Updates on unions, endorsements, and conflicts of interest

On Monday, March 6, I received an e-mail from the ESPA Executive Board, that is, the heads of the District 214 Educational Support Personnel Association, inviting me (along with all other candidates) to participate in a Zoom session answering four prespecified questions in order to “seek financial support for their campaign in the District 214 Board of Education election.”

I will not be participating in this Zoom session. It would be a conflict of interest to seek out the endorsement of a union with which I, as a board member, would be involved in contract negotiations/contract approval.

In the case of the ESPA, it would not be a hypothetical conflict of interest down the road, but, to be clear, this same union has a contract with the District which expires on June 30, 2023.   It would be a very direct conflict of interest to accept campaign funds from them.

The same is true of each of my opponents in this race, and I call on each of them to make it clear publicly that they will not solicit or accept campaign funds from this or any other donor who would pose a conflict of interest, either in terms of contract negotiations or in other respects, such as district vendors.

For context, the current contract is a two-year contract, which was itself negotiated during the 2021 elections, and the half of the “Slate” which was up for re-election during 2021, themselves, as the Supporters of District 214, received $3,000 in donations from the ESPA while their contract was under negotiation, as well as $4,000 from the Custodial Maintenance Association and $8,000 from the Northwest Suburban Teachers Union.  (The full listing is at the state’s campaign disclosure website, and in particular the D-2 Quarterly Report.)

In contrast, on February 7, 2023, I participated in a candidate forum held by the IFT Local 1211, that is, the teachers’ union for District 214.   (Crazy-eyes photo of me speaking at this link.)  However, my purpose was not to seek the union’s endorsement and I explicitly stated this in their pre-forum questionnaire.  The Local 1211 event was an open forum, and therefore provided an opportunity to talk to teachers, many of whom were present and others of whom viewed and asked questions via zoom.  After all, many teachers live right here in district 214 and are therefore voters themselves.

Of course, their endorsement today of the incumbent slate of candidates was entirely expected, and I similarly expect that the unions will make their contributions so close to the election that the public won’t see those disclosures until after the election, based on their actions in 2021 when $13,000 out of the total $15,000 of union money was contributed on March 31 (in time to pay invoices for services provided before then).  But this is not evidence that this is acceptable but just that we, as a community, have become far more accepting of these conflicts of interest than we ever should have been.

image from https://www.picpedia.org/post-it-note/c/conflict-of-interest.html; Creative Commons license