‘It’s just ugly.’ Tensions rise between school employee groups, KEA and KY120 United.

Tensions are rising between two high profile Kentucky school employee groups, with one of them newly unionizing and promising “a ground breaking organizing campaign” for members.

The Kentucky Education Association, the state’s largest professional group founded in 1857, and KY120 United, a group that started in 2018 on Facebook and unionized a month ago through the American Federation of Teachers, are openly exchanging criticisms.

“There’s just a philosophical difference between us and KEA on several issues — in the way we do business, there’s differences in the way we communicate… they got to be a little bit more than what we could deal with,” KY120 United co-founder Nema Brewer told the Herald-Leader.

“Recently, it has been very, very clear to us that they are afraid they are losing members to us. They have told their higher ups that we’re their threat. They’ve said that we’ve misinformed retirees. It’s just gotten to the point that it’s just ugly and it doesn’t have to be that way,” Brewer said.

Disputes between the two groups — including disagreements over whether the Kentucky Education Association can rightfully be called a union — have surfaced in media interviews and in social media posts since KY120 announced its unionization March 29.

KY120 co-founder Jeni Bolander confirmed she was referring to the KEA when she told the Louisville Courier Journal last month that “associations are full of words and unions are full of action.”

KY120 leaders recalled at their unionization announcement that they formed in 2018 to fight a teacher pension bill ultimately found unconstitutional. KEA President Eddie Campbell responded on social media, “Beware of people who take credit for things they had no part in. There’s no telling what else they might say that isn’t true.”

When KY120 leaders said they were responsible for school employee sickouts that brought change, Campbell reminded readers of his post that the Kentucky Education Association was one of five plaintiffs in a lawsuit that led to the bill being declared unconstitutional.

Brewer said the KEA sees KY120 as a bigger threat than policymakers who are against public education, a concern she alluded to in a Twitter post last week.

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