— by Shane Parmely, Twain High School CR
Last week I was invited to a site union meeting (and I’d love to come out to more!) because members were interested in hearing what the Breakfast Club is about and where our caucus stands on issues. In addition to meeting some great teachers, I was bemused to hear the latest revisionist tale of our union’s recent history that an SDEA Board member told them while visiting the site. Specifically, SDEA President Bill Freeman and other SDEA Board members are pointing the finger at former SDEA President Camille Zombro and former Executive Director Craig Leedham as somehow responsible for our current new contract, which pushed our raises out into the future with no specific dates for implementation.
Perhaps like us, you’ve also heard some of these explanations for the poor position our union is in. For example, maybe you’ve heard that Zombro and Leedham knew back when “they” bargained our raises that the District would never honor them. Or maybe you’ve heard Freeman say that he, Zombro and Leedham all knew last November (November 2011) that SDEA would “need to make concessions” in 2012. Or that the current SDEA Board was stuck having to deal with the contract that the last Board bargained — a bad contract that “they” knew would set us up for layoffs or concessions.
This is flat-out revisionist history. The reason that I (and so many of you) got so active in our union last year is that as union members, we deserve strong and honest leadership. We need leaders who will take responsibility for their actions, not blame others for their decisions. If our union leaders can’t be honest about their mistakes, how can they avoid repeating these mistakes in the future?
Since SDEA leadership refuses to let these rumors die down, I decided to do a write-up just putting the chronological facts in order so we can all see them for ourselves:
- Bill Freeman was on the 2010 bargaining team that bargained those raises in the first place. He was also the Treasurer of the SDEA Board at the time, and was very much a decision-maker when our union bargained our 7% raise. HERE is the link to his video statement as a bargaining team member. I like this Bill Freeman. I don’t recognize him, but I like him. Unfortunately, the Bill Freeman in that video is definitely not the same one I first met last March at the SDEA general membership meeting at Lincoln HS who said he wouldn’t “let the District go off a cliff.”
- Before Freeman and the current Board opened up our contract last summer, SDEA had the best teacher union contract in the state. That’s not a “mess” that the new SDEA Board had to clean up. That was our fairly negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement, which they had a charge to defend.
- Freeman, no one else, has been the SDEA President since 2010, while SDEA held a hard-line “no layoffs, no concessions” stance that rejected the District’s budgetary claims. That’s the platform he campaigned for reelection on just last spring. It wasn’t until after his reelection that he changed his position.
- If Freeman says he “knew” back in November 2011 that concessions would be “necessary” in 2012, that means he spent the next eight months misleading members when he publicly and repeatedly promised in the general membership meetings and SDEA Rep. Councils not to open our contract and bargain concessions — right up until he did so in June 2012.
- HERE is a link to the aggressive “no layoffs, no concessions” press packet that SDEA released on February 8, 2012. It includes a letter from Bill Freeman himself, clearly stating that Freeman believed layoffs and concessions were both not necessary. This was released three months after Freeman now says he “knew” that SDEA would need to make concessions (and that Zombro and Leedham “knew” too — despite the fact that every public statement either Zombro or Leedham has ever made demonstrates their unwavering opposition to concessions and layoffs).
- It was Freeman’s bargaining team, not anyone else’s, that gave away the same raises he helped to negotiate, in exchange for vague promises that we might see them someday in the future.
- Under Freeman, SDEA pre-bargained the second-worst concessions in California if Prop. 30 had failed, and some of the weakest post-Prop. 30 restoration language. That is why we are watching other teachers get their pay reinstated right now, while ours is not (see examples HERE).
This is the truth: Bill Freeman helped bargain a 7% raise back in 2010. He promised repeatedly through the first two years of his presidency and during his reelection campaign in spring 2012 to defend those raises. He then bargained those raises away in summer 2012 in exchange for some of the weakest restoration language in our state.
Why am I writing this post if I believe our union needs to move forward? Our union needs to pull together to fight the obvious coming threats to our healthcare, but we can’t move forward in a strong and united direction if we can’t be honest with ourselves about our past. I want union leaders who will be honest with me and with all of us, and who will make our union strong again.
Well, the good news is that next month, with six open seats on the SDEA Board, we can make it happen. Start talking with your colleagues on campus and friends at other schools. Make sure they participate in the election and know which candidates to support. We’ll be sending out emails promoting the candidates we think will be honest with members and do the best job holding the line against the coming district assault on our pay and benefits. Together, we CAN be stronger again!