Unemployed Person Runs the Massachusetts Teachers Association

March 28, 2016

Unemployed Person Runs the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Barbara Madeloni, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, largely made her reputation on her fight against her former employer, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for its use of edTPA, the teacher performance assessment with a high level of union buy-in.

UMass Amherst administrators did not renew Madeloni’s contract after August 2013, which she claimed was retaliation for her stance. Now, thanks to the Boston Globe, we learn that a private deal with those administrators kept her on the employee roster long after she stopped doing any work for them.

Before Madeloni’s contract expired, she and the university reached a settlement of their dispute. Madeloni received a one-time payment of nearly $75,000 and one year of unpaid leave. This enabled her to retain her status as an active member while she ran for the presidency of MTA. After her election, she asked administrators at UMass Amherst to extend her unpaid leave status for two more years, and they complied, as a “courtesy” to MTA.

Madeloni is currently running for reelection, but UMass Amherst notified her they will not again renew her unpaid leave of absence. She has not performed any work for the university in 2 1/2 years, but the end of the agreement would also make her unemployed in the field of public education – both de facto and de jure – a requirement to hold the office of president of MTA.

Madeloni says “there is zero doubt – zero – about my eligibility to run and serve” because she technically will still be employed at the time of the election in May. If she loses her active status after being returned to office, she can serve out the rest of her term. She could also retire or find a new job in education and still be eligible.

If it were that easy, though, why didn’t Madeloni do it in August 2014, when her settlement with UMass Amherst expired? Why did UMass Amherst officials feel obligated to help her out, after she spent years excoriating them in public? There is also a question about how much – if anything – MTA’s other officers and representatives knew about the arrangement. After the Globe article appeared, a majority of the 12-member MTA Executive Committee voted to hold a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

The reaction of Madeloni and her supporting caucus was swift and agitated. She claimed the story was leaked to the Globe by an opposition research firm hired to look into her past by some unnamed opponents. She called it an “underhanded attempt to influence the election” and a “dangerous distraction.”

Madeloni’s caucus sent an e-mail blast to its members with the subject heading “Are they trying to STEAL THE ELECTION?” suggesting the Executive Committee meeting “might be an attempt to be sure that the election is not left up to the members, but is instead settled by the inner circle of the inner circle, acting in secrecy.” A call was made to pack the meeting with Madeloni supporters.

To those of us outside the union, this might seem to be just your run-of-the-mill shenanigans, but there are serious public policy implications here for the state of Massachusetts. Earlier this year, Madeloni had pledged to spend $9.6 million to defeat any attempt to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. But the union’s board of directors took some of the wind out of her sails, postponing the final decision until it could be authorized or not by the MTA delegate assembly on May 13-14. This is the same delegate assembly that will vote on the reelection of Madeloni.

The timing is also important. The delegates will apparently debate the charter school campaign on the afternoon of the 13th, but it isn’t clear if that will be followed by an immediate vote. The presidential election polls open on the morning of the 14th, with the results announced late in the day.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Madeloni’s opponent is her sitting vice president, Janet Anderson?

This is another front in the internal wars over the future philosophical direction of teachers’ unions. Which way will the lines on the map move in Massachusetts?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 22-28:

* #DoYourJob. An impeccable source says it’s OK to reject a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court based solely on ideology.

Teach For America Lays Off Staff, Usual Suspects Rejoice. The urge to resist is irresistible.

* Nebraska State Education Association’s Finances. Quietly stable.

Nevada State Education Association’s Finances. Who’s engaging in anti-union activity now?

NEA New Hampshire’s Finances. Clash between recession and payroll.

Quote of the Week. “We are following the constitution. If you cross the picket line you are considered a strikebreaker.” – Kristine Mayle, financial secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union, on how the rank-and-file should comply with the April 1 CTU walkout. (March 28 DNAinfo)

Can you be a strikebreaker if there is no strike? The CTU constitution gives strike authority to “a final, direct vote of the regular members,” which was not conducted for the April 1 action.

A member can be kicked out of the union (after a trial) for acts to “bring the Union into disrepute, or allegedly do the Union and the cause of union labor definite harm,” the penalty for which is to no longer have to pay CTU for activities unrelated to collective bargaining.