Jun 12, 2016

No WTU Elections For You: Teachers' Ballots ARE NOT IN THE MAIL!!!

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.

Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) officer elections have been marred with confusion and delays under the helm of President Liz Davis and her Chief of Staff due to failure to submit a union membership list to TrueBallot according to a schedule established in May by the duly elected elections committee.

TrueBallot is the company selected several months ago as the lowest bidder to hold WTU's election in May 2016. Only one other time in the union’s history have officer elections been delayed. In 2006, American Federation of Teachers' (AFT), WTU’s parent organization assumed a "limited administratorship" to take over elections when the then-president Parker failed to hold elections according to schedule.

WTU Officers and the Board are elected to a term of three years. That term will soon expire on June 30, 2016.

Many teachers have been asking the obvious question; where is my ballot? Certainly, it’s not in the mail.

In their efforts to facilitate a timely election, the WTU Elections Committee, an independent elected body responsible for creating an election schedule and  overseeing union elections in May of the final year of current leadership term (2016), has been thwarted at every turn by President Liz Davis and Chief of Staff Dorothy Egbufor.

WTU Executive Board members voted unanimously on June 4th at their final meeting, for WTU Chief of Staff Egbufor to send the union membership list to TrueBallot by June 6th at 12 noon and offer an apology for defamatory statements and a threat from Egbufor to withhold payment to TrueBallot. While the membership list was finally mailed to TrueBallot by Egbufor on June 6th, she failed to provide the required apology as voted on by the Executive Board.

Further, the Executive Board, also voted unanimously for President Davis to offer TrueBallot an assurance on June 4th that their contract with WTU would be honored. While President Davis finally sent an email several days later on June 6th to TrueBallot's representative, however, he considered it more of an excuse than an apology, demanded an end to the ex parte communication with Davis, a presidential candidate and WTU staff that deliberately undermined TrueBallot's independent function.

After complaints, were lodged with AFT about elections, – a June 9th letter from AFT President Randi Weingarten and Secretary-Treasurer Loretta Johnson proposed for AFT to serve as an intermediary to help facilitate elections. Of course, this proposal is contingent on all parties agreeing by no later than June 10th including all current presidential candidates, as well as, WTU Chief of Staff.

Why this arrangement would include parties other than presidential candidates is anybody’s guess. This arrangement may prove to be a convenient out to further delay elections, if all parties don’t agree. Certainly, this decision, if sincere should not be up to Chief of Staff, who has been part of the obstruction and is a union employee; neither a candidate, nor an elected officer of the union.

As of June 12th, as a presidential candidate- I have yet to hear from AFT about the status of their proposal.

Even if we get past this hurdle, TrueBallot is insisting on certain conditions before conducting WTU’s election of officers. Chief among the conditions set forth by TrueBallot, is that President Liz Davis and Chief of Staff, Dorothy Egbufor, issue written apologies for what TrueBallot describes as defamatory behavior. Several of the conditions include:

1. An apology DIRECTLY from Ms. Egbufor, and copied to each person to whom she sent emails on 6/6/16. This requirement is borne of the damage that the TrueBallot representative believes she has caused to him and TrueBallot. If she is unwilling to attempt to mitigate the damage she has caused, TrueBallot is unwilling to be further associated in this election where her continuing position could cause further damage.

2. TrueBallot requests an apology, directly from Ms. Davis (as opposed to the excuse she previously sent), and an acknowledgement that Ms. Egbufor was acting at the behest or with the approval of Ms., Davis when she (Ms. Egbufor ) sent the emails that she sent on 6/3/16,  to people who had no relationships to this election process. TrueBallot requires Davis’ promise that other than the apology above, she will not name, discuss or make reference to their representative or TrueBallot, either directly or indirectly under any circumstance or in any context, whether positive or negative,  in the future.

The failure of President Davis to adhere to the timely elections schedule set forth by the Elections Committee without ongoing interference is irresponsible leadership. In the long run, this type of behavior gives unions’ a bad name, makes a mockery of democracy, and undermines union members' confidence in the elections process. The recent actions of Davis begs the rhetorical question – why is she obstructing WTU elections as a candidate and what does she hope to achieve by stalling union members right to vote.

These dubious election practices of failing to hold elections in May can cause irreparable damage and has left WTU members in an all too familiar dilemma- they can’t decide on who their next leader will be. A delay in holding elections will likely further delay contract negotiations.

The failure of AFT to take decisive action against union election obstruction is no surprise to those who are familiar with AFT’s laissez-faire approach. We should not forget that AFT sat on the sidelines despite obvious signs of financial malfeasance as former WTU president, Barbara Bullock pilfered a hefty five million dollars in 2002 and later pled guilty in 2003.

 Our leaders must be accountable and wiling to follow our own governing WTU Constitution and By-Laws, as well as the Labor, Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) (standards for union elections).  After all leaders are supposed to set the example of responsible leadership.

Stay tuned for more updates on WTU elections.

Please also refer to my June 5th article on No Ballots For You: WTU Prez Liz Davis Sabatoges Union Elections!

© Candi Peterson, 2016

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