NEA Director Goes Nuclear in Dispute with New Jersey Education Association

Andrew Policastro has held numerous offices in his local and the New Jersey Education Association. He is one of NJEA’s representatives on the National Education Association board of directors.

Policastro ran for the position of NJEA secretary-treasurer, finishing third in a four-way race. He filed complaints with the union’s election committee, claiming his opponents and their allies violated internal campaign rules. When NJEA dismissed his complaints, Policastro appealed to the U.S. Department of Labor, only to learn that NJEA is not subject to the requirements of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), the federal law that regulates union procedures.

Not to be denied, Policastro filed suit in district court, calling on the court to rule that NJEA is subject to the LMRDA.

Should Policastro succeed, it would usher in a new era of public knowledge of NEA affiliates. Not only would NJEA and every other NEA state affiliate be required to file financial reports annually, but NEA trusteeships, such as those imposed on affiliates in Alabama, Indiana and South Carolina, would have to make details of those operations publicly available.

Alas, the outlook for such a revolution is not good. In 2003, the U.S. Department of Labor sought the same jurisdiction over all NEA affiliates, resulting in a union lawsuit, a rebuff in the courts, and a bureaucratic death after the election of Barack Obama.

Policastro is nothing if not determined, having financed out of his own pocket a First Amendment suit against his school district, representing himself in the process.

Should his complaint proceed up the judicial ladder, it is inevitable that NEA’s attorneys will intervene. Will Policastro, as a member benefit, be able to draw on legal advice from his union?