AFT Washington Affiliate Tries to Block Release of Public Documents Relating to Union Leader’s Embezzlement of Funds

by P.D. Lesko

Ideally, union leaders help and protect members to the extent allowed by the contract negotiated between the union and the employer. At Green River Community College there have been allegations made that the game is being played differently. GRCC is located in Auburn, Washington, a suburb of Seattle with a population of about 75,000. In response to allegations made by part-time faculty who are union members represented by United Faculty (UF), launched an investigation. As a part of our effort to gather documents, AdjunctNation filed two Freedom of Information Act requests on July 20, 2012. In response, UF’s leadership has attempted to force Green River Community College officials to keep from releasing emails and documents that could confirm leaders’ alleged efforts to single out, end the career and destroy the reputation of one of the union’s own members, part-time faculty member Keith Hoeller.

Hoeller (pictured, left) claims that union leaders (one of whom is his supervisor in his position as a part-time faculty member at the college) are retaliating against him for criticizing union officials in op-eds, and launching an independent adjunct faculty association at the college in 2011. Hoeller has also provided a cache

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13 Comments for “AFT Washington Affiliate Tries to Block Release of Public Documents Relating to Union Leader’s Embezzlement of Funds”

  1. [...] Union President Mark Millbauer, like officials at Penn State, refused to turn over materials in resp… Green River Community College officials were forced to search Millbauer’s college email account themselves in order to fill the requirements of the FOIA to avoid litigation. AdjunctNation also got help from the Washington State Attorney General’s office in order to push Millbauer and Green River Community College to provide the public records in a timely manner. [...]

  2. Thank you for this stunning job of reporting! The facts are clear that corruption flows through the institutions of higher education, and concerned faculty are punished while thieves go free.
    Retaliation is rampart in the halls of learning. Truly something is rotten in the State of Washington.

  3. Thanks for the story. It’s important for unions to go the extra mile and be scrupulous in their operations. It’s far too much the stereotype that unions are corruptible.

    They should welcome the fullest type of independent investigation into these incidents, with a credible, highly regarded investigator paid for by the state union. With published results for all to see.

    As for the endemic problems of the workplace treatment of adjuncts, they are men and women just trying to do a job and shouldn’t be subject to routine harassment and bullying. In British Columbia we have a province-wide system of independent third-party investigation of harassment issues. It is the person being abused that gets to ask for it (one can be fired for frivilous cmplaints) and the professional investigator is paid for by the institution.

    People like Keith have no where to go to have their issues addressed because theirs no independent third party investigation device. Unions and colleges should welcome this as we did in BC in the mid-nineties…it’s really helped improve the practice of everyone.

    Frank Cosco
    Vancouver Community College Faculty Association

  4. I have just e-met Keith, but he is a wonderful human being. In the midst of his own problems, he comes to the help of mine, another adjunct whom he heard was in trouble. And he has just given me the courage, and the help, the wherewithal, to draft a letter to sue the college for violation of my academic freedom among other things because I have been petitioning for adjunct justice: I have a long upward battle ahead, I know. What I did not know was that Keith took out much time from his own battle to help me in mine: tell me that is not the most venerable of people? Thank you, Keith. And thank you, Ms. Lesko, for a very detailed and fascinating account, if horrifying. But at least the truth will come out. And something will be done. I have hope.

    Ana M. Fores
    Adjunct Professor of English and Language Arts
    Literature, Translations, and Rights Consultant

  5. Dear Ms. Lesko:

    I want to thank you for your wonderfully written article about the issues at Green River Community College.

    Not only was is well written and easy to follow, it was very complete with quotes and facts. We adjuncts at GRCC are indebted to you for bringing this information to a public forum so that our efforts will not be in vain.

    It may be interesting for you to know that the union takes credit for the ability for adjuncts to get retirement accounts and to have benefits, but it was Keith Hoeller that proposed and testified for the bills in the Washington legislature and the union (AFT) testified against them.

    Keith has continued to be harassed and intimiadated by the union and is fearful of the lose of his employment for next year, even though he has received his class assignments for the 2012-13 school year. We, the Green River Adjunct Faculty Association (GRAFA), have contacted the Board of Trustees of the college, and even the Governor of the State of Washington for assistance in the harassment and conflict of interests of full-time faculty and adjuncts in the same union. It may be worth a follow-up article later in the fall quarter.

    Again, thank you for such a complete and well-written article.

    Kathryn A. Re
    Adjunct Math Instructor
    Green River Community College


    I’ll explain why the url’s are attached above:

    As a former GRCC precarious faculty, for the resounding period
    of one quarter, Sept 19-Dec. 6, 2011, I taught three classes -
    - just in time since several adjuncts had booked unexpectedly.
    My own experience teaching at UT-El Paso; El Paso Community
    College; Park College; for the Sergeants Major Academy at
    Biggs Field; for the US Army at Fort Bliss as a writing
    program contractor; at a federal penal institution — La Tuna;
    for a language school in Juarez; for two special high school
    programs in Texas — at-risk kids living in and around gangs
    and for gifted sophomores in the entire state of Texas; for
    several large corporations as an internal writing coach; for
    Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College;
    for Gonzaga University; for Spokane Public Schools as a
    visiting writer — and on and on, the GRCC folk that
    interviewed me to be honest were not the sharpest pencils in
    the box.

    Obviously, I was one of three new hires to fill that void, and
    the promises made to me about having classes for the Winter
    and Spring semesters, well, I took them with a huge grain of
    salt and mug of Patron tequila. I believe I did not get
    classes for Winter 2012 was because of my activism and

    I started the Fall 2011 quarter enlisted to be a huge part of the Teach-
    ins around the Attack on Higher Education. I was on the first
    panel held in front of hundreds of GRCC students and faculty
    and staff. I started a film series and hosted talks. I wrote
    a half dozen news pieces for the GRCC web site (those have
    since been scrubbed). I even wrote up pieces for the street
    newspaper, Real Change News, out of Seattle.

    Count that work as a labor of love and knowing how to be
    strategic around getting youth and faculty involved. Count
    that work as unpaid, too.

    The point of this narrative framing is that I was not rehired
    by GRCC for what many consider dubious reasons. I too ended up
    part of that Hoeller, et al GRAFA group — Green River Adjunct
    Faculty Association. I too spoke out. I too did not feel the
    yellow streak of adjunct fear crawling up my spine.

    GRCC illustrates the ugly side of community colleges and the
    myopia of people who absolutely denigrate their own folk — PT
    faculty. We are the majority there, but we are not
    participants in the joint bargaining unit because dues cost
    and our own pugnacity and independence get rebuked and we
    fall under the cloud of retribution if we dare criticize the
    union leadership’s thinking and lack of unionism and lack
    of understanding that the majority — PT — are what you
    have to bargain for FIRST. I joined the union as a dues payer
    but I understand why 95 percent of the adjuncts do not pay.

    The job I did was regarded well by many of my students. Many
    did not know what PT adjunct means, and were shocked at the
    $3,300 a class I was paid. Think — many of us live in
    Seattle. Make that an hour drive one-way. Add to that a split
    up schedule, and you have adjuncts who have to stay on campus
    a long time to teach evening classes coupled with morning
    classes. Getting a gas stipend? Absurd to the six-digit figure
    ADMIN types. Department and division heads can’t even punch
    themselves out of the proverbial wet bag of logic and

    Students understand the value ADMIN types put on their own
    high wages, on the goofy Martha Stewart mentality
    pushing hyper-new construction, hyper-OCD activity around
    pretty grounds.

    They understand how so many foreign students (more than 1200
    at GRCC)are having basic problems comprehending basic
    instructions in biology classes, or how a college essay is
    an impossible feat for students from Vietnam, Korea, China,
    Iraq, when they just barely learned to speak English. How
    schools like GRCC have deans and department heads who scoff
    at the poor skills of foreign students, YET, they have zero
    gumption to demand a real writing center that goes from
    7 am to 10 pm, M-S, staffed by language instructors, not just
    composition instructors.

    This is what has happened over 30 years of the wrecking crew –
    the moral imperative of working as a collective to help those
    who are at the bottom of the economic and social ladders has
    been lost, discarded. “Love it or leave it,” and, well, many
    FT faculty think there is some Wizard of Oz ready to bring
    tenure track jobs back by the hundreds of thousands.

    Sure, it must intimidate FT faculty who live in suburban hell
    with very limited experience with struggle and travel from
    job to job. It must freak out ADMIN types to understand that
    adjuncts in their midst can and should gain higher wages and
    be part of not only bargaining unit leadership, but to be
    part of the strategic planning of institutions since the
    new majority is us, PT, and how in hell can an institution
    do a damned thing without the insight, experiences and skills
    of PT faculty to lead institutions? Is this where we are at?

    So, Keith’s leadership encouraged me to be part of the GRAFA
    team, and, that off-campus discussion group became a thorn in
    the sides of FT faculty, union leaders, and ADMIN types. WHY?
    Because we represent the future, the now, and their own lack
    of social justice, their own concept of what it means to be
    just and humbled by their own fellow workers, well, that has
    derailed much work in getting FT to realize PT should be lead-
    ing the defense of higher education.

    A silver lining is more than a hope — for now, after teaching
    since 1983, cobbling together work as a journalist (adjunct,
    freelance, PT), gaining new skills as an urban planner after
    years teaching literature, composition, journalism, and many
    human lives worth of time as a community organizer and
    agitator, I am working as an organizer, full-time, respected.

    I’ve been to COCAL X as part of that union work. And, alas, I
    am going to DC to talk with SEIU 500 folk who organized
    American University and George Washington and Maryland
    Community College. So much to learn, so little time to get
    it all done.

    Thanks, Keith, for your own work in WA, years worth, three
    decades or more. Thanks to Ms. Mader. Thanks goes to Dana
    Rush. Jack Longmate. Theresa Knudsen. Gracias goes out to
    a whole lot more folk gutsy and dedicated enough to plow
    through the bourgeois thinking of FT faculty who deep down
    know justice for PT-adjunct-contingents-precariates is
    justice for students, and we deeply need to grown the labor
    movement together, and we need to more deeply grow the
    forces of education by getting youth into it, without the
    prospect of those $2500 a semester one-time lump sums teaching

    • @We’ve gotten tipped about the dismissal of several of the adjuncts involved in the formation of the independent adjunct faculty association. One of the individuals has been hired back, but received an email in which the department chair (a union leader) wrote that the original refusal to rehire the individual had nothing to do with the formation of the adjunct group. We’re looking into this issue and will determine whether there’s a story there (I suspect there is).

  7. I second Jack Longmate. PD is to be thanked for important piece of serious and credible reporting. Sources are well documented. Throughout the article, any one who wants to verify the information for themselves can do so. I cannot understand why local media and mainstream higher education press has ignored this story. Union embezzlement stories, as someone pointed out, may be a dime a dozen, but wouldn’t union leadership going after an adjunct whistleblower who is also a long standing member of the same union lift the story out of any shrug-it-off category and raise questions?

    Ignoring malfeasance or claiming it does not matter seems unwise denial at best. How much worse then is going after the anyone asking transparency and accountability? As Jack also points out, possible future implications are even more disturbing than the case at hand.

    Vanessa Vaile
    Retired Adjunct Instructor
    Community and advocacy blogger
    Mountainair NM

    • @Vanessa, thanks for the kind words about the reporting in this piece. It is, indeed, an important story that needs to be investigated and told.

  8. [...] 16. Former Green River CC (WA) local president and WFT VP found to have embezeled funds. Adjunct Keith H… [...]

  9. First, P.D. Lesko and AdjunctNation deserve credit for their investigative work in the situation at Green River Community College, which has entailed filing Freedom of Information acts and sifting through considerable data in compiling this feature, and what sounds like less than cooperative college personnel. While this is hardly a “good news” story, especially for those who know the individuals involved, one has to believe that shining a light on a situation is better than keeping it in the shadows. I hope Washington legislators are paying attention to what is happening at one of our state’s public colleges.

    Two things strike me about the GRCC situation:

    About the theft of union funds by a former union president, it seems remarkable that since GRCC faculty union officers are bonded, the disappearance of roughly $10,000 is reasoned to have caused no harm to union members, as far as local law enforcement is concerned, since the bonding company will reimburse the union of that sum. There can be no denial that a law has been broken, and the union’s decision to handle the affair internally, rather than involve law enforcement, as Lesko writes, would indeed seem parallel to Penn State’s strategy. In both cases, there has been a blatant disregard for the law. Any institution loses credibility when, instead of admitting a problem, believes that it can hide it. Such disrespect for civic responsibility and the law may be a sign of the times–it certainly contrasts with, for example, Crito where Socrates felt it better to face the law, which meant his own death, than undermine the state by trying to circumvent the law. Society had provided him and his family the good life they enjoyed.

    About reporting to law enforcement, community college faculty are commonly reminded of our obligation to report suspected child abuse to authorities–are we approaching a point in our culture when when law enforcement will decide not to investigate cases of rape or incest unless the victim can show proof of having been harmed?

    In a lighter vein, there is the description of the response to an adjunct who does not retreat at the first suggestion of trouble–it would seem that the college is unprepared for such a response. Lesko’s description is comedic. First, Dr. Hoeller hears from his dean that his division head, who happens to be the union’s head negotiator, filed a complaint against him. Next, the dean corrects that impression, saying that it was the division that filed the complaint, not an individual, which then happens to be in defiance of the union contract that stipulates that only an individual may file a complain. In the meantime, Dr. Hoeller’s requests to see evidence of the complaint itself have not been complied with. The collusion between the union and the college administration is mind-boggling and would seem to call for an independent investigation.

    With most adjuncts, the college, or the union, is probably used to getting its way with just a wink or a nod; it doesn’t expect adjuncts to have a backbone. I hope this doesn’t explain that apparent footdragging to comply with the Freedom of Information requests–with the college possibly working hand in hand with the union in allowing the union to “look into the legality of the request.”

    The feature makes for rich if troubling reading and, again, Lesko deserves credit for bringing these issues to light.

    Jack Longmate
    Adjunct English Instructor
    Olympic College, Bremerton, WA

    • @Jack, please note that while local police may (or may not) be interested in the crime, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards is the entity that would most certainly investigate and, perhaps, prosecute the theft. Thanks much for the praise of the piece and the reporting. This is the first of several pieces that will be posted. I’m gathering more information, including the original police report Mark Millbauer told AdjunctNation was filed with the Auburn Police Department.

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