February 22nd, 2010 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Teachers Union Rep: Rogue of the Week Off-Base


Last week's Rogue of the Week spotlighted the Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. The two unions had jointly written a letter discouraging a state agency, the Oregon Educators Benefit Board, from contracting with insurance companies that opposed the unions' position in favor of Measures 66 and 67, the two income tax measures approved last month by state voters.

This week, Michael Cannarella, an AFT representative at Portland Community College and OEBB board member, took issue with that Rogue designation. The response is too long for the" letters" section in the print edition, but here's the meat of Cannarella's argument:

As a Oregon Educators Benefit Board member I consider it my fiduciary responsibility to protect the group insurance plans offered by the OEBB. When OEBB insurance providers contribute to the political lobby that will negatively affect school employees I consider that an attack on the benefit plan I am charged with protecting. Thus, I spoke up at the December 10th OEBB meeting. I can not speak for the entire Educators Benefit Board but I can speak as a member of that Board.

Job loss, without the funds from Measure 66 and 67 was not a hypothetical outcome. I am a Union Labor Representative for two American Federation of Teacher locals at Portland Community College. In November I received copies of the lay-off notices for employees working for the College pending the outcome of the ballot measure election on January 26, 2010. The failure of the two ballot measures would have meant reduced services, and fewer classes at PCC and elsewhere, thus fewer employees and subscribers in the OEBB insurance plans.

Finally, when viewing political contributions your paper seems to have a double standard. It goes like this; businesses can form associations, pool their resources and attempt to influence public policy, that's business as usual. However, when working people form associations, pool their resources and attempt to influence public policy that is illegitimate, the big bad unions.

For me, the Oregon Educators Benefits Board is all about getting the best insurance plans for school employees so that more resources go to students. If calling out providers who are working against that goal give me the Rogue title, I'll wear it proudly.

Historical note: Cannarella was one of the leaders of the successful effort to unionize employees at Powell's Books in 2000.
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