Monday, April 19, 2010

Washington DC Confidential: Nathan Saunders Candidacy for Union President is the Wild Card

I've been trying to keep up with the constantly breaking story in Washington DC with lots of duplicity to go around from the Fenty/Rhee side and the Parker/Weingarten union side. But is is dissident candidate for president of the teacher union Nathan Saunders whose wild card candidacy seems to be driving the truck. Naturally we owe a lot to our blogging buddy Candi Peterson, who we got to hang out with at our 5 city ed deform resistance conference in LA last July. We also got to meet Saunders, who has the potential to be one impressive union leader. Let's start here:


Today George Parker, WTU President and Randi Weingarten, AFT President announced their plans to reopen new filings for the RIF'd teachers lawsuit as reported by Loose Lips. What appears strange to me are the premeditated series of events below.

The WTU tentative agreement was signed by Chancellor Rhee and WTU President George Parker on March 19, 2010, the very same day that George Parker withdrew the legal appeal previously filed by the WTU on behalf of RIF'd teachers.

Adding even more insult is the fact George Parker didn't seek the required approval from the WTU Executive Board to withdraw this legal appeal, until six days later on March 25th. These coinciding dates appear all too convenient.

Don't you think this is worth further inquiry by your newspaper, station, blog or organization ?

Candi Peterson
WTU Board of Trustees

I put up 2 posts on Norms Notes with lots of stuff from around DC for you to peruse. One from Candi Peterson Reports on Rhee in DC and the other a series of reports from TheMail put out by Gary Imhoff of DC Watch: DC Watches Rhee and Fenty in The Mail with lots of calls for Rhee's resignation.

I don't know if I have all of this right, but I'm sure Candi will correct me where I am wrong.

Let's look at the timetable. With contract talks stalled for years, the Rhee crew and DC president and Weingarten ally George Parker are getting nervous about a possible Saunders win in the upcoming election. So suddenly an agreement is reached to entice teachers into big raises in exchange for giving up - well - pretty much all rights of protection. But as usual, Randi and crew disguise as much as possible.

In the background are the layoffs of teachers last fall, many of them with seniority because Rhee claimed budget cuts. But she hired lots of new teachers for the fall term who remained on the job.

Now Rhee is saying there was a mistake and the money was there. Then it isn't. Then it is. Let's not forget that loads of ed deform private money is part of the deal. Money that will disappear once teachers are suckered into the big raises and then find themselves RIFed out of a job.

OK, we know what Rhee is all about and I believe she was purposely sent into DC to set a precedent for the nation by the Ed Deformers because it was the weakest link at the union level.

But I want to focus on the actions of Parker/Weingarten, which should be so familiar to us here in NYC. The day the contract was announced, they withdrew the law suit against Rhee for firing the teachers. When the lies about the budget shortfall were uncovered, Randi was supposedly pissed and wants to restore the suit. Here are 2 links from Gotham on this aspect:

Sure, Randi, you're REALLY DISGUSTED. No match for the disgust you left here in NYC.

Randi/Parker actions are all about trying to redirect teachers from the Saunders militant candidacy. There are no caucuses in DC so it is mano o mano.

Here are some posts from Nathan Saunders.

First a piece that exposes the Weingarten/Parker deception
Statement by Nathan A. Saunders

Wrongfully Terminated Teachers Should Seek Restitution and Damages

Washington, D.C. - On Tuesday, April 13, 2010 DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee disclosed her lie against 266 wrongfully terminate teachers which she has secreted for months. WTU President George Parker was present and silent. Our responsibility as honest brokers, fellow teachers and union members is to make sure those wrongfully terminated teachers and their families receive what we all would want- a new non AFT and non WTU affiliated attorney for restitution of all rights and privileges with damages. We now know that our fellow teachers’ hardship and blood money is the base funding for the Rhee and Parker tentative agreement (TA) - a scheme for national glory not local progress.

One week prior to their televised tentative agreement press conference under AFT’s watchful eyes, Parker orchestrated the withdrawal of WTU’s DC Court of Appeals challenge to Rhee regarding the 266 wrongfully terminated teachers. Parker and Rhee’s collusive behavior is not coincidental, but intentional.

From inception, Parker’s filing of the wrongfully terminated teachers lawsuit was late, incomplete and did not protect all of the teachers’ rights. He did not use critical information gleamed from exhaustive DC City Council hearings and curiously did not require Chancellor Michelle Rhee under oath. Teacher court spectators were humiliated. Rhee has a free hand to abuse because of Parker’s weak representation, slovenly behavior and reactionary leadership. He cannot represent teachers in any manner because he is not trustworthy and Rhee can depend on it. Two years ago, I, as a WTU fiduciary agent, took public action by charging senior AFT officials, Parker and Rhee with collusion. It centered on Parker helping Rhee to discipline (terminate) certain teachers, clandestine agreements and abusing DCPS personnel records. Fighting for teacher job security and rights has been difficult when opponents use high priced press agents, billionaires, and anti-union foundations with more access to AFT than to dues paying members. As the millions at stake have increased, old union tactics of threats, salary reductions, and violence are becoming more commonplace in WTU.

Today, Parker attempts to backtrack with a public statement announcing his outrage with Rhee’s revelations. She could not have done it without his support. As the General Vice President, I am calling on all teachers to boycott future Tentative Agreement presentations. If a ballot for ratification ever arrives- VOTE NO. AFT’s undisclosed conflict of interest to WTU members exists by receiving funding from the same or similarly situated foundations desirous of funding WTU’s teacher raises (AFT’s Innovation Fund).

This TA is not educationally or fiscally sound, and yields future economic opportunities for the individuals and organizations other than DCPS teachers and children. Neither George Parker nor Michelle Rhee is worth jeopardizing any teacher’s economic security or students’ success. Teachers should focus on IMPACT teacher evaluations- Rhee’s new terminating tool- whereby hundreds will lose their jobs quickly. Any attempt by Parker to blame Rhee solely for this debacle without acknowledging his culpability is another repeat offense against DCPS teachers and students.

Here Saunders analyzes the contract:

DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee and WTU President George Parker announced a tentative agreement (TA) after three years amid protests of a group of wrongfully terminated teachers and now former union members, who lost their medical benefits, life insurance, and voting rights. Since that time, the news media has been regurgitating the well prepared press package without investigation or analysis. Despite their unfounded reports of soon-to-be-rich public school teachers, the TA delivers less. Teachers have not received mailed copies of the TA and the Internet version at does not include the side agreement letters, yet it advertises “the entire” TA.

Teachers’ rights in the contract are ambiguous and vague, and use unresolved terms. The words “tenure” and “seniority,” while preserved, are irrelevant, as their meaning is gutted and without substance. A troubling section is Performance Based Pay; it is incomplete and states it will be developed later — yet Performance Based Excessing is oppressive — establishing quick terminations within sixty days. For Rhee, the contract is specific, binding, and punitive; for teachers, it is incomplete, indefinite, and unenforceable. Rhee has made the jobs of the DC city council, mayor, foundations, and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) child’s play with Article 40, et. seq. (P.103):


40.1 The Parties agree that all provisions of this Agreement are subject to the availability of funds.

40.2 Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed as a promise that Congress, the DC Council, or any other organization shall appropriate sufficient funds to meet the obligations set forth in this Agreement.

40.3 DCPS agrees to provide financial certification that DCPS can meet the obligations of this contract before moving toward final approval. The parties agree that the failure to provide the funds to meet the obligations of the Agreement pertaining to base salary, benefits (defined as the provisions governing optical, dental and legal benefits), and mutual consent, is a material breach of contract by DCPS. The consequences of that breach will be settled by a court or an arbitrator, unless otherwise negotiated by the Parties.

The TA creates no financial liability on any entity. It does not have the full faith and credit security of the DC government. As a result, teachers are not guaranteed a 21 percent raise or a 0 percent raise but teachers will jeopardize 100 percent of their current salary. Because of Article 40, CFO Gandhi could approve the TA’s financial soundness without using his calculator, that is, if he and others (DC city council and the US Congress) are as eager to shortchange teachers as Rhee and Parker. Article 40 language is an entirely new low standard to WTU contracts. Nothing is certain including the bonus, the base salary, the promise or the requirement for the DC Government to even appropriate the funds! Teachers risk everything without any assurances. Article 40.1 and 40.2 are failure to pay escape clause provisions which would cause any breach of contract lawsuit to wilt. Article 40.3 is unnecessary gibberish as all breach of contract issues are court adjudicated based on common law principles. The “Article 40 style trickery” permeates the entire TA. Those believing the courts would not allow a bad deal to exist must think again. Courts do not inquire into the value of promises negotiators make to one another. The number or quality of promises made by DCPS or WTU is not the business of the court. Therefore, teachers could ratify a bad deal and have no legal recourse.

Rhee’s education philosophy translates into “terminating teachers helps children,” and teachers voting for ratification will be endorsing her. Churning teachers in and out of classrooms will affect students negatively. Some voters for ratification may be seduced by Wal-Mart and Enron foundation money, but they could join ranks of the DC unemployed. Teaching jobs are hard to find even for experienced, certified teachers — ask the protesters. With the DC government running a $530 million deficit and calls to reduce DCPS spending, ratifying an unsecured, non-pensionable, and unenforceable TA could create hundreds of unemployed teachers. Most teachers, who are committed to students’ well being, the teaching profession, and their family’s economic security, will say no to ratification.

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