(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – Saturday I was kicked out of the Nevada State Education Association, the state teachers union, convention for, well, for being a conservative at the NSEA convention. Not only did they kick me out of their meeting but, later, one of the directors called me and the others who attended as guests of one of the delegates “enemies” of the organization.
One of the people who escorted me out of the meeting is a former Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada, to boot! How’s that First Amendment working for you?
After being invited by and accompanying one of the delegates and following all of the proper procedures, I received a legitimate guest pass when registration opened in the morning. Hours later, during the afternoon business meeting, I was asked to leave my seat in the designated guest area and led out of the building by three members of the NSEA.
As I was walked out the door I was photographed by what I assume was the convention’s official photographer. Maybe they’ll put me on their Facebook page! I can see the caption now, “Another subversive infiltrator is perp-walked from the premises!”
My offense? I was not being loud or disruptive and I was seated in the designated guest area. In fact, the only person in the room I spoke with before being approached by event staff was a lady whose phone I promised to give safe-keeping as it charged.
While I was using a digital recorder and taking notes on my laptop there were no signs or announcements indicating such things were prohibited. Though I was asked to erase my recording there were many others recording the meeting as well. In fact, I’ve since obtained a copy of the full meeting from someone else. If this were the reason for my dismissal it was both highly selective and very ineffective.
Furthermore, the rationale I was given at the time had nothing to do with any of my actions. The reason I was escorted out of the convention, I was told, was that I was not qualified to receive a guest pass. Two different people, one of whom was Debbie Cahill, NSEA Deputy Executive Director, informed me that only family members of NSEA delegates and members of NSEA who were not delegates were eligible to be guests at the convention.
If this were truly the case, if their objection to my presence were merely a question of credentials or qualifications, was there not a better way to deal with the situation than to perp-walk me out of the building?
The size of the contingent, which included NSEA Executive Director Gary Peck, who is also a former ED of the ACLU of Nevada, would seem to be evidence against it being due to them just then realizing an error in granting credentials. The “enemies” comment also appears to indicate there was more to it than that.
The delegate whom I accompanied to the meeting is known within the NSEA for being an agitator – an outspoken conservative inside a very liberal organization. When I was first approached I handed over a business card, indicating I was with the Nevada Business Coalition, an organization that has been highly critical of government unions, including the NSEA.
It appears as though the NSEA’s real problem with my attendance was ideological. I was evicted because I was identified as a conservative who has been critical of the NSEA and I was invited by another conservative who has been critical of the organization. I seriously doubt there would have been any objection to my remaining in the meeting were these not true.
Even if one accepts the premise the NSEA is a private organization that can accept or reject whomever it wishes at its meetings – a premise I would dispute – this incident does reveal it to be rather thin-skinned, at best. The description of some of us as “enemies” is indicative of not just being thin-skinned but of being paranoid.
If this is the organization that considers me an enemy I will wear the title as a badge of honor.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)