Like any democratic body, our union has an elected Board who meet periodically to make decisions about the future and direction of our union. The Board, comprised of 16 elected SDEA members, usually meets at least once a month. These meetings are open to the general membership to observe.
However, there are four things that the Board is allowed to discuss in “Executive Session” which the general membership is not allowed to observe. According to Section 5.16 of the SDEA bylaws:
5.16 The Board of Directors may conduct executive sessions during which discussions shall be exclusively limited to:
1) Hiring, firing and/or evaluation of Association staff;
2) Personnel cases or grievances involving members and the District;
3) Strategy and tactics related to bargaining; and
This same language is repeated in our Standing Rules in Standing Rule 2.07, Subsection A-16. Those are the only four things that can be contained within Executive Session, and they are only supposed to be discussed, not voted on. Everything else, including votes based on discussions in Executive Session, is required to be out in the open so members know what is going on. That is a fair rule, because as dues-paying union members, we have a right to know what our elected leaders are deciding to do with those dues.
Recently, the SDEA Board has been having discussions in Executive Session that are not allowed to be in Executive Session. They have also begun conducting votes in Executive Session. That is a violation of our Bylaws and Standing Rules, and raises concerns about transparency in our elected union leaders’ decision-making process.
Here is an example. Just this past Monday, May 14, SDEA Secretary-Elect Michelle Sanchez attended part of the SDEA Board meeting to observe. The agenda included an Item 5.7 as an “Action Item” entitled “ED/CTA Managers Position.” This is in reference to our now-vacant Executive Director position. Three years ago, the SDEA Board decided to make our SDEA Executive Director an independent employee of SDEA rather than a CTA manager, which is what it used to be. Whether or not our Executive Director is SDEA’s own independent employee, or an employee of CTA, is a big deal (read this article to see why), and can have a broad impact on our union.
This Action Item 5.7 was listed as separate from Executive Session Item 3.0 entitled “Personnel Updates.” Action Item 5.7 was clearly not a personnel discussion about a specific person, but rather a broad discussion about whether the Executive Director position should remain independently ours, or go back to being a CTA position. As such, it is something any SDEA member should have been able to observe.
Instead, the Board moved into Executive Session to discuss (and possibly vote on) Item 5.7, and so told Michelle that she had to leave. Michelle and any other member who wanted to should have been able to observe the discussion and vote.
Why won’t SDEA’s Board conduct our business out in the open as our governing documents require them to?
If you would also like more information about this, you can:
- Contact an SDEA Board Member
- Attend an upcoming SDEA Board meeting yourself. Contact SDEA President Bill Freeman to find out when the next Board meeting is. We hope to see you there!