A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Drive-By Reporting in Alabama

Written By: Mike Antonucci   – Jun• 15•15

Six weeks after NEA established a trusteeship over the Alabama Education Association, a state newspaper finally got around to inquiring what was going on at AEA and found… nothing.

The Montgomery Adverstiser ran a story on Saturday headlined “AEA still looking for leader after Mabry’s departure.” It quotes an AEA spokeswoman saying, “We’re still in the same place we were in the early morning hours of Feb. 21.” That statement is – being generous here – inaccurate. The word “trusteeship” is never used and the identity of the trustee – Greg Burns – is never mentioned.

The rest of the article rehashes the situation leading up to the trusteeship, then concludes with:

Attempts to reach [AEA president] Gibson last week were unsuccessful. Gibson’s statement also announced a “partnership” with the National Education Association, its parent group, “to safeguard AEA and its members.” Marlowe said last week the NEA was sending staff down to look over the financial practices in the organization.

“They’re still working all of that out,” she said. “They’re going through and trying to make sense of the different accounting procedures, and trying to make sense of different things.”

Messages seeking comment from the NEA were not returned last week.

No timeframe has been set for the naming of a successor to Mabry. The AEA’s major meeting takes place in December, and Marlowe said the selection of a leader could take place at that meeting. Marlowe said in that absence, individual departments were working together collaboratively.

There is not just a difference in semantics between a “partnership” and a “trusteeship.” The latter is defined by the Landrum-Griffin Act as “any receivership, trusteeship, or other method of supervision or control whereby a labor organization suspends the autonomy otherwise available to a subordinate body under its constitution or bylaws.” (emphasis added)

Trusteeships can only be established “for the purpose of correcting corruption or financial malpractice, assuring the performance of collective bargaining agreements or other duties of a bargaining representative, restoring democratic procedures, or otherwise carrying out the legitimate objects of such labor organization.”

The NEA bylaws spell out the procedures for establishing a trusteeship over a state affiliate. Many of them have to do with the affiliate’s rights to object, but since AEA’s elected officers requested the trusteeship, they do not apply. The NEA board of directors must approve a trusteeship by a two-thirds majority. The vote to approve the AEA trusteeship was unanimous.

The trustee is appointed by the NEA Executive Committee with the powers to “(1) conduct the affairs of the state association, including supervisory control over its officers, employees and other representatives; (2) take possession of the books, records, funds, and other assets of the state association, to be held in trust for and used only in the proper conduct of its affairs; (3) remove officers and staff of the state association, and replace them if deemed appropriate for the duration of the trusteeship; and (4) take such other actions as in a trustee’s judgment are necessary for the preservation of the rights and interests of the National Education Association and the members of the state association.”

Of course, it is entirely up to the Trustee how much power he wishes to wield. Based on the situations in Indiana and South Carolina, it is likely that the AEA officers retain much of their previous freedom of movement. But the AEA officers and board of directors cannot hire a replacement for Mabry unless he or she is approved by the Trustee. And there would be no point in doing so because the new hire would have no authority.

The Advertiser somehow missed all of this and no other newspaper has picked up the slack.

I am awaiting more documents and will update this story as they arrive.


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