Responses to the “Stacked-Deck” Theory

Last post, I reported the theory that the change in the results between January’s strike vote (57.03% in favour of striking) to February’s contract offer vote (~50% in favour of rejecting, unofficially) could be explained with reference to additional faculty who were hired between those two dates, presumably for the purpose of increasing the overall level of voter support for the colleges’ offer,  given their insecure, inexperienced, and/or vulnerable status.

And, in fact, the number of eligible voters did rise from 10,179 in January to 11,035 in February — a difference of  856, meaning that 7.75% of the eligible voters in February were ineligible to vote in January.  Obviously, this number bears a striking resemblance to the ~7% loss of support between the two votes.

Consequently, one correspondent in Southwestern Ontario writes:

Interesting, very interesting. When’s the last time any of us can remember a 7-8% increase in “voting” faculty hires in a timely consecutive 20-ish day span ? Or simply phrased, any time span within 20 days ? [. . .] Sadly, it almost seems like the Council believes their own spun web of deception, deceit and delusions. It’s reassuring to know that we, the educators, counsellors and librarians, have the research, scientific, clinical. academic, and mere common sense experience to catch them at their every jaded attempt to increase the failure rate of students.

On the more skeptical side of the fence, a prof in the 905 gives his first-hand experience:

The theory that “padded” membership lists might account for the swing from pro strike to pro contract makes interesting reading, but I can give you a little anecdotal evidence to the contrary.  In my small department there are seven full time faculty members. When the strike vote was taken, we discussed the issues and the choices collectively, and all seven agreed to vote in favour of strike action. The existence of the imposed terms of employment was key to this group decision.  When the contract vote was held, we had lively group discussions once again. The result was that six of the seven members decided, (for a variety of reasons), to vote yes to the contract.  I would be very surprised if we were the only ones to make this switch.

I’m curious by the response of the six colleagues in question, mainly because it seems to me that they ultimately chose to reward the CCBA for the very imposition for which they originally sought to punish it.   One assumes that the lesson that college managers have learned is that the best way to get faculty to vote in favour of a contract is to impose it on them, some months prior.

But I digress.  The question is: While the addition of faculty may have been a necessary condition for the reduction in support, is it a sufficient condition?   

[Here’s where I humbly ask that any math prof reading this please double-check my work.  A logician’s feedback probably wouldn’t hurt, either ]

To summarize the theory, the number of faculty who rejected both the Terms and Conditions in January and the “Final Offer” in February remained relatively constant, but that number represented a smaller proportion  of the number of people who voted in February’s offer vote.

And the striking decline of support in Centennial College would seem prima facie to support that theory.  Centennial went from 70.1% support in January to 44.7% support in February — a 25% drop-off that may be accounted for significantly by the increase in eligible voters from 559 to 714.  (Meaning that a full 22% of eligible voters in February were newly added — And who says that unions don’t create new jobs?)

But there’s one niggling factor about Centennial that calls the theory’s adequacy into question: The number of people there who voted to strike in January was 282; the number of people who voted to reject the offer in February was 213.   The “stacked-deck theory” implies that the number of union’s supporters was constant, and that the influx of new voting members merely diluted their proportion of the total votes.  But support for rejecting the colleges’ offer wasn’t constant — it decreased by 69 votes, or… 24.5%. 

So yes, the management can stack the deck with jokers, but that strategy can’t itself reduce the number of other cards in the deck.

And, in fact, that sort of reduction in the raw number of supporters is seen throughout the system.  Ignoring the added number of people who sided with the colleges in either vote, the fact remains that  17 out of the 24 colleges saw fewer people rejecting the contract in February than had voted to strike in January.  If those 17 colleges had merely kept the support of the individuals who had initially voted to strike, there would have been an additional 335 votes rejecting the contract (and up to 335 fewer votes accepting it).

Perhaps Seneca College offers the most reasonable understanding of the impact of the added eligible voters on the final numbers.  Seneca saw its eligible voters increase from 1082 to 1230 — an increase of 148 (or +13.7%).  Seneca also saw an increase in turnout from 67% to 75.7%  (which could be due to a disproportionate number of those new voters participating, and/or because a number of voters who had abstained from the strike vote participated in the Offer vote).  Between newly-eligible and newly-involved voters, the number of valid ballots cast was 186 higher than in the Strike vote. 

So how did those 186 new ballots break?  Well, 100 of them went to support the college (i.e., the votes to accept the offer in February exceeded the votes against striking in January by 100), but 86 of them went to support the union (i.e., the votes to reject the offer in February exceeded the votes in favour of  striking in January by 86).  In short, 46% of the new ballots cast in February at Seneca voted to reject the college’s offer.

Now, granted this does represent a dilution of union support — Seneca’s support went from 57% to 53%, but such dilution becomes magnified considerably when accompanied by a numerical loss of base support (as 17 colleges experienced, unlike Seneca).

So the theory is valid — the increase in the number of eligible voters is likely a necessary condition for the overall level of loss of support, but I’m not yet convinced that it’s a sufficient condition, since I don’t know what the (unofficial) vote totals would look like, had every individual who voted to strike in January also voted to reject the contract in February.

Or, to extend a metaphor — Yes, Karl Rove’s manipulation of the voter rolls may have caused Al Gore to lose Florida, but that would perhaps have been insignificant if Gore had retained the support of his home state, Tennessee.

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