Saturday, November 2, 1996

Sherry Miller-White: the end justifies the means, evidently


     The faculty union's flier—distributed to tens of thousands of Republican households—is widely credited with securing Williams, Fortune, and Frogue's '96 election victories. At the time, union consultant Pam Zanelli—later, the chief district PR person—recommended exploitation of the "domestic partners" issue, even though (a) the opposing trustee slate did not run on this issue, (b) CTA, which provided the chapter with campaign funds, officially favors domestic partner benefits, and (c) domestic partner benefits are properly a union, not a trustee, initiative. The flier contained figures concerning the cost of domestic partner benefits that bore no relation to reality. None of the beneficiaries of the flier—including long-time Democrat Dorothy Fortune—ever disowned it.

     Union president Sherry Miller-White's decision to use the Zanelli-inspired flier naturally produced an outpouring of outrage from faculty. In response, the leadership began its campaign of simultaneously defending its action and blaming Zanelli for it. According to the post-election union newsletter, "The Faculty Association was forced to compete in the past campaign because life as we know it was under threat...[T]he Faculty Association, in desperation, turned the campaign over to a professional firm. All the information and literature of the PIE group was turned over to the professionals who developed the campaign...[T]he professionals said that many Democratic and Republican races across the nation were debating [the domestic partners issue] and that the public should not be kept in the dark about the full PIE agenda...." Also in the newsletter, Miller-White writes: "During the election, we were all in a fight for our existence as we know it. With all of this at risk, it became my responsibility as president to do the best I could [to] prevent this from happening...The unfortunate recent campaign war was necessitated solely by those opposing or threatening our contract. Even though the job as President of the faculty association is extremely difficult and requires a lot of self sacrifice, knowing that our immediate future is secure makes it all worth while."

Typical FA newsletter of the time
     During a forum in January of '97, Sherry Miller-White explicitly acknowledged having approved the flier, even though it was, she said, "too homophobic for me." Nevertheless, she explained, the use of such tactics was necessary to protect "life as we know it." She refused to apologize for her decision, thus providing members no reason to suppose that she would not use such tactics again. Indeed, during the trustee race of '98, Miller-White and her cronies helped secure the victories of two anti-teachers union candidates, using a flier that argued, absurdly, that the two would help stop the El Toro airport.

Willing to say or do anything to protect "life as we know it"

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