I attended the SDEA Board meeting this past Friday afternoon. I went with the intention of getting some answers to the questions that members at my site had about the telephone survey. I asked about the validity of a phone survey as opposed to a mail survey, how the results will be tabulated, and finally if there was a question on the survey about whether we wanted to open the contract.
The lack of answers was quite disconcerting. Once I had finished asking my questions, SDEA President Bill Freeman merely said “Thank you,” and moved onto the next speaker without addressing a single one of my members’ questions. Other members that were attending the meeting voiced similar concerns. Interim Executive Director Tom Madden did not give a direct answer as to whether there was a question about our willingness to open the contract included in the survey. He ducked and dived and said that “everything is covered.”
The SDEA Board members did not get to approve the questions before the surveying began. In fact, Bill Freeman claimed to not know what the questions were. He stated that the questions were developed based on the information given to the firm that SDEA and NEA contracted to conduct the survey. So in other words, the members are being asked to take part in a survey in which the questions were not approved by the Board and the President claims not to know exactly what the questions are?
The central question is, why the cloak and dagger and why the secrecy? After about 20 minutes of member questions the Board moved into an hour-long Executive Session to discuss the survey (Executive Session is supposed to be for discussing either personnel or bargaining-related issues, not simply because the Board doesn’t want the union members to hear their conversation). General members are asked to excuse themselves at this point. There is no way of knowing what was said in the Executive Session, but there are concerns about the validity of the survey. A member who was surveyed last week had a couple of different questions than those of a member who was surveyed over the weekend. So, we can speculate that the SDEA Board made some changes to the survey questions during their Executive Session, but how can a survey be valid when members are asked different questions?
As an active member of SDEA, I find this unsettling to say the least. There should be transparency in all actions being taken and members need to get concrete answers to their questions. Let’s continue to hold the SDEA leadership accountable to the members who support them.