Battle in the Long Beach teachers union

July 2, 2008

LONG BEACH, Calif.--In the struggle to oust the careerist old-guard union officials, the Teachers Association of Long Beach (TALB) recently scored a victory--only to have it snatched away.

The progressive coalition gained two seats on the TALB board of directors, and just barely put the old guard into a minority of eight seats to seven. This writer, running as an open socialist, barely missed winning the treasurer's seat, with 49.4 percent of the vote: 614 to 627.

The victory was short-lived, however. The California Teachers Association (CTA), which put TALB under trusteeship last October, supposedly to sort out financial mismanagement and promote the "democratic process," has decided they would not leave, as promised, in July.

In complete violation of our union bylaws, CTA Trustee Barbara Kerr convinced a bizarre concoction of the outgoing board and the incoming board to make our executive director position a permanent outpost of the CTA.

TALB is not a CTA local, but an affiliate, and should remain independent of CTA. Many members are frustrated by CTA's move, and a few are organizing to defend the union's autonomy. But for obvious reasons, this backroom putsch was done right at the end of the year, just as teachers scatter with the winds.

In an unfortunate sign of things to come, two members of the progressive alliance on the new board on July 1 switched over to vote in favor of Kerr's proposal. One of them was TALB President Mike Day, whose wife is a CTA employee.

For decades, TALB officials have seen their personal careers--often with CTA--as the end goal of union leadership. Mike Day was supposed to be a departure from this, but the vote is an ominous indication to the contrary. Time will tell. The fight is not over yet.

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