers from CORE and the CORE observer (me) along with various people from the union staff and/or the United Progressive Caucus, the incumbent party.

Along with the two CORE canvassers, I arrived (back) at the offices of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) at 225 N. Michigan in Chicago around 4:00 in the afternoon of May 24, 2010 to observe the counting of the ballots from 34 schools that had not been picked up after the voting was completed on May 21, 2010. The explanation (verbally, not in writing to us at the count) was that there had been delays in the pick ups on Friday, May 21, 2010, and that the ballot boxes had been locked away in the schools over the weekend. But nobody was asked to provide statements, signed, to that effect. And the couriers who picked up the remaining ballot boxes were not provided with statements for people to sign. They were just sent out to do the pickups as if there was nothing unusual — in Chicago — with ballot boxes being delayed for 48 hours or more between the voting and the collection and counting.

Above: A copy of the second of the three pages of the "Certification of Election" that was all that was given to the canvassers and observers at the end of the long count on May 21, 2010. The other 2,000 pages, which were by then available electronically and could have been printed out as well, were denied to those who requested them, being told that they would be provided to the Chicago Teachers Union, which would then publish them on the union website. Hence, the observers were not allowed to see the results they were asked to "certify" before the election was declared closed at around 9:00 p.m. on May 24, 2010.On Friday night, May 21, when the canvassing committee learned of the unusual situation, it voted to delay the final count until the attempt could be made to pick up the boxes.

When we returned on May 24, I assumed that we would not be leaving until we had received the complete final results of all of the votes in all of the schools for all of the candidates. In fact, my two CORE colleagues and I had brought flash drives (which we tested on the AAA computers) for the purpose of getting digital copies of the reports — complete.

Above: A copy of the third of the three pages of the "Certification of Election" that was all that was given to the canvassers and observers at the end of the long count on May 21, 2010. The other 2,000 pages, which were by then available electronically and could have been printed out as well, were denied to those who requested them, being told that they would be provided to the Chicago Teachers Union, which would then publish them on the union website. Hence, the observers were not allowed to see the results they were asked to "certify" before the election was declared closed at around 9:00 p.m. on May 24, 2010. Note that Lou Pyster, the canvasser for the PACT caucus, signed with the reservation that he was only signing for the "above officers." Having watched at various levels several elections recently (I was an observer for Jay Rehak when he lost his first bid for Pension Trustee four years ago; and when he won last year, for example), this one was truly one for the books. The temporary loss of nearly 1,000 votes (who can tell how many), the "great stall" from Friday night through Saturday morning on the counting (we were told it was "processing" at the computers at the time), and finally, the Monday fiasco with the quick vote of the canvassing committee. According to the official record, the vote was four to three to accept the "report" shown with this analysis. The majority of four included one UPC candidate for citywide office — Karen Kreinick — and two full-time employees of the Chicago Teachers Union — Peter Ardito and James Reilly. I've been wondering since I got there Monday whether the remaining observers and the other canvassers had even been notified about the resumption of the count before Monday afternoon. I certainly did not get a phone call about May 24, and I never received written notification that I would be an observer before the May 21 count began.

There will be much more to report on the May 21, 2010, counting of the ballots in this now-famous election, but I have some suggestions immediately.

The main one is that every bit of information necessary for an honest count be in writing and provided to everyone there (canvassers, observers, others). When I got there, I had not been sent any written notification that I had been made an observer for CORE from the Chicago Teachers Union. When the counting began, we were not given the master list of all the schools that had voted, so we could simultaneously check them off as they came in, using the same list that AAA was holding all night. (This was one of the reasons why I reported earlier that "Henson" was one of the missing schools, when it was "Hanson Park" — somebody else wrote down the names by hand and gave them to me after we learned that 35 ballot boxes were still out.

The materials that should have been in writing for all observers and others goes far beyond that, but what was most striking to me, looking back on the events, was how little cooperation the observers or caucuses received from AAA. Early in the counting, I had been led to believe that AAA was where the complaints should go. But when I gave a phone call to Jeff Zaino from a CORE member complaining, he said it had to be called into the union.

Everyone reading this can add to the list of things that have to be in place before next time, which is very quickly heading this way. This ranges from protections at the school to the requirement that the messengers wear clearly identifiable uniforms (or at least shirts) and provide everyone with receipts. The messenger routing obviously needs to be fixed, and the apparent reason for Friday's delays and ultimate snafu was that someone bid the collection job without adequate specifications. (As I reported earlier, I was part of the union team that invented the first method of doing this in 2003 and 2004; one of the things we had to do was insist that more collectors were on the streets because of the inadequate way the initial proposal was put together.)

There will be much more to share over time, but this is enough to report for now.

It still amazes me that at the end of more than 24 hours of watching this election, we were railroaded into a "final report" that was three pages long, and told to, basically, "Sit down and shut up." That will never happen again. 



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