Response to Votes Committee Final Report

The Votes Committee has finally issued its final report. Phew! That took a really long time and a lot of pressure from me and other members who are furious about its conduct of the recent elections. Notably, the Votes Committee has only quietly posted the report on the GSOC website, so unless one checks that page every day one would not yet know that the report had been posted.

First, and most importantly, the Votes Committee dismisses the “accusations” that the Local’s election of candidates by acclamation reflects anything to do with candidates’ support or opposition to BDS. It also finger-wags about the Zionist conspiracy issue, though it leaves strategically unclear whether the Committee is scolding NYU AWDU (the people who actually claimed a Zionist conspiracy) or me and the GSOC for Open Dialogue on Israel and Palestine caucus (for noting that they made this outrageous claim). Scroll down to the next post if you are unsure whether NYU AWDU ever claimed that the elections by acclamation represented a Zionist conspiracy to “silence support for BDS.”

These are major victories. Do you believe for one second that the Votes Committee would have so distanced itself from its friends in the NYU AWDU caucus were it not for my blog and relentless pressure from numerous members? I don’t.

Nevertheless, the report is very lacking in other respects, including at least the following:

  1. It does not address the fact that the language in the notice of nomination concerning membership eligibility was changed dramatically from the final version reviewed by the Votes Committee to the version sent to the GSOC membership. This goes to the heart of the dispute about whose fault it was that members weren’t clear about the requirements. The fault rests with whoever in GSOC unilaterally changed the notice at the last minute.
  2. It does not address the fact that even in the version of the notice sent to the GSOC membership, the language on eligibility for Joint Council differs dramatically from that used for stewards, requiring that Joint Council candidates be “bargaining unit members in good standing” while stewards need only be “members eligible to work in the bargaining unit.” It is not plausible to state that someone who has never worked nor paid dues under the contract is a “bargaining unit member.” Thus, apart from the disagreement with the Local, the Votes Committee also did not follow the requirements announced in its own notice to the membership. Instead, it placed on the ballot names of numerous candidates who are ineligible because they have never worked under the contract or been dues-paying members of the union. The Votes Committee does not clarify in this report whether it used the same or different eligibility criteria for steward as for Joint Council despite my repeated requests that it do so. It appears to have used the same criteria despite the two dramatically different formulations.
  3. It does not adequately address the discrepancy between the number of vacancies announced for the GSAS Humanities and Social Sciences district (2) and the number of individuals announced as elected (3). C’mon folks, this really isn’t that hard. If you announce that there are two vacancies, you can’t then announce that three people are elected. Right? The Votes Committee says only that it became aware that Sean Larson was stepping down after the notice was sent out. It does not say whether or when it ever announced this additional vacancy to the membership. I do not believe that the membership learned about the additional vacancy until the moment that three candidates were announced as elected. I have no doubt that the NYU AWDU caucus was aware of the vacancy, hence its decision to run three candidates. But everyone should have known in advance how many vacancies there were, especially given that there were competitive slates. You can’t elect more candidates than there are announced vacancies!
  4. It does not address the Votes Committee’s open partisanship while the elections and referendum were ongoing. Shelly Ronen participated extensively in a highly misleading Electronic Intifada story, sharing the most specific details of the election planning with this partisan source. Of course, the “report” omits that little detail. I have since become aware that the Votes Committee may also have shared with NYU AWDU and pro-BDS candidates information about which individuals had already voted in the BDS referendum and which had not yet done so. This, of course, would also be an absolute violation.
  5. It does not address the fact that the final ballot was sent to members the day before the election and that the ballot announcement did not indicate how many vacant positions there were for each office.

What the report does do is attack me personally from the very first page. I have no doubt that the Votes Committee isn’t happy with me! And I wear that as a badge of honor. Still, I am the only Votes Committee member for whom it appears in the report whether I attended meetings or responded to emails. That also seems just a little partisan to me.

Anyway, the Votes Committee has two major accusations against me: that I ran for office while I was on the Votes Committee, and that I shared Votes Committee correspondence openly. As I have already stated, I did not and do not believe that the GSOC Votes Committee has any jurisdiction whatsoever over the Joint Council. I had thought that the Votes Committee itself settled this issue when it decided to put my name on the ballot for the invalid elections. If the Votes Committee believed me to be ineligible because I had been on the Votes Committee, it should not have put my name on the ballot. Elections in which names of ineligible candidates appear on the ballot are invalid. Anyone who argues that I am ineligible for Joint Council because I served on the Votes Committee is also making an argument against the legitimacy of the elections said Committee conducted. Since I believe these elections were invalid for very many other reasons, I indicated to the Votes Committee that it was a matter of the most complete indifference to me whether it put my name on the ballot or not.

I find the second accusation both baffling and staggeringly hypocritical. This is the first I have ever heard anyone suggest that the Votes Committee was doing its work secretly or confidentially. Other than selectively sharing information that would benefit specific candidates (which, as I say, I do believe the Votes Committee did), I can think of no good reason for such secrecy. Moreover, as I already indicated, Shelly Ronen shared extremely detailed elections correspondence with the Electronic Intifada while the election was ongoing while she was a Votes Committee member.

I assume the Votes Committee is referring to my post about the changes to the notice of nomination discussed above (entitled “A Tale of Two E-mails: the Smoking Gun on Membership Eligibility”). Imagine my situation! Students and faculty were repeating false and groundless accusations against the Local 2110 leadership. Some were calling into doubt the future of the UAW’s national strategy to organize in academia on this basis. Because of my service on the Votes Committee, I had access to information conclusively refuting many of these claims. Do I, for one second, regret my decision to publicize it here? HELL NO!

The Votes Committee can be as officious as it wants, but anyone who applies any level of scrutiny can see that this was an entirely illegitimate and indefensible process. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

P.S. One of the inaccuracies in the report that doesn’t concern the legitimacy of these elections but that does concern the issue of membership eligibility is the statement “Any graduate student who signed a card was permitted to vote in the vote to unionize on December 11, 2013.” This is simply untrue. In fact, there were two days of voting, December 10 and December 11, and only individuals working in the bargaining unit were allowed to vote. I remember that vividly as an organizer during that election, and in fact it is clear from the Neutrality and Election agreement still available on the GSOC website. For this reason, the 630 individuals who voted “yes” in that election represented an actual majority of the approximately 1,200 graduate employees eligible to vote. This is a very important point about that election, for which several members of the Votes Committee were around. It’s striking to see how little impression that particular election apparently made on them.

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