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Published in Print: April 13, 2005, as Maryland Teachers’ Union Slapped With Labor Violation

Maryland Teachers’ Union Slapped With Labor Violation

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The Maryland State Teachers Association violated federal labor laws by threatening and reprimanding two employees who asked for different assignments and sought employment benefits, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

A 60,000-member affiliate of the National Education Association, the MSTA must now post a sign inside its headquarters in Annapolis, Md., stating that it broke the law, according to the ruling made by the independent federal agency.

The ruling stems from the complaints of Jeffrey J. Dean and Edward C. Fortney, who worked as union organizers in Maryland counties along the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. They were hired in 2002 as 20-hour-a-week educational support personnel, primarily to recruit clerical workers and food-service employees to join the union.

The MSTA classified the two men as independent contractors, not full-time or part-time employees of the union.

When the men wrote letters asking for new positions—and even for membership in the MSTA—they were ordered to stop seeking job reassignments, according to the NLRB. On several occasions, for example, the men asked for assignments closer to their homes.

Arthur J. Amchan, an administrative-law judge for the NLRB, wrote in his March 24 decision that the union was not obligated to satisfy Mr. Dean’s and Mr. Fortney’s requests, “but it is prohibited from restraining, coercing, or interfering with their entreaties.”

The decision names Dale Templeton, the union’s assistant director for affiliates and advocacy as being responsible for the violation.

Mr. Dean and Mr. Fortney testified that at one point, Ms. Templeton told them their jobs were not guaranteed in the budget, and that if the union’s membership did not increase—and if jobs were cut—they would be the first to go.

Ms. Templeton denied making those statements, which Mr. Amchan accepted, but the NLRB judge wrote in his decision that the men had a “protected right to concertedly seek a modification to their work assignments.”

‘We Will Not Threaten’

Last year, the Internal Revenue Service found that the MSTA had improperly avoided paying payroll taxes on the grounds that it considered Mr. Dean an independent contractor. Mr. Dean paid more than $3,000 in self-employment taxes, beginning in 2002, while Mr. Fortney paid roughly $1,500.

The men were eventually reclassified as “part-time/casual” employees.

While the IRS ruling specifically pertained to Mr. Dean, the federal revenue agency said that the ruling likely applied to all of the organizers who were working for the union at the time.

Mr. Fortney was fired from his job last year—an action that he claims was taken because he petitioned the union for job benefits. But Mr. Amchan, the administrative-law judge, did not find in his decision that the MSTA had retaliated against Mr. Fortney or Mr. Dean.

The notice to be posted in the MSTA offices states: “We will not threaten or coerce you from engaging in concerted protected activities for your mutual aid or protection by telling you that we are tired of such activities and that such activities will have to stop.”

Telephone calls seeking a comment last week from MSTA officials were not returned. But according to documents providing background information about the case, representatives of the union testified that part-time/casual employees were not eligible to be members of the collective bargaining unit.

Vol. 24, Issue 31, Page 5

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