Not many taxpayers realize it, but teachers union contracts have clauses that allow union members to use school facilities for union activities. However, there are restrictions on the appropriate use of public facilities.
Here are the restrictions which the Nashua Board of Education and the Nashua Teachers Union agreed upon in their contract:
NTU Contract 2017-2021
Art. 12:3 Distribution of Material – Mail Boxes
Officers or officials of the recognized teacher bargaining agent, and of no other teacher organization which purports to represent teachers for collective bargaining purposes, shall have the right to reasonable use of the school mailboxes for distribution of organizational material provided such materials are in good taste and provided that such materials shall not include campaign organization material related to local, state or national political matters.
These restrictions are reasonable. Taxpayer-funded electioneering is also prohibited by state law. It’s a criminal offense:
RSA 659:44-a Electioneering by Public Employees. –
I. No public employee, as defined in RSA 273-A:1, IX, shall electioneer while in the performance of his or her official duties.
II. No public employee shall use government property or equipment, including, but not limited to, telephones, facsimile machines, vehicles, and computers, for electioneering.
III. For the purposes of this section, “electioneer” means to act in any way specifically designed to influence the vote of a voter on any question or office.
IV. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Ignoring both state law and reasonable contract restrictions, the president of the Nashua Teachers Union, used district mailboxes to disseminate NTU political campaign materials during the recent municipal election.
On October 21st and October 28th, the union president and representatives sent forty-two electioneering emails to thousands of district mailboxes for teachers, secretaries, para-educators, food service workers. There are around 2,000 active staff members in the four NTU unions. There may have been other electioneering emails during weeks leading up to the recent municipal election, but forty-two electioneering emails were discovered as a result of a Right to Know request for those two days.
Conflict of Interest: Retired Union Members on the Board of Education
The NTU president also emailed retired union workers with the NTU’s campaign recommendations. This is where things get more complicated.
There are two sitting members of the Nashua Board of Education who are retired NTU members, Dotty Oden and Susan Porter. There is also a newly elected board member, Sharon Giglio, who is a retired NTU member and active staff member. All of these individuals were union-endorsed. All currently use district mailboxes.
Two weeks before the election, retired union members received electioneering emails from the NTU. Are these three retired union members complicit in the electioneering? Did they see the electioneering message and the long list of staff members, who also received these emails? Didn’t they realize that this violated both the union contract and state law? Did they protect the union’s interests over that of the district by remaining silent?
This is a significant conflict of interest. How many board members were aware of the problem yet did nothing? Did any of these union-endorsed board members and retired union members protect the interests of the district and the taxpayer against what appears to be criminal activity?
Open and Fair Elections
No other political groups are allowed to use district facilities for organizational meetings, or to use district mailboxes to disseminate information.
NTU campaign materials were also physically handed out to district staff in an elementary school in Nashua on Oct. 29th before school. It is likely that NTU campaign literature was handed out to teachers in other schools across the district. Yet no investigation has been made.
The superintendent is unwilling to investigate any potential criminal activity in the district, activity which also violates the union contract. He was instructed by the City Clerk, who consulted Corporation Counsel, to investigate “to ascertain the number of schools who distributed the flyer.” He was also given a Right to Know request to find out how many principals authorized union meetings in their buildings where political campaign materials were handed out to staff.
The superintendent’s response at the Nov. 20th BoE meeting from the minutes, pg. 35-36:
I just want to say that I think this is wrong. I really do. To ask Principals where teachers gather and talk about Union business, and put myself and my faculty under that circumstance to do this investigation on who said what in 18 different buildings…I think it’s wrong. I really do. And I think it’s wrong that we are treating our employees that way. I think that what’s being broached here is unreasonable, and I’m saying that for the record. And I don’t think there’s any electioneering. I think that this is part of what has plagued this district so long. And I don’t think that having my faculty spending over 3 hours to gather all this, including myself, and keep the business of the District going on…and we’re now here at 10:30. I think it’s wrong and a disservice to our students, to our parents,and to the faculty.
The superintendent’s failure to investigate and stop union representatives from taxpayer-funded electioneering using staff mailboxes and in public school buildings demonstrates an interest to protect the union, not the district.
Taxpayer-funded electioneering undermines our system of open and fair elections. Consider the advantage that union-endorse candidates enjoy. They do not have to pay for the printing and delivery of their campaign message to thousands of individuals, who have friends and families in the area. Union-endorsed candidates used facilities and equipment funded by the public, giving them an unfair advantage over every opponent.
Here’s the link that the NTU president and union representatives emailed to active and retired union members. If you click on the link, you were given a list of union-endorse candidates to vote for in the recent municipal election:
Are Unions Above the Law?
Union members should not be allowed to act outside state law and in violation of union contracts. Unions are not above the law, but there has been no investigation of this electioneering.
Should Taxpayers Fund a Violated Union Contract?
Should taxpayers pay for salary raises in a union contract after union representatives openly violated it?
Taxpayer-funded electioneering is an unfair labor practice that should be submitted to the Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB). Will the union-endorsed majority on the Board of Education file a complaint, or will they allow criminal activity to go unpunished?
Union-endorsed board members should recuse themselves, given their conflict of interest. Will they protect the interests of the union which funded their election campaigns, or will they protect the voters who elected them to negotiate fair union contracts? Union-endorsed candidates cannot serve both sides in this dispute.
At the Nov. 20th meeting the board voted 4-3 to send this evidence to counsel for review in consideration of filing a complaint against the union.
Three union-endorsed board members voted against this motion: Dotty Oden (retired union member), Susan Porter (retired union member) and Ray Guarino.
This will be an uphill battle given that the majority of the board, five out of nine members, are union-endorsed. Will they recuse themselves or will they block this investigation on electioneering?
Union PACS Do Not File Campaign Expenditure Reports
Why haven’t Union PACs filed any campaign expenditure reports for the last twelve years? City Ordinance requires individual candidates and PACS to file campaign expenditure reports. This ordinance specifies a fine if they fail to file their reports in a timely manner:
A. It shall be unlawful for any candidate, person, or political committee to try to circumvent the filing of an item of value larger than $10 by any means. Any candidate, person, or political committee having been found guilty of such a circumvention shall be guilty of failing to comply.
B. Any candidate, person, or political committee failing to comply with the provisions of this article shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a violation, and fined not more than $100 for each day that lack of compliance exists. Each day that lack of compliance exists shall constitute a separate offense. §23-19 Violations and penalties.
If collected, these back fines would be enough money to build a small school. The NTU Political Action Committee, NTU-COPE (Committee of Political Education) and several other union PACs have failed to file campaign expenditure reports, violating this ordinance for up to twelve years. Despite complaints being filed over a year ago, there has been no enforcement.
Failure to enforce this ordinance denies the public the ability to know where campaign donations originate, which fund union-endorsed candidates. Where does this union money come from?
Taxpayer-funded electioneering undermines open and fair elections. Failure to report union influence undermines our system of checks and balances.
Trying to uphold the rule of law has resulted in endless criticism and rebuke by the current board majority. Unless enforced equally, the rule of law is effectively dead and taxpayers will live under the tyranny of a lawless majority.
There’s no honor in serving when the law is trampled. Our disagreements may be significant, but the failure to adhere to the rule of law is intolerable.