What are they afraid the teachers will hear?
Aldine ISD hauls union leader off to jail in handcuffs for trying to talk with teachers, hand out literature
Aldine ISD police officers arrested a local teachers union president Tuesday on public property after she tried to make sure teachers in the district received union membership information. Officers charged Aldine AFT President Carmen Mayorga with “failure to identify,” handcuffed her, impounded her car and incarcerated her for 14 hours before her release early Wednesday morning.
“I’ll go to jail anytime to be able to talk to teachers,” Mayorga said shortly after her release. “I don’t understand why the Aldine school district is so intent on squelching the rights of teachers to join an organization with a mission to improve the quality of education in Aldine.”
Aldine AFT Local 6345 has more than 800 union members, all employees of Aldine ISD. The union is the local affiliate of the statewide Texas AFT, and the national American Federation of Teachers. The organizations are considering legal action against the district after Tuesday’s incident.
“Surely the Aldine school district's police force has better things to do,” said Texas AFT President Linda Bridges. “The superintendent is using these officers to intimidate and coerce employees and their representatives and impede their exercise of constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of association. What is Superintendent Wanda Bamberg so afraid of that she feels the need to handcuff and rough up a 115-pound mother of three just for coming near a school?”
The trouble began Monday when school district officials informed Aldine AFT staff that they could not hand out membership information on school property at Aldine High School, where the district held its new teacher orientation. The next day, the Aldine superintendent circled the high school with police officers. Aldine AFT staff and member volunteers patiently waited for teachers to finish the event, and when they emerged one teacher directly asked for some literature. When an Aldine AFT staff member stepped on to school property to hand her a brochure, district officers swarmed around her and threatened her with a citation.
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Mayorga drove up to the scene on public property and asked an officer what was happening. The officer asked for her identification, and when she questioned why he needed it, he manhandled her, cuffed her and arrested her.
“Most school districts are receptive to our talking with teachers about the benefits—both to the teachers and the district overall—of membership, and they invite us to set up booths at new teacher orientations,” said Linda Bridges, Texas AFT president. “Aldine is the exception, and this sounds like something out of the old union-busting days in the 1920s, or even worse, past attempts to stifle free speech on public school campuses.”
Gayle Fallon—president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, the AFT affiliate for Houston ISD-- was alarmed at Aldine ISD’s action. “All of labor in Harris County ought to march on Aldine ISD for this unwarranted and aggressive behavior, and the district should be ashamed of itself,” she said.
Mayorga was still shaken up from the ordeal Wednesday morning. “The only thing I’m guilty of is trying to talk to teachers,” she said
“Carmen Mayorga may have come away from this encounter bruised and battered,” Bridges said. “But it's Aldine ISD and Superintendent Bamberg that come away from it with a black eye. The question now is: When will the Aldine school board call Superintendent Bamberg on the carpet for this abuse of power, and when will Aldine ISD show some respect for its employees and let them decide for themselves who they can talk to about professional representation?”
Aldine AFT represents more than 800 employees of Aldine ISD and is the local affiliate of Texas AFT and the American Federation of Teachers.
Texas AFT (formerly the Texas Federation of Teachers) represents more than 57,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.3-million-member American Federation of Teachers.