Wednesday, October 21, 2009

AFT Takeover Sanctioned By US Labor Department

The Lund Report, an Oregonian Health Blog run by Diane Lund (who I accidentally ran into on a subway in NYC this summer), has an excellent report on the AFT takeover of a Portland health care local which had been discussing leaving the AFT before being invaded by an AFT goon squad, er, Vice presidents. Randi went out there to speak. She even invited me along but I was washing my hair. The UFT has had the AFT in receivership for 35 years (or since Shanker became AFT President.)

Previous articles in ed notes on the situation in Portland:

Jul 11, 2009
Search the blog for FMPR.) Time for a national opposition movement in the AFT? I foresee road trips in my future, though Randi jokingly invited me to go to Oregon with her at the Ex Bd meeting the other day. My bags are packed, Randi. ..

Jul 20, 2009
her about me says, "diane is the founder and former executive director and editor of oregon health forum/oregon health news, an organization she ran for 16 ½ years. under her leadership, it became the leading resource for health policy ...

Union Rules Own Takeover Legit Despite Federal Probe
U.S. Department of Labor has final say based on a formal complaint

By: Diane Lund-Muzikant

October 21, 2009 -- The American Federation of Teachers is maintaining its grip on the 3,000 nurses and health professionals who work for Kaiser Permanente and Providence Milwaukie Hospital following a four-month investigation.

A hand-picked panel of three AFT vice presidents voted to continue the trusteeship on Oct. 16, however the fight may be far from over. An investigation has been launched by the U.S. Department of Labor in Seattle, which will ultimately determine whether the takeover was lawful. It’s unknown who filed the complaint.

AFT took control of the local union’s functions and finances through a protective order on July 7, “to prevent the erosion of members’ bargaining status, contractual protections and democratic rights,” according to Mark Richard, OFNHP administrator.

That same evening, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals had scheduled a special membership meeting to consider disaffiliating from AFT by amending its constitution. Union representatives feared they would be traded to SEIU and had approached the California Nurses Association, which intends to create a new organization known as the National Nurse Organizing Committee. They also were preparing to embark on labor negotiations with the Kaiser Coalition.

AFT maintains the union violated its constitutional requirements, which does not allow a membership meeting to be held during July, put their members status in the Kaiser Coalition at risk, and expended funds for meetings, materials and elections in violation of the local union’s rules.

“Essentially what happened here was a small group of leaders purposely deceived the wider membership,” according to Richard. “They forgot their mission. They were supposed to be guaranteeing democracy in the workplace and in the union hall. The goal now is to strengthen the union and restore OFNHP to local control.”

AFT acted after receiving a petition from some current and former officers as well as members who was concerned that certain OFNHP leaders were ”cavalierly violating the union’s constitution and taking steps to remove the local union from membership in AFT and the Kaiser Coalition without transparency and proper membership approval,” according to Richard.
Kathy Geroux, who was stripped of her role as union president by AFT, could not be reached for comment. But TheLundReport did get a copy of the legal brief she filed with her attorney, Barbara Harvey.

Disputing the claims made by AFT, Harvey contends the national union seized control to scuttle the disaffiliation campaign. After taking over its operations, Richard acknowledged that the “deposed leadership had done a commendable job of streamlining the budget, limiting expenses and generally restoring the union to financial good health,” according to her brief.

By using its powerful authority, “the AFT violated its own constitutional procedures for invoking that authority,” Harvey wrote. “And utterly failed to produce the sort of record of imminent financial catastrophe that its constitution requires to justify emergency proceedings.”

The OFNHP had authority to hold a special meeting on July 7 with prior notice, and the $3,000 expended for that meeting had been budgeted and approved by the executive board, she insisted.
In attempting to interpret its bylaws, AFT had no particular expertise, “reflecting either a creatively self-serving result-oriented bias or shocking unfamiliarity with life in the trenches.”
Harvey also called AFT “guilty of distortion made in its grab for whatever monkey wrenches might be at hand to derail the OFNHP leadership’s admittedly lawful and protected substantive purpose.”

Around the same time as the takeover, labor negotiations were about to get underway with Kaiser. By removing from office those people most effective in handling those contract negotiations, “AFT is over its head,” according to Harvey. “The AFT has not handled these negotiations in the past. The trusteeship itself is what will cause immense damage to the members’ economic welfare.”

For related article click here.


Anonymous said...

The United Teachers of Dade (the Miami, Florida local) has been in receivership since the FBI dragged Pat Tornillo out of one of his homes and accused him of stealing at least $3.5 million of the members money. Absolutely no sign that status will ever change either.

Anonymous said...

This may sound ignorant on my part, but I am going to ask anyways. Why aren't the members in NYC or NYS changing their affiliation with the AFT to the NEA especially since they are the largest union organization in the nation? There are too many union locals not to happy with the AFT.