Detroit’s Ousted Conn: Quit DFT, Join New Union


Recently -ousted Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn has made a push for members to quit the local union and stop paying dues and instead opting to join a new union he is planning to start.

“We’re here today to announce the beginning of organizing a new Detroit teachers’ union,” said Conn.  “We’ll be circulating cards for people to sign to opt out of DFT and join our union because teachers don’t have a union,” he added.  “They’ve jumped into the arms of the emergency manager and governor who are working against teachers. They lose, lose, lose, but they continue to collect dues, dues, dues. That’s all they’re interested in.”

Conn said teachers in the union have faced a number of challenges including increased class sizes and shortages in the areas of supplies, pay and benefits.  He said his new union will be run by majority rule in an effort to “stand up for what’s right,” writes Shawn Lewis for The Detroit News.

Conn was elected president of DFT in a runoff in January, but lost the position and was expelled from the union when the results of an internal trial last month caused the executive board to find him guilty of five misconduct charges.  According to the board, he had canceled meetings and failed to preside over them; tried to affiliate the union with social justice group By Any Means Necessary; failed to investigate abuse of members; ignored a physical assault on a member; and had not paid the dues owed to the American Federation of Teachers by the DFT, reports Ann Zaniewski for The Detroit Free Press.

Although members recently voted 527-473 to reinstate Conn, the result fell short of the two-thirds needed to allow him to reclaim the office.  A number of his supporters angrily walked out of the meeting with some saying they will stop paying union dues, as Conn shouted, “We will not accept this sham!”

“It’s a travesty,” teacher Michele Pittel as she left the meeting. “They lied and they cheated, and they brought false charges against Steve.”

Executive vice president Ivy Bailey took over for Conn and spoke out against the new union in a statement.

“If Steve Conn organizes members to not pay union dues, he essentially would be serving as an agent of Governor Snyder and the Mackinac Center by destroying unions and collective bargaining for DPS employees. These are not the actions of a labor leader. These are the actions of a union buster!”

Shanta Driver, Conn’s lawyer, replied by saying that Conn and his supporters could possibly become affiliated with another union at a later time.  She added that teachers from charter schools and the state-run Education Achievement Authority would be welcome to join the new union.

While Conn does plan to appeal his removal as head of the DFT to the American Federation of Teachers, Driver does not believe they will succeed.