Unions Defeated In Two Court Battles In San Diego Regarding Upcoming Election
From Derrick Roach, Executive Committee Member of San Diego Republican Party
An ongoing school board turf battle between two powerful labor unions, the California Teachers Association (CTA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has partially played out on the legal front in recent weeks, with the AFT’s lawsuits to benefit its candidates being slapped down in court.
The legal maneuvers by AFT have moved into the realm of the absurd. It seems the AFT opposes the use of the word “Educator” to describe a candidate’s occupation, unless that word happens to benefit the organization’s chosen candidate. In one instance, the AFT actually tried to keep a candidate from using her real name on the ballot, due to its similarity to that of the retiring school board trustee.
Local Republican activist Derrick Roach, husband of the candidate with the “too-familiar sounding name,” recounts the silly-season drama…
The California Teacher’s Association (CTA), arguably the most powerful union in California, is finding itself being challenged locally in San Diego County by the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO (AFT) in what appears to be a turf war for control of local college and school boards. Most school districts and colleges have unions for classified and non-classified employees that are aligned or affiliated with CTA. The AFT, with only a couple of district affiliations locally, is increasingly involving itself in school board elections as a means of having additional future clout.
With AFT taking up residency in the United Labor Center adjacent to the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council offices, the battle for control of these districts has already resulted in casualties. Jerry Rindone, an incumbent Republican backed by CTA, lost his bid for reelection to the San Diego County Board of Education in June to Democrat challenger Lyn Neylon, who was backed by AFT.
The battle for control of California’s most influential unionized power base has entered a new phase – moving from the ballot box to the court room. Two lawsuits were recently filed in San Diego Superior Court seeking to force San Diego County Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler to take actions that could have a significant impact on the outcome of November elections, favoring the AFT endorsed candidates.
In one case, Ochoa Legal Group, which represents AFT and is located across the hall from the union’s elaborately decorated offices, sought to prevent a candidate for the Southwestern Community College District from using her legal name on the ballot. The lawsuit also attempted to prevent the candidate from using the word Educator as her ballot designation or in her ballot statement.
The second lawsuit, however, sought to allow the AFT endorsed candidate running for San Diego Community College District to identify himself as an Educator for his ballot designation.
The issue surrounding the Southwestern Community College race involved a similarity in names and occupations. The incumbent board member, Jean Roesch, has served for 12 years, but is stepping down to run for the Coronado City Council. The AFT lawsuit was filed against Elizabeth Jean Roach, who is seeking election to the open seat as a result of Roesch not seeking reelection. The lawsuit claimed that Roach was attempting to deceive and confuse voters due to her name being similar to the retiring incumbent, and sought to prevent her from using her legal name on the ballot. The lawsuit also sought to prevent Roach from stating that she is a credentialed educator, an occupation shared with incumbent Jean Roesch.
The case was heard in San Diego Superior Court on an expedited schedule due to the Registrar of Voters’ timeline to have ballots printed for the November election. On September 6, Superior Court Judge William Dato noted that Roach was born Elizabeth Jean White and that her legal married name is now Elizabeth Jean Roach, as shown in official government records used for identification purposes. Thus, Dato ruled theat the court had no authority to prohibit her from using her full legal name on the ballot. Dato also ruled that since Roach held a valid and current credential from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing there was no basis for the lawsuit and that she is entitled to use the designation of “Educator.” The court further determined that since Roach has been employed in education as a teacher over the past 25 years, she was also entitled to refer to herself as a lifelong educator in her ballot statement.
The second lawsuit, which was heard by the court at the same time as the first, involved Bernie Rhinerson, the AFT endorsed candidate seeking election to San Diego Community College District Board against Scott Hasson. In this case Rhinerson claimed the “Educator” status simply by virtue of being employed by the San Diego Unified School District. Although many fine educators work for San Diego Unified, there are also a number of bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria cooks, nurses and other professionals working for the district that would not be able to claim they are educators simply by virtue of their employment status.
Similarly, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters determined Rhinerson was not an Educator, but an administrator not having any direct supervision of teachers. Judge Dato ruled the Registrar of Voters did not err in its decision, thus Rhinerson did not qualify for a ballot designation as an Educator or Teacher.
The American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO was first founded in 1916 in Chicago, Illinois. Today the union has over 3,000 local chapters with 1.5 million members. At the present, only two of those chapters are located in San Diego County due to the prominence of the California Teachers Association. Yet, with AFT’s long history and having over a million members, it is ironic it took a judge in a San Diego courtroom to educate the union as to the definition of “Educator.”
Labels: Bernie Rhinerson, Jean Roach, Lyn Neylon, November Elections, San Diego, San Diego Community College District Board, San Diego Republican Party, Scott Hasson, Southwestern Community College District, Unions