Friday, May 01, 2009

Where In The World Is Randi Weingarten?

by special guest Candi Peterson (AKA The Washington Teacher)

The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) General Vice President Nathan A. Saunders was ordered by DC’s Deputy School Chancellor, Kaya Henderson to return to the classroom or face immediate termination. Although an elected union official, Nathan Saunders reported to Eastern Senior High School this week.

Recently, I learned through a series of emails that our teachers’ union president, Mr. George Parker has yet to approve Mr. Saunders leave of absence application so that he can continue on in his elected role as the vice president of our union. What's interesting to note is that Parker, also an elected official like Mr. Saunders, approved leave of absences for himself and certain members of the WTU staff without notifying Saunders. As Gary Imhoff reported in his publication, The Mail: “It turns out that Parker, who has been feuding with Saunders, has discredited himself by refusing to sign Saunders' leave papers, giving his approval for the leave. In his E-mail, Parker taunts Saunders by laughably claiming to be too busy to “research” the application, and by claiming that he has to consult with the union's attorney before signing.”

Parker's delay tactic is not uncommon. He often fails to acknowledge union board members concerns unless we email American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. It is not uncommon for Parker to ignore constituents’ emails, or claim he is just so busy tending to union business that he is unavailable. Parker's latest act is unconscionable.

As a member of the union board of trustees and building representatives for teachers, I have seen first hand Parker's refusal to comply with motions passed by our executive board. He frequently fails to represent teachers in the media as required by the WTU Constitution, often doesn't make timely business decisions, fails to communicate, mismanages our union office, regularly cancels board and representative assembly meetings, excludes critical union stakeholders from having input and withholds portions of the truth from our membership.

As noted on The Washington Teacher blog earlier this year, members of our WTU Executive board passed a motion in spring 2008 to seek the assistance of the American Federation of Teachers due to board members concerns regarding Parker's management of our local. DC teachers continue to complain that our union office under the helm of Parker has been ill equipped to respond to members telephone calls, complaints and concerns. With an increase in teacher complaints due to Chancellor Michelle Rhee's 90-day-termination plans, Parker has been unwilling to compromise with board members requests that assistance is desperately needed for WTU field representatives. It is common knowledge that many who have been placed on 90-day termination plans here in D.C. still lack the required administrative supports. Little wonder why chief negotiator Parker hasn’t been able to negotiate a teachers union contract with Chancellor Rhee.

While it pains me to post negative information about my union local, I am more pained about the inaction from the American Federation of Teachers especially given that our parent organization has a contract with us. Several members of the Washington Teachers’ Union recently appealed to AFT President Randi Weingarten for assistance in getting our general vice president back to work representing teachers. Several members even recommended that mediation was necessary in a series of emails. Randi did report that while she did inquire about what was happening with Saunders leave of absence, presently she is preoccupied dealing with cases involving the swine flu virus.

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