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Chelmsford Federation of Teachers, AFT Massachusetts Wins A Victory for Labor

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) found the Chelmsford School Committee guilty last week on 12 counts of violating labor law in the case involving then Chelmsford Federation of Teachers President Jennifer Salmon. Click here to review the decision.
The case stems from an incident in 2017 when President Salmon requested to meet with the principal over classroom safety concerns. The principal refused and left, while Ms. Salmon and an AFT Massachusetts field representative waited in the main office hoping to schedule a future meeting. Meanwhile the Superintendent, who was not at the school, had called the police. 

The law states that a public employer cannot “interfere, restrain, or coerce any employee” regarding their protected rights or “discriminate in regard to hiring, tenure, or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any employee organization.”  
Although, Ms. Salmon did nothing but sit quietly at a table in the main office, Ms. Salmon was escorted from building by police, placed on leave and disciplined.  According to the Decision, “​​all witnesses including the police, stated that Salmon was cooperative and was not a threat,” DLR Hearing Officer Meghan Ventrella wrote.  
The DLR found that Ms. Salmon was both disciplined and placed on administrative leave in retaliation for her protected union activity in advocating for safety concerns of teachers. 
“The school administration clearly trampled on the rights of the union president, who was simply trying to schedule a meeting with the school principal to discuss safety issues,” said Beth Kontos, president of the AFT Massachusetts. “The school department’s retaliation against the democratically-elected union president for her protected union activity was nothing short of egregious.”  
Summary:  A hearing officer of the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations has held that the Chelmsford School Committee (School Committee) violated Section 10(a)(3) and, derivatively, Section 10(a)(1) of M.G.L. Chapter 150E (the Law) by placing Jennifer Salmon (Salmon) on administrative leave and issuing her a written warning in retaliation for engaging in concerted, protected activity.

The School Committee was ordered to cease and desist from disciplining unit members in retaliation for their protected, concerted activity; In any like manner interfering with, restraining and coercing its employees in any right guaranteed under the law [Chapter 150 E]; Rescind the discipline and administrative leave letter issued to President Salmon; and Immediately post a notice in all conspicuous places where bargaining unit members usually congregate stating the following.

School Committee independently violated Section 10(a)(1) of the Law when: 
1) Superintendent Jay Lang (Lang) requested police remove Union representative Eric Blanchett (Blanchett), from Harrington Elementary School in the presence of unit members, 
2) Lang allowed a police officer to escort Salmon from Harrington, 
3) Lang made comments of disappointment at a November 22, 2017 meeting with unit members, 4) Lang made comments at the same November 22 meeting with unit members regarding the “right way and a wrong way to get help within the school”, 
5) Lang made a November 22, 2017 statement which was posted on Facebook, 
6) Lang made comments in the Lowell Sun Newspaper Article, 
7) Lang made comments in a December 8, 2017 email, 
8) the School Committee decided to preclude Union officer Marie McDonnell from attending investigatory interviews, 
9) School Committee decided to preclude Blanchett from communicating with unit members about the investigation, 
10) the School Committee engaged in coercive questioning in an investigative interview with unit member Carol LaRivee, 
11) School Committee member John Moses made threatening comments in his Facebook post, and 
12) Harrington Principal Patricia Tobin criticized Salmon’s engagement in protected activity on October 13, 2017. 

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