Modesto teachers testify to shortcomings in MTA process at state union hearing

Modesto Teachers Association members argued the merits of a state-affiliate-imposed trusteeship at a formal hearing of the California Teachers Association.

Thursday’s members-only hearing included testimony and presentation of arguments, all taken down by a court reporter. Members of the CTA board of directors did not give a date for their decision on whether to continue the trusteeship, members said.

MTA attorney Rafael Ruano initially said the MTA leadership would ask the court to block the meeting, but on Friday said the MTA participated in the hearing.

“MTA does not believe that CTA has ever shown a legal right to impose a trusteeship nor have they demonstrated that, even if a trusteeship is an available option, it should be imposed under these facts,” Ruano said.

CTA-appointed trustee Bill McMurray, however, said all but one or two of the members who testified at the hearing spoke for the trusteeship, imposed the day before a failed disaffiliation vote in May.

“The witnesses were testifying to the specifics of what had contributed to the lack of democratic processes – and was that problem a sufficient need to justify the trusteeship,” he said via email. McMurray said members testified to concerns about the process leading up to the disaffiliation vote, a lack of openness in elections for 2014-15 officers, and problems they saw in a recent contract ratification vote.

“What is noteworthy is that not one of the MTA officers testified, either as part of the MTA leadership presentation or as individual members,” McMurray wrote.

The MTA leadership had proposed breaking away from its statewide affiliate through a bylaws change, saying the local chapter had not agreed to the more cumbersome process required by the state union to disaffiliate. Members voted down the proposal, choosing by a wide margin to stay with the state union. Since that date, the two sides have filed legal actions against each other and have met in court twice.

The CTA hearing was part of an internal appeals process that the state union argued should be exhausted before the courts intervened in the ongoing dispute.