Statement by Edward J. McElroy, January 27, 2003
Seven months ago, the American Federation of
Teachers was contacted by a representative for a teacher who belonged to
our local affiliate, the WTU. This representative had questions about an
overcharge in the dues deducted from members' paychecks.
Upon investigation, and with the agreement of the
WTU executive board and then-vice president Esther Hankerson, we sent in
our financial services department to take a look at the local's financial
records. We discovered a number of irregular and unsupported transactions
-- transactions that were of enough concern to lead us to do
several things: First, we retained an independent accounting firm to do a
detailed forensic audit; second, we asked for the President, Barbara
Bullock, and the Treasurer, James Baxter, to step aside; and third, we
referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney.
We of course now know the vast scope of the
misappropriation of funds from the WTU by a few individuals. We, along
with many in the D.C. community - teachers and others have been sickened
by the unfolding revelations of wrongdoing.
The size of the harm done to the WTU can be measured
not only in the enormous sums of money removed from the WTU treasury, but
also in the enormous loss of trust its members feel as a result of their
betrayal by a few individuals.
The AFT is working to recover as much as we can of
the money taken - and we pledge to do everything in our power to make the
members of WTU whole. To that end, we have filed suit against a number of
individuals we believe are responsible, and we will continue to pursue all
avenues of recourse to seek the return of WTU funds from any and all
parties who may be involved.
But just as important as getting the WTU budget
under control is the critical goal of restoring the trust of WTU members.
And to do that requires making sure that the WTU is equipped and able to
do the job it is intended to do on a daily basis for its members - from
providing the kind of support, information, and resources on education
initiatives in the classroom to leadership in negotiations of contracts.
To her credit, Esther Hankerson and the WTU
Executive Board have worked hard under the incredibly challenging
conditions inherited to provide these kinds of services to members. But
the burden this union faces -- repairing its finances, repairing its
structure, and repairing its integrity -- requires a unique and powerful
That is why the AFT Executive Council - after
consideration of all of the facts - voted unanimously to place the WTU in
This adminstratorship will allow us continue to
provide adequate and efficient controls for handling the finances of the
local, so that members can know and be secure in the knowledge that their
union is fiscally sound and using its money to promote education. And it
will also allow us to increase dialogue and communication with the members
to ensure that their priorities and interests are given voice.
The AFT has a long-standing tradition of strong
locals with complete autonomy in running their own affairs. This developed
because we have long believed that the people best able to understand and
address local issues are those closest to the members. But severe problems
call for drastic action. Make no mistake about it, we are going in to do
what needs to be done.
And that is why we have appointed a respected,
seasoned, and highly capable educator and union leader, George Springer, a
man with a fine record of service in Connecticut, to be the administrator
of the WTU.
It is my pleasure to introduce George Springer.
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Edward J. McElroy
Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers
Edward J. McElroy has served as secretary-treasurer of
the 1.2 million-member American Federation of Teachers since he was first
elected to the position in August 1992. In December 2001, he was elected
to the 54-member Executive Council of the AFL-CIO. Until elected secretary
treasurer, he served as an AFT vice president since 1974. Mr. McElroy was
president of the Warwick Rhode Island Teachers Union from 1968 through
1970 and president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers from 1971
until 1992. He was also president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO from 1977
Mr. McElroy is a leader in various AFL-CIO Executive Council Committees
and numerous community, civic and labor organizations, including the
following: United Way National Board of Governors Department of
Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (a coalition of 21 national unions
representing four million professional, technical, and administrative
professionals) Union Labels Trades Department Food and Allied Service
Trades of the AFL-CIO
Mr. McElroy began his career as a social studies and English teacher in
Warwick, Rhode Island. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Providence
College and has done graduate work at the University of Rhode Island,
Rhode Island College and the University of Connecticut. He resides in
Washington, DC, is married, and has four children and two grandchildren.
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Statement of George Springer--January 27, 2003
My name is George Springer - and I wish I could say it's a pleasure to
be here before you today - however it is anything but a pleasure. The fact
is, I wish there were no need for me to be here today.
What happened to the Washington Teachers Union - and its 5,000
hard-working members -- is simply appalling. In my 44 years in the teacher
union movement I've never seen anything like the situation that has
occurred here in Washington. This is no way to serve the men and women who
give so much of themselves to the District's children, day in and day out.
As Ed just noted, it was the leadership of the American Federation of
Teachers together with the executive board of WTU - that first brought
this situation to the U.S. Attorney. Last week the AFT, again with the
full approval of the WTU executive board, put the local union under an
administratorship -- asking me to serve as the local union's
I've accepted that responsibility. I started this morning -- and I can
tell you that from this morning on, the kind of unforgivable activities
that took place by certain people in this union are history.
The way I see things, the 5,000 public school teachers of Washington,
D.C., have a crucial job to do - educating the children who live in our
nation's capital. And the WTU, has a responsibility that's just as
crucial: supporting our teachers in that endeavor.
Teaching is a tough enough job under the best of circumstances. The
sooner the union can get back on the track of helping teachers do their
job - and getting them the support and compensation they need, without any
distractions -- the better off we'll all be. It's time for Washington's
teachers to be allowed to focus on what's going on in the classroom -- not
The AFT will continue to work to help right any financial wrongs that
have been done to Washington's teachers. As you know, that process has
already begun. And, of course, the national union will continue to help
the federal authorities anyway it can in their investigation and
prosecution of the wrongdoers
As administrator, my role will be to restore and ensure the smooth
operation and the integrity of the Washington Teachers Union. I intend to
get back to the business of supporting educators.
I'll start by doing a lot of listening and learning from those who can
be helpful. At 8:00 a.m. this morning, Esther Hankerson and I attended a
meeting of the Labor Management Partnership Council of the D.C. public
schools. Later today I'll be meeting with Ms. Hankerson together with the
WTU executive board. And next Monday I'll be meeting with the union
building reps from all District schools. I'm also planning a regular
series of membership meetings with the District's teachers, counselors and
other school employees we represent. As you can see, a key part of my
tenure will be increasing communications with the members.
Ultimately, it's possible that I'll be making some changes - but only
where changes are needed. I won't try to fix parts of the union that
aren't broken, but rest assured, I'll take whatever actions I have to to
repair what is broken.
And by the end of this administratorship, the Washington Teachers Union
will be the professional, well-run local union that it should have been
all along - fighting for the teachers who fight so hard for their
students. By the end of this administratorship, the WTU will be an example
of excellence that other local unions -- teacher unions and all unions --
will look to as a mark of excellence.
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George Springer has been the Northeast Regional Director for the American
Federation of Teachers since July 2001. Prior to that appointment, he was
president of the 20,000-member Connecticut Federation of Educational and
Professional Employees (the AFT's Connecticut state affiliate) for 22
years. Springer was a vice president of the American Federation of
Teachers from 1988-2001.
During his tenure as AFT vice president, Springer was a member of the
AFT Human Rights Committee, the AFT Public Employees Program and Policy
Council, an AFT benefits trustee, and a member of the AFT's Task Force on
Union-Sponsored Professional Development.
Springer taught graphic arts and African American history during his
20year teaching career in New Britain, Colon., from. 1959 - 1979.
Throughout that period, he held various union leadership positions,
including president of the New Britain Federation of Teachers.
Springer is a member of the National Commission for African American
Education, board member and chairman of the education committee of Amistad
America Inc., and vice president of the John C. Rogers African American
Cultural Center Inc.
Springer resides in New Britain, Conn.