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Mosher: Madam X, Jesus and the teachers’ union

<p>Chip Mosher (Portrait by Jeferson Applegate)</p>

Chip Mosher (Portrait by Jeferson Applegate)

Last summer, reportedly at the local teachers union’s behest, private negotiation meetings between the school district and union were opened up to teachers, both union members and nonunion, and also to other interested observers, for the first time in recent memory — to make this formerly secretive process more transparent.

The first two times I went to these meetings, however, the union barred me from entering. This was surprising because it had advertised that “all” teachers were invited. Furthermore, on its website the union had “encouraged” its members to attend. Being a teacher and union member myself, I thought this might include, well, me, too.

But according to one union insider, the “Mosher issue” had become problematic for several confused union leaders. So they came up with a plan: To have nonparticipating observers sign a kind of loyalty oath to the secrecy of the negotiations — which they, just last year, had decided to “open up.”

Thus, this past week, as I was trying a third time to enter another of these meetings, a female union member handed me a sheet to sign. The document said things such as, “I am a teacher employed by the CCSD,” “I will not disclose to the media the subject matter of negotiations,” and so forth.

Before signing, I asked Madam X (not her real name), if she could first give something to the union’s executive director that I had written for him to sign. I needed assurance I was not being singled out for the oath. Plus, I wanted to make sure all nonparticipating observers had to sign the same sheet. Predictably, Madam X came back with the news that he refused to sign my request.

“Did he give a reason?” I asked.

“H-h-huh?” she stammered.

“His reason?” I repeated. “Also, because it only mentions the word ‘teacher’ on the oath, are only teachers, as opposed to other observers, being required to sign?”

“I think all nonparticipants sign,” she said.

“How can you tell who’s who?” I asked. Almost 30 people were milling about.

“Because I know all the players here,” she said. To her displeasure, I repeated the question about only teachers signing.

“I’ll be right back with your answer, Mr. Mosher!” she barked. But she never did get back to me. Which, too often, is how the union treats its members. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus, 2000 years ago, saying pretty much the same thing about coming right back. Mine was gonna be a long wait.

Oh, I forgot to mention, two other visitors had told me they were neither teachers nor on either negotiation team. And they didn’t have to sign the oath. When I mentioned this anomaly to Madam X, she told me to identify those people.

“I thought you knew all the players,” I said.

“I don’t have time for your games,” she replied.

“Loyalty oaths, a game?” I inquired.

When asked what her job was with the union, Madam X refused to answer. Later, I was informed she was an official representative on the union’s “negotiations committee.” Why she could not simply say so is yet another mystery behind our teachers’ dysfunctional union.

Nonetheless, dear reader, if you are a teacher, or other interested party, you can contact the union at 733-3063, or visit the CCEA website, for information on upcoming negotiations. But be prepared to sign on the dotted line.

CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher.