Let's say you're a relatively small laid back union office in just as laid back Portland, Oregon and one day 20 guys in suits – and no one wears suits in Portland – barge in and take over your office, seizing all records and computers. They say they are from the national AFT (sent by Queen Randi) and are deposing the elected representatives of the Local. Having dealt with Unity Caucus goons for 40 years, what would I do? Call the cops and charge them with breaking and entry. But this is laid back Portland and people are polite.
Here's a follow-up on the Ed Notes report on the AFT takeover of Local 5017 in Portland, Oregon (Randi Goes to Portland As AFT Threatens Local Considering Disaffiliation).
There's a new blog for Local 5017: Take Back Local 5017
This blog is about union democracy. On July 7, 2009 Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, Local 5017, a small healthcare local in Portland, Oregon was taken over by its parent union and put under trusteeship. We want Local 5017 back!
The first I knew something was up in Portland was when Randi facetiously asked me if I wanted to go with her to Oregon at her farewell speech to the UFT Ex Bd meeting, the one where Mike Mulgrew was crowned. Randi is due in Portland next week to try to put out the fire.
The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, Local 5017, has 3500 members, health care workers like lab techs and nurses. They have been in the AFT for 30 years, during which time their concerns have been mostly ignored by the AFT hierarchy. The more active members felt the AFT looked at them as a cash cow, sucking up their dues. One of them even showed up at an AFT convention dressed as a cow covered with cash.
The last straw came when the AFT pulled funding for an important lobbying campaign for a bill that would not allow hospitals to cut staff under a certain level, a lobbying campaign that received little support from the AFT all along. The Local had put much time and effort into the campaign and wasn't even informed by the Oregon AFT lobbyist that the bill had been dropped.
They had been watching from next door the effectiveness of the California Nurses Association led by Rose Ann DeMoro, a left progressive unionist and a dirty word to some union leaders, who is a VP on the AFL/CIO Exec Bd where she gets to rub elbows with Randi. (Hopefully, Randi's collaborationist agenda will not rub off on Rose Ann.) Dreams of actually having a union that would fight for them began to drift through Local 5017's Exec Bd and a decision was made in late May to explore their options, including disaffiliation from the AFT.
Some moles on the 5017 Exec Bd spilled the beans to AFT central and Randi sent a letter to the leaders, along the lines of "please come back, but if you don't, you're dead." Local 5017 elected leaders, upon legal advice, refused to talk to her. Off came the glove. One of the major charges? Their Constitution says they don't hold meetings in July and they called a general membership meeting to discuss - not vote - on the concept of whether disaffiliating from the AFT made sense and what were their other options. Wow! Another was misappropriation of union dues, a more serious charge – until you get the actual details. Like money spent to hold a meeting to discuss the issue of disaffiation. In the UFT, you see, discussing issues openly is considered subversive.
The AFT is like COPE in the UFT, or a black hole – once you get in, there is no getting back out. Ever.
It would be like ICE contacting the AFT and charging the UFT with a total lack of democracy, with manipulating school elections to assure Unity Caucus control wherever possible, for using member dues for personal political agendas, for running a massive patronage machine, etc. And having Randi Weingarten send in a team of AFT goons to take over the UFT and depose the union leadership – led by Randi Weingarten or her hand-picked successor Michael Mulgrew.
Now, we've been down this road before with the FMPR in Puerto Rico, whose 40,000 member actually did disaffiliate five years ago and was dragged into court (unsuccessfully by the AFT) for years. Ed Notes followed the story and used a bunch of stuff from Mike Antonucci at the Educational Intelligence Agency. Stories like this that make teachers unions look like goons make Antonucci salivate and he did a good job of covering the PR story over a period of time. (I collated the EIA stuff in chronological order. It is posted at Norm's Notes here. In addition, I posted more info - search using "FMPR" to find them all.)
Antonucci blogged about it today at EIA.
AFT Running the Puerto Rico Playbook in Oregon.
The officers and board of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals made the fatal mistake of planning to hold a meeting in July – something contrary to the union's bylaws. On the agenda was whether to ask the rank-and-file about remaining affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.
A few former officers found out about the plan and went to AFT national headquarters with the news. AFT proceeded to remove the duly elected officers and the entire board, and establish a trusteeship. AFT tried this once before in Puerto Rico under similar cicumstances, but it didn't work so well.
Now we learn that the Oregon local officers haven't even seen the formal charges against them, and they claim the alleged unauthorized use of union dues has to do with the money spent to set up the meeting.
Supporters of the ousted officers have created a web site called Take Back Local 5017. My advice? First, get a good labor attorney. Second, contact the Association for Union Democracy. Third, get the members in the streets.
Get numbers in the streets? In laid back Portland? Our reports are that the AFT invaders (shades of Eva Moskowitz at PS 123) are using the Randi velvet fist, treating people real nice and trying to win enough people over to kill the insurgency. All in prep for Randi's visit next week (and wouldn't she be surprised to find me out front handing out Ed Notes).
Which will go like this:
All sweetness and feeling their pain and letting bygones be bygones. She will be like sugar and have almost everyone purring. Randi's brilliance is her understanding that you can buy most people with not much more than paying them some attention and promising more of the same (see New Action Caucus). Nothing much else will really change, but people will feel they are being listened to. Thus, the major insurgency will end, there will be a few months of being paid attention to and then it's back to the beginning.
My advice to Local 5017? Stay in the AFT (that I see as a fait accompli already) and join with other emerging dissidents to make Randi rue the day she bothered to try to lock you in.
An earlier report from EIA: AFT Stages Coup (or Counter-Coup?) in Oregon.
Note his interesting final point: no member can be entirely comfortable with the summary removal of their elected officers based on the accusations of a handful of opponents. Exactly the tactic Unity Caucus uses to challenge chapter elections when they don't like the winning chapter leader or delegate.
... a small army of American Federation of Teachers officials and staff walked into the headquarters of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP) and took control of the union. The affiliate represents about 3,000 nurses and health care workers in both Washington and Oregon.
AFT put the union under a “protective order,” removing from office OFNHP President Kathy Geroux, three other officers, and the entire 16-member executive board.
“OFNHP’s leaders forgot what business they are in,” said AFT-appointed trustee Mark Richard. Richard previously served as an AFT-appointed trustee over the United Teachers of Dade after the Pat Tornillo scandal. ”They were supposed to protect members rights, create democracy in the workplace and the union hall and ensure that contractual language were protected. Instead, they engaged in a campaign of falsehoods, ignored members rights, violated their fiduciary responsibilities and placed their contract with Kaiser at risk.”
AFT asserts it was “approached by several members of the Oregon affiliate, including former elected officers, who presented a petition asking for assistance from the national union.” The current OFNHP leadership team was accused of “using union dues without proper authorization and taking actions in violation of the union’s local and national constitutions to change the bargaining status of OFNHP’s members and possibly switch union affiliations.”
“There was no other avenue left, so we acted,” said AFT spokesman Jamie Horwitz. “This is a rare circumstance triggered by a large number of local members contacting us and saying their local was out of control. The local has every right to leave the AFT, they just have to follow the rules.”
The situation may be exactly as AFT describes, but we should reserve judgment until we hear from the ousted union officers. AFT action’s are eerily similar to those it took in Puerto Rico in 2005, but the FMPR defied the trusteeship and successfully seceded from the national union.
AFT has the responsibility to protect members from the actions of unscrupulous local leaders – something it has had difficulty doing in the past – but no member can be entirely comfortable with the summary removal of their elected officers based on the accusations of a handful of opponents.
There will be more to come.
Yes there will. We're efforting to get ahold of Randi's letter to Local 5017 elected officials and hope to have reports on her visit.