Do Unions Speak for Their Members?

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From the archives: A union member aims accusations of “dirty games” at his own union.   Florida is a Right to Work state so teachers have a choice as to whether they wish to join a union or not.  Read about it in Extra Credit, mypalmbeachpost.com.

Leaders of Palm Beach County’s teachers union agreed Monday to allow a high school teacher to run for union president, reversing its previous decision to bar him because his dues lapsed during a leave of absence.

The reversal comes after the state teachers union recommended last week that the teacher, Justin Katz of Park Vista High School, be reinstated, saying that the county union did not have “sufficient evidence to support their position” that his candidacy be denied.

The decision brings an end to a standoff that rocked the campaign to be the next leader of the union, the Classroom Teachers Association. Seven other candidates have qualified to run, but campaign activities had been on hold while Katz’s appeal was sorted out.

Earlier this year, union leaders told Katz, 32, who is also a Boynton Beach city commissioner, that he wasn’t eligible to run because his dues lapsed when he took personal leave in late 2014 to care for his dying grandmother.

They pointed to a union rule that requires any presidential candidate to be an “active member who has been in continuous good standing for two consecutive years.”

The rule, however, makes an exception for “School Board-approved leaves.”

Katz called the move “a stunt you would expect a cutthroat, anti-labor corporation (to) attempt,” and he appealed to the state union, the Florida Education Association. The committee said that the CTA was not able to provide any evidence that it had ever previously articulated or enforced a policy that failing to pay dues while on leave could affect a teacher’s ability to run for office.

In a message, Katz told The Palm Beach Post that he was glad that the state union had intervened and accused county union’s leaders of “dirty games.”

“When I told some of my fellow teachers I intended to run for CTA President, they warned me of the dirty games that are typically played by insiders of the union,” he wrote. “I thought I knew what they were referring to after last election and the disaster it was, but I never anticipated what just occurred could even happen.”

Katz won.

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