Let’s face it, the National Education Association is a bunch of amateurs when it comes to dropping the hammer on an uppity affiliate. The national office of the American Federation of Teachers simply won’t tolerate any talk of local affiliates abandoning the reservation and making their own way.
AFT has a long tradition of staging a coup de main in locals that disaffiliated, or even tried to disaffiliate. The union failed to crush an uprising in Puerto Rico, but it still employed the same tactics against the Colorado Federation of Public Employees and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. In the latter case, the U.S. Department of Labor declared AFT’s actions unlawful. And moot.
The latest target of AFT’s wrath is the Dearborn Federation of School Employees (DFSE), a 900-member education support employee local in Michigan. AFT claims in a civil suit against DFSE that the union president conducted a disaffiliation vote in April without following the by-laws. According to the Detroit News, AFT “held an evidentiary hearing June 14 and placed the local under temporary trusteeship.”
“The incumbent officers aren’t prepared to comply with AFT orders. … They want to hang on as long as they can,” said AFT attorney Bruce Miller. “We want them to relinquish their office, AFT will take over the local and restore democratic practices and pull together the warring factions. All of the votes were against getting out of the AFT.”
As you might imagine, those incumbent officers have a different tale to tell. In an open letter to members, DFSE president Sharon Korhonen and five other union officers describe an out-of-control national affiliate:
No one is taking this union over. Do not listen to lies. These AFT people showed up at 1107 Washington , the DFSE office on Monday, July 22 at 9:00 a.m. demanding the keys, files, passwords, home addresses, and everything else!!!!! They were asked to leave and refused. The Dearborn Police were called and they asked them to leave. The AFT told the police they were not leaving. The police escorted the AFT reps to the sidewalk and told them not to come back without a Court Order. Before AFT left, they unplugged our computers.
…If AFT’s sole interest is to ensure the well being of the DFSE members, they have an odd way of doing it. On the accusations of three members, AFT has attempted to take over the office, send the office help home, disconnect the computers and take over your union dues. They have limited the actions of our lawyer and frozen our money, making it impossible to pay utilities, rent and HFCC scholarships, among other obligations.
Membership involvement does “continue to be a hallmark of a strong union,” and that is why we are relying on your active participation to create a stronger DFSE. Let’s take off the gloves and get in this fight. AFT’s actions by their statement, has been instigated by three disgruntled members. Didn’t think in this country you could seize control and force a new election when three members are unhappy with the outcome of the last election. Dictators gain power when people don’t think and don’t seek the truth.
It looks like this will be hashed out in county court. I suggest that local affiliates with a notion about leaving AFT plan accordingly.