Recent events in the Chelmsford Public Schools prompt me to emphatically state that AFT Massachusetts (AFT MA) will never tolerate acts of intimidation against our union, any of our members, or members of our staff. Period.
That’s what undeniably occurred when then-president of the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers Jen Salmon and AFT MA field representative Eric Blanchet were removed from the Harrington Elementary School last November by the police. Their removal at the request of the Chelmsford School Department clearly violated the law.
The facts are these. Jen and Eric went to the Harrington prior to the start of class to arrange a meeting with Principal Patricia Tobin to discuss an ongoing workplace safety issue. Jen worked at the Harrington, but the principal inexplicably refused to meet with them, or even to set up a meeting at a later time. Without asking them to leave, school officials called the police to have both Jen and Eric escorted off of school grounds. Jen was then unlawfully put on leave rather than allowing her to teach that day.
The Chelmsford School Department, especially Superintendent Jay Lang, is entirely to blame for what occurred that day. They’ve repeatedly disparaged the union and its president to justify their actions. It’s one of the worst things I’ve seen in my career as a labor leader.
Last month, the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations found probable cause to hold a hearing on 17 of the counts included in the complaint we filed immediately following the initial incident. It will be several months before the hearing, but no one disputes the facts. We are confident we will prevail.
These are challenging times for unions. We are battling indifferent elected officials, right-wing Supreme Court justices, reckless local school officials, and the dishonest President of the United States. Only by standing together will we prevail.
President Beth Kontos