Archives for category: Unions

The U.S. will hear a case this fall that will determine the future of labor unions. Pro-business groups have fought the very idea of labor unions and collective bargaining for more than a century. Yet no institution in our society has done more to improve working conditions and to lift poor people into the middle class than labor unions.

Here is a straightforward explanation of the significance of this case by the BATS.

“If Friedrichs successfully overturns Abood and removes “agency shop” fees many surmise it will destroy labor unions in the country. Exposure of the real intent of the Friedrichs case is necessary because the political nature of this case is alarming; not just because of its ability to destroy labor unions but because of the nature of the deception.

“The Center for Individual Rights is the firm that is representing Friedrichs, the 9 other teachers and The Christian Educators Association International.

“The largest donor to CIR are the Koch Brothers ($40,000) .”

Here is the latest from politico:

“COMING THIS FALL TO A SCOTUS NEAR YOU: The fall term’s most consequential case for organized labor, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, will give the high court an opportunity to free public employees from their legal obligation to pay bargaining fees to a union. That obligation was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education . If the court overruled Abood, it would impose a right-to-work regime on the country’s still-robust public sector unions. Freeing non-members from having to pay fees would create a free-rider problem wherein workers could benefit from union contracts without having to compensate the people who negotiated them on their behalf. If too many workers chose that route, unions like AFSCME and SEIU would have to scale back dramatically their bargaining and other activities. Even if the court didn’t go that far, it could still impose heavy financial burdens on public sector unions. The petitioners in the case asked the court, as an alternative to overruling Abood , to require non-members to opt in to paying fees for union political activity, replacing the opt-out regime under current law. Associate Justice Samuel Alito, in particular, appears to be itching to overrule Abood. More from Pro Labor & Employment’s Brian Mahoney:

“- Jacob Rukeyser, staff counsel for the California Teachers Association, said no matter what happens with the case, the assault on teachers unions will continue. The education reform movement wants to “deprofessionalize” the education profession, he said. “Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, there will be continuing attacks on teachers unions, public sector unions and the labor movement as a whole,” he said. “Our opponents are very well-funded and unrelenting … we’re prepared for that. We expect this assault on working men and women will continue … The end result is just one of marginalizing and silencing the professional voice of our teachers.”

People often wonder why hedge fund managers and entrepreneurs are so devoted to the proliferation of charter schools and so hostile to public schools. If you survey the research, it is clear that they get about the same results overall as public schools. There are some that get high scores, but they usually get them by cherry picking the most motivated and able students. Some are fly-by-night operations.

What’s the lure? I believe that some number of the 1% who love charters are motivated by a desire to do good. Others think the free-market of choice and competition will work wonders. Still others are motivated by profit. None are at all concerned that they are inflicting grievous harm on a basic public institution that is central to our democracy. Or they they are experimenting on other people’s children.

Laura H. Chapman reminds us of the power and allure of profits.

She writes:

In Forbes magazine, 2013, by Allison Wiggin.

“About the only thing charters do well is limit the influence of teachers’ unions. And fatten their investors’ portfolios.

In part, it’s the tax code that makes charter schools so lucrative: Under the federal “New Markets Tax Credit” program that became law toward the end of the Clinton presidency, firms that invest in charters and other projects located in “underserved” areas can collect a generous tax credit — up to 39% — to offset their costs.

So attractive is the math, according to a 2010 article by Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News, “that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.”

It’s not only wealthy Americans making a killing on charter schools. So are foreigners, under a program critics call “green card via red carpet.”

“Wealthy individuals from as far away as China, Nigeria, Russia and Australia are spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for American charter schools,” says a 2012 Reuters report.

The formal name of the program is EB-5, and it’s not only for charter schools. Foreigners who pony up $1 million in a wide variety of development projects — or as little as $500,000 in “targeted employment areas” — are entitled to buy immigration visas for themselves and family members.

“In the past two decades,” Reuters reports, “much of the investment has gone into commercial real estate projects, like luxury hotels, ski resorts and even gas stations. Lately, however, enterprising brokers have seen a golden opportunity to match cash-starved charter schools with cash-flush foreigners in investment deals that benefit both.”

More at.

A federal district court threw out the case of Bain v California Teachers Association, which was a victory for the unions. The suit was funded by Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, in an effort to cripple the union. For an explanation of the suit, read this. As Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times explained,

“Attacks on public employee unions, especially teachers unions, have become a permanent feature of the political landscape. But you’d be hard pressed to find one as incoherent and dishonest as a lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Los Angeles against six California and national teachers unions.

“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.”

The national leaders of NEA and AFT were jubilant.

The NEA released this statement today:

“Hi Diane – Hope all is well. I wanted to make sure you saw our statement on the dismissal of April Bain v. California Teachers Association (aka “Bain v. CTA). Thanks!

September 30, 2015

CONTACT: Staci Maiers, NEA Communications, 202-270-5333 cell,

Federal court dismisses meritless lawsuit seeking to silence voices of educators
Bain v. CTA is another attack on educators ‘bankrolled by wealthy special interest groups’

WASHINGTON—A federal district court in California today dismissed Bain v. California Teachers Association, a lawsuit that sought to undermine the ability of teachers, school employees, and other educators to join together and speak up for public education and their students.

The court concluded that the lawsuit—brought with funding from anti-teacher group Students First against the National Education Association, the California Teachers Association, NEA’s state-level affiliate, and several other unions—was without merit and did not state any viable legal claims. The court’s decision came just days after it heard argument on the union defendants’ motion to dismiss the case.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“The National Education Association is pleased that the court today saw through the thinly veiled attempts to silence the voice of educators and rightly dismissed Bain v. California Teachers Association. The court, like every other court that has considered such claims, found the plaintiffs’ case without merit. No teacher is required to join a union and no teacher is required to pay any fees that go to politics or political candidates.

“This case is just another attack on educators and their unions that is being bankrolled by wealthy special interest groups whose objective is to undermine public education. Teachers unions are made up of educators who join together to make their voices heard on issues that affect their students, classrooms and schools.

“The stark reality is that America has swung out of balance. It’s getting harder to get by, let alone get ahead, and the gaps between the haves and have-nots is only widening. This case is about making it even harder for working people—like school bus drivers, nurses, counselors, custodians and classroom teachers—to come together, speak up for their students and each other, and get ahead by negotiating to ensure better learning and working conditions. Lawsuits like Bain v. CTA are just another distraction and do nothing to help students.”

# # #

For Immediate Release
September 30, 2015

Kate Childs Graham

AFT’s Weingarten on Granted Motion to Dismiss in Bain Case

WASHINGTON—Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the motion to dismiss being granted in the Bain v. California Teachers Association case.

“Through their union, educators join together to make their voices heard on issues that affect our children: fighting for smaller class sizes; advocating for enough nurses and librarians; calling for full and fair funding of our schools; and making sure every child has the resources they need to succeed. The only way to do that is by using our strength in numbers—banding together and speaking with one voice.

“This case was yet another tactic by wealthy special interests, led by Students First, to pull working people apart and silence teachers. It’s no surprise that every court that has considered the claims outlined by the plaintiffs in this case has rejected them.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court session begins next week, we have renewed hope for justices who will stand with working people and reaffirm their right to democratically come together, negotiate for fair pay and benefits, and, most importantly, speak up for our children and our communities.”



Blogger RiShawn Biddle has made a startling discovery: the American  Federation of Teachers has given money to progressive groups! Biddle is anti-union and strongly pro-privatization.

Another shocker: Randi Weingarten is paid almost as much as NYC charter leader Eva Moskowitz! Randi is president of a union with more than one million members. Eva oversees a small charter chain with fewer than 10,000 pupils (errata: scholars).

Biddle lists the organizations that have received AFT money. Included among them are:

Center for Popular Democracy, on whose board Weingarten sits, picked up $60,000 from AFT while its action fund received another $100,000; the group has done more than its duty for the union (and its goal of opposing school choice) by teaming up with In The Public Interest to publish a series of reports demanding “accountability” for public charter schools. In The Public Interest, by the way, picked up $50,000 from AFT for doing the union’s bidding. AFT gave $25,000 to Netroots Nation, another longstanding beneficiary of its largesse. It gave $27,000 to The Nation, which has become a prime venue for pieces that favor the AFT’s views on systemic reform; and handed $10,000 to Dissent, the progressive magazine that occasionally makes The Nation seem downright conservative.

Another key group AFT is funding is the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which has been worked actively on pay equity and other issues. This includes its Early Care and Education project, which has issued a steady stream of reports calling for preschool teachers to be better-paid; this dovetails nicely with AFT’s twin goals of regaining dominance in education policy and becoming the dominant union in the early childhood education space. The union gave $47,500 to IWPR in 2014-2015. AFT also poured $60,000 into Jobs with Justice and its education fund; gave $20,000 to Policy Matters Ohio; and handed out $50,000 to Public Policy and Education Fund of New York. United Students Against Sweatshops, which has actively opposed reform outfits such as Students For Education Reform and Teach for America on behalf of AFT, picked up $50,000 from the union last year. Americans United for Change picked up $90,000 from AFT in 2014-2015.

AFT also gave $250,000 to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which reports on the state of working Americans and on the importance of reducing poverty. Shocking!

If you scan the schedule, you will see that Karen Lewis of the Chicago Teachers Union was bought and paid for by the AFT for $7,664.

I can’t wait for RiShawn to do a report on the Walton Family Foundation, which spent $202 million to shape education policy and launch more privatized schools. I didn’t sum the total of all AFT contributions to civil rights groups, publications, and other progressive causes, but it seems to be far less than Walton’s $202 million.

Commonweal editors mark the departure of Scott Walker from the 2016 field with relief.

“The departure of Gov. Scott Walker from the Republican race for president should come as a relief to American working people. His campaign against public-employee unions in his home state of Wisconsin, underwritten by billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch, proved devastatingly effective, and his goal was to take it nationwide. Not that he was the only Republican candidate to take aim at what is, by general agreement, a fading target—organized labor as both a political force and an advocate for workers is perhaps weaker now than it’s ever been. But Walker, even more than fellow Republican Chris Christie, had been especially vocal in demonizing unions. That put him at odds with many of his fellow citizens: Support for unions has been rising since 2008, according to an August Gallup survey, with 58 percent of Americans—and 42 percent of Republican voters—now viewing them favorably.

“A plan Walker issued days before stepping down, costumed in the rhetoric of freedom, flexibility, and expanded opportunity, was essentially a proposal for finishing off organized labor once and for all. Its title was “Power to the People, Not the Union Bosses,” as if Walter Reuther and Albert Shanker still strode the land, legions of auto-workers and schoolteachers massed behind them. Empowering people, in Walker’s view, would mean abolishing the National Labor Relations Board, rewriting federal law to make Right to Work “the default position for all private, state, and public-sector workers,” replacing overtime pay with unpaid time off, and stripping employees of their ability to bargain collectively. The plan appears to have died with Walker’s candidacy. But its spirit is very much alive among many in the GOP—those who recall Ronald Reagan’s decision in 1981 to fire eleven thousand employees in the air-traffic controllers union the way some remember, say, the establishment of Social Security. That they speak so cynically about labor is not surprising. That Democrats seem to speak so little of it is not reassuring.

“According to the Economic Policy Institute, since the beginning of the “Reagan Revolution” in 1980, American workers have seen their hourly wages stagnate or decline, while real gross domestic product has grown by nearly 150 percent and net productivity by 64 percent in this period. More and more of the jobs Americans hold today come without reliable, living wages or benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, training, and job security. Measures like Walker’s aren’t meant to improve things, but rather accelerate what began some time ago. The decoupling of wages and benefits from productivity has been evident over the past two decades, according to the EPI, a period that has “coincided with the passage of many policies that explicitly aimed to erode the bargaining power of low- and moderate-wage workers in the labor market.”

One of the major victories of the Seattle Education Association was that it reached agreement with the district to eliminate VAM. Henceforth, teachers will not be judged by the test scores of their students. Ding, dong, the fake metric of teacher evaluation is dead! At least in Seattle.

Here is a report on the settlement in the unfriendly, anti-teacher Seattle Times:

Highlights of tentative 3-year contract:
Raises: 3 percent in first year; 2 percent in second; 4.5 percent in third (state cost-of-living raise is additional). More in 2017-18 for some teachers for collaboration, and eight hours of “tech pay” for all school employees.

Discipline: Half day of training on reducing disproportionate discipline for all school employees. Equity committees launched in 30 schools……

Testing: New joint union-district committee to review and recommend testing and testing schedule.

Teacher evaluations: Test scores will no longer play any role.

School day: Will be longer, but not much for students, and teachers will be paid for the additional time.

Specialist caseloads: Sets limits, which union says is a first, for physical therapists, occupational therapists, psychologists and audiologists.

Test scores no longer will play any role in teacher evaluations, and teachers will have more of a say in how often students are tested.

Jesse Hagopian teaches history and is the adviser to the Black Student Union at Garfield High School–the site of the historic boycott of the MAP test in 2013–and is an associate editor for the acclaimed Rethinking Schools magazine. Jesse is the editor of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing.

At my request, Jesse wrote this explanation about why the teachers went on strike and what they won. It will also be posted on his own blog,

The Seattle Educators’ Strike for Social Justice

On Sunday evening, thousands of Seattle Education Association members gathered in a general membership meeting and voted to approve a new contract with the Seattle Public Schools. This vote officially ended the strike by Seattle educators, which began on September 10, 2015, and interrupted the first five days of school.

This new contract contains many hard fought wins for social justice that the school district said it would never grant. These groundbreaking victories are against the abuses of high-stakes standardized testing, for more recess, and for race and equity teams in the schools are a dramatic departure from our pervious broken model of collective bargaining and hold the potential to transform educator unionism in the nation. Yet the contract also contained some needless concessions to corporate style reforms—including succumbing to the district’s disrespectful pay raise offer, raising caseloads for some special education teachers, extending the school day and reducing teacher planning time—that could have been avoided if the union had kept the picket lines up for a few days longer and organized mass mobilizations.

But the most important outcome of this contract negotiation won’t be found in the fine print of the agreement. The true triumph of this contract battle was the achievement of solidarity—between teachers, office professionals, nurses, school librarians, instructional assistants, parents, and community organizations—in the struggle for the public schools.

Thousands of parents joined in solidarity with the teachers, including the celebrated “Soup for Teachers” group that formed to bring sustenance and solidarity to picket lines at every school in the district. The Coalition for the Schools Seattle Deserves united community organizations and joined the great Kimya Dawson to host a benefit concert to raise funds for the striking teachers. The Seattle City Council, led by councilmember Kshama Sawant, passed a unanimous resolution in support of the strike. Marching band students used their pep-band anthems to root on striking educators, and local businesses donated to the picket lines. Even the mainstream media regularly reported that parents were in support of the strike and that the educators were winning. There can be no doubt that this strike was overwhelmingly supported by the people in the Seattle area–except, perhaps, for the regions’ wealthiest resident, Bill Gates, who has invested his fortune in schemes to privatize education and reduce our schools to test prep centers.

So many of the union’s social justice demands were advanced in the current strike and negotiations–creating a compelling model for educators around the country who believe in social justice unionism.

We won an end to the use of standardized tests scores being used in teacher evaluations, the so-called “student growth rating”—a huge blow to the testocracy in Seattle and across the country. This victory clearly comes out of the years long struggle of educators, students, and parents in Seattle who have taken bold action to oppose these tests. In 2013, the teachers at Garfield voted unanimously to refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress test and the boycott spread to some six other schools. Last year in Seattle, every single 11th grader at both Nathan Hale and Center school opted out of the SBAC common core test—joining some 60,000 other opt out across the state.

Our victory for a guaranteed minimum of 30 minutes recess in every elementary school is perhaps the first of its kind in the country. A story from a local NPR station in the spring of 2014 exposed the vanishing recess time in the Seattle Public Schools and showed how schools that served low-income students and students of color were particularly recess deficient. All last year I worked with a city-wide organization called “Lunch and Recess Matter,” that organized, petitioned, and rallied for the right to eat and play. This is a concrete victory for a research driven reform that has been shown to be vital for the social and emotional development of children.

We also won enforceable caseload caps for our Educational Support Associates (ESAs), such as school psychologists and speech language pathologists—a victory for vital services to support some of our most vulnerable students.

One of the most important gains for public education in this contract was the creation of race and equity teams. The Seattle Education Association advocated for every one of the Seattle Public Schools to have such a team to tackle issues of institutional racism–and in so doing won the support of many Black Lives Matter activists, including Seattle NAACP members, who issued a statement supporting the strike. The Seattle school district originally said they would only agree to having these teams in six schools. However, the power of the strike pushed the district to agree to allow thirty schools to have these anti-racist committees. Given that the Seattle schools have been found to suspend African American students at four times the rate of white students for the same infractions, it is clear that every school in the city needs to organize actively against inequality and racism.

With this visionary set of demands and the overwhelming support of the parents, students, community, and even city officials, it is truly disappointing that the union ended the strike before we achieved all we could at the bargaining table. Seattle has the fastest rising cost of rent and is among the top ten in highest cost of living in the nation. Educators have not had a cost of living increase in six years, and are increasingly unable to live in the city where we teach. It was a mistake to agree to 3% raise the first year, a 2% raise the second, and a 4.5 % raise the third, which won’t do much to even off set our rising cost of healthcare. With this contract, nurses in the Seattle Public schools will still have to split their time between several schools and can’t possibly provide the care that our students deserve. We achieved lower student to teacher ratios in some preschool and Distinct special education programs, but increased the special education “Access” programs caseload by 30%, going from 10:1:3 to 13:1:3 (student:teacher:instructional assistant). With the current ratios the Access students are able to participate in the general education curriculum and setting with support, however the new ratios put that inclusion model in jeopardy and will overwhelm Access case managers. We also submitted to the district’s demand to lengthen the school day by 20 minutes, which will reduce teacher planning time. There is no definitive evidence that a longer day produces better student outcomes, but we do know it will increase the burden on educators.

The fact that the union never organized a mass rally to bring the maximum pressure on the district was really disappointing. I know that if the union had organized a demonstration with all of our 5,000 members, many thousands of parents would have joined us and the pressure would have been enough to get us big gains on all the major issues we were fighting for. This reality reveals that the key to building the power we need to achieve the schools our children deserve will be in combining social justice demands with a social movement unionism approach that seeks the full mobilization of the membership and the community in pursuit of those demands.

All that said, I also know our strike has already gone a long way in transforming our union, city politics, and the labor movement for the better. So many educators, parents, students, and community members, in Seattle and around the nation, understand the issues that we face in education so much better as a result of this struggle. With so many more parents made aware of the dangers of over-testing by this strike, the opt out movement in Seattle will be truly massive this spring. The issue of disproportionate discipline as a component of the school-to-prison-pipeline has now been exposed in our city and I believe this will help embolden the Black Lives Matter movement in the coming months. So many in our city have been made aware of the need to fully fund our schools at the state level and I believe teachers, parents, and students will collaborate more than ever in challenging the state legislature to live up to its constitutional duty to amply provide the resources needed to run our schools.
As the Social Equality Educators—a rank and file organization of educators in Seattle—recently wrote, “The sleeping giant of our union has awoken from its slumber and begun to stretch its muscles. SEA members showed a tremendous amount of creativity and courage on the picket lines.” When our union fully commits to using this newfound strength, the corporate reform bullies will be once and for all chased out of the schoolyard.

Jeff Bryant reports that the Seattle teachers’ strike is nearing an end. The teachers are very pleased with the gains they made on behalf of their students.

Was a pay increase part of the settlement? Yes. Seattle teachers live in one of the most expensive cities in the nation and have gone for years without a cost of living increase.

But what mattered most to teachers and what precipitated the strike were their concerns about conditions for their students.

Jesse Hagopian, a spokesman for teachers, said: “For the first time, our union was able to make social justice the center of the debate. We took a huge step forward.”

Also in the settlement terms, according to a local television news outlet, were student-centered demands including requests for guaranteed 30 minutes of recess for all elementary students, additional staff such as school counselors and therapists, a reduction in the over-testing of students, and the creation of new teams in 30 schools to ensure equitable learning opportunities and treatment of students regardless of race.

While recess may seem to be an unworthy demand to the reform-minded editors of the [Seattle] Times, classroom teachers understand it to be something critical to the health, development, and academic success of their students, as numerous research reports have found.

Having access to school counselors, therapists, and other specialists is critical to many students, but in inadequately funded school districts, such as Seattle, these are the positions that are routinely the first to be cut.

The demand for less testing is also, ultimately a student-centered demand. As Hagopian explains, this time to Erin Middlewood for The Progressive magazine, “’We oppose these tests because there are too many of them and they’re narrowing the curriculum and they’re making our kids feel bad, but they’re also part of maintaining institutional racism,’ says Hagopian, who serves as an adviser to Garfield’s Black Student Union.”

Hagopian sees the increasingly popular campaign to opt out of standardized tests as being connected to the Black Lives Matter movement because money that should be used to support and educate children and youth of color is being directed to punitive measures such as testing and incarceration.

Can you believe this?

While everyone else is complaining that Governor Cuomo is crushing teachers with his punitive and research-less teacher evaluation plan, the New York Post complains that Governor Cuomo has capitulated to the teachers’ union by ordering a new review of the Common Core standards and assessments. Imagine that! The governor actually might have cared that 220,000 children opted out; he no doubt realized that 220,000 children might have 400,000 or so parents, and they vote. The New York Post seems unaware that in a democracy, it is usually a good idea to pay attention to mass movements.

The Post feels certain that Cuomo is kowtowing to those horrible teachers’ unions, always the enemy (the teachers’ union has now morphed into George Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein in “1984,” the quintessential enemy of the State).

Read the editorial. The Post will not be satisfied until there are mass firings of teachers.

Here are the closing lines:

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: The unions and the politicians they control will make sure no system ever lets schools shed rotten teachers.

The only hope for kids is to flee these failure factories — to flee to charters or private schools, or out of New York altogether.

Oh, dear, where should families flee to?

Not to Connecticut; it has teachers’ unions.

Not to New Jersey; it has teachers’ unions.

Not to Massachusetts; it has teachers’ unions.

Not to Pennsylvania; it has teachers’ unions.

Flee, families, flee!

Flee to Tennessee! Flee to Mississippi! Flee to North Carolina! Flee to the Deep South! Flee to any state without a teachers’ union.

You won’t get better education but at least you can be sure that the teachers are without any representation.

Oh, and by the way, do the writers and workers at the New York Post belong to a union? Or is it a non-union shop?

Historian and teacher John Thompson reminds us of why unions are necessary: to protect workers against predatory, greedy, heedless bosses.

He tells about the jobs where workers risk their lives and where more would die without the protections that unions insist upon.

He chides the so-called “reformers” who pal around with anti-union goons like Scott Walker and John Kasich and who help them bust unions.

He reminds us that neither Arne Duncan nor Barack Obama lifted a finger to help the unions in Wisconsin when Scott Walker began attacking them.

In union there is strength. That was why it is so sad that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, i.e. Scott Walker lite, and the Obama administration help pave the way for his union-bashing and did little to help working people in the Wisconsin recall campaigns.

That is also why Walker pretended to not be an existential threat to private sector unions and claimed that his fight to the death with public sector unions did not foreshadow an all-out assault on public and higher education. Only after he had picked off one opponent after another did Walker cut education spending by $2 billion and ram through Right to Work. When pushing a $300 million cut to higher education, he promised universities freedom from “shared governance,” which “kept the university from directly running things” and told professors to work harder.

Unions have always been some of the most loyal members of the civil rights coalition, as well as crusaders for economic justice. And, we have usually had the same opponents. As Kaufman recalls, a founder of the Right to Work movement, Vance Muse, explained the need for its banning of otherwise legal, negotiated agreements, “White women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes, whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.”

Kaufman also notes that roads in the Right to Work state of Texas don’t cost half as much to build, even though workers get paid that much less. “So,” as a union leader says, “it is only a question of who makes the money — the workers or the owners.”

It is one thing for a right-winger to oppose the rights of working people, but there is no intellectually honest way for a liberal to be an ally of Right to Work and to still pose as pro-civil rights. On the other hand, the neo-liberal corporate reformers who opened the door for Walker are nothing if they aren’t inconsistent. They will say anything, do almost anything, and ally themselves with virtually any true believer in uncontrolled competition to clear the way for top-down, market-driven school reforms.

Sadly, one reason why elite education reformers don’t understand the essential role of labor in working for justice is that too many of them have no experience in the blue collar working world. If the rank-in-file of the corporate reform movement had more experience in the industrial world, they would have seen how little the lives of workers are worth. Kaufman explains, for instance, that the fatality rate for construction workers is 40% higher in Right to Work states.

Virtually every remnant of the social safety net is now at risk. Middle and working class families are just one medical crisis away from poverty. Now more than ever, test-driven, competition-driven reformers should reconsider their neo-liberalism and rethink their contempt for organized labor. They should face up to the single biggest question. Even if they can’t get over their distaste for teachers and unions, and even if they don’t have any personal contact with blue collar workers, how can they continue to sow discord among the ranks of progressives? If they help destroy organized labor, who will replace us in the fight for civil rights and economic justice?

Recently an old friend who has long been active in Democratic party politics asked me why everyone he knew in the business world hates unions, especially the teachers unions. I said business hated unions in the 1930s. The same people hate them now. The only difference is now they have the tacit support of the Obama administration. I sent him a copy today of John Thompson’s post.


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