Video: Was Utah teacher punished for testifying on union bill?

According to Heartland Institute, Utah teacher Cole Kelley was released from his position as athletic director one week after testifying in favor of a bill that would penalize school districts for not granting equal access to all teacher organizations. Heartland asserts that “his principal admitted she approved of his job performance but had released him because of pressure.”

Are these allegations true? Are Utah teachers bullied by unions?

Watch this video report to learn more:


What do you think? Is union bullying a problem in Utah schools?

Here’s the script of the video: 

VOICE-OVER: In February, Utah teacher Cole Kelley testified in favor of Senate Bill 82, which would have penalized school districts for not granting all teacher organizations equal access to teachers. A week later, he was released from his position as athletic director.

CHARITY SMITH: “Because he’s willing to stand up, because he knows what’s right, it seems as though he is being blacklisted.”

VOICE-OVER: Heartland Institute first reported Mr. Kelley’s allegations, and we decided to investigate the case further. Charity Smith of the Association of American Educators, a non-union teachers group, spoke about Mr. Kelley’s case because he chose not to speak on camera.

CHARITY SMITH: “It’s evident that one week after he testified he was contacted and released, and then a week later he was released from some other duties.” 38:56: “He is definitely on this list and he’s heard it from many of his colleagues, and they are actually approaching him telling him that they’re afraid of joining his organization or joining any other organization other than the UEA because they are afraid of being blacklisted as well.

VOICE-OVER: What follows is a portion of what Mr. Kelley said during his testimony of Senate Bill 82.

COLE KELLEY TESTIFYING ON SENATE BILL 82: “Alpine School District for the longest time was saying to us, ‘Hey you know, AEA – which is Alpine Education Association – is willing to buy dinner for our new teachers … you are not.’ We said we will buy dinner for your teachers, and so we jumped in and said fine, we’ll come to the table and we’ll buy lunch as well. And when we did that, they stuck us in a room clear on the other end of the building and never gave us the opportunity to address the teachers. In their mind they feel like they’re giving us equal access. We’re not having the opportunity to really let teachers know about our association.”

VOICE-OVER: Even though Mr. Kelley and several of his colleagues believe he was released as athletic director because he testified in favor of Senate Bill 82 – which did not pass – Rhonda Bromley, spokeswoman for Alpine School District, says that is not the case.

RHONDA BROMLEY: “In a discussion with Mr. Kelley, with the principal and the assistant principal over athletics, there were some concerns brought up; there were some specific things that as the athletic director requirements that the state has, we fall under Utah high school activities association when it comes to our athletics and some of our extra curricular activities, and there’s certain deadlines that have to be met. Last year American Fork High School was fined on two different occasions for things that were not turned in that should have been.”

VOICE-OVER: But the alleged repercussions after Mr. Kelley spoke out are still alarming to some teachers in Utah. They fear that if they don’t join the Utah Education Association, they will lose their jobs. Teachers who want to leave the UEA, or who want to voice their concerns about it, have the same worries.

CHARITY SMITH: “I had many experiences where I felt like this isn’t right; teachers shouldn’t be funding some of the most expensive politics in the nation. And I was approached a few different times, at a couple of the schools I worked at, and first starting in college approached by the UEA. And essentially when I began working in a school district, I was approached by colleagues who – as a first-year teacher I felt like ‘oh have to join this organization because my colleagues have pressured me or told me that I’m a freeloader if I don’t join this organization.’”

VOICE-OVER: Allyson White, a special education teacher at Syracuse High School, has had a similar experience.

ALLYSON WHITE: “When I first started teaching, I didn’t even question the union because I felt like it was … I felt like joining the union was my insurance, or my liability insurance, so to speak. I have found out that that is so not the case. There have been numerous situations that I have brought and concerns I have brought up to DEA that have not been addressed. I joined the union just thinking that they would have my back at all times, if there was an issue I would be able to call on them for help, and that has been so far from the truth.”

VOICE-OVER: When we asked Ms. White if she was afraid of losing her job at Syracuse High after this interview, she said she mainly dreads the Davis Education Association, which is a branch of the UEA.

ALLYSON WHITE: “I don’t know if it’s a fear of losing my job; it’s a fear of causing the wrath of the union on your backs and what I mean by that is, they’re not nice. And so they can cause problems through administration on how they view you, through colleagues and how they view you.”

VOICE-OVER: Senate Bill 82 would have required all local school boards to establish a registry for education employee associations that wanted equal access to school activities such as membership solicitation at a new-employee orientation. SB 82 also would have imposed financial penalties if an association did not have equal access to school activities.

CHARITY SMITH: “Teachers deserve to have a choice in what professional association they join, and it should reflect who they are and what sorts of things they want to support and be a part of.”

VOICE-OVER: Teachers unions tell the public that they represent teachers. They also say they are against bullying. So what do you think? Is the UEA intimidating teachers, or are the teachers we interviewed overstating their claims? For Sutherland Institute, I’m Alexis Young, reminding you that public policy changes lives.