Volume 74, Number 53 | May 11 - 17 , 2005

Adjuncts election results stand, as some cry foul

By Anjali Srinivasan

Following a challenge, the election of Ward Regan, a New York University adjunct professor, left, as president of the N.Y.U.-New School University adjuncts union, has been upheld. Dan Meltzer, another N.Y.U. adjunct, right, who ran against Regan, challenged the election results.
Villager photo by Anjali Srinivasan
Apparently bringing an uneasy resolution to a dispute over the leadership of New York University and New School University’s adjuncts union, members of the United Auto Workers Local 7902 voted to accept the results of March’s election, which named Ward Regan, president, after a challenge was made by the defeated candidate, Daniel Meltzer, union officials said.

“About 85 percent, an overwhelming majority, said his objections did not invalidate the election,” said Scott Sommer, an international representative of the U.A.W.

Local 7902 consists of adjunct professors from New York University and New School University. The unit was formed on July 9, 2002, and incorporated New School University in October 2004. In 2002, the U.A.W. International appointed Ward Regan interim president until elections could be held.

Meltzer, an N.Y.U. adjunct professor, challenged the recent March 30 election a day after results named Regan victor by a vote of 218 to 190. Melzer contested the victory of his opponent, Regan, also an N.Y.U. adjunct professor, citing four main objections, each of which was addressed and found to be baseless by the election committee of the local in their report to the membership.

Approximately 85 of more than 4,000 members in the local attended a closed membership meeting on Thursday at N.Y.U.’s Kimmel Center for Student Life on LaGuardia Place. In a 67 to 11 vote, members voted to accept the report and recommendation of the election committee to reject the challenge and allow the results to stand. Despite the majority support for validating the results, the unit remains divided on the issue.

“I didn’t cheat, I didn’t have any unfair advantage or access,” said Regan. “I’m sorry he can’t accept the results of a democratic election.”

Meltzer responded that he did not accuse Regan of cheating, but rather, is wary of the election rules. “It’s not about him, or me, or just this issue — this is about a democratic process,” said Meltzer.

In his protest, Meltzer claimed the election violated U.A.W. rules regarding voter eligibility. Currently, New School University adjuncts do not have a contract in place with their university and do not pay union dues, which is necessary to maintain good standing, according to the U.A.W. The election committee of Local 7902 interpreted the union constitution to allow New School adjuncts — who had signed a card petitioning for unionization but had not yet paid dues — to vote, according to Barry Greenhut, an N.Y.U. adjunct professor and member of the election committee. The election committee said that the interpretation of eligibility was approved by the International U.S.A.W. and also said that the effect of this decision, if any, would have affected both candidates equally.

“They changed the rules of the constitution,” said Meltzer. “I support New School unionization, but what’s the point of having a constitution, if somebody, anybody, can just give them an exception?”

Meltzer’s second major grievance concerns the use of membership lists. According to campaigning rules, a candidate may look at the union’s membership list only once and cannot make any copies or notes. Regan was serving as interim president at the time of the election and therefore had access to the membership list as a “necessary part of his day-to-day work,” according to the report. Regan told the committee that he never used his access to e-mail lists for campaign work and instead took addresses for campaign e-mails from N.Y.U. academic department Web sites and from the recipient list of Meltzer’s campaign e-mails.

The third grievance contests that the ballot envelopes were only signed on the inside and not the outside, which could allow for ballot fraud, Meltzer said. According to the report, ballots were only accepted if they were returned in a “numerically key-coded” envelope, minimizing fraud. In his fourth grievance Meltzer said that he was incorrectly advised that he might need a member of the New School University community to escort him through the school’s buildings, since the union could not guarantee admission to such facilities for campaigning. The election committee said they recommended the procedures “in case access was denied” but did not deliberately misinform candidates.

Upon receiving the report, one election committee member requested more time to review the report and proposed delaying the vote, said Kathleen Hull, an N.Y.U. adjunct and union member who attended the meeting. The proposal to delay voting was denied by the election committee, she said.

“They presented their report and they never gave the members copies of my letter,” said Meltzer. He brought copies of his protest with him but did not have a chance to distribute them, since he only had one minute to speak and was timed with a stopwatch by election officials, Meltzer said.

The majority who supported the election results questioned the merit of the election challenge. “I felt it was too early to be having a dispute at our local,” said Kay Kenny, an N.Y.U. adjunct. “The dispute was over issues that were interpretive, not a reality based on the constitution.”

Joel Schlemowitz, vice president of the local and a teaching professional at the New School, said he believes the process to deal with the dispute worked well. “If someone feels the need to appeal,” he said, “I think we have a very democratic process that safeguards even the minority.”

For Meltzer and others, this election is but one incident that shows quite the opposite story: a nondemocratic, closed process without transparency.

“It’s my growing understanding of how unions work that locals need to have their own bylaws and their own democratic process,” said Hull. “Those things aren’t in place at our union. Down the line, without these things in place we will have problems. It’s about how things are decided.”

Meltzer has not yet decided whether he will continue to challenge the result, the next step is to appeal to the president of the national U.A.W.

“In essence, the union does do many good things, but if it were more democratic and more open it would be better,” said Meltzer. “They feel it is necessary to have rules that are changeable and do things behind closed doors.”

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