This is not a post I ever wanted to write, but when I saw today via Facebook that a Maine Education Association UniServ Director, John Kosinski, is now posting at the revived MainePolitics site, I knew it was time. John is a good writer and politically active, so I’m glad to see him making himself known in the virtual world.
I believe I, too, am a good writer – but was only marginally politically active when I was employed in that same position before retiring/resigning due to differences with MEA management which I referenced early on in this blog.
During my 14-year tenure in the Caribou office, I had a strong tendency to make MEA management and leadership (President, VP, Treasurer, etc) unhappy when I pointed out – internally only, never outside the organization – that their positions – and please be very clear on this: most MEA policy-type positions, default though they may be, are driven from the top, not the grassroots membership – were not playing well “in the field”. In other words, the policy-makers in Augusta were poor at making decisions and even poorer at communicating those decisions once made.
One of those differences – the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak – became important when the Executive Director, Mark Gray, accompanied by my so-called direct supervisor (with whom I seldom spoke and even more rarely saw), Deputy Executive Director Rob Walker (a former MEA President) called me to the Bangor office to talk about my use of Twitter and Facebook. Accompanied by my own union representative, I heard Mark say that he was concerned that I encouraged MEA members to “follow” me and that I had no authority to speak to them on the organization’s behalf, so I needed to stop using those media. I explained that my Twitter account explicitly said that “Opinions were my own” and that I only seldom mentioned my employment by MEA. He replied it made no difference and that anyone could figure out who I was.
I then pointed out that most of my contacts, particularly on Twitter, were people interested in education, journalism and politics. He said that was even worse and threatened me with disciplinary action if I persisted in using social media. He did not point to a single tweet that was contrary to MEA policy or positions, but did mention that I had had virtual interactions (140 words at a time, mind you) with Derek Viger, who at the time was writing for Pine Tree Politics. According to Mark, Derek was “no friend of MEA” and therefore my virtual interactions with everyone were verboten.
So, the question is: how come John can post at a political blog (advocating for a particular individual to be Chair of the Maine Democratic Party), but I couldn’t use Twitter? I’m sure any of you reading this post can come up with your own explanations.