We’re still on a roll – but man are they putting up a wall! Yesterday, at the request of SDEA, Bill Kowba sent out an email directive to principals and secretaries all over the District (ask them yourselves) directing them to not let our NO Layoffs, NO Concessions action plan flier to be placed in members’ mailboxes unless they are officially “authorized by SDEA.” What?? WE ARE SDEA. We heard from a lot of you that your principals talked to you about keeping our information from getting out to members – that is not okay (although it means our pressure is working)! Why is the District leadership helping to suppress democratic critique of the union leadership? Why is Bill Kowba doing Bill Freeman’s bidding? Members deserve to be able to read our viable plan to save our jobs and our contract free from efforts at suppression. If you encounter these roadblocks, point your principal to Article 5.6 of the SDEA contract. Our ARs have a right to get information out to us, and we deserve to have that provision of our contract honored – just like every other provision. If the principal won’t let you distribute the materials, ask your AR to help. Regardless of our opinions, SDEA members should work together to protect our ability to share them with each other.
We were a little let down by the rest of the SDEA Board today as well. After 30 SDEA members showed up to observe the emergency SDEA Board meeting last Friday evening, today Bill Freeman canceled the regular monthly SDEA Board meeting with only six hours notice. The SDEA Board also sent out an email from the whole SDEA Board calling for unity, but didn’t ask currently-sitting SDEA Vice President Camille Zombro to be a part of the email (and her name was left off of the list of fourteen signers).
In response, Camille wrote the following email and sent it to the whole SDEA membership (the same recipients of the email from the rest of the SDEA Board). We’re forwarding it on because we’re afraid that the District will move to crack down on that communication as well. Hopefully her email will come through to you directly, as it should, but if not, please forward this far and wide. This isn’t about whether we agree or disagree. This is about whether or not we as union members have a right to engage in these conversations with each other or not.
—The SDEA Members of the Breakfast Club Action Group
Open Letter from SDEA Vice President Camille Zombro:
Fellow SDEA Members,
The democracy of SDEA is defined by our vigorous debate and our mutual respect for each other’s voices and ideas. Far from dividing us, our democracy strengthens us and our profession, in turn strengthening public education as a whole. While I am writing this to you as your currently-sitting, outgoing SDEA Vice President, I am also writing as an SDEA member, working mother, and part of a growing group of SDEA members who are looking for real solutions to the District’s attempts to divide us between the false choice of “layoffs vs. concessions.”
It took a lot for me to send this email to the entire union membership (you can read the longer email I previously sent about my concerns to the members I know personally here). Two things moved me to send this email to our entire membership. I intended to raise both of these issues at the SDEA Board meeting scheduled for this evening, but after 30 members showed up to observe the emergency SDEA Board meeting held this past Friday night, Bill Freeman canceled it.
First, yesterday the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, “The union board gave Freeman the OK last week to hire consultants to conduct a telephone survey of teachers within the next two weeks to gage what kind of concessions or agreements might be acceptable. The survey will stop once 70 percent of the membership has been polled.” I have grave concerns about the content and goals of this survey. For one, the questions were supposed to be approved by the SDEA Board in advance of its launch but were not.
Second, while I remain committed to building a strong and united SDEA, I was not asked to participate in the all-member email you all received on May 30th from the rest of the SDEA Board of Directors. So I would like to tell you directly what I would have contributed to that all-member email, had I been asked.
1. In the preceding five years SDEA members have demonstrated an unbelievable capacity to unite – and win – when we collectivize our efforts around a bold, clear plan to win. While the words of everyone in SDEA’s current leadership have consistently stated our organizational goals, “NO layoffs AND NO concessions,” members have been waiting since March 5 for a viable plan from SDEA leadership that will once again lead us to victory. Almost three months after the School Board’s layoff vote, that plan has yet to materialize.
2. Instead of continuing to wait for someone else to do it for us, SDEA members in the Breakfast Club Action Group (a group of active SDEA members fighting layoffs and concessions) reached out to former Executive Director Craig Leedham and crafted a strategy to unite members in accomplishing both of these goals, as we have together in the past. We think it is a proactive and uniting solution to the District’s “concessions vs. layoffs” spin, and would actually save our jobs and protect our pay and healthcare. You can read about it here. Educators all over SDUSD are working a grassroots campaign to build support for this plan, including a petition—find out how to get involved.
3. Unfortunately, we received widespread reports that Superintendent Kowba has directed principals to crack down on member-to-member distribution of that plan. In an email to principals Kowba wrote, “We have been informed by the Association that persons other than those authorized by the Association are placing material in District mailboxes.” The email directs principals to “stop this practice immediately.” WE ARE the Association – and every single one of the 200 elected site Association Representatives and Board Members is an officially sanctioned representative. This directive violates the SDEA contract (Article 5.6), state labor laws, and our basic rights to freedom of speech. Sadly, we can only conclude that SDEA President Bill Freeman solicited this help from the Superintendent to prevent our NO Layoffs, NO Concessions plan from reaching members. “Open lines of communication” between the union and the District are one thing. Collaborating to keep a plan to stop layoffs and concessions from getting out to members is something else entirely. You can directly download ‘the plan Bill Kowba and Bill Freeman don’t want you to read’ and read it yourself.
As it has always been, the solution to our shared problems is shared action around a plan to win back EVERY SINGLE laid off educator while protecting our contract. Let’s not allow attacks on our democracy or our own internal disagreements stop us from coming together around a plan that has a real chance to succeed:
- Read the attached flier – the one that member volunteers have been attempting to hand-deliver District-wide – and then share it with your friends and colleagues.
- Sign the online petition or distribute a hard copy to hold both our SDEA and SDUSD democratically elected leadership accountable around a real plan to protect our schools and our profession.
- Talk to your site AR about holding a union meeting to discuss your own site’s plan to protect our jobs AND our contract as we have in the past – download the emergency union meeting packet here.
- The SDEA members of the Breakfast Club Action Group have a mailing list. Sign up at https://thebreakfastclubsandiego.wordpress.com/ so we can keep in touch this summer when important decisions may be made by the District and our union about our jobs and our contract.
- If you have half an hour, spend some time perusing the Breakfast Club website for some background information about how got where we are, and how we can get back to where we need to be. I suggest these three links: ONE, TWO and THREE.
It is absolutely not too late to change our collective fates for the better if we unite together now around a plan to win!