By AFRO Staff
The American Federation of Teachers on July 10 affirmed the results of the Baltimore Teachers Union’s May elections. The decision officially ushers in middle school teacher Diamonté Brown as head of the organization that leads the city’s 7,000 educators.
“The highest number of Baltimore Teachers Union members in 20 years participated in our internal elections on May 15th [and it was a powerful affirmation of our union as a democratic organization,” Brown said in a statement following the AFT decision.
“Now, we will work together to advance member’s interests,” she added. “I am grateful that this decision lets us put our attention where it deserves to be: fighting for equity and resources, and promoting teacher and [paraprofessional] voices.”
Brown bested longtime incumbent Marietta English in a close but clear vote of 901-839 during the union’s internal elections May 15.
However, both sides challenged the integrity of the elections—allegations of improper campaign practices and voter suppression being among the concerns.
“Several of our members and leaders in Baltimore have reached out expressing concerns about what has transpired since the local election for the BTU president and executive board was held last week,” Randi Weingarten said via press release May 24. <https://www.aft.org/press-release/aft-president-randi-weingarten-baltimore-teachers-union-election.> “I take these concerns very seriously.”
On June 10, Weingarten presided over a hearing where “all parties involved in the contested Baltimore Teachers Union election were offered an opportunity to provide testimony, present documentary evidence and respond to allegations,” the AFT reported.
While the AFT deliberated, Brown reportedly began acting in her then-uncertain role. With BTU contracts expiring at the end of June, Brown began negotiating the next memorandum of understanding between its teachers and Baltimore City, a representative of the Brown campaign told the AFRO.
Kris Sieloff, who has taught for 25 years—10 years in Chicago and 15 in Baltimore—said she hopes that under the new administration the BTU will advocate more strongly for teachers.
“I came from a city where the union was strong, and teachers were empowered, and there wasn’t so much friction between teachers and administrators,” Sieloff told the AFRO.
“I feel like in Baltimore, the high turnover rate [of teachers] was disturbing to me, the loss of Black and brown teachers as time went on, the hiring of TFA (Teach For America educators) and a lot of the fast-track certification, and I felt like the union was not really fighting.”
- K. Schmid contributed to this report.