Opening Statement



Sunday, 22 May 2011

Our Members Write No.1: Election Day Chaos!

In response to my earlier posting "What's This About Sequestered Votes" MT writes about a very unfortunate experience shared by many of our members during TSU's May 11th election; 

 Several days prior to the vote I tried to find out how I could "register" to vote given my status...... I'm all over the city.......When I arrived in the staff room to vote, I was told that not only would my vote be placed in a white envelope, but that I was to put my name on the envelope.  Naturally, in the spirit of TRUE DEMOCRACY, I refused to place my name on the envelope.....Quite a humiliating process, indeed!
MT is of course quite rightfully upset and humiliated with the sequestered vote process. It was a situation faced by many OT's, LTO's, resource and itinerant members from both TSU and TOTL.  Remember the occasional teacher`s union unit TOTL is also a part of our greater OECTA TSU political unit. They can sit on our committees and even be elected to our executive, if they declare themselves as members of the TCDSB secondary and not the elementary panel. So they indeed do have a right to vote, just as do any and all of our TSU members even though they might work at different locations and not always know where the are going to be on any given day.

Many members might not recall when a past TSU executive quickly complied with the OECTA Provincial changes to include the occasional teachers in our broader political unit about 4 years ago. Not every unit across the province did comply, and while provincial wrestles with that, we are now seemingly left adrift to figure out the the details of how to make the constitutional changes work. TSU takes pride in being inclusive of all our members, regardless of their positions, but as MT notes, it's doubtful if having to put your election ballot in an envelop with your name on it is truly democratic. Quit clearly it isn't and her humiliation, as a member of long and dedicated standing is quite palpable, but unless the existing In School Voting By-Law was inclusive this way, it could not be approved.

There has often been an attitude at TSU of just letting somebody else go figure out all the legislative and practical details of our new by-laws, as if this toss off phrase were but a magical wand one could wave in the air to make it be so. Perhaps it was in simpler years past, when we were a much smaller unit with less responsibilities, unlike now where a much larger TSU must get so much more work done quickly and done right. We are now teaching in a vastly larger, and much more complicated milieu. Could TSU, with in school voting now required, even be able to verify that every school voting list would be accurate and complete, when even our own school board is incapable of that? Or could it allow just anybody to walk into a school and say they were a member and vote, without being able to verifying their membership? Clearly not, and as the saying goes, "the devil is in the details" of what had to then be done. 

The In School Voting By-Law rushed through last year's Unit AGM, mandated  a huge change to the previous system of us all gathering to vote together in a union hall.  It had to be implemented with few if any specific technical,  logistical or pricing details provided, in time for this May 11th election.  Please see my A Pig In A Poke posting for more details. The by-law as written up and passed, made no accommodations for our OT`s, LTO, resource or itinerant members. It was as if these members situation was simply shrugged off as something somebody else could go figure out what to do about later.

Most unfortunately, in order for OECTA provincial to approve the by-law, the short term term stop gap sequestering measure MT quite rightfully is upset about, needed to be put in place to at least guarantee everybody the right to vote, however imperfect that still was. Otherwise we simply couldn`t have in school voting this year, which our members were quite clear they wanted, and as your elected executive, it was our required duty to provide.

So you can see can what happen when half thought out by-laws are rushed through TSU UAGM for political reasons without any other considerations being thoughtfully debated or considered, as if somebody else can just go figure it out el pronto like it's no big deal. The voting absolutely had to take place in school. However, many members aren't at just one school and don't always know in advance where they will be, like our short term occasional teachers, LTO`s, OT`s resource and itinerant members. They were all required by the by-law to vote on a paper ballot in a school at the same time as everybody else.  It was a sure recipe for disaster but hey, it sure sounded good when it was just being trumped and sold as a supposedly winning election platform to our members during the 2009 election. For more details on what happened please do go see my Pig In A Poke posting, I explain this all in more detail there. 

As a result of sequestering, the problem gets even worse, for those caught in the middle of the debacle, as MT notes;
Anyway, I am now reading that this is considered a "Sequestered vote" and was not officially counted with the rest. What am I in TSU's eyes?  A non-person?? A non-teacher? I wonder how elections Canada would feel about this method?  Or a CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer? Seriously, David, this process violates everything that I understand ought to make voting stress free, democratic and non-stigmatizing! Your thoughts on this?  How can this process be corrected?
MT, your TSU Election Committees and TSU executive did a lot of consulting and researching last year, but with the existing In School Voting By Law restrictions, this was what had to be done. TSU Executive had been quite keen on approving telephone or online voting to avoid the problems you describe, but quite frankly couldn`t because of the originally poorly worded and cavalier attitude of the new by-law. To correct this problem for next year, our TSU Legislation Committee then developed Resolution 13 to broaden the terms of the by-law for this years UAGM so it now allows the option of balloting, online or telephone voting and will not requiring this abhorrent sequestering practice anymore. My sincerest regrets go out to you and all our other members who had to suffer in the meantime, through no fault of your own.

I`m very glad your Legislation Committee made Resolution 13 a generic no name one because it avoided simply making it become another rather mindless election campaign slogan for this year and next. In short, the resolution was moved beyond purely political grandstanding, even if one wanted to do so at the UAGM. Quite frankly, the UAGM body were very resolute in not approving any hair brained attempts to make political hay with it through any fancy-dancy legislative manoeuvring, or other word play with our assemblies rules of order at the meeting.

Instead the various voting methods had been researched thoroughly by your official TSU election committees, written up thoughtfully by your TSU Legislation Committee, and placed near the top of your UAGM agenda where it clearly would be addressed in a timely manner. This is how our 2010-11 executive likes to do business and one can only hope that such sober thought remains a TSU tradition in the years to come. This may be little consolation for the problems MT and many others experienced, but given a chance, your TSU executive has managed to get it done right for you without any clown show antics.

There still is a TSU problem here that needs to be addressed, if proper decision making is to become the order of the day. Out of a membership of over 2200 members, only 40 to 50 showed up at Wednesday`s UAGM to vote approval for these changes! Without elections happening at UAGM anymore there seems to be even less member interest in it than in years past. Our TSU challenge now must be to figure out how to still provide a proper forum were more members will debate and vote on the unions business, in a thoughtful and meaningful way. I will try to tackle this issue in a future column, and look forward to your feedback.

Please continue to visit my blogsite on a regular basis. I will be coming back to fix up and perhaps even expand on today`s posting, but I wanted to get at least something off to you about this important issue even though it's a beautiful long weekend holiday for all of us. You can reach me by email via my gmail address at the top of my blogsite page. Now, back to some relaxing long weekend fun....





 

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