This post, “Mom and Dad Are Fighting,” comes from the new website, NTEU Voices. If you want to know more about this topic, check out the additional link at the bottom of this page.
For 15 years, Colleen Kelley and Frank Ferris were partners, running NTEU as National President and Executive Vice President. In July 2014, Frank retired, and quickly disappeared (or was “disappeared”) from the NTEU scene.
Now Frank has reemerged to challenge Colleen’s style of governance. His critique bears an uncanny resemblance to Chapter 247 President Eddie Walker’s platform for a bigger and more accountable NTEU. The tide is finally turning, and more voices are being added to the call for change: more accountability, more democracy, more of a voice for employees.
On May Day of this year, NTEU National President Colleen Kelley called out her partner and running mate of 15 years, recently retired National Executive Vice President Frank Ferris.
In an official memo to Chapter Presidents, Colleen challenged Frank’s appeal to the Department of Labor. Frank asked for an opinion supporting his view that Chapter Presidents and other chapter officers be allowed to hold the office of National Vice President. In a letter to the DOL, Frank questioned the legality of the national bylaw that bars all national officers, including National Vice Presidents, from holding any other elected officer position within NTEU. Simply put, any chapter officer elected for the part-time, largely ceremonial job of National Vice President would have to resign their position as Chapter President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, et al., in order to serve. This could endanger their fulltime status as a union official, and prevent them from serving their chapter in the office that their membership has elected them to. According to Frank, “the rule bars the more than 1,100 union members from holding a national Executive Board elected seat who just happen to be the most active and qualified candidates to compete for that office.”
In fact, Frank continues, the policy undermines “the union’s ability to develop prospective candidates for National President or National Executive Vice President as part of a deliberate or natural succession planning program…it bars probably the most competent union members from challenging the national Executive Board incumbents.”
Bingo! As the conscience of NTEU for the past eight years—Eddie Walker—says, Colleen changed the Constitution two years ago to enable her to select her and Frank’s successors to the top two positions at NTEU. The amendment allowed—for the first time—folks who have never been federal employees to become NTEU members and to run for national office. Those two, as Frank has written about the National NTEU Administrative Controller, are employees “of the National President’s and obligated to follow the President’s instructions or lose his/her job…”
Tony Reardon and Jim Bailey have not exhibited a single independent thought or idea while serving as employees of Colleen. How could they?
As NTEU members who are not active (or never were) federal employees, Tony and Jim pay $42 a year in dues. How much do you pay? (Ask your chapter leaders how they voted when Colleen put forward this amendment at the last Convention.)
Colleen did not groom Tony & Jim to be leaders—she groomed them to be staffers! How can your chapter leaders vote for these two at the convention this August? No matter how much sun may alter their minds in Hollywood, Florida. (Check out the hotel here.)
To succeed her, Colleen did not groom experienced, battle-hardened, passionate, union folks who know actual union members and who have been elected by members. Colleen chose two mild-mannered staffers who have spent the past decade standing in her shadow—and who will continue to stand in her shadow for years to come.
At the recent NTEU Executive Board meeting, Colleen told the assembled National Vice Presidents that she didn’t know whether or not Frank Ferris would be attending the National Convention in Hollywood, Florida. This is your political partner for 15 years and you haven’t talked to Dad about the Convention?! That’s cold, Mom.
Frank is apparently a fallen star in Colleen’s galaxy. At one point in his letter to the Department of Labor, Frank admits, “I regret that I cannot file a copy of the Constitution with this inquiry. I do not have one myself and the only on-line copy I can find is behind the firewall at the union.”
Colleen won’t even give Frank a copy of the Constitution! That’s double-cold, Mom.
Check out more of Frank Ferris’ ideas in the post, “A Game of Thrones?,” on nteuvoices.com here!