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Antonucci: 19,000 state university faculty members withdraw from California Teachers Association

Mike Antonucci | August 7, 2019

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

The California Faculty Association, which represents some 19,000 employees of the California State University system, abruptly ended its affiliation with both the California Teachers Association and National Education Association, a relationship that began in 1981.

It was by far the largest secession of a union affiliate in CTA history.

It was the latest shock for CTA, which this year has dealt with a contentious presidential election and the ouster of its executive director.

The faculty association move was first reported by Louis Freedberg at EdSource, who also posted internal communications from that unit and CTA regarding the disaffiliation.

There have been tensions between the two organizations in recent years concerning higher education representation on the state union’s governing bodies. CFA shared a single seat on CTA’s board of directors with the state union’s other higher education affiliate, the Community College Association. CFA is CTA’s second-largest affiliate, behind only United Teachers Los Angeles.

CFA also fought for months to receive additional seats on the CTA State Council, which consists of nearly 800 delegates. The dispute dragged on until October, when the CTA board approved a bylaw amendment making CFA a “single statewide local,” which entitled it to be treated just like any K-12 affiliate.

Things seemed to quiet down until the election for CTA president in April. Vice President Theresa Montaño, a professor at California State University, Northridge and a faculty association member, was widely expected to win. But departing President Eric Heins endorsed her opponent, Toby Boyd, the night before the vote, which propelled Boyd to victory.

This didn’t sit well with Montaño’s supporters within CFA. The sudden decision to secede was probably hastened by an impending change to NEA’s bylaws, which added several roadblocks to disaffiliation and would take effect after approval by the national union’s representative assembly in early July. The CFA disaffiliation was completed by June 14.

CFA is also affiliated with the Service Employees International Union and will continue that relationship. The faculty union has released no information publicly on its plans as an independent organization.

A July 3 memo from new CTA president Boyd to State Council members indicates the state union will work amicably with the faculty union. There is currently no sign of trusteeship threats or impending litigation similar to what happened when the Clark County Education Association in Nevada disaffiliated from its state union and NEA.

Certainly CTA will lament the loss of membership, but it may gain some benefit from not having to deal with issues unique to the California State University system anymore. CFA members might not notice any difference at all, which isn’t a good thing for CTA.

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