By Victor Skinner
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Do as I say, not as I do.
That seems to be the mantra for National Education Association officials who have been caught by their own staff union circumventing seniority rules for union staffers. The nation’s largest teachers union is in the midst of a bitter labor battle with the NEA Staff Organization, the union’s employee union.
The NEA’s headquarters staff are conducting “informational picketing” outside their D.C. offices to bring attention to the staff union’s ongoing efforts to secure a new employment contract, the National Review Online reports.
And nestled in the details of those negotiations lies the real irony.
“The parties appear to be at odds over whether time spent working as a temporary hire, before being hired on permanently, should be included in determining an employee’s length of service,” according to the news site.
“The NEA’s policy has been, according to the March 8, 2012 issue of (the staff union newsletter) NEASO Matters, ‘to terminate the service of a temporary employee and rehire the same employee in a permanent position – thus recognizing the new hire date as the last date of hire,’” the National Review reports.
In other words, the NEA allegedly fires temporary employees and rehires them as permanent employees to sidestep seniority rules – which, of course, are the same rules the NEA demands for teachers across the country.
The National Review points out what appears to be the union’s blatant hypocrisy, citing a recent article by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel blasting the “anti-seniority crowd.”
“So for the anti-seniority crowd, tell me again how fewer experienced teachers in schools that serve the poorest students is the answer? Do we really want an endless churn in our classrooms? … Teaching is a complex profession, and experience matters,” Van Roekel wrote.
Apparently, NEA officials don’t apply the same logic to their own staffing decisions. The NEA’s labor strife is only the most recent example of union officials working around seniority.
The Oregon Education Association is also reportedly using a gimmick to get around the practice during staff layoffs. The union needs to make up a $2.6 million budget deficit, and is apparently using the effective date that internal positions were created, rather than the date employees were hired by the union, to determine which employees stay, and which go.
That means an OEA employee who has been with the union for decades, but was recently promoted to a new position, would be out of luck. We believe it’s an attempt by the union to circumvent their own rules.
Which leads us to wonder: Why don’t teachers unions simply admit that seniority is a bad policy that makes important employment decisions more complicated than they need to be?