Welcome to the 2020 PFT Election info page! We are rank and file PFT members that had a lot of questions about the election process and we’re sharing what we’ve learned about union election laws, procedures, and rights. The authors are members of the Caucus of Working Educators and encourage suggestions and constructive criticism from CB/WE supporters and all PFT members to make this site as accurate and fair as possible.

This is not a one-stop shop! For official nonpartisan info from our union please visit the PFT Website

For partisan positions and platforms, please visit the caucus/slate websites and social media:

Collective Bargaining Team (CB) Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Caucus of Working Educators (WE) Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Youtube

General Election Questions

PFT Caucuses & Slates

Fair Election Laws, Practices, & Policies

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  • Why does the PFT have elections?

    • We are a democratic union! 
    • It’s federal law and in the AFT and PFT Constitutions. 
      • Federal labor law (LMRDA Title IVb): “Every local labor organization shall elect its officers not less often than once every three years.”
      • As an AFT local, the PFT is required to adhere to federal labor law. – AFT Constitution
        • “The conduct of elections shall be consistent with the standards for such elections developed under Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Terms of office for officers shall not exceed four years, or fewer if required by applicable state or federal laws.” (Article IV, Section 5)
      • The PFT Constitution was amended in April 2007: “Effective July 1, 2008, the term of office for members of the Executive Board shall be 4 years.”

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  • When will the PFT election be held?

    • Ballots will be mailed on Thursday, February 6th.
    • Ballots will be validated on Tuesday, February 25th.
    • Ballots will be counted on Wednesday, February 26th.
    • The exact dates are decided by the PFT Executive Board.
    • The PFT Constitution states that elections “shall be held no earlier than the first week in January and no later than the last week in April” (Article IV, Section 5B).

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  • Are these elections dividing or weakening our union?

    • Only if we let it! Democratic elections bring many voices to the table.  There have only been two elections in PFTs 50-year history where the incumbent leadership went unchallenged (Philly Public Record). In 2008, two individuals ran against the current president (PR Newswire). In 2016, the Caucus of WE challenged the CB Team in a spirited, but unsuccessful bid for leadership. While we may disagree and argue about issues, healthy debate is essential to democracy.
    • We are one democratic union, the PFT, and these elections bring out our members’ talents and energy. CB and WE members work together in solidarity now and we will continue to do so regardless of the outcome of the elections.

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  • Who is eligible to vote in PFT elections?

    • Eligible members are those whose names appear on the latest School District Payroll Deduction (PD) list.
    • New members whose application cards have been received in PFT Office by a specified deadline. In 2016 the deadline was about two weeks before ballots were mailed. Call the PFT office for the exact date.
    • Members on leave of absence, sick leave or layoff status who have continuously, without a break, paid the two dollars dues for each pay period of absence. Addendum: On January 15, 2016 members were notified via email that laid-off members that have not paid their dues, could pay dues in arrears to become eligible to vote.
    • Cash members not eligible for payroll deduction who have paid their dues without a break since leaving active service.
    • Per diems who appear on any January PD list up to the deadline shall be eligible to vote.

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  • Why should I vote?

    • The PFT is a democratic organization that needs the active participation of its membership to survive, thrive, and serve educators and the children and families of Philadelphia! Now more than ever we need to show that we’re ready to bring every member’s voice to the table to fight the well-funded attacks targeting our profession, urban public schools, and communities of color.

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  • How do I vote?

    • Ballots will be mailed to members’ home address Thursday, February 6th. Look for an envelope similar to the one below:
      Envelope 1
    • When you receive your ballots in the mail, follow all directions exactly as written. Any variation on your ballot could void your vote.
    • If you do not receive a ballot by mail, or if your ballot is damaged or tampered with, immediately contact the American Arbitration Association at 215-732-5260.
    • The PFT uses a double envelope secret ballot system. Follow these procedures:
      • There will be separate ballots for Executive Board positions (if any), national and state AFT Convention delegates. There will also be two envelopes with instructions.
      • After you have completed your selections, fold all ballots and place them inside the inner blue envelope.
      • Seal the blue envelope and then place it inside the outer pre-addressed business reply envelope.
Secret Ballot Envelope
Inner Blue Envelope
Outer Envelope_Page_1
Outer Pre-Addressed Envelope
      • The outer envelope is addressed to the AAA who will be tallying the votes. The envelope must be sent to the AAA via US Mail.
      • AAA will sort the outer envelopes, validate the names of voters as eligible, and check for duplicates. The outer envelopes will be opened and stored separately from the inner envelopes. The inner envelopes will then be shuffled, opened, and the votes will be counted. These procedures guarantee that your votes are kept secret.
      • PFT members are welcome to observe any part of this process. The vote count will be conducted by the AAA at Doubletree Hotel, 237 S. Broad Street, starting at 9am on Wednesday, February 26th.

        • Any ballots not received by the AAA via US Mail by February 26th will not be counted. Don’t wait until the last minute!

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  • I’ve moved. How do I make sure my ballot is mailed to my new address?

  • The AAA uses the address you have on file with the SDP Payroll Department. You must file a change of address form.
  • Download and print the “Employee Change of Residential Address” form.
      • Fax the form with a photocopy of your SDP or government issued ID to the Payroll Department: 215-400-4491.
  • Call and confirm that the Payroll Department has processed your form: 215-400-4490.
  • If you still do not receive your ballot when they are mailed, call the AAA: 215-731-2281

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      • What leadership positions will I vote for in 2020?

        • *The following is based on the 2016 election and is subject to change:
        • You will be voting for 36 Positions: 9 Executive Officers, and 27 Executive Board Members.
        • You will also vote for 100 Philadelphia delegates to the national AFT convention in 2020, and 100 delegates to the PA AFT Convention in 2021.
          • PFT Constitution ARTICLE V: Officers and the Executive Board Section
          • The 9 Executive Officers shall be:
            • President
            • General Vice President
            • Special Vice President from the elementary group
            • Special Vice President  from the middle years group
            • Special Vice President from the senior high, skills center and technical high school groups
            • Treasurer,
            • Recording Secretary
            • Associate Secretary
            • Legislative Representative
            • The 27 Executive Board shall consist of:
              • 3 from the elementary school positions, one of whom shall be a teacher with other than grade appointment
              • 3 members regularly assigned to middle years positions
              • 3 members regularly appointed from senior high schools/vocational technical high schools/skills centers, at least one of whom shall be from a vocational technical high school or skills center
              • 1 Special Education teacher,
              • 1 from the professional supportive services consisting of nurses, therapists, psychologists
              • 1 Long Term Substitute teacher 
              • 1 member from the Secretarial bargaining unit
              • 1 member of the NTA bargaining unit
              • 1 member of the Paraprofessional bargaining unit
              • 1 member of the Comprehensive Early Learning Centers bargaining unit
              • 1 member of the Head Start bargaining unit
              • 1 member of the Food Services Manager bargaining unit
              • 1 member of the Professional Technical bargaining unit
              • 1 member of the Reading Assistants/SSA bargaining unit
              • 1 member of the Per Diem bargaining unit
              • 6 Members At Large.
          • *If a bargaining unit shall no longer exist, the Executive Board position for that unit shall become an at-large position.

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      • Who can run for PFT leadership?

        • Executive officers must be members in good standing for 3 years.
        • Executive board members must be members in good standing for 1 year.

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      • Are PFT staff, Legal Services, and Health and Welfare Fund staff jobs up for election too? Will they be fired if new leadership takes over?

        • No and No!
        • PFT staff, regional reps, Legal Services, and Health and Welfare staff are the hardworking paid employees of our union that serve all members of the PFT. Their jobs are not up for election! Regardless of which slate or candidates win the election PFT staff will continue their service to the members of the PFT.
        • PFT office staff are represented by their own union, the United Steel Workers. Their jobs are protected by a contract, just like ours. It’s not legal, or logical for the leadership to violate their contract, let alone fire our staff.
        • Some staff also hold elected office. This election is only for elected positions, not staff positions.
        • In every election and with normal attrition, there is some staff turnover. We have 4 months between the election and the inauguration of the new Executive Board to ensure a smooth transition.


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      • When, Where, and What happens at the AFT Conventions?

        • The National AFT Convention is held biannually on even numbered years. Delegates from across the country gather for 4 days to attend action fairs, panel discussions, divisional meetings, nominating sessions, and general sessions for speakers and to vote on political endorsements, resolutions, and constitutional amendments. See details and summaries of the 2018 National AFT Convention.
        • The next National AFT Convention will be held in 2020. Transportation, hotel accommodation, and $50 per day for expenses will be provided to delegates.
        • The next Pennsylvania AFT Convention will be held in 2021. Transportation, hotel accommodation, and $50 per day for expenses will be provided to delegates.

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      • What is a delegate? Can I run as a delegate to the AFT Conventions?

        • Delegates are elected to represent and vote on behalf of the PFT at an AFT Convention.
        • Delegates to AFT Conventions must be members in good standing (currently and continuously paying dues).
        • A candidate may run as part of a slate or independently.
        • If you want to run as a delegate to one or both conventions, you must submit a signed consent form for each convention to the PFT office by January 21st at 5pm. If you wish to run on a slate, the form must be signed by the head of the slate.

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  • What is the Nomination and Election Committee? 

    • The Election Committee is composed of PFT members representing the different slates running for office. They are in charge of overseeing a fair electoral process, in particular the counting of votes, and the monitoring of election violations. The Executive Board appoints a chair and each slate may appoint 5 members of the committee.
    • Chair, Benjamin Hover
    • CB, Cyndi Bolden
    • CB, Suzanne Cataline
    • CB, Erik Fleming
    • CB, Ray Guzman
    • CB, Ed Olson
    • WE, Eileen Duffey
    • WE, Ken Flaxman
    • WE, Derrick Houck
    • WE, Larissa Pahomov
    • WE, Thomas Quinn

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      • What is a caucus?

        • A caucus is simply a group of people with shared concerns within a political party or larger organization. Most unions have multiple caucuses and there have been many caucuses in PFT’s past, including the Progressive Caucus of the PFT and the School Employees Action Caucus (SEAC).
        • Currently there are 2 active caucuses in the PFT: the incumbent Collective Bargaining Team (CB), and the challenger Caucus of Working Educators (WE).

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      • What is a slate? Do I have to vote for an entire slate, or can I pick and choose from each slate?

        • A slate is a group of candidates that were nominated by a caucus to run for positions on the ballot. Both the CB Team and the Caucus of WE are running slates in the current election. Candidates may also run independent of a slate.
        • You can either vote “straight ticket” by marking one of the boxes at the top of the ballot next to a slate name, voting entirely for one slate or the other, or you can “split your ticket,” by marking boxes next to individual candidates of both slates. The individual candidates with the most votes for their position on the ballot will win the election. See the 2016 Sample Ballots.

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      • Who is the Collective Bargaining Team (CB)?

        • The CB Team is the incumbent caucus that has held the leadership of the PFT continuously since the early 1980s.
        • “The Collective Bargaining Team is dedicated and committed to the belief that Philadelphia Public School teachers and school staff can make a significant contribution to improving public education to provide our children with the best opportunities to master the skills they will need to succeed.”CB Team website

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      • Who is the Caucus of Working Educators (WE)?

        • The Caucus of WE was formed in 2014 after 5 years of grassroots school and community organizing. WE ran for PFT leadership in 2016, and is running again in 2020.We logo solid red
        • “We are PFT members from across the city who believe that our union can and must become much stronger if we want to win a stronger contract. We want to change the course of the PFT – from becoming smaller and weaker each year to tapping into the power of our members and our communities so we can fight for the schools Philly students deserve.”  – Caucus of WE website

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      • Can PFT members campaign in other school buildings?

        • Yes. Any PFT member can campaign in any school district building during non-instructional time, including before school, after school, and during lunch periods.
        • Members campaigning for both CB and WE must be given equal access to facilities.
        • PFT members’ right to campaign cannot be infringed upon by other PFT members, including building reps, according to federal labor law (LMRDA).
        • PFT members’ right to campaign cannot be interfered with by principals, assistant principals, or district administrators according to Pennsylvania labor law (PERA) and the First Amendment. Ronak Chokshi, SDP Deputy of Employee & Labor Relations sent a memo to all district principals on October 29, 2019 addressing campaigning in school buildings:
“Supporters of any PFT caucus have the right, like any visitor, to enter your school in the same manner
and under the same rules as other visitors.
“Any PFT caucus has the right to meet with staff before and after work in the school. If a meeting room is requested by a PFT caucus, please provide it.”
        • “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” – Justice Abe Fortas, Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

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      • Can PFT members place campaign materials in staff mailboxes and on bulletin boards?

        • Yes. Any PFT member “absolutely has the right to put material in mailboxes at other schools,” says PFT staffer Erik Fleming.
        • Candidates from all slates must have equal access to mailboxes according to federal labor law (LMRDA).
        • The same equal access principle applies to bulletin boards and walls in staff (not student) areas where posters are hung. These are legally considered “designated public fora” and material placed there is subject to First Amendment protection.
        • The clause in the PFT Contract that allows a PFT representative to use mailboxes does not exclude other PFT members from also using the mailboxes to distribute campaign materials. PFT building reps do not have the right to deny access to mailboxes by other PFT members, nor may they remove materials from the boxes of other members.
        • Principals may ask to see what materials are placed into mailboxes, but they may not deny equal access to members of any slate or otherwise interfere with union organizing and campaigning according to Pennsylvania labor law (PERA).
        • Ronak Chokshi, SDP Deputy of Employee & Labor Relations sent a memo to all district principals on October 29, 2019 addressing campaigning in school buildings:
“As you are aware, elections generate literature. This election is no different. However, instead of mailing the literature to someone’s home, the literature will be placed in the school mailboxes. This is permissible for any PFT caucus. Do not interfere with this right. However, permission to enter the space where the mailboxes are located must be requested and should be granted unless there is a compelling reason not to do so.”

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      • Can PFT staffers campaign during their work hours or in PFT chapter or regional meetings?

        • No, not during their work hours or in PFT meetings. Staffers are paid by our dues to work for all PFT members, not to campaign for any candidate or caucus. 
        • Use of PFT “time” is considered a use of union resources and is forbidden by federal labor law (LMRDA).
        • “The act forbids the use of union resources to support a favored candidate for office over any other candidates, and it specifically prohibits the union and its officers from discriminating among candidates with respect to certain procedures and use of facilities.”

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      • Can AFT officers or staffers support the election of a slate or candidate?

        • No, not during their work hours. Use of AFT “time” is considered a use of union resources and is forbidden by federal labor law (LMRDA).

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      • How did those campaign mailers get to my house? Do CB and/or WE have my home address?

        • Neither caucus has your home address unless you gave it to them.
        • The PFT has contact info for members, but may not use those lists (or any other union resources) to support a candidate or caucus according to federal law (LMRDA).
        • According to PFT election procedures, any caucus running a slate may pay to send out campaign materials to the membership though a third-party (unionized) print shop and mail house. A data company retrieves employee data from the district and supplies it directly to SED, who in turn send out both CB and WE mailings to members’ homes. Addresses are not shared with the caucuses.

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      • Will the PFT, or anyone else know how I voted?

        • No, not unless you tell them.
        • When you send back your ballot, you will be placing it in two envelopes: first in an anonymous ballot envelope, and then in the prepaid mailing envelope. This second, outer envelope gets scanned upon delivery. This ensures that the ballot mailbox isn’t being stuffed. That envelope is then removed and stored in a separate location, leaving only your anonymous ballot. AAA will have a record of who sent in a ballot, but NOT how you voted.

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      • What if someone offers a raffle ticket for my ballot, asks me to fill out my ballot, or to mail my ballot for me?

        • Under no circumstances should you let anyone else complete your ballot or to mail your ballot envelope for you. The PFT election should adhere to the principle of “one person-one vote.”
        • It is best to mail your ballot from a closed mailbox, rather than an open box at your school.
        • Ballot raffles are legal, however they can compromise the integrity of an election or building rep if they involve members relinquishing their actual ballots for the drawing or mailing.
          “Ballot secrecy can only be preserved if you personally mark and mail your ballot. Do not allow anyone else to mark or handle your ballot or see how you vote. Do not give your ballot to anyone else for mailing. Do not hand deliver your ballot to the union office.The US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)
        • If you suspect that your ballot has been stolen or tampered with, call the AAA to request a replacement ballot immediately at 215-731-2281.

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      • Where can I report violations of fair campaign practices or election rules?

        • Violations of election laws or procedures should be reported to a member of the Election Committee or to the AAA. Each caucus may appoint a specific committee member to take complaints.
          • Violations may be reported to a CB supporter. (Contact info TBA)
          • Violations may be reported to WE member, Tom Quinn: tquinn6935@gmail.com / 215-300-9275.
          • Violations may be reported to the AAA: 215-731-2281
        • Complaints involving your colleagues should not be made to school administrators.

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This website is a project of the Caucus of Working Educators. You can read more about why we created this website here