One of NEA’s staff unions, the Association of Field Service Employees (AFSE), has been working without a contract since the end of May. If their communications are any indication, a key issue to be hammered out is workplace bullying.
The management side of this dispute is represented by executive director John Stocks, and AFSE has some choice words about his approach to labor relations:
We would like nothing more than to be able to show up to work, and go into battle for public education, free from distraction and fear in our own workplace. In public, NEA’s executive director John Stocks delivers passionate and fiery speeches about social justice unionism and activism. In private, however, his rhetoric does not match his actions. Mr. Stocks and and his spokespeople continue to say that they “support collective bargaining.” But he knows well that supporting the process is not synonymous with supporting union values.
Throughout this process we have tried to negotiate a contract which restores dignity to our employees, recognizes our professionalism and demands respect for the work that we do. Instead we have found ourselves having to defend basic union values: we can’t even get Mr. Stocks to consider language that protects NEA staff from bullying.
The latest negotiations bulletin goes further.
Over the last year, we have done our best to work collaboratively with new management to meet the goals of the organization. Unfortunately, we cannot seem to break through the new culture—one that rewards secrecy and divisiveness, instead of respect and cooperation. Mr. Stocks’ management team issued their “last, best, and final offer” last week even while negotiators were making progress at the table.
We are no strangers to this type of hostility. The truth is, we come across it every day when we’re on the front lines, supporting and fighting for NEA members. What we have witnessed is shocking: just like “so-called” reformers who want to rid public schools of skilled and experienced educators, unfortunately it seems NEA has the same vision for its field staff.
Some union people have suggested to me that the staff union is engaging in hyperbole simply to enhance its negotiating position. I hope they remember they revealed that tactic the next time there is a public dispute between a teachers’ union and a school district.
Both sides return to the table on Monday with a federal mediator on hand.