Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Trial of Steve Conn: Is Attack on Detroit Union President a Randi Coup?

I've always said that if Unity and its ilk lose an election they will try to steal it back any way they can. If the opposition in NYC were ever to win or even get close they would undermine the UFT before yielding power. When Steve Conn won the presidency over Randi's gang in Detroit, his days were numbered.
“This is nothing but a political attack on my leadership by the remnants of the old defeated leadership of the DFT,” Conn said. “They lost at the ballot box; so now they are trying to win with a coup.”
We commented the other day on EIA's report of the Randi/AFT takeover of a Florida local - Randi's Joke About Democracy as AFT Deposes another union leader.

Here is Mike Antonucci's report from EIA on the trial of Steve Conn:
The Detroit Federation of Teachers executive board put president Steve Conn on trial this morning for conduct detrimental to the union.
Conn called on members to show up at the hearing. “I know that many, many of you will be as upset as I am at this news, and I would like to offer my time to talk with you,” he wrote on the union’s web site. “I am still hopeful that, even at this late hour, we may be able to reach a settlement — especially if you and other members are willing to help us early Monday morning.”
“Many, many of you” turned out to be about 50 people. Conn also knew that the hearing was to be held in executive session. His supporters were not admitted and the police had to be called to clear them from the entrance.

I have to find my video of Steve Conn heckling Randi at her public appearance in Detroit at the AFT12 convention. Steve is part of BAMN - By Any Means Necessary -- the only group that has run against Randi in the last few AFT elections.

I met Steve's lawyer, Shanta Driver - also of BAMN, at the SOS summer event in 2012 - she is no lightweight. This should be fun to watch.

Here is the more detailed report from the Detroit News.

DFT’s Conn goes to union trial on misconduct charge

Detroit — Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn went on trial Monday on internal charges of union misconduct as a split within the union intensified.
Union executive vice president Ivy Bailey first announced the charges in a June 25 letter to members posted on the DFT website.
About 50 teachers showed up outside the office of the Detroit Association of Education Office Employees, 115 W. Willis, where the proceeding conducted by the union’s executive board was being held. Conn had urged supporters to show up.
The union members were denied entrance to the hearing, and police were called.
About six Detroit Police cruisers, including a K-9 unit, swarmed the parking lot after Conn and his supporters tried to gain entry into the closed meeting.
The board was holding a trial involving internal charges of union misconduct.
The teachers and other supporters chanted and clapped their hands while several men, who refused to identify themselves, barred them from entering.
“We are the union, the mighty, mighty union,” the union members chanted.
One unidentified man in a dark suit and tie barred entry saying, “All these people can’t be in here.”
Shanta Driver, a lawyer representing Conn, countered, “Then we will be prevented from properly presenting our case. You should get a hall big enough so all our witnesses can be represented.”
The police officers stood around, talking briefly to Driver, then one of them ordered everyone — except for 10 witnesses finally allowed inside — to leave the parking lot, because it was on private property.
A Conn supporter took names and phone numbers of people in the parking lot. Driver suggested they not go far if they leave, because they could be called as witnesses later in the day.
Driver told Conn’s supporters they still could protest on the sidewalk outside the parking lot, which they did.
Bailey barred reporters from the trial, saying it was a closed meeting. She said the board could make a decision Monday.
Tension has been growing in the DFT since Conn was elected president in a runoff over Edna Reaves, who was executive vice president, in January.
In her June letter, Bailey alleged Conn committed “violations of the DFT constitution and bylaws and conduct detrimental to the union.”
Bailey said members charge that Conn has attempted to cancel regular meetings and failed to preside over them; has improperly called “special mass meetings”; and has conducted meetings without agendas, without allowing members to speak and without proper and valid votes.
The letter also accused Conn of allowing local members “to be threatened and abused at meetings” and failed to pay the union’s per capita dues to the American Federation of Teachers and AFT Michigan.
Katarina Brown, a teacher at King High School, called the proceedings a witch hunt.
“Instead of us fighting each other, we should be knocking on doors to get more students enrolled in DPS,” she said. “Steve Conn has done nothing wrong. He’s done more for us than any other union president and he fights for the rights of all of us. All of us will be jobless if we don’t fight for our rights.”
Teacher Regina Dixon of Coleman Young Elementary School said she was there to support Conn.
“These are horrible charges,” she said. “The executive vice president is trying to take over as president and it will not happen.”
Teacher Sharon Jamison of Mann Elementary School called the charges “bogus.”
“They want (retired DFT president) Keith Johnson’s agenda, and to put Ivy Bailey in to continue it,” she said. “We need to fight what is going on, and we can’t do it with Keith’s agenda or we’ll lose everything.”
Conn addressed the crowd before they converged on the building entrance.
“This is nothing but a distraction,” he said. “They want to crawl into the pocket of the emergency manager (Darnell Earley) and stay there. I am determined to fight for the teachers and students. I was elected to do a job to defend your rights, and no one is going to stop me in that fight. There shouldn’t be backroom meetings. People of Detroit will stand with you as long as you stand up for yourself.”
Bailey contends the trial is proceeding because Conn failed to attend a meeting she requested.
“Many members have brought forth serious charges against DFT President Steve Conn,” she wrote in an undated message titled “Monday’s trial” to members on the DFT website. “The constitution and bylaws require me to attempt to resolve the matter through an informal conference. Steve Conn chose to not attend the conference. After Conn failed to show up for the hearing, the matter was referred to the elected executive board, as required by the constitution and bylaws. The executive board unanimously voted to go forward with the charges.”
Conn steadfastly maintains it is an ongoing effort to unseat him, calling the trial a “kangaroo court.”
“The accusations against me by the executive board are baseless and false to the core,” Conn said in a statement. “This is nothing but a political attack on my leadership by the remnants of the old defeated leadership of the DFT. They lost at the ballot box; so now they are trying to win with a coup.”
He continues saying the DFT executive board opponents do not have a strategy for the union and its members, other than “resurrecting the losing ideas of my predecessor about cooperating with the governor’s emergency manager as he methodically dismantles Detroit’s public schools.”
In a statement, Conn countered that he still has not been allowed to see anything beyond Bailey’s summary of the charges against him.
“That is just one of many blatant constitutional and procedural violations, he said in the statement. “The executive board is completely unfit to act as a jury. They are the initiators and instigators of nearly all the allegations, and they have been witnesses to many of the events. There is also evidence that they have already met and decided the trial’s outcome ahead of time.
“I posted a lengthy initial response to Bailey’s statement on the union’s website (www.dft231.com ) several weeks ago, which is still there.”
East English Village Preparatory Academy math teacher Nicole Conaway called the trial “an extremely divisive and dangerous distraction” in a statement.
“We are at a key turning point in rebuilding the power of the DFT, especially with the fight now to defend our health care against a massive assault by the governor and his emergency manager,” she said. “This trial will only serve the purposes of our union’s enemies.”
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