Teachers union files new labor complaint, reveals internal discord

BAR HARBOR — The local teachers union, the Mount Desert Island Education Association, has filed another “prohibited practice” complaint with the Maine Labor Relations Board (MLRB) against the MDI Regional School System, alleging several violations of the state’s labor relations laws in negotiations for a new teachers’ contract. 

As part of the complaint, the union revealed that two of its members had criticized union leaders for filing NLRP complaints without the knowledge or consent of the membership. The complaint quoted from an email that Amanda Dyer, a longtime teacher at Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor, sent to other members of the union bargaining unit at that school on Sept. 10, the same day the union filed its initial complaint against the school system. 

“I am at a loss for words as to how this can happen without membership being made aware of complaints being filed,” she wrote. “I have been a member of our school’s association for over 30 years, and these past few years have left me speechless…I cannot begin to understand how (NLRB) complaints could be filed without membership’s knowledge and support.” 

The new union complaint, filed Nov. 9, alleges that Dyer “agitated members against the [teachers] association.” 

About 20 minutes after Dyer sent her email, Renee Laber, a teacher at MDI High School and a member of the bargaining team, sent an email to the entire bargaining team expressing shock that Kristi Losquadro, the school system’s board chair and lead negotiator, had resigned the same day the union filed its initial complaint. In her resignation letter, Losquadro said the union’s complaint was “malicious and misrepresents the facts.” 

“This is a horrible turn of events,” Laber said of Losquadro’s resignation in her email to the union’s bargaining team. “I want us to IMMEDIATELY retract the PPCs (prohibited practice complaints). This is not ok!” 

The union’s new complaint alleges that Dyer falsely claimed that she was the head of the teachers bargaining team at Conners Emerson and that school system Superintendent Marc Gousse had recognized her as such. 

“Dyer continued to identify herself as President and called meetings for the BHTA (Bar Harbor Teachers Association) in the weeks leading up to the bargaining agent election, despite being informed she was not an Association officer,” the complaint alleges. “She claimed she was a Co-President of the Association and shared with many that Gousse acknowledged she was the Association President. The actions of Dr. Gousse have caused considerable division and confusion in the bargaining unit and undermined the Association’s ability to communicate and organize members during contract negotiations.” 

The union’s complaint also alleges the school system’s attorney, Tom Trenholm, in a phone conversation with the union’s attorney, Jeffrey Neil Young, “defamed MEA (Maine Education Association) UniServ Director Sean Brailey, claiming he was a rogue representative and that the [teachers association] President at Conners Emerson did not support him, the filing of any PPCs, or other actions he had taken for the Association.” (UniServ is a program of the National Education Association that provides expanded staff services to its members and local affiliates.) 

It is the MEA’s Brailey who has filed the complaints against the MDI school system on behalf of the local teachers union. 

“Trenholm made statements apparently intended to undermine Brailey’s credibility and trust with the Employee representative on the Fact-Finding Panel,” the complaint states. “It is unlawful for an employer representative to contact the other parties (sic) Fact-Finding representative directly and violates MLRB rules.” 

The union noted that Losquadro resigned her seat on the school board on Sept. 10 and that Todd Graham and Ingrid Kachmar did so on Oct. 22, and that the three expressed similar complaints against the teachers union in their resignation letters. 

“The Losquadro, Kachmar, and Graham resignation letters demonstrate an organized failure to bargain in good faith on the part of (the school system) and are organized retaliatory acts targeted at the Association for exercising its statutory rights to file Prohibited Practice Complaints,” the union’s complaint states. 

“(The school system) has interfered with, coerced, and restrained employees in the exercise of their statutory rights; dominated and interfered with the formation, existence, and administration of the association; discriminated against employees because they filed PPC complaints…and failed to bargain in good faith…This conduct is a violation of (state labor laws).” 

The school system has until Nov. 29 to file a response to the union’s complaint with the MLRB and, if it wishes, to file a counter-complaint. The union would then have an opportunity to respond. After that, NLRB Executive Director Neil Daly would decide whether either of the complaints warrants a hearing before the full MLRB. 

Daly decided last month that the union’s initial complaint and the school system’s counter-complaint would have such a hearing. A pre-hearing conference is scheduled for Dec. 14. 

“At that pre-hearing conference, the parties discuss the logistics of the hearing, assuming that a hearing needs to take place and they’re not able to resolve things on their own,” Daly said. “I would imagine the parties and the conference chair would discuss potentially incorporating any new viable claims into whatever hearing does take place.” 

The main sticking point in the contract negotiations between the school board and the teachers union is how much and how fast teachers’ salaries will be increased over the next three years. The previous contract expired Aug. 31. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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