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Judge halts AFT takeover of WTU election

Updated 9:17 pm

The American Federation of Teachers acted improperly by intervening in the Washington Teachers' Union's internal dispute over the timing of its officer elections, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. But U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly also left the door open for the AFT to try again.

The WTU was supposed to have its elections in the spring, but disagreements about the role and composition of an internal elections committee brought the process to a halt. WTU President George Parker and the union's executive committee want to postpone until November, when they say they'll have an accurate idea of who is a dues paying member in the 2010-11 school year.

The AFT, arguing that the delay compromised union democracy, declared an emergency "administratorship" on Aug. 4 to conduct the election in mid-September, with ballot counting to be completed by early October. After the WTU filed a motion to enjoin AFT's action, AFT responded with its own motion asserting its right to intervene.

Underlying the dispute is a fight over the composition of the WTU electorate. The AFT wants teachers who were dues paying WTU members as of last June 30 to be able to vote. Parker says that will include many teachers who have since been fired or who have retired, making them ineligible under union rules, which require voters to be dues-paying members at the time that they vote. Parker said it would open the election to a legal challenge and effectively disenfranchise hundreds of new teachers who started last month and were not union members on June 30.

Critics say Parker has another agenda, which is to shape the electorate to eliminate a group of teachers less likely to vote for his re-election, because they are unhappy with their dismissals or with the new contract he signed with DCPS.

Read the backround here, here, and here .

Kollar-Kotelly said the AFT did not have reasonable grounds to believe that emergency action was necessary, and that it did not follow federal labor law by holding a proper hearing. But she added that if AFT follows the rules (a hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10) they stand a better chance of succeeding because the law weighs in favor of parent union organizations in such matters.

"The Court does note that once an administratorship is established pursuant to proper procedures, the presumption of validity under [federal law] insulates it from attack except upon clear and convincing evidence that it was not established or maintained in good faith..."

Nevertheless, Parker said last night that it was a win for WTU. "Certainly we're pleased," he said, adding that it vindicates the executive board's decision not to follow the Aug. 4 order from AFT. "Even if you're a parent organization you have to follow the rules," he said.

In a statement this evening, AFT president Randi Weingarten said she was pleased that the court recognized AFT's right to take action. "We respectfully disagree, however, that the court's decision does not require immediate action. An election that should have been held months ago is now further delayed," Weingarten said.

"Nonetheless, the court laid out a blueprint for moving ahead."

By Bill Turque  |  September 1, 2010; 5:24 PM ET
Categories:  Washington Teachers' Union  
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Next: Final count on fired teachers


Randi Weingarten:
The ball is in AFT's court. As DC teacher it is my expectation that you will live up to your word as promised in your recent letters to WTU members .You said that no union president or executive board has the right to take away a members right to vote and timely elections. It is time for you to assume control of the WTU through a full administratorship on September 10. If Parker is allowed to continue as the president whose term ended months ago, then my guess is that he will never step down and there will never be an election anytime in the near future. If Parker gets away with this, then anything goes.

Take Parker out in a straight jacket if you must, but please take him out. WTU members and other union members across the US are watching to see how you will handle this case. My vote is that you will do the right thing and live up to your promises to WTU members.

Posted by: teacherspet | September 1, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

What a disappointment and embarrassment to the union movement. Weingarten and Parker have wasted tremendous energy without results which matter to members. Teachers want to vote so we can see a light at the end of this dark tunnel. Parker has misspent our money on this foolishness centered around not having an election and not leting certain teachers vote. Parker is not able to have a fair and democratic election and his actions prove as much. AFT must stand up to tyranny and focus on the needs of its members. Obviously, half measures and concocted terms such as "limited adminstratorships" fail and rightfully so. Not conducting an election is a foundation issue LMRDA. Weingarten tried to kill a rogue elephant with a spitball. I hope she learned something now that she is on the wrong end of a legal precedent which will be around for along time. This episode was absolutely avoidable-what a shame.

Posted by: EthicsLawPro | September 1, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I am upset by the fact that we still do not have a real president in place. I really wish that Randi would have gotten involved from the beginning when George first took the union hostage. Now is the chance for you to fix it. The court did not say you could not take over so, on September 10th take charge, throw the book at George and lets have an election. I can't help but think what congress would have done if George Bush said that he wasn’t ready to stop being president and just choose to not have an election.

Posted by: reneeinc | September 3, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Clearly, the Judge is in support of the scheduled WTU vs AFT hearing date of September 10, 2010. The AFT legal team requested an emergency takeover of the WTU and the Judge honored the intial hearing date. Personally, I understand the Judge's ruling because the hearing date was scheduled prior to the emergency hearing on Thursday, September 2, 2010

George don't get to excited because September 10, 2010 is next Friday. Let's do a countdown. GP has 5 more days to start the election process or AFT will be in total control.

All colleagues please be present on Friday at the District Court Building at 9:00 AM, if possible. The location is 441 Constitution Ave., NW.

Remember to vote for a new WTU President and demand justice for all teachers.

Enough is Enough!!

Posted by: sheilahgill | September 4, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse


The DC Superior Court is located at 333 Constitution Ave., NW, Room 28A - Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's chambers.

Please be present on Friday, September 10, 2010 at 9:00 AM.

Posted by: sheilahgill | September 5, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Update Information of the AFT vs WTU Hearing on Friday, September 10, 2010.

The hearing will be at the AFT Headquarters located at 555 New Jersey Ave., NW.

Time: 1:00 PM
All Teachers should bring their WTU or AFT Union card with them.

Posted by: sheilahgill | September 8, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

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