Are SDEA Board members coming out to visit your school and defending their recent actions? No one wants to believe our union leaders aren’t being completely honest with us… but they’re just not. Here are the five biggest untruths we’ve been hearing from SDEA Board members out at schools, and a dose of reality in response.
1. SDEA Leadership Claims: “SDEA President Bill Freeman and top SDEA leadership knew back in November that if the 2012 May Revise numbers were bad, we’d have to make concessions.”
Reality Check: Concessions were absolutely not necessary or inevitable. But let’s say for a minute they were. If SDEA leadership thought in November we might need to concede, then why did they run on a “No Layoffs, No Concessions” reelection platform in March? And why did they conduct a series of union-wide all-member meetings in April reiterating that we weren’t going to open the contract? Either they were being dishonest then, or they are being dishonest now.
2. SDEA Leadership Claims: “We would never do anything to suppress SDEA members’ voices. The only changes we are making to the SDEA Bylaws are small changes that will ‘modernize’ them.”
Reality Check: Not true. At their Sep. 20 meeting, the brand new Bylaws Committee shared a document that shows all of the proposed changes. These include: Requiring all officers to publicly agree with SDEA Board decisions; Transferring the elected Secretary’s duties to SDEA staff because the current Secretary speaks up when she disagrees; Requiring SDEA approval for any “information material” our site ARs distribute. Ask to see the proposed changes for yourself. Then ask why SDEA won’t even tell the recall filers how many signatures are required to hit 25% (this is no joke).
3. SDEA Leadership Claims: “We never opened our contract when we made concessions. We were in no danger of being taken to impasse and having a contract imposed. We had a ‘no impasse’ agreement before negotiations.”
Reality Check: First of all, under labor law, you simply cannot change a closed contract without opening at least the parts you are renegotiating. Second, last spring Bill Freeman told us that negotiations would produce a “sideletter” or “MOU” that left the big contract closed. Instead, we ended up with a whole new contract. Third, this supposed “no impasse” agreement is on the SDUSD website, and would not have prevented impasse. But the real question is, why did Freeman think a “no impasse” agreement was necessary in the first place unless he knew he was opening the contract? Finally, at the Bylaws Committee meeting here is how Freeman defended his proposal that all elected SDEA officers pretend in public that they agree with all Board decisions: He said former officers put our union in danger by publicly disagreeing with the TA because if it hadn’t passed, we would have been taken to impasse. He can’t have it both ways.
4. SDEA Leadership Claims: “We have nothing to do with the District’s new efforts to crack down on SDEA member-to-member communication. In fact, we are victims of this ourselves.”
Reality Check: There are two separate issues here that SDEA leadership is intentionally confusing. Issue One: Last spring, Superintendent Bill Kowba sent an email to principals saying that SDEA leadership had contacted him and asked the District to stop distribution of anti-concessions Breakfast Club materials. And again this fall, Kowba had his lawyer email principals asking them to help stop “dissenters” recalling Bill Freeman. He sent this email before the recall was even made public to anyone but Freeman and SDEA staff. This collaboration between Bill Freeman and Bill Kowba to stop union democracy is very real, very wrong, and very illegal. And it is totally separate from… Issue Two: The District is not supposed to allow information about political candidates to go into District mailboxes. They’ve never enforced this with the SDEA Advocate in the past, but this year they are. The District crackdown on inappropriate political material and the District crackdown on union debate, at the request of SDEA leadership, are two totally different things.
5. SDEA Leadership Claims: The recall and efforts to reform our union are driven by a small, divisive minority group. This is just “sour grapes” on the part of previous ousted union leadership.
Reality Check: At your next staff meeting, look to your right and look to your left. Statistically, one of the three of you voted to reject SDEA’s concessions TA. That is hardly a small minority. Even more of us who voted for the TA still think SDEA leadership never should have gotten our union into that position in the first place. Last spring, a group of SDEA members formed the Breakfast Club because we were worried our union was headed down the path to unnecessary and deep concessions instead of fighting back layoffs like we always used to. And we were right. There are countless SDEA members trying to strengthen our union by holding SDEA leadership accountable. That isn’t divisive. It’s democracy!