Saturday, February 20, 2010

Battling for the Top Spot at the Washington Teachers' Union

Dues and Don’ts: Parker says Saunders is more interested in running for office than serving the union. (Darrow Montgomery)

Rancor in the WTU ranks threatens to explode in upcoming election.
Mike DeBonis
Posted: February 17, 2010

News flash: It’s campaign season, and there’s a big-time election coming. The fate of our city is at stake—it’s a race that stands to impact big-time issues: education reform, relations with the city workforce, ongoing financial pressures.

No, LL does not speak of the mayoral race. What’s he’s talking about here is the presidency of the Washington Teachers’ Union.

An internecine battle that’s been brewing for the better part of three years is threatening to explode this spring, as WTU President George Parker runs for a third term as chief of the high-profile union. His only declared opposition thus far is Nathan Saunders, who has spent both of Parker’s terms as general vice president, a post that, in recent years, Saunders has used to assail Parkers’ leadership at near every turn.

If you thought relations between the mayor and D.C. Council are bad, they’ve got nothing on the rancor within the WTU executive ranks. As Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has embarked on her mission to overhaul the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) in no small part by improving the quality of teaching, Saunders has repeatedly sought to undercut Parker. At one point, Saunders filed a federal lawsuit against Parker, accusing him of conspiring to oust Saunders from union affairs and covering up financial mismanagement to boot. A judge tossed Saunders’ lawsuit out of court, but that has hardly put a muzzle on the man.

“I’m of the ilk that a union represents its members’ interest, not as a communications funnel for management’s interest,” he says by way of slamming Parker.

“Nathan’s pretty much been running for office for the last three years,” Parker retorts, with good reason. While Saunders has been tossing verbal bombs in Parker’s direction since 2007, he’s been engaged in the tough slog of negotiating a teacher contract with DCPS—a process deeply intertwined with the union campaigns. (Continue reading Loose Lips)

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