Archives for category: Unions

As some people recognize, unions helped to build the middle class in this nation. Their disappearance just happens to coincide with growing income inequality, a shrinking middle class, and a growing divide between the 1% and everyone else. Why would corporations want to get rid of unions? Unfortunately, many corporations want low-wage workers who work overtime without extra pay. Unions wouldn’t tolerate that. So unions must go. They have nearly disappeared in the private sector, where people can be fired at will, with no cause. The strongest unions are in the public sector, and the teachers’ unions are the largest unions, so they are constantly attacked by those who want to get rid of the last union and have a totally free market.

 

Here is a useful comment by our reader, Laura H. Chapman:

 

There is a fairly new scheme by corporations to insert their policies into local government, with killing unions priority one.

 

Without much fanfare, the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC—the source of corporate-friendly and “free-market” state legislation—has spawned ready-to-use model legislation and ordinances for local governments.

 

ALEC’s progeny is called the American City-Council Exchange (ACCE). Set up in 2014, it is designed to promote “America’s only free-market forum for village, town, city, and county policy makers.”

 

In addition to proposing model ordinances and legislation at this smaller scale of governance, ACCE is also intended to diminish the influence of the National Conference of State Legislatures as a go-to-source for policy ideas and status reports on legislation. For example, the National Conference has a searchable data-base on pending or passed legislation of great use for legislators and their staff. This data base and search engine means YOU can track 50 issues in education with state-by-state reports–summaries of legislation and the text of bills. Because the National Conference is not a 100% shill for market-based policies framed by corporations, ALEC and ACCE claim it is “too liberal” as a source for ideas about legislation.

 

Here is how the ACCE works. Elected officials in villages, towns, cities, and counties pay $100 for a two-year membership. They are identified as members of “the Public Sector.” Here is the ACCE pitch members of the public sector.

 

“ACCE members receive academic research and analysis from ALEC/ACCE policy experts who work with issues, processes and problem-solving strategies upon which municipal officials vote. Provided with important policy education, lawmakers become more informed and better equipped to serve the needs of their communities.” So corporations are the sources of policy expertise and the proper way to “educate” public officials. No need for local expertise, public debate, and so on. Local elected officials can now become shills for ALEC/ACCE.

 

Corporations pay $10,000 to be a member of an ACCE Committee, or they pay $25,000 to become members of the Founder’s Committee with more influence on priorities.
Here is the pitch for members in “the Private Sector.”

 

ACCE Committee members “provide industry insights during policy creation.” “ACCE Council Committees closely imitate the city government legislative process: resolutions are introduced, meetings are conducted, experts present facts and opinion for discussion, after which lawmakers take a vote.”

 

The ACCE is basically a pay-to-play scheme for peddling corporate views to public officials at the local level, with a very low threshold of expense for local and policy makers to be open to ready-to-use corporate friendly ordinances and legislation. The scheme comes with the bonus of a tax deduction because ACCE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

 

ACCE first two initiatives are already in circulation, thanks to regional chapters and the nurture by ALEC of this strategy to control local governance. Some elected officials who are Democrats are trying to blow the whistle.

 

One of the first ACCE initiatives is a model ”Right to Work” ordinance, a local version of ALEC’s anti-union model legislation.

 

A second is designed to limit local government oversight of the process of contracting for municipal water and wastewater piping. Apparently the municipal and wastewater industry wants to secure total autonomy for project engineers to set performance criteria for the piping in these huge public works projects. This may also be a scheme to by-pass EPA’s 2011 “green infrastructure” practices for administering the “Clean Water Act.” For both model ordinances go to http://www.alec.org/legislation-tags/acce/

 

In addition to these initiatives, I think we will see more of ACCE’s influence, working in tandem with other efforts to get rid of locally elected local school boards, to have all education funding follow the child, and set up “virtual” and/or multi-location districts to process funds, meet any remnants of public accountability, all with appointed CEOs. The Center for American Progress and venture capitalists like Global Silicon Valley Advisors want to accelerate popular acceptance of such schemes as “essential” to get more bang for the buck, to allow for more choice, and so on. Getting rid of local school boards s also a strategy for killing unions.

 

If your community still permits unions and suddenly decides to scrap those with something that looks like a ready-made ordinance, it could be from ACCE. It might come with claims that it will not only save money on salaries, but reduce pension obligations, permit fires and hires based on performance, and also be good for business, especially for those corporations who have paid for access to your elected officials. BEWARE.

 

Corporations do not want employees to have due-process rights. Many also have NO respect for authentic democratic governance and the electoral process—witness the current efforts of billionaires with corporate fortunes to buy the next President of the United States and also to make it difficult to vote.

Michael Hiltzik is a business writer for the Los Angeles Times. He seems to understand education issues better than many other journalists. In this post, he explains the animus and ideology behind a lawsuit against teachers’ unions in California known as Bain vs. California Teachers Association, et al. In this suit, a group of four teachers are suing six California and national teachers unions, claiming that their free speech rights are denied when the union takes positions they don’t agree with. Hiltzik understands that the goal of the lawsuit is not to protect free speech, but to deny the unions’ right to speak for its members.

Follow the money.

“The lawsuit purports to defend the “free speech” rights of its plaintiffs, four California schoolteachers. But its real goal is to silence the collective voice of union members on political and educational issues. Its lesson is simple: If you don’t like the decisions your organization or community reaches through the democratic process, just refuse to pay for them.

“The plaintiffs in Bain vs. California Teachers Assn., et al, say the conditions of union membership coerce them into supporting “political or ideological” viewpoints they don’t share. StudentsFirst, an education reform group supported by wealthy hedge fund managers and the Walton family, is bankrolling the lawsuit. StudentsFirst was founded by onetime Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who, before leaving the organization in 2014 under a cloud, established its philosophy that the problem with education is that teachers have too much power and job protection.

“Bain vs. CTA should be viewed in the context of a long war against public employee unions. Among its landmarks were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 ballot initiatives to reduce teacher tenure rights and hamstring public employee unions’ authority to spend member dues on political activity. Both failed.

“The lawsuit’s prime target is the “agency” or “fair share” fee. Under the law and according to a 1977 Supreme Court decision known as the Abood case, workers can be assessed non-member fees to cover solely the cost of negotiations and contract enforcement, without being compelled to join the union and support its political activities with their dues. That’s the arrangement in California. For decades, union opponents have been trying to get Abood overruled. The Supreme Court is pondering whether to hear one challenge from California, Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn. Bain “helps create a favorable political climate for the Supreme Court” to accept the Friedrichs case and overturn Abood, says Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, a defendant in Bain. Its purpose is “pretty clear,” he says: “The erosion of unions’ ability to be involved with politics.”

If the union-haters get their way, union voices will be silenced, but the well-funded voices of corporate America will not. After the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, muzzling the unions would be another blow against democracy. We are accustomed to the cacophony of divergent opinion. It would be disgraceful if those who defend working people were silenced.

Gus Morales, the outspoken leader of the Holyoke, Massachusetts, Teachers Association, won the right to a hearing from the state’s Department of Labor Relations after he was laid off by his district.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association and his colleagues believe he was dismissed because he led protests against the state takeover of the district.

“The state Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has found “probable cause” to believe that the Holyoke Public Schools illegally fired Holyoke Teachers Association (HTA) President Gus Morales because of his activism as a union leader.

“The DLR will hold a hearing on the complaint, which stems from a charge filed by the HTA on June 25. The DLR complaint is similar to a grand jury indictment; the upcoming hearing will have many of the characteristics of a trial, with witnesses and cross-examination.

“Because I speak out against policies that I see as bad for our students and bad for our educators, I have been targeted for two straight years,” said Morales, whose employment contract with the Holyoke Public Schools was not renewed at the end of the school year.

“Morales, who does not have professional teaching status, was similarly dismissed at the end the 2013-14 school year after his election to lead the HTA. Then, as now, the DLR issued a complaint that found reason to believe that Morales was illegally terminated for his union activism.”

Morales and the HTA were vocal opponents of the takeover, which was imposed in April despite widespread objections from the community and several of its elected leaders.

“It is an outrage that an educator and leader such as Gus Morales, who has spoken out for the students and the Holyoke community, is being targeted for dismissal,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “The MTA will not tolerate attacks on educators, especially when the attack is meant to cause fear among those who challenge the deeply flawed accountability system used to punish educators, students and communities. Gus has the courage to address the real issues affecting Holyoke — such as economic and racial injustice — and the MTA supports him and the HTA in holding the state accountable for providing resources that the community can use to combat these problems.”

“Throughout stakeholder meetings to craft a “turnaround” plan for Holyoke Public Schools, Morales and others from the HTA raised concerns about the influence of standardized tests, the need to provide social services to students living in poverty, inadequate programs for students on special education plans, the lack of ethnic diversity in the teaching ranks and other issues that they felt that the receiver needs to address.”

Morales never got a bad evaluation until he spoke out against bad policies.

EduShyster here tells the sad story of the teachers at Urban Prep Academy in Chicago. They voted to form a union, and most of those who did were fired. Period.

This is the same charter school that Arne Duncan praised at the 20th anniversary celebration of Teach for America, where he claimed that replacing the entire staff had produced dramatically different results. Gary Rubinstein wrote about that speech here, and it turned out to be a defining moment for Gary, who turned against the “reform” charade.

EduShyster writes that

the teachers decided to form a union to redress what they saw as a serious problem: Urban Prep administrators’ lack of accountability to, well, anyone. So on June 3rd, a majority of teachers voted *yes* to having a union in a secret-ballot election. But instead of our story ending here, this is the point at which we stumble onto the treacherous shoals of labor law. You see, it took the Labor Board weeks to certify the results of the election due to large number of ballots that school administrators were contesting. And during this *grey area* period when the new union wasn’t yet officially official, Urban Prep fired sixteen teachers. Hows come? Well, because they could. Administrators are arguing that until the exact moment that the union becomes official, they are allowed to do whatever it is they feel like doing. Which would seem to be an example of exactly the kind of asshole-ish behavior that prompted teachers at the charter network to form a union in the first place.

In short order, 16 teachers were fired. 80% of them are African-American. The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, which now represents teachers at Urban Prep, has filed unfair labor practices over the firings of all 16 teachers.

Incidents like this one reminds us of why workers formed unions long ago, and why corporate America is so eager to crush the last of them.

The Walton Family Foundation is not going to like this. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Teach for America teachers in a Detroit charter school have the right to unionize.

The charter operator fought the TFA newbies, claiming that they weren’t “real” teachers.

“The National Labor Relations Board ruled Friday that Teach for America teachers in a Detroit charter school have the right to be a part of a union.

“According to a statement from the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, the NLRB said Friday 14 Teach for America corps members should have been able to vote in an election last spring. That election was held to determine if teachers at University Prep Schools, a charter school network in Detroit, wanted to form a union.

“Detroit 90/90, the private company that operates the schools, argued the Teach for America members, as well as long-term substitutes, were not professional employees.

“We are really pleased to be recognized as professional teachers,” said Patrick Sheehan, a TFA corps member and second grade advisor at the time of the election. “U-Prep hired us to teach just like other teachers. Making the legal argument that we are not professionals means one of two things — either Detroit 90/90 doesn’t respect the work we do with students or they lied to prevent us from organizing a union.”

The vote to unionize at University YES caused their sponsor to abandon the school:

“University Yes Academy teachers voted to unionize earlier this year, despite their parent company — New Urban Learning — announcing it was walking away from the school. The announcement of New Urban Learning walking away from University Yes took place days after the school’s teachers announced they planned to hold a vote on unionization.”

Why won’t the Walton Family Foundation like these developments? The Waltons, owners of Walmart, don’t like unions. They like charters, because 90% or so are non-union. They have given more than $50 million to TFA to supply the workforce for non-union charters.

Kids! What’s the matter with kids today?

Russ Walsh, a literacy expert, has offered himself as the teacher whose face should be punched.

He writes:

Faced with declining numbers in the polls and with being out bullied by Donald Trump, Christie has decided to come out swinging – at teachers.

Of course the teachers union has no literal face and the leaders of both major teachers unions, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Lily Eskelson Garcia of the National Education Association are women. I don’t think even a Republican candidate for president could get away with punching a woman in the face. Belittling them, yes. Berating them, yes. Taking away the choice of what they do with their bodies, yes. But not striking a woman, especially with a Hillary running on the Democratic side.

So, taking all this into consideration, I would like to step up and offer Christie my face to punch.

I am well qualified for the job. I have been a public school teacher and administrator for 45 years. I have been the president and the chief negotiator of my local teachers union. I have been sharply critical of Christie’s education policies on my blog. I deserve that punch in the face. I have earned it. Not only that, I live just a stone’s throw from the statehouse in Trenton, so I could meet the Governor there at any time, if he ever happens to get back to New Jersey.

I am sure it would give Christie a boost in the polls and solidify his standing as a violent, bullying looney worthy of Republican voter support. It might even be enough to get him on the stage at one of the primary debates where he could punch Wolf Blitzer in the face and garner even more support.

Sorry, Russ, but the more I think about it, the better I like the idea of Chris Christie swinging at the faces of Randi and Lily. That would not only finish his political career, but probably land him in jail for assault and battery. And knowing Randi and Lily, I have a feeling Christie would come away the worse for the encounter. They are two tough ladies.

Steven Singer was shocked to learn that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to punch teachers who belong to a union in the face. He takes this personally since he is a teacher and belongs to a union, which Christie has called “the most destructive force in American education.”

He writes:

One day historians may look back on Christie’s statement as a new low in electioneering. And this campaign season, that’s really saying something!

A candidate from one of the major political parties actually thinks threatening teachers with physical violence will gain him votes.

Why?

Look at it from his point of view. Christie is one of 17 Republicans running against each other for the party’s nomination. The first GOP debate is coming up and they’re only going to let the top 10 Republican candidates participate. And Christie’s popularity is low enough that he might get left out in the cold.

What’s a guy to do? Well the frontrunner, Donald Trump, earned his lead by saying the most outrageous things he could think of – namely that Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves. And – WOOSH! – up went his poll numbers! Mike Huckabee compared the Iran deal to the Holocaust and watched his poll numbers rise, too.

Heck! If it worked for them, might as well try the same thing, Christie style! Let’s punch teachers!

This is strange for two reasons: (1) the governor of a populous state is actually resorting to the schoolyard rhetoric of an 8-year-old to characterize his presidential policy, and (2) who he’s targeting.

Can you imagine a U.S. President – not a candidate but a duly elected Commander-in-Chief – speaking to the nation this way?

“Today the state of our union is strong because my administration has punched the teachers in the face. We’ve also thrown welfare moms off the top ropes, put illegal immigrants in a sleeper hold and kicked planned parenthood in the groin!”

He wouldn’t talk this way about other public sector workers. Why so much rancor towards teachers?

Singer writes:

Can you imagine him speaking like this about any other public employee? Would he challenge postal workers to a knife fight? Would he threaten to pistol whip firefighters? Would he dare promise to drop kick police officers?

No way! For some reason educators really bug him – always have. He has a reputation for shouting down and bullying teachers in his state.

A psychologist might easily look at Christie and say he’s overcompensating.

A 52-year-old who probably couldn’t beat up an egg with an egg beater continues to talk as if he’s a street tough. A grown man who is still apparently intimidated by people with any kind of learning or book smarts continues to attack education and educators.

Chris Christie was asked on national television by CNN host Jake Tapper who at the national level deserves a punch in the face. Christie replied, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s account,

“Oh, the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election.”

Mr. Tapper: “Why?”

Mr. Christie: “Because they’re not for education for our children. They’re for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I’ve got the scars to show it. But I’m never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes.”

Since most teachers are women, and the leaders of both unions are women, Governor Christie relishes the idea of punching a woman in the face. Nice. What a bully.

So here is a thought experiment for Chris Christie:

Which states are the highest performing in the United States?

Answer: Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Question: Do these states have teachers’ unions and collective bargaining?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Governor Christie, can you name a non-union state that is high-performing?

Answer: (silence)

Bottom line:

Teachers’ unions advocate for higher teacher salaries, which is good for teachers and ultimately for students because their schools have happy, experienced teachers; teachers’ unions advocate for reduced class sizes, which is good for teachers and immediately for students; teachers’ unions advocate for better working conditions, because working conditions are also learning conditions; teachers’ unions advocate for greater public investment in public schools, which is good for students, schools, and communities.

New York State Commissioner of Education MayEllen Elia has been on the job since July 6, and she has won over many–but not all–critics.

Whereas Her predecessor John King was young, inexperienced, and had worked for a brief time in a charter school, Elia has many years as a teacher and administrator. She gets points for that.

But her agenda is the same as Cuomo, King, and Tisch: high-stakes testing, school closings, teacher evaluation by scores.

The one group not yet charmed by Elia are the opt out parents and educators at Néw York State Allies for Public Education. It is the agenda they oppose, not the messenger.

Education Next is an influential rightwing publication. Its editors are mostly fellows at the free-market Hoover Institution. It is based at Harvard University, because its editor-in-chief is Paul Peterson, who holds a chair at Harvard. Peterson is one of the leading voices (perhaps THE leading voice) in the academic world for free markets and unfettered choice. He was once a strong supporter of public schools; he is now a strong advocate for vouchers, charters, and anything but public schools. Paul Peterson is a tenured professor who opposes teacher tenure. He also opposes teachers’ unions; he believes they are selfish and greedy and disrupt the working of the free market.  Of course, professors at Harvard make double or triple what the average K-12 teacher earns in a year and work far fewer hours (nine hours a week of class time? three hours? none?). Paul, whom I knew well when I was a senior fellow at Hoover, is an amiable guy. He is also one of the most prolific of the academic boosters for privatization.

 

Paul Peterson’s influence can be seen in the new movement for vouchers, which have repeatedly been voted down by the public. He has trained a large number of scholars who are dedicated advocates of free-market policies and school choice. One of his former students, Patrick Wolf, is the official evaluator of the voucher programs in the District of Columbia, Milwaukee, and Louisiana. Wolf holds an endowed chair in the “Department of Educational Reform” at the University of Arkansas, a department led by another Peterson student, Jay Greene. Peterson and Wolf have written a number of articles together about school choice. On his website, Wolf says that he has received $20 million in grants and contracts for his research studies.

 

Peterson’s latest piece, written with Martin West, another of his former graduate students at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, says that the public doesn’t believe that unions should be able to collect dues from people who don’t want to belong to the union but enjoy the benefits that the union negotiates for them. If the public doesn’t believe in unions, then presumably the courts should be willing to strip them of the revenues that enable them to represent workers and to exert influence to protect workers.

 

Do workers need unions? Growing up as I did in the 1940s and 1950s, unions were seen as a force for progressive change, as the defender of workers, as builders of the middle class. I have never belonged to a union but I continue to believe that without unions, workers will be exploited, treated as chattel, paid below the minimum wage, expected to work long hours in poor conditions, and fired with or without cause. The New York Times recently reported on protests by farm workers, some of whom work nearly 70 hours a week, seven days a week, in substandard conditions. One said that he would be grateful to have one day off a week.

 

I can’t help but think of a recent tweet by teacher Steven Singer: #Unions are the only reason we have weekends, vacations, overtime pay, 8-hour work day, sick leave, etc.

 

As unions disappear in the private sector, we see vast numbers of workers who work long hours, do not receive minimum wage or sick days. We see workers who are exploited by corporations that do not have a human face and discard people like trash. To be anti-union is to be anti-worker and anti-middle-class. Unions have their flaws, but their fundamental role is to create better lives for their members. To lose them will exacerbate the growing divide between the 1% and the poor and will hasten the shrinkage of the middle class. That’s bad for America. It’s bad for families and communities. It’s bad for children. It is shameful.

 

 

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