Modesto Teachers Association offices seized by state union, local chapter put under trustees

naustin@modbee.comMay 5, 2014 

The offices of the Modesto Teachers Association were taken over by its state union affiliate, the California Teachers Association, on the eve of a vote over leaving the state organization.

Shortly before 5 p.m. today, CTA trustees Bill McMurray and Rhonnie Tinsley arrived to assume control of the local chapter’s office in the 800 block of Coffee Road.

“We can’t allow this election to go on, because we believe it’s unlawful. The results would be null and void,” said Jonathan Goldman, communications manager for the California Teachers Association, by phone Monday. Goldman said the group’s rules clearly state that to disaffiliate takes a two-thirds vote of the membership, which was not the plan in Modesto.

“The threshold to amend our bylaws, as stated in our bylaws, is a majority of those who vote, not a percentage of membership,” MTA President Doug Burton wrote in an eaerlier email responding to Bee questions.

“All members received by U.S. post a packet that contained the amended bylaws for their review, as well as a notice of the date and time of the vote. They will be receiving a reminder this week as well. The vote is scheduled for May 6, 2014, from 2-8 p.m. in the Davis High little theater,” Burton wrote.

But Goldman said state organization’s rules trump the local’s, and every member chapter’s bylaws must conform to the parent organization. “It was by a unanimous vote of the CTA board of directors,” he said, adding that seizing control of a local had happened only three times in the past 30 years, the latest in 2007.

“We felt we had to step in and restore the democratic process,” Goldman said, explaining that the way the vote was being conducted, a minority of teachers could take membership rights away from everyone. “We have no intention of taking away Modesto’s local control. We’re trying to restore it. If the organization’s really being run by a few for a few, are they in control anyway?”

The trustees will hold an all-members meeting within 20 working days, Goldman said. The state organization will pay the costs associated with the trusteeship, he said.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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