Without Due Process…
At the MCCC delegate assembly this past weekend, delegates – based on false, unsubstantiated allegations and without any prior notice or due process – voted ‘no confidence’ in me and vice president Jeff Seideman. While this may come as a shock to the rank and file member, it was, unfortunately, not surprising to me. Given how little opportunity members have had to hear from me and how distorted the reports of my words and actions have been, it’s no great surprise that the Delegate Assembly passed a vote (80/59) of ‘no confidence’ in me and asked me to resign. I won’t resign, and I’m convinced that if the members knew what was happening, I would have strong support.
My personal philosophy is to always try to take the high road. When others go low, I try to rise above. My efforts to go high, however, have led to a vote of no confidence in me because of lies, misinformation, intimidation, and outright bullying. I don’t want to go low, but I do think it is time to speak the truth.
And here is the basic truth: The minute I was elected – in fact well before I was elected – a majority faction of the Board of Directors was totally opposed to me and to what I stood for and determined to block everything I attempted to do. This majority faction of the board believes in relying only on board members and chapter presidents, keeping decisions in their own hands, frequently acting in secrecy in executive session, and restricting communications to the members. I believe in relying on the members, incorporating new people, opening up the process, promoting maximum transparency, and sharing information widely. I also believe in term limits.
In 2015, a year before I was elected president, I was peacefully serving as president of the Bristol chapter and as the Bristol representative to the MCCC Board of Directors. I had no thought – zero – of running for president of MCCC. In the spring of 2015 an election was conducted for the two at large part-time/adjunct representatives to the board; the board didn’t like the election results and threw out the election. They immediately proceeded to a new election, without any due process. I was not a candidate in that election, but I was concerned about – in fact offended by – the board’s action to undermine an election; and I and the Bristol Chapter Executive Committee (consisting of faculty and professional staff–both full-time and part-time/adjunct) filed a formal appeal.
Long story short, our parent union, the MTA, appointed someone to mediate the disagreement and if necessary to serve as an arbitrator to settle the issue. The person appointed quickly decided that mediation would never work, that the board had no intention of compromising, and moved directly to arbitration. I and others who joined the Bristol Chapter appeal made a compelling case that the board was wrong in throwing out the results of the at-large part-time/adjunct election. The independent outside arbitrator hired by the MTA concluded that the board had “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner” and that its “determination was neither correct nor was it based on an adequate consideration of relevant facts and circumstances.” The first election results were reinstated.
With this recent ‘no confidence’ vote and the demand to resign, the board wants once again to proceed in secrecy, and to prevent an independent mediator – never mind an arbitrator–from reviewing the charges against me. Indeed, if the board’s interest was in transparent democratic processes, the MCCC bylaws provide a carefully specified procedure for removing a president from office. The “problem” is that procedure calls for openness, transparency, and a vote of the membership. I’d be glad to have people invoke that procedure, and I’m confident I would win a recall vote. The board wants to ignore the constitution/ bylaws, make up its own rules, hold a secret hearing, and remove me from office.
Central to this whole situation have been two factors. First, I’ve tried to stay above the attacks; and no matter how outrageous the behavior of board members, I’ve tried to avoid broadcasting that–assuming that washing dirty linen in public does not build member confidence in the union. Some of this linen is pretty amazing: In February one chapter president notified the provost and campus security that if I came on campus he wanted me “escorted off campus if possible.” In an email to me, this chapter president added “It is not a veiled threat, and it is meant to intimidate you.” It’s also meant to keep me from talking to members. (That message, by the way, went to all board members. Only an adjunct board member objected to the bullying behavior. Am I to conclude by the silence of the majority, that board members see such behavior as appropriate?)
Second, the MCCC has operated by the bizarre custom that the president of the MCCC does not have easy ways to communicate directly with members. All messages are supposed to be sent by me to chapter presidents, who are supposed to send them out to members; but some chapter presidents act as “gatekeepers”– deciding which messages members should see–and are delaying or refusing to distribute the messages I send. Instead, the chapter presidents send out messages attacking me.
I’ve tried to open the union up, to involve new members, to be as transparent as possible. I’m going to continue to try to do so. The change will be this: one way or another, I will find a way to communicate with members. I’ll do my best to talk about the positive things that are happening in our union – and there are many – but if I have to do so, I will also talk about what I see as inappropriate behavior by chapter presidents or the board.
Ultimately the decision will be up to the members. I hope that more members will get involved, that the processes of our union will be opened up to scrutiny by the members, and that new people can get beyond the battles of the past. We face so many challenges, have such wonderful members, and together can accomplish so much. Let’s tackle the union’s real issues, and if we have internal disputes, let’s settle them according to the procedures in the bylaws.
Diana Yohe, MCCC President