May 22, 2016

Rebuilding DC Teachers' Trust Through Transparency

By Candi Peterson, WTU General Vice President

Statements or expressions of opinions herein 'do not' represent the views or official positions of DCPS, AFT, Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) or its members. Views are my own.

Disclaimer: I am not a member of the WTU Contract Negotiations team.

One of the main problems we as a union have endured over the past nine years with past and current Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) presidents'- is that our leaders’ have not effectively made the switch from "classroom teachers" to union leaders.

Without "vision" or a "strategic plan" beyond their own advancement, they all seemed unable to act in the collective best interest of teachers', once they got elected. It is going to require strategic and substantive short and long-term plans, including the "collective wisdom of members", to "rebuild and re-purpose," if the WTU is to survive.

Effective union leaders must first communicate a clear vision and a strategy to the "rank and file" from the outset. Without a plan, we are like pilots flying by the seats of our pants. Certainly a lack of direction and focus can’t help get teachers’ a union contract; improve teachers’ working conditions, students’ learning outcomes, or the state of public education in general. A plan for rebuilding the union has first to be communicated with sufficient input and buy-in from members.

One of the insights I have gleaned as an active and involved union member – is that our leaders sometimes are their own worst enemy. For starters, collaboration, direct communication and transparency with one’s own management team, members of the Executive Board and rank and file are crucial if a union president is going to achieve any measure of success.

I have learned that if you do not have a "bond of trust" with union members who can help you succeed, then any plans you may have will come to a screeching halt, without a base of support.

Of course, if we are going to rebuild, we must first recognize, understand and accept that the membership is the highest authority in the union. However, if the "rank and file" membership remains passive and apathetic, the union will remain dormant. Of course, it's understandable why our members haven't been fully engaged for some time now. The union hasn't done the hard work needed to get members to want to be involved. The most powerful tool to first "rebuild trust" is simply being open and honest, even when it is painful. Above all else, we must be transparent in all of our communications with members. Not that fake kind of transparency.

Especially when times are tough, we cannot wait until our ship is sinking to let members know that we are in trouble. That is when members most need to hear from union leadership. If open, honest and transparent, an effective union president will work to engender confidence and  empower members to start helping the union overcome challenges through ongoing strategic intervention, not last minute reactive maneuvers.

Allow me to be clear! The WTU PRESIDENT MUST also cultivate a working relationship with DCPS management. As your union president, it will be my responsibility to ensure that happens, not yours as the rank and file, not the media. I must and will devise a way to keep the lines of communication open with Chancellor Henderson and her management team.

That’s why I have included the following as some of the Top Ten campaign platform priorities : [1] a strategic approach to getting contract negotiations done; [2] restoring a member-driven union that respects the rank and file; and [3] open communication with the rank and file that emphasizes transparency, accountability and collaboration with our stakeholders.

In the next week or two you should be receiving your WTU 2016 ballot at your home mailing address. As a candidate for WTU President in 2016,  I am asking for your vote for the Peterson slate so that we can begin rebuilding your trust through transparency, restore our union and get teachers' a negotiated contract after 4 long years! Vote the Peterson slate for next WTU leadership team.

Please take a look at our Peterson slate flyer of "old school and new school" leadership team members, as well as,  our our 10 point campaign priorities on the reverse side below. Flyers are being delivered to schools and placed in teachers' mailboxes.

© Candi Peterson, 2016

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great. One of your best written articles in regards to why teachers should vote.