Hello SDEA Members!
I am writing to you as the Secretary-Elect of SDEA, and I am incredibly grateful for those of you who voted for me. My fundamental goal as a leader of SDEA is to keep our union open, honest, and strong while protecting our contract and our jobs. (Including mine! I am currently pink slipped for the 4th time in 5 years.) If you share those goals with me and want to keep SDEA strong, I really hope you read this and then GET ACTIVE. That’s what I’ve been doing.
As an incoming Board member, I’ve started attending SDEA Board meetings which are open to all members. I attended a portion of tonight’s meeting. Oddly, the Board moved into Executive Session, for a second time, to discuss Action Item 5.7 regarding Executive Director /CTA Managers Position. Any member present should be able to listen to and discuss Action Items on the agenda. However, after discussing possible bylaw changes regarding “subversive” members, Bill Freeman stated that the Board was going to move 5.7 into Executive Session, thereby denying members the ability to witness and participate in the decision making process regarding the Executive Director position.
But while I was there, this is what I saw:
I watched the SDEA Board discuss Action Item 5.6 regarding Approval of Changes to SDEA’s Bylaws and Standing rules. It was at this time that the conversation took a bizarre turn and they began to discuss how Robert’s Rules of Order define “subversive” members or groups. They stated that they were already having their legal department check on this, and that they were going to check with CTA and NEA.
As a Government and History teacher, it sounds like SDEA is attempting to suppress our Freedom of Speech and our ability to question authority. If these types of changes are made to our bylaws, it would allow SDEA to do the following:
- Grant the 16-member SDEA Board the authority to censure other democratically elected Board members if they are a member of a “subversive” group as defined solely by the SDEA Board. This means that literally all 8,000 SDEA members could vote in a Board member in the hopes of changing our union’s direction, and a 9-vote majority of the currently sitting Board could silence that democratically elected leader by voting them right back off.
- Create a brand new “complaints procedure” to make it easier for the sitting SDEA Board to censure democratically elected fellow Board members based on member complaints. Again, this would have the effect of taking the decision-making power out of the hands of our 8,000 members and placing it in the hands of a simple majority of 16 people.
I honestly can’t believe what is happening to our union or that our leadership is spending time, energy, and money on this when we have more pressing issues to deal with like 1,700 laid off members! I assume that these bylaw changes are in response to Camille’s email, and the efforts of myself and a group of other SDEA members to found the Breakfast Club Action Group… A group we founded only after being told repeatedly at the membership meetings to go organize ourselves to fight against layoffs and keep our contract closed.
We are hardly “subversive,” as we have a public website, and have been explicitly organizing to pressure the School Board to recall layoffs while keeping their hands off of our contract. How can we be “subversive” if we agree with SDEA’s message of “No Concessions! No Layoffs!”?
From what I personally saw tonight, the democratically elected leadership of our union – the entity we all pay dues to represent us – is not exhibiting the behavior of a teachers’ union founded on the principles of democracy and open debate. If you are as concerned by this as I am, please do the following:
- Email the SDEA Board, not just SDEA President Bill Freeman, and ask for an explanation.
- Start attending SDEA Board meetings. These meetings are supposed to be open to the general members, and they are only supposed to go into the “Executive Session” to discuss bargaining or personnel issues.
- If you are an AR, make sure you are at the rep council and that you speak out against this possible bylaw change. Support free speech. Don’t let elected leadership hide behind technical maneuvering to suppress debate and silence dissent.
Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this further. I’ve always believed that together we are stronger, and that shouldn’t change now.