West Virginia Support Employees Leave AFT

When the West Virginia Support Service Personnel Association (WVSSPA) joined the American Federation of Teachers in 2008, the national union sent out a laudatory press release:

West Virginia’s independent union of more than 7,800 school service personnel has affiliated with the AFT and AFT-West Virginia. The two state organizations together represent about 15,000 workers, and, if approved by AFT’s executive council in September, the agreement will make the AFT the largest union in West Virginia.

There has been no similar press release, nor any official mention whatsoever, now that WVSSPA has disaffiliated itself from AFT.

AFT has not been idle, however. In response, the union is raiding its former affiliate for members to join AFT West Virginia directly, similar to what NEA did in Memphis, Tennessee.

WVSSPA executive director Joe White calls it “an old-fashioned union war” and told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “The AFT national is a big bully and, here in West Virginia, we don’t take kind to bullies telling you what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.”

WVSSPA disaffiliated after a unanimous vote of its executive committee. AFT president Randi Weingarten said she would help keep the association in the AFL-CIO if the rank-and-file were allowed to express their preference about AFT affiliation.

AFT didn’t seem overly concerned about the opinion of the rank-and-file in 2008, when a unanimous vote of the executive committee authorized the affiliation in the first place.

“Our money was going to Wisconsin, Michigan, everywhere else, and it was just not working for us, for West Virginia school service personnel,” said White, adding, “[AFT is] out to destroy us, but it’s not going to happen.”

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