In Union Race, Candidate Hector Gonzalez Says Polling Place Locations Give His Opponent Ron Greco an Unfair Advantage
Jersey City Education Association president Thomas Favia denies that the upcoming union election committee’s polling place layout is designed to “suppress” voters, as alleged by candidate Hector Gonzalez, who claims the sites might favor a better turnout for presidential candidate Ron Greco’s slate.
The election, which is set for Wednesday, will see approximately 4,000 union members cast ballots for presidential and executive board candidates for the first seriously contested election since 1988. Favia, 81, is set to retire on June 30th after 22 years at the union’s helm and 55 working for the district. The JCEA is the largest New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) local in the state, and 16 other offices are also up for grabs.
Given the stakes of the race, polling place location can be pivotal, which is why Gonzalez is pointing out that co-workers of Greco’s candidates (Greco is shown at right) will have closer access to ballot boxes when voting commences Wednesday, June 13. For the first time in at least recent history, a union election will not have a single ballot box in a city high school, a decision that raises a red flag for Gonzalez.
He says research shows that Ferris High School – where he teaches – had always offered a location in the past. Two of Gonzalez’s running mates are also from Ferris.
Favia says Gonzalez was given an opportunity to object by the election committee chairwoman, but didn’t at the time. Gonzalez denies this.
Although vacating his presidency, Favia is far from uninvolved in the election and is campaigning hard for Greco, who is closely linked to the outgoing president as the JCEA’s number two man. But Gonzalez cites this as an obvious conflict, alleging Favia tightly controls the elections committee, which Favia denies.
There will be eight polling stations in total, with locations at Schools 7, 8, 15 and 23, Gerard J. Dynes Regional Day School, JCEA union headquarters, Casino in the Park and the Moose Lodge. Two of Greco’s candidates work at School 15, one at School 7 and one at School 23. One Gonzalez candidate works at School 7.
Gonzalez also maintains that certain schools (such as 8 and Dynes) have inadequate parking. In some situations where there might be better parking, he says, some high school employees would have to travel a significant distance to reach privately-owned sites the JCEA is leasing (assuming employees would leave their schools to vote during school hours or after).
Greco, however, asserts all voting facilities have sufficient parking.
“The elections committee tried getting 12 polling stations, but the Hudson County Board of Elections only agreed to provide machines for eight,” says Favia, adding that each polling place will have two machines. “The election committee chairwoman [Elba Perez-Cinciarelli] explained this to Mr. Gonzalez, who didn’t complain at the time.”
“Favia’s statements are ludicrous and this whole thing smells fishy,” Gonzalez responds. “I didn’t agree to anything. We were never invited to the table. All we got was a song and dance from the chairwoman, who simply said these are the locations. I did tell her that I would agree if the committee put at least one location in a high school – just give us one – and naturally, it fell on deaf ears.
“Historically, Tom Favia’s committee knows high schools have always had polling stations,” Gonzalez continues. “But Favia knows he’s not popular with people who work in the high schools. He’s stayed away from them. As an example, I would say he hasn’t visited the employees here at Ferris to discuss their concerns in about five years.”
“I’m not popular in the high schools?” Favia says in response. “Mr. Gonzalez is not running against me. He’s running against Ron Greco, and he should be campaigning against him.”
Gonzalez’s other complaints include the fact that the more than 300 teachers at Dickinson High School will have to vote at School 8, “where there’s no parking,” requiring his Ferris colleagues to travel crosstown to Casino in the Park, and forcing all “Downtown teachers” to vote at Dynes, “where there’s no parking.”
Gonzalez criticizes the NJEA for allowing the layout, but says he’s received strong assurances from one official that the state union will closely observe election day procedures.
Greco dismisses Gonzalez’s beefs as baseless. “Each side will have a group of approved challengers who can observe everything at all polling places,” he says. “I’ve personally inspected them, and all sites will have ample parking.”
Paula Christen, district spokeswoman, says the school district almost always approves all election sites the JCEA selects. “It’s strictly their call,” she says.
Read more: Amid State Education Reform Fight, Jersey City Education Association Faces Internal Schism.
File photo of Ron Greco by Steve Gold; Photo of Kevin Reed, John Gonzalez, Hector Gonzalez and Louis Greco courtesy of Hector Gonzalez