ANDOVER, Mass. – Self-serving Massachusetts teacher union activists, listen up: Threatening to harm your students’ academic future in order to gain leverage in labor disputes is now considered protected union activity.
That perplexing decision – which was handed down earlier this month by the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board – is good news for Jen Meagher, the Andover teacher who was fired last year for trying to turn her school’s reaccreditation process into a union bargaining chip with district leaders during a contract dispute.
Not only was Meagher’s behavior found to be legal, but state labor officials have directed Andover school leaders to give the high school English teacher back her job, along with all her missed wages, plus interest.
Last Friday, the Andover school board reluctantly, but unanimously, voted to do just that, reports AndoverTownsman.com.
“We feel a teacher shouldn’t be allowed to do what she did,” board member Paula Colby-Clements told the news site. “The fact that CERB has now decided that activity is protected was something we couldn’t have predicted or imagined.”
The board could have appealed CERB’s decision, but members felt “the state appeals court would essentially back the labor board,” AndoverTownsman.com reports.
Challenging the decision would only lead to more legal expenses for the budget-conscious district.
“We need to look at the larger picture,” school board president Dennis Forgue said.
The board’s vote marks the official end of the district’s dispute with Meagher, who is expected to rejoin the school in the fall.
The trouble all started on June 10, 2012, when Meagher sent an email to dozens of fellow teacher union members, urging them to “put a hold on” the school’s reaccreditation process by refusing to vote on a series of reports related to that process.
Meagher wanted the union to stall the reaccreditation process until Andover school leaders agreed not to increase teachers’ workload as part of a money-saving plan.
In her email, Meagher told her fellow union members the reaccreditation process “is the only leverage we have left at the bargaining table.
“If, in the end, the (school board) decides that saving $500,000 is more important than preserving accreditation, then so be it,” Meagher wrote in the email. “At least we will know we’ve done all that we can.”
Andover officials were outraged by Meagher’s action, and promptly fired her.
They understand that a school’s accreditation is a serious matter. It’s essentially a seal of approval that tells prospective employers and college admissions officers that graduates from the district received a basic level of education.
If students graduate from an unaccredited school – as Meagher was willing to let happen – their academic qualifications could be called into question as they seek entrance into competitive colleges and universities. Students could find themselves being subjected to more scrutiny than their fellow applicants, and risk being passed over.
But according to Massachusetts’ labor officials, union activists can treat their school’s accreditation like a political football, whenever it suits their financial interests.
The head of Meagher’s union praised the labor board’s decision when it was handed down on July 2.
“A person’s right to engage in protected union activity is sacrosanct for the union, and we stood behind a union member we felt was unjustly terminated for that activity,” Andover Education Association President Kerry Costello told EagleTribune.com.
What a lovely perspective from a group of so-called professional educators, eh?
By Ben Velderman at EAGnews.org