In our small town, the teacher’s union is pushing very hard to increase both pay and benefits for teachers in spite of the fact that there is no money to do so.   Playing to the majority of their members, the Union would accept seeing 40 teachers laid off (and classroom loads increase) in order to increase the wage and benefit package for those teachers who remain.  At a recent meeting of the local School Board, a member of the Chamber of Commerce read a statement from the Chamber to the Board.  It supported keeping as many teachers as possible within the budget rather than raising teacher wages and benefits.  The Chamber member who read the statement happened to be the branch manager of the local branch of a credit union.  Her Credit Union had been founded 75 years ago as a teacher’s credit union and a majority of members of the credit union are teacher’s union members.  A few union members did not like the statement she read and organized a campaign to get her fired.  It worked.  The gutless management of the Credit Union fired her without so much as giving her a reason.  It is sad because the Chamber of Commerce letter was in complete support of teachers and small class sizes, both goals of the community and the union for years.

Following is the letter that I wrote to the Credit Union.  I hope that they get far more complaints from people who support the FREEDOM of SPEECH than they got from union members throwing around their power to effect negotiations.  You might even want to use the link in the letter to express your displeasure with the Credit Union for violating an employee’s first amendment rights.

Ms. Kelly Schrader

Senior Vice President

OnPoint Credit Union

By Email to: kelly.schrader@onpointcu.com

Dear Ms. Schrader:

Yesterday my wife and I withdrew all of our funds from your Credit Union and closed both our business and personal accounts.  We did this in protest of the firing of McMinnville Branch Manager, Leslie van Blaricom.  We do not know Ms. van Blaricom except as your Branch Manager.

It is our understanding that Ms. van Blaricom, a member of the McMinnville Chamber of Commerce read a Chamber-prepared letter to the McMinnville School Board a little over a week ago.  The School District is currently in negotiations with the teacher’s union.  The letter encouraged the Board to work for the retention of as many teaching positions as possible rather than allow teaching positions to be cut just to provide funds for higher pay or benefits.  Evidently, this position angered a few union members.  They then organized a campaign to flood your offices with complaints about Ms. van Blaricom and her views (actually the views of the Chamber and its members).  The union members evidently thought it was not right that the former Portland Teacher’s Credit Union should employ a person who did not support the union line.  As a result of the union inspired complaints, and without notice, Ms. van Blaricom was fired.

Our actions may have been rash and we may not have all the facts straight.  But, closing our accounts was moral, ethical, and legal.  Your firing of an employee for expressing her opinion in a public forum is neither moral nor ethical and an obvious violation of her First Amendment right of freedom of speech.  You should be deeply ashamed of your actions.

Sincerely,

Tom and Marion Vail, McMinnville

Cc:             Mr. Phil Hutchinson, McMinnville Chamber of Commerce

Mr. Jeb Bladine, Publisher, Yamhill Valley News-Register

Ms. Kathy Cabe, Chair, McMinnville School District School Board

Ms. Maryalice Russell, Superintendent, McMinnville School District

Mr. Peter Bhatia, Editor, The Oregonian

Mr. James Taranto, Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

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