AnalysisUnion Report  

Union Report: National Education Association to Seek Direct Trusteeship Over Rebellious Local Affiliates in Bylaw Proposed for July Delegate Vote

By Mike Antonucci | May 8, 2019

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears most Wednesdays; see the full archive.

Back in March, I reported on a bylaw proposed by the National Education Association board of directors that would establish a series of hurdles before a local affiliate could secede from the national union, as happened in Las Vegas and Memphis and has been attempted elsewhere.

Now, the board has another proposal, to be placed before delegates to the union’s representative assembly in July, that would add a nuclear option even if a local should manage to clear those hurdles: trusteeship.

The national union currently has the authority to establish an indefinite trusteeship over state affiliates for the purpose of “correcting corruption or financial malpractice or restoring democratic procedures.” Under such an arrangement, the national union appoints an overseer who assumes ultimate control over the state affiliate’s finances and day-to-day operations. All decisions by the affiliate’s elected bodies are subject to being vetoed or overruled by the trustee. The trustee also has the right to summarily remove elected officers.

NEA has appointed trustees over state affiliates three times in the past 10 years — in Indiana in 2009, South Carolina in 2010 and Alabama in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Labor has regulations governing trusteeships, but since each of those three affiliates had only public-sector employees as members, the Office of Labor-Management Standards ruled that those regulations did not apply to NEA’s trusteeships.

Under the proposed bylaw, NEA’s national officers would be able to establish a trusteeship over local affiliates as well. They could not do so over the objection of the state affiliate, but would be able to with the state affiliate’s concurrence, or where the state affiliate has no authority of its own to establish a trusteeship over a local.

The existing bylaw requires NEA’s board of directors to approve a trusteeship and give the affiliate adequate time to mount a defense. However, NEA’s nine-member executive committee is empowered to establish an immediate trusteeship and would have 60 days to get board approval of the action.

That the new bylaw is targeted at locals considering secession is made evident by the provision that once the trusteeship process has begun, any attempt by the local to disaffiliate from NEA would be ignored by the national union.

Union members may have little sympathy for individuals who don’t want to belong to a union. NEA’s proposals are different because they affect individuals who want to belong to a union, just not one that is affiliated with NEA.

So much for local control.

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