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Posted at 02:04 PM ET, 04/28/2008

Labor's Diss-Union III

The saga continues.

Turmoil in the Washington Teachers' Union is escalating, with the vice president suing the president of the organization over free-speech issues.

Nathan Saunders, the union's general vice president, filed suit against President George Parker in U.S. District Court on Friday. The dispute, as D.C. Wire reported last month and earlier this month, stems from Parker's new media policy prohibiting anyone except for Parker from making statements on behalf of the 4,200-member union.

"My First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly were violated by George Parker," Saunders told D.C. Wire today, contending that Parker introduced the policy even though the union's executive board rejected it.

"Members have a right to speak -- even when they say things you don't want to hear," he added.

Parker has said that the policy reinforced the union's constitution, which designates the president as the official spokesperson for the union. Other members have said that the constitution, though, does not prohibit other members from speaking out.

Saunders in the suit asserts that Parker introduced the policy after Saunders made public statements opposing legislation requested by Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to make hundreds of central office staff "at-will" employees, subjecting them to firing. Saunders says that Parker opposed Saunders's protests because the central office workers were not WTU members.

The suit also asserts that Parker sought to retaliate against Saunders by trying to suspend him and trying to get the school system to withdraw his leave of absence from teaching, which would make him ineligible to run for a union office during the next election in 2010 and unable to return to the classroom.

Parker, while denying all of Saunders's allegations, said, "I don't have any comment [on the suit]. I haven't seen it."

Dion Haynes

By Dion Haynes  |  02:04 PM ET, 04/28/2008

Categories:  Education

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