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Miami-Dade teachers union votes decisively to keep current leadership

First graders at Redland Elementary in Homestead are led into the classroom by their teacher after being dropped off by their parents on Oct. 5. It was the first day of Miami-Dade County Public Schools opened for in-person classes since the onset of the pandemic.
Jose Iglesias
Miami Herald
First graders at Redland Elementary in Homestead are led into the classroom by their teacher after being dropped off by their parents.

The union president who represent thousands of workers in Miami-Dade County Public Schools has decisively won reelection — although by a smaller margin than in the past. United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats will keep her seat after winning 63% of the vote during Wednesday’s election.

“Ecstatic & humbled about our win!” Hernandez-Mats tweeted after the results came in. “Thank you for the vote of confidence. It was a landslide! God is good.”

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Hernandez-Mats and her leadership team will serve another three-year term after winning a clear majority of the vote. Still, her margin of victory was some 10 points less than when she was reelected to the seat in 2019.

Hernandez-Mats, Vice President Antonio White and Secretary-Treasurer Mindy Grimes-Festge successfully fought off a challenge from a new political caucus that argued the current leadership is out of touch with rank and file members. The UTD’s current leaders say their Frontline Caucus has provided what they say is proven leadership on key issues of salaries, benefits and working conditions. Put simply, they say they’ve delivered.

The challengers’ People Over Politics caucus ran on promises to promote advocacy, community and transparency. They argued that UTD leaders need to do more to strengthen the union and its membership, from providing more training on budgets and contracts, to launching an app and transforming the organization’s headquarters.

Alexandria Martin was the group’s candidate for president; Richard Ocampo ran for vice president and Katherine Prelaz ran for secretary-treasurer.

The three opposition leaders brought in roughly a third of the vote, with the incumbents netting 63 to 65 percent of the vote. According to UTD, voter turnout was roughly 45% of the union’s members.

UTD’s current leaders maintained they’ve delivered for union members by fighting for pay increases and coronavirus protections. Hernandez-Mats has touted her administration’s work in holding down healthcare premiums and responding to the pandemic. She's also highlighted their role in championing and helping pass a local tax referendum that gave teachers a raise.

Martin told WLRN that as a union steward and executive board member, she intends to stay involved and lead an opposition movement within UTD.

“This caucus will continue as a minority caucus within our union, in that we will act as a check and balance to what is currently happening,” Martin said. “It doesn't have to be an echo chamber, that we can have differing views. But at the end of the day we’re all one union.”

The re-elected leadership team will start their new terms on May 19, 2022.

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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