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A Call for Fair Elections

posted May 15, 2011 11:17 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice

We are writing to express our deep concerns over the conduct of our union’s recent officer election. We have read the Election Committee’s report on the enormous volume of challenges and accusations from both sides of this election over the past week. Both sides have won positions but our opinion is that the election is tainted and that allowing this election to stand as legitimate could do serious long-term damage to the reputation and function of our union. As the UAW International Union’s Guide for Local Union Elections states:

“The UAW Constitution is the living law of our Union. It guarantees basic trade union rights to all members. It is intended to protect equally the rights of individual members, and of the Union as a whole. The most important of these trade union rights is the right of the membership to fair, democratic election procedures in all instances when they vote to choose their officials. In order to guarantee this right, the UAW Constitution provides basic regulations for the conduct of elections for local union office.”

No matter who wins the election, it is critical that our members have confidence that the election process is fair and democratic. And so it is with a profound sense of personal and professional obligation to the integrity of the union that we are protesting this election and requesting that it be set aside and re-run.

Having read through the Election Committee’s report (attached) and the various emails, blogs & user comments, as well as our own observations, it seems that several categories of problems, with many more individual examples, occurred which are serious enough to justify setting this election aside. They include:

1) The membership has a right to be confident that ballots and voting materials will be secure throughout the voting and counting process.

a. This is why it is a very serious violation of the Election Committee protocol that one slate’s supporters (AWDU) was left alone with the ballot boxes for 4-5 days, after the elections committee felt compelled to suspend counting on April 30.

b. poll worker at the Sather Gate voting location at UC Berkeley was reaching into a wide-open ballot box during polling hours on April 27,

c. daily reports were not submitted from UC Davis campus for any day of the election, in violation of the election committee protocol, that detailed how many ballots were used that day at each voting location at UC Davis and therefore helped safeguard that ballot-stuffing did not occur,

d. several ballot boxes at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego did not, pursuant to election committee protocol, contain a proper “slot” on top for inserting cast ballots. As a result, the boxes were not sealed when that poll closed in accord with election committee protocol so that it could be verified that ballot stuffing or tampering did not occur,

e . several ballot boxes, from UC Berkeley lacked proper seals and signatures prior to being opened for the count so that it could be verified that ballot stuffing or tampering did not occur,

f. During the counting of ballots from UCLA and UC Berkeley, candidates were allowed to handle ballots during the counting process in violation of election committee protocol and the Guide to the Elections Committee compromising the neutrality of the count,

g. outer envelopes were not used consistently for balloting at UCLA, UCSD and UCSB in violation of election committee protocol intended to guarantee that voters only cast one ballot,

h. no ballots were returned or counted from UC Merced, disenfranchising the entire campus.

3) Election committee members MUST be fair and impartial to facilitate a fair election and to maintain the membership’s confidence in the integrity of the Local Union’s democratic processes. According to the UAW Guide to Local Union Elections:

“Throughout the election process, [election committee members must] be guided by three principles. First, you must be fair and impartial, treating all candidates equally and avoiding any acts of favoritism or even the appearance of favoritism. You should maintain a businesslike relationship with all candidates even if you work with or are personal friends with any of them. Second, you must follow the election provisions in the Constitution and bylaws as well as any other union election rules as long as they are not inconsistent with federal law. Finally, you should uphold American democratic traditions by protecting the right of every member in good standing to nominate candidates, run for office, and vote by secret ballot for officers of your local union.”

A number of accusations have been made on this subject, including allegations that election committee members actively campaigned for candidates/slates, that election committee members gave partisans access to confidential information in order to advantage AWDU, and that election committee members (and in at least one case, former member) attempted to “rig” voting in their favor.

a. Contrary to the impartial role prescribed in the Guide, elections committee members/alternates from Davis (Nick Perrone), Berkeley (Lizzy Matuitzi), and Santa Cruz (Sara Smith and Adam Hefty) openly campaigned for AWDU either on blogs during the lead up to the election or, in some cases, during the election.

b. Written records show that Santa Cruz election committee member Adam Hefty colluded with AWDU leaders to plan strategies challenging the eligibility of opposing candidates in direct violation of the proscription against favoritism.

c. Sara Smith, Santa Cruz Election Committee member, used her position to limit voting opportunities on her campus by reducing the number of days of voting on the “science hill” part of campus from three to one. Then, after advantaging herself, resigned from the committee and ran for office.

d. Prior to and during the election, Santa Cruz Election Committee member Adam Hefty

spoke openly in the press (Daily Californian, April 28, 2011)and on his own blog (slugorganizingcommittee.wordpress.com, April 21, 2011) about how the election procedures were insufficient to ensure a fair election, having the effect of suppressing turnout

4) The Membership has the Right to a Free and Fair Nominations Process Where All Members Feel Welcome to Participate. AWDU candidates such as Charlie Eaton engaged in intimidation of opposing candidates, with the goal of getting them to withdraw their nominations

a. Santa Cruz Elections Committee member Adam Hefty used his position on the committee to work with AWDU to attempt to falsely and disparately disqualify USEJ candidates, such as Sayil Camacho

b. The Election Committee allowed a candidate to run who had no proof of

membership eligibility

c. AWDU candidate, Justin Clement, at UC Davis deliberately lied about which slate he was running on in an attempt to block USEJ from having a candidate

5) The Membership has the Right to a Free and Fair Elections Process Where All Members Feel Welcome to Participate—AWDU engaged in bullying & intimidation during the election and count. Many of the accusations are extremely serious and raise deep questions about the freedom and fairness of the election.

a. AWDU candidate Eran Zelnik intimidated a voter at UC Davis on

the evening of April 27th, until she left the area without voting.

b. AWDU repeatedly disseminated false information about opposing

candidates regarding union staff income, student status and candidate eligibility

c. Numerous candidates and campaigners from AWDU engaged in campaigning inside the no-electioneering circle, including Sunny Lim at UC Santa Barbara, Charlie Eaton and Mindy Chen at UCLA, and others at UC Berkeley

d. AWDU candidates, including Cheryl Deutsch at UC Irvine and Renee Hudson at UCLA, followed opposing candidates around with derogatory and intentionally inaccurate signs that misled and discouraged voters from participating

6) The Democratically Elected Election Committee Promulgates Rules and Procedures for the Elections to Guarantee the Membership’s Right to a Free and Fair Election. Numerous violations of the basic protocols for running the elections occurred during the voting.

a. Polls opened between ½ hour and an hour late at multiple voting locations at

Davis, Los Angeles, Irvine, and Santa Barbara

b. Voting was cancelled entirely at one of the Berkeley polling locations on the

evening of April 27, without notice to the membership.

c. Voting was cancelled for the entire day at UC Merced on April 28.

d. Poll workers at UCLA and UC Davis told voters they needed to show ID in

order to vote, discouraging participation

e. Poll workers at UC Davis told potential voters they needed to pay money in

order to vote

7) AWDU Improperly Used Union and Employer Resources

a. AWDU used faculty members, including Patricia Morton, who are supervisors to this bargaining unit, to disseminate their campaign material

b. The UC Berkeley Labor Center, an employer facility, hosted an AWDU meet-the-candidates forum without the USEJ being offered the same opportunity

c. AWDU recruited faculty members, who are supervisors to this bargaining unit, to support their position in the dispute over ballot counting in an attempt to influence the Elections Committee

d. AWDU UC Davis advertised on fliers that their caucus meeting would be at the same

time and location as the official April Union membership meeting at UC Davis, giving the impression that the caucus was the “Union.”

e. Molly Ball, the UC Davis Campus Recording Secretary at the time, put AWDU vote turnout on the official agenda of the March campus membership meeting.

8) The Membership has a Right to an Election Free from Interference by outside Parties, Including Faculty and Other Unions.

a. AWDU recruited faculty members, supervisors, from inside and outside the University of California to support their position in the dispute about ballot counting

b. AWDU used legal counsel affiliated with another Union to help direct their

strategy during the campaign and the dispute regarding counting the ballots

c. AWDU hosted numerous speakers and supporters from other Unions into their “occupation” of the statewide Union office, including Sal Rosselli from NUHW, Mike Walker from UAW Local 1700, and others

9) The Membership has a Right to Have the Election Results Counted and Tabulated in a Free and Fair Manner. In addition to the issues mentioned above, numerous other irregularities occurred during the counting of ballots that call into question the integrity of the process.

a. AWDU candidate Kyle Arnone admitted on a national news blog (Huffington Post, May 5, 2011) that his “side” only challenged ballots at UCLA to respond to USEJ’s challenge of ballots at Berkeley, that it was strategic rather than based on merits.

b. AWDU activists and candidates, including Charlie Eaton, Kyle Arnone and Bron Tamulis, intimidated and acted in a threatening manner to Elections Committee members and individuals from the other “side” when the count was halted on April 30.

c. AWDU representative Bron Tamulis used a homophobic slur to refer to one of

the challengers from USEJ during the ballot count at UCLA on April 30

d. USEJ Challenger Des Harmon was audio recorded without his consent, and pictures were taken of ballots he challenged on Friday, April 29. When the person who was recording and photographing him (Kyle Arnone, AWDU candidate for Trustee) was asked to leave, he became belligerent, insulting and using foul/threatening language toward both Harmon and the members of the Elections Committee. When he finally did leave, Charlie Eaton (AWDU candidate for Financial Secretary) advanced threateningly on Elections Committee chair Travis Knowles.

e. AWDU staged an “occupation” of the statewide Local Union office and the campus office at UCLA in an attempt to pressure the Elections Committee to make decisions that were beneficial to their side

f. Challenges to numerous Berkeley boxes were rendered void when Elections Committee members Adam Hefty and Lizzie Mattiuzzi decided unilaterally to combine ballots from those boxes with all other ballots, thus tainting the entire Berkeley vote

g. Candidates, including AWDU presidential candidiate Cheryl Deutsch, were allowed to handle ballots and other materials during the counting process, in violation of the rules and the UAW Guide

h. Challengers who had not registered prior to the count were allowed to act as challengers during the count

I. The Elections Committee allowed at least one ineligible challenger to act as a

challenger throughout the counting process (Brian Riley from UC Davis who

did not even become a member until after the voting started

In our opinion, these challenges raise sufficiently serious concerns to warrant our request that the this election be set aside and work together to re-run the election as soon as possible. We’ve seen this union do better. We know this union can do better. We call on all sides to collaborate on ways to make a second go-round a fair and impartial process.

Christian Acevedo

Rob Ackerman

Maree Afaga

Arash Arfaee

Steven Attewell

Jacob Burstein-Stern

Marko Budisic

Kevin Brighton

Jorge Cabrera

Sayil Camacho

Irene Chen

Carmen Cortez

Cassandra Engeman

Zarah Ersoff

Donna Fenton

Erica Fontana

Shahin Golshan

John Gust

Des Harmon

Angel Hinzo

Heather Hurwitz

Bob Long

Xochitl Lopez

Aliana Lopez de Victoria

Leslie Manjarrez

Lisa Millora

Ryan Mohr

Johnathan Muliang

Filiberto Nolasco

Gray Raulerson

Manuel Rios

Alicia Siu

Rachel Vandagriff

Marie van Staveren

Coral Wheeler