Baltimore teachers believe new union contract is designed to silence dissenters

Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
Font Size:

The Baltimore Teacher’s union has demanded exclusive rights to teachers’ interdepartmental emails and mailboxes in a new contract with the district to be ratified Thursday, the Baltimore Sun reports.

City teachers are upset about the clause and believe it is an attempt to silence and disempower dissenters. Local teacher Kris Sieloff said the clause is a clear First Amendment violation.

“The limitation of communication is really disturbing,” Sieloff told the Sun.

Another teacher, Mike Pesa, said the clause is “nothing less than a gag rule designed to silence any opposition from rank-and-file members of the union.”

Under the clause, “Individuals and organizations other than the union shall not be permitted to use the school system’s interdepartmental mail and email facilities, or the right of distribution of materials to teachers’ mailboxes.”

Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teacher’s Union, said the clause is not intended to silence teachers, but to ensure the union’s message gets out.

“Today, [how you communicate] isn’t even relevant because everybody tweets and blogs,” English said, according to the Sun. “More people blog and Facebook more than anything. If you want to communicate, you can communicate. I don’t see how we can stop you, when you have every means of communicating today.”

The contract was announced last week after months of negotiations, and teachers will have until Thursday to review the contract before they are expected to vote. The old contract expires Friday.

Corey Gaber, one of many teachers unhappy with the quick turnaround, said the union is not genuinely attempting to listen to its members.

“If you value what your members think about something, then you give them an opportunity to consider the new contract, provide feedback, make changes if necessary, and then vote on it,” Gaber told the Sun.

The three-year contract will otherwise maintain key elements of the current contract. Teacher’s would be given a small stipend this month if it’s ratified, and a one percent raise annually through 2016. They would also keep their health insurance.