Archives for category: Unions

The Supreme Court hasa cepted for review a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. It is a challenge to the fair share fees that unions charge non members. If the CTA loses, unions would be weakened by a loss if members and revenues. The Democratic Party would also be weakened. Some of the most conservative judges have been carefully biding their time, waiting for a case to finish off organized labor. Will this be the case that lands the death blow to public sector unions.

Without teachers’ unions, there will be no one to fight for adequate funding of schools, smaller classes, decent salaries, or teachers’ rights to due process.

Here are some readings:

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17595/friedrichs_v_california_teachers_association

http://m.watchdog.org/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwatchdog.org%2F226369%2Fscotus-will-hear-friedrichs-v-california-teachers-association-case%2F&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F#2902

http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2015/07/02/how-the-supreme-court-could-doom-teachers-unions

Here is the unions’ reaction:

http://www.aft.org/press-release/joint-statement-public-service-workers-supreme-court-grant-cert-friedrichs-v

Presently, nearly 90% of charter schools are non-union. Less than 10% of charter teachers belong to a union. This is not by chance or happenstance. Although the late Albert Shanker was a pioneer of the charter idea in 1988 (and turned against charters in 1993 because they had been taken over by privatizers), the charter movement today is firmly anti-union. Many of its major funders–like the Walton Family Foundation–are antagonistic to unions. Many of its strongest advocates believe that management must be free to hire and fire teachers at will and set compensation at will.

This article in “The American Prospect” by Rachel M. Cohen explores the complexity of relations between charters and unions. A few charters tolerate unions; most fight them.

The NEA and AFT are actively trying to organize charter teachers. This is challenging because of high teacher turnover and often hostile charter management. As the numbers show, they have had limited success, but Cohen says that the unions have softened their opposition to charters in hopes of establishing unions in more charters.

The article begins::

“The April sun had not yet risen in Los Angeles when teachers from the city’s largest charter network—the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools—gathered outside for a press conference to discuss their new union drive. Joined by local labor leaders, politicians, student alumni, and parents, the importance of the educators’ effort was not lost on the crowd. If teachers were to prevail in winning collective bargaining rights at Alliance’s 26 schools, the audience recognized, then L.A.’s education reform landscape would fundamentally change. For years, after all, many of the most powerful charter backers had proclaimed that the key to helping students succeed was union-free schools.

“One month earlier, nearly 70 Alliance teachers and counselors had sent a letter to the administration announcing their intent to join United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the local teachers union that represents the 35,000 educators who work in L.A.’s public schools. The letter asked Alliance for a “fair and neutral process”—one that would allow teachers to organize without fear of retaliation. The administration offered no such reassurance. Indeed, April’s press conference was called to highlight a newly discovered internal memo circulating among Alliance administrators that offered tips on how to best discourage staff from forming a union. It also made clear that Alliance would oppose any union, not just UTLA. “To continue providing what is best for our schools and our students, the goal is no unionization, not which union,” the memo said.

“The labor struggle happening in Los Angeles mirrors a growing number of efforts taking place at charter schools around the country, where most teachers work with no job security on year-to-year contracts. For teachers, unions, and charter school advocates, the moment is fraught with challenges. Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice.

“Though 68 percent of K-12 public school teachers are unionized, just 7 percent of charter school teachers are, according to a 2012 study from the Center for Education Reform. (And of those, half are unionized only because state law stipulates that they follow their district’s collective bargaining agreement.) However, the momentum both to open new charter schools and to organize charter staff is growing fast.”

EduShyster has a fascinating report on the festivities in New Orleans, where the National Charter School Conference is meeting. The event was supposed to be a celebration of the complete elimination of public education in New Orleans, but something unexpected happened. A group of charter teachers from Ohio disrupted a session to ask a charter founder why he fired teachers for trying to organize a union at his schools.

Here is the backstory:

When is *disruption* not just a super cool buzz word but something that’s actually, well, *disruptive*? That would be when teachers at the National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans ask the CEO of an Ohio charter management organization about firing teachers for trying to organizing a union at his schools—and using taxpayer money to pay the fine when he got caught. This went about as well as you might expect. And when security arrived, combing through the crowd for disruptors, that’s when things got really disruptive…
Our story actually starts long before the bon temps starting roulez-ing at this year’s charter conference in the Big Easy. In 2014, teachers at two I CAN charter schools in Cleveland decided to unionize in hopes of improving working conditions at the school, raising pay and reducing sky-high turnover. And when the school year ended, seven teachers who were leaders of the organizing effort, found themselves no longer working at the schools. Why? Because they’d been fired by school leaders, who, according to a federal complaint filed by the teachers, *led teachers to believe they were under surveillance and pressured teachers into revealing who was leading the organizing effort.*

But wait—it gets better (for realz)
The feds sided with the teachers, finding that I CAN was guilty of *interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees.* The order, similar to an indictment in a criminal case, also accused I Can of *discriminating in regard to the hire or tenure or terms or conditions of employment, thereby discouraging membership in a labor organization.* I Can founders Marshall Emerson and Jason Stragand, meanwhile, acknowledged that they’d like their schools to remain union free, then paid the $69,000 in backpay they were ordered to pay the fired teachers with tax-payer money.

At the National Charter School Conference in New Orleans, the CEO of I CAN charters was talking about his plans for growth, emphasizing the importance of “hiring, working with, and retaining good teachers,” when one of his teachers disrupted his presentation. She asked, “Um, how do you square that with firing a bunch of them when they tried to organize a union?” and a group of other charter teachers began handing out leaflets about the situation at I CAN. In no time at all, security guards were there to corral the disrupters, which wasn’t all that easy.

EduShyster says that the teachers were “cage-busting,” to use Rick Hess’s term, people who bust out of their cages and take ownership of their schools.

This is all very funny, because the “reformers” have made a virtue of disruption. They call it “creative.” But apparently it is not welcome when they are the ones disrupted!

Governor Christie has strong opinions. He doesn’t like public schools (even though Néw Jersey public schools regularly place 2nd or 3rd in the nation on NAEP, behind Massachusetts and neck-and-neck with Connecticut.) yet he feels the need to bad-mouth New Jersey’s public schools whenever he has the chance. Christie doesn’t like teachers (he claims they have a four or five month vacation and receive a full-time salary for a part-time job). And he absolutely loathes teacher unions (they insist that their lazy members get paid for working longer school days).

To see Governor Christie at his best, watch the video clip on this post

Instead of telling the world about his state’s excellent public schools, he rants about their terrible teachers and retrograde union.

This man will never be President. Not just because his state’s economy is in trouble, not because of Bridgegate, but because he is a bully and a blowhard.

The corporate reformers like to say that “school choice” is the civil rights issue of our time. This is a view shared by Jeb Bush, the Walton family, Scott Walker, and various other rightwingers whose real goal is to shrink the public sector by privatization and to eliminate unions.

But a recent story in the New York Times said that the loss of public sector jobs hurts African American workers disproportionately.

“Roughly one in five black adults works for the government, teaching school, delivering mail, driving buses, processing criminal justice and managing large staffs. They are about 30 percent more likely to have a public sector job than non-Hispanic whites, and twice as likely as Hispanics.

“Compared to the private sector, the public sector has offered black and female workers better pay, job stability and more professional and managerial opportunities,” said Jennifer Laird, a sociologist at the University of Washington who has been researching the subject.

“During the Great Recession, though, as tax revenues plunged, federal, state and local governments began shedding jobs. Even now, with the economy regaining strength, public sector employment has still not bounced back. An incomplete recovery is part of the reason, but a combination of strong anti-government and anti-tax sentiment in some places has kept down public payrolls. At the same time, attempts to curb collective bargaining, like those led by Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, a likely Republican presidential candidate, have weakened public unions.

“The Labor Department counts half a million fewer public sector jobs than before the start of the recession in 2007. That figure, however, understates just how much the government’s work force has shrunk, said Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research organization in Washington. That is because it fails to account for the normal growth in the country’s population: Factor that in, she said, and there are 1.8 million fewer jobs in the public sector for people to fill.

“The decline reverses a historical pattern, researchers say, with public sector employees typically holding onto their jobs even during most economic downturns.

“Because blacks hold a disproportionate share of the jobs, relative to their share of the population, the cutbacks naturally hit them harder.”

The decline in unions has also harmed black and Hispanic families, because union jobs provide a path to the middle class with better wages and a measure of job security.

Anyone who claims that privatization promotes civil rights is purposely distorting the facts. Getting a voucher or a charter (to a school thay may be worse than the public school) does not compensate for the loss of your parents’ employment. It is a devil’s bargain.

Arthur Camins writes in response to Marc Tucker’s article about the failure of annual testing:

“One of the contributors to the problem that Mark Tucker identifies is cynicism.

“Few appear to believe anymore that government will do anything more than the meager attention effects of annual testing to address inequity. As a country, we have forgotten that it was the collective action of the labor and civil rights movements that has mediated inequality, not punishment regimes or the individualism inherent in the so-called choice notion behind charter schools. It’s not federal overreach that’s the problem, but reaching for the wrong things. See: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/13/u-s-education-policy-federal-overreach-or-reaching-for-the/

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We Can Be Better than the Audacity of Small Hopes: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arthur-camins/we-can-be-better-than-the-audacity-of-small-hopes_b_7284458.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

“Since the Reagan era, the Democrats have been on the defensive, and have run away from collective action for equity. It’s time to re-embrace community responsibility rather than selfish-individualism.”

http://www.arthurcamins.com

Lita Blanc, a veteran teacher in San Francisco, won election as President of the United Educators of San Francisco, the union representing 6,000 employees of the district.

 

Blanc, a teacher at George Moscone Elementary School in the Mission District for the past 27 years, has been a long-time union activist, both in a leadership capacity and as a rank-and-filer. The UESF reform caucus was created 8 years ago, seeing a need to challenge UESF leaders on issues of democracy and representation.

 

 

Educators for a Democratic Union ran three races against the UESF leadership, winning positions of leadership, while consistently lobbying against erosion of working conditions and striving to advance the status and power of all members, especially classified employees.

 

 

Taking the example of the reform movement of the Chicago teachers’ union as a guide — where the union was revitalized both from below and from increased outreach to parents and the broader community — Blanc ran as part the Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU) slate.

 

 

Two other candidates from the EDU slate also won top union office: Lisa Gutierrez Guzmán was elected secretary, and Tom Edminster was elected treasurer. EDU candidates were also elected to the union’s executive board to represent elementary, middle-school, and high-school teachers.

 

 

The election, which witnessed a higher turnout than the one three years ago, was described as an “experience of democracy in action” by Lalo Gonzalez, a new young teachers’ aide at Balboa High School. Gonzalez and others criss-crossed the city to deliver their last-minute ballots. “We wanted to make sure that our ballots were counted,” he said.

 

 

“It truly made me believe in the grassroots movement,” wrote another teacher right after the election. “People who wouldn’t usually participate really believe that there needs to be a change.”

 

 

Another teacher was equally moved by the election results. ” I have hope again!” said Deirdre Elmansoumi, a librarian at Flynn Elementary. Yet another union member raised the bar even higher: “It’s time for San Francisco teachers to lead our school district toward a world-class model for public education.”

 

 

Blanc spelled out her priorities in an interview. She made clear that the union must fight for the children, their families, and communities, as well as opposing the test mania that has overtaken education:

 

 

In an interview with Beyond Chron, Blanc said she is looking forward to “bring[ing] together the experience and wisdom of the current leadership with a vision of a reinvigorated union that puts membership empowerment and participation first and foremost.” She said she is hoping that the union will organize a fall conference to give members the tools necessary to fight for the resources their students need at school sites.

 

 

Outreach to parents is another top priority. “We are not going to wait three years for the next round of contract negotiations to connect with the parents of our students. Together we need to ensure that the new tax dollars coming from Sacramento go to guarantee the services that our children deserve: PE teachers, counselors, social workers, a teacher aide in every classroom.”

 

 

UESF must deepen the fight for affordable housing. Blanc said that the “union is fighting for the soul of our city — and that means not just securing mortgage assistance for educators but also protecting the two-thirds of city residents who are renters. These are the parents of our children and our young teachers, many with families, who cannot afford to live in the city. Both are being driven out of San Francisco by skyrocketing rents. ”

 

 

Blanc said that a priority must be vacancy control, an end to evictions, and the moratorium on market-housing development in the Mission proposed by Supervisor David Campos. “There is nothing more urgent than strengthening the parent-community coalition for affordable housing,” Blanc said.

 

 

On the issue of standardized testing, Blanc wants to see the union educate parents about their legal right to opt-out their children from standardized testing, noting that an “opt-out upsurge” occurred across the country this past April.

 

 

“Standardized testing has narrowed the curriculum, robbing our children of the chance to explore music and art,” Blanc continued. “The move to computerized testing has resulted in the net transfer of million of dollars from SFUSD to tech companies and to the corporations that produce these tests.”

 

 

 

Thousands of teachers marched in Seattle to demand better funding for the schools.

In Newark, hundreds of students marched and blocked traffic to protest the destruction of their public schools

Teachers at a Detroit charter school wanted to form a union. The charter operator challenged the vote on grounds that TFA teachers are not real professionals.

“The election was held to establish a union of teachers and staff at University Prep Schools.

“UPrep Schools consist of seven campuses under the University Preparatory Academy and University Preparatory Science and Math charters. They are managed by Detroit 90/90.
“While there were 19 more no votes from those who did not want the union, Detroit 90/90 challenged the voting rights of Teachers for America teachers and long-term substitutes, claiming the teachers they hired to stand in front of students are not actually professionals,” said Nate Walker, K-12 organizer and policy analyst with AFT Michigan.

“Walker said the voting rights of 30 teachers were challenged before the election, during an April 30 proceeding before the National labor Relations Board. Of those, 20 voted Thursday, and their ballots are in question.

“David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, said the vote Thursday is “not determinative, as there are 20 challenged ballots, most of which result from 90/90 not considering Teach for America teachers and long-term substitutes to be teachers.”

Five charter schools in Detroit have joined the AFT.

Dave Woo, a teacher at Urban Prep Charter Academy for six years, explains that his school needs a union to hold it accountable for its free-wheeling use of taxpayer dollars.

“When a majority of teachers and staff at Urban Prep decided to organize a union represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, one of the first actions we took was to file a FOIA request in order to get a better sense of how the Urban Prep network uses the tax dollars and private donations it receives. Here are some of the things we found:

“Urban Prep spends over a quarter of a million dollars a year renting out downtown office space across the street from the Trump International Hotel and Tower for the network administrative staff.”

But that wasn’t all.

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