Afraid to face up

I have to admit something: I missed a series of events which probably belonged in the “should have known better” department.

On Sunday I posted an article about the upcoming Wicomico County Education Association balloting on the question of whether they would disassociate from the Maryland State Education Association, one which I actually wrote several days ahead of time in order to post closer to the actual balloting date. I have no idea how many Wicomico teachers actually read my site – although my updates are occasionally linked from various outlets – but I felt it was important to note that this separation has been completed before.

Obviously other events have interceded in my life so last night I was curious to see how the vote went down, particularly since I was surprised to hear nothing about it. Where I should have known better is that the MSEA and its minions surely had no intention of letting the WCEA speak in any sort of secret ballot which may not have gone their way; in fact, the events of the last two weeks would seem surreal to the outside observer but predictable to one familiar with the political power game. It all played out in the 24 hours or so following the original writing of my Sunday post, for which I used the delayed publishing feature I employ for scheduling posts.

In covering the “palace coup” which occurred on April 15, I wondered if the members would even be allowed to vote. Turns out the answer was no. In fact, not only had the MSEA fans of the rump directorate scrubbed the vote, but they’ve cleansed the WCEA website of any of the information the local union put out to promote their pro-local side. Instead, there’s a message on the front page of the site:

On April 15 a majority of the members of the Wicomico County Education Association stood together and took necessary steps to prevent a small minority of members from dismantling the union with attempts to disaffiliate from our state and national Associations. The members have spoken and have declared that we are stronger together, and the support we have from the Maryland State Education and National Education Association adds to that strength. We have collected the necessary signatures to recall the officers of WCEA and have put an interim board of managers in place, effective immediately. This board will assume day to day operations of the Association and will move to conduct an election of a new slate of officers. These actions clearly reflect the wishes of the majority of our members who are anxious to move forward and who remain committed to giving Wicomico County’s public school students the excellent instruction and service they deserve.

So if it were truly a majority, why not have the vote and prove it? Ah, that’s the beauty of a “palace coup” – they leave nothing to chance. Far from dismantling the WCEA union – which was never at question – the vote would have only changed the bylaws so members need not be members of MSEA if they wished to simply be in the local union. But when $537,000 is at stake – or perhaps more, as the local union backers suggest based on recent state law – the truth can be a casualty.

Fortunately, the vote may go on soon, as a local court ordered yesterday that control be restored to the elected leadership.

On that note, it was amusing to see a Facebook comment stating “If you took half the effort to educate us on your side as you do bashing the other, maybe you’d get somewhere.” But if the website was scrubbed of that educational information it would sure make learning difficult, would it not? (This is a screen shot of how the WCEA website looked pre-coup, although it doesn’t link to the information which was placed on it during March.)

Perhaps this a good reminder of the points originally made. Somehow the rump directorate didn’t get hold of the WCEA Youtube page.

This struggle has achieved national notoriety for our small corner of the world, with the rump committee posting an update on Salisbury News. It appears the superintendent had recognized the coup; fortunately the legitimately elected board of directors had at least one information outlet available to them before the court ruling. WCEA President Kelly Stephenson wrote there:

Dear Respected WCEA Members:

There will be an all-member vote on the proposed WCEA Bylaws amendments, however, the vote will be postponed for a short duration, for the following reasons:

1. This vote will be overseen by Certified Public Accounting firm Pigg, Krahl and Stern, to ensure the validity and anonymity, so that no side has a role in the execution or calculation of the results of the vote. They will be providing additional information, including voting instructions, in coming days.

2. The duly elected WCEA leadership has been forced to file a lawsuit in the Wicomico County court system as a result of the unlawful and inappropriate actions of the “Interim Managers.” It is unfortunate that these measures must be taken, however, the duly elected WCEA leadership is confident that the results of the initial hearing will demonstrate the truth in this issue, verify who is rightfully in control and enable members to have a say in the future of this organization.

It is clear the seizure of the WCEA office and assets in the middle of the night through unauthorized measures was only an attempt to intimidate your elected leaders and to prevent your voting voice for the future of WCEA. The duly elected WCEA leadership continues to believe that all members have the right to express their opinion and will hold the all-member vote to enable you the opportunity to state your choice.

Please make your voice be heard: vote!

Kelly Stephenson, WCEA President

While the court has spoken, the battle is not likely to be over until voting commences. This exercise was obviously meant as a lesson to other counties which could consider the same action that dissent will not be tolerated.

3 thoughts on “Afraid to face up”

  1. Michael,
    I love your stuff brother, but there is A LOT more than meets the eye here. You know my thoughts on unions, and even I support the “coup” movement. I would just encourage you to get some insight from the other side. Is it a coup when you overthrow tyrannical leadership?

  2. Enlighten me – don’t you have elections each year? To me, the definition of tyrannical leadership is the kind which throws out the democratic process. Moreover, a petition is not a recall election…it would be like me signing a petition to put the recently-passed marijuana reform on the ballot in the interest of letting the people decide, even though I thought the law was a good one. Surely some who support the current leadership signed in the belief that the matter would be indeed voted on. The “coup” simply decided to treat the petition like a card check, but that’s not how I understand the process works.

    It seems to me this is a pretty simple request – a change in the bylaws to eliminate the requirement to be an MSEA member to be in the WCEA. If the members want it, the proposal is voted in and takes effect next year, if not, nothing changes. Trust me, we in the MDGOP put up with bylaw change requests twice a year, have some controversy, they get voted down, and we go on – perhaps to our detriment, but we go on.

    So to physically break into the WCEA offices and change the locks seems to me to be an extreme measure to avoid a vote, until you follow the money. The “coup” tactics sort of remind me of the thought behind House Bill 1513 from this session, where the Harford County delegation didn’t like the slate of candidates people could vote on so they tried to bully their way onto the county’s Central Committee to give themselves veto authority. Fortunately, they didn’t succeed.

    A significant part of the WCEA controversy arose from a vote to not change the bylaws until after 2014-15, and I’m not sure that motion would be something in order under Robert’s.

    So the court decided (and rightfully so, as I see it) that the “coup” didn’t follow the process. If you wish to retain the requirement that teachers join both unions, vote accordingly when the opportunity arises. And if you don’t like the leadership I’m very sure others will be running for the brass ring next time around.

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