1) Madison Teachers
Union Sues State Affiliate.
Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) has filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin
Education Association Council (WEAC) for violation of the terms of its
affiliation agreement with its parent organization.
The lawsuit stems from
the permanent affiliation contract negotiated in 1978 between MTI, WEAC and
the National Education Association (NEA). At the time, MTI and several other
locals were threatening to secede from the parent unions. In an effort to
keep MTI under the NEA umbrella, WEAC and NEA signed an agreement that
allows MTI “complete and full autonomy,” regulates any WEAC and NEA activity
within MTI’s jurisdiction, guarantees that WEAC “shall pay to MTI the cost
of MTI’s legal expenses on a monthly basis,” and provides for binding
arbitration in case of dispute. The contract is perpetual, “unless either
party enters into organizational activity which is injurious to the well
being of the other.”
According to MTI, WEAC
claimed that MTI had engaged in such activity and acted to unilaterally
sever the contract. In October 2002, MTI filed a grievance, listing 17
alleged violations of the contract by WEAC, including non-payment of $25,665
in legal expenses between April and August 2002. The other complaints
involve WEAC activities in Madison without the knowledge or consent of MTI.
After months of
haggling, WEAC refused to enter arbitration, prompting MTI to file suit in
Dane County Circuit Court to compel it. Though not part of the suit, MTI
also alleges that WEAC is seeking to absorb MTI’s independent political
The lawsuit should be
viewed in the context of an ongoing dispute between WEAC and a number of its
locals over the state affiliate’s control. WEAC representatives recently
approved the “Union 2010” plan, which MTI and its allies claim is an attempt
to centralize the union’s power.
2) Rebellion in
Dixie II: The Union Strikes Back.
Last week’s communiqué on the situation at
the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) was bound to provoke a
response, and it wasn’t long in coming. One member of the LAE board of
directors described the rebellion as existing “only in the minds of some
misguided and misinformed individuals.” Misguided or not, EIA reported last
week that “their track record so far
indicates they are a serious opposition group.” It appears the current LAE
leadership is also taking them seriously.
An internal memo dated
May 19, 2003 from LAE President Carol Davis and Executive Director Gene
Neely to union officials and staff begins, “LAE is facing a serious
challenge. This time it is not a challenge from the Governor or the state
legislature. This time is not a challenge from the Federation [the Louisiana
Federation of Teachers]. Instead, it is the greatest form of challenge
because it is from within.”
The memo accuses “an
anonymous group that apparently fears change and is unable to see the future
of this organization determined by the membership and for the membership.
Not only are the members of the group hiding, but their motives are also
hidden behind incorrect, untrue, and often malicious attacks.”
The memo includes an
attachment of what Davis and Neely call “correct information from
non-anonymous sources that can be substantiated.” Though the memo makes much
of the anonymity of the LAE dissidents, EIA is aware of the identities of
many of them. They are actively involved in the union at all levels. And
they believe they would be subject to reprisals.
Davis and Neely then
answer a series of questions that were apparently published in a flier
distributed at the special representative assembly in April (EIA does not
have a copy of this third flier). In their answers, they deny the
mistreatment of LAE retirees, or any move to reduce legal services, lobbying
or political action programs. They also deny that the new LAE office
building cost about 50 percent more than the money in the building fund, and
answer the question “Is the IRS investigating the LAE-PAC financial books?”
with the single word, “No.” (Is that a flat denial, or a judicious use of
the present tense?)
The memo confirms an
attempt to shift more responsibility to local associations, and confirms a
regular audit of the LAE legal department by NEA. It also addresses the
question of membership losses under Neely, who was hired in 2001, with the
declaration, “LAE has lost membership for 14 years in a row.” Now there’s an
LAE’s new member
brochure reads in big letters, “Get Involved and Help Make LAE the
Organization You Want It To Be.” But if you want it to be a healthy, growing
organization, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
3) The Incredible
Shrinking California Teacher Shortage.
Section III D of the California Teachers Association’s (CTA) Statement of
Mission, Goals, and Objectives states that “California faces the need to
recruit well over 200,000 new teachers in the next five years.”
* February 22, 2000:
“California faces a severe teacher shortage and will need an estimated
330,000 new teachers over the next 10 years.” – California Teachers
Association (CTA) press release.
* November 16, 2000:
“Our state alone will need at least 300,000 [new teachers] during this same
10-year period.” – CTA Vice President Barbara Kerr, in testimony to the
Little Hoover Commission.
* January 2002: “In
fact, we need to hire 20,000 new teachers every year for the next decade
just to hold our own.” – CTA President Wayne Johnson in a radio ad.
* June 8, 2002: “No
wonder there is a huge teacher shortage and growing worse every year.” – CTA
President Wayne Johnson to the union’s State Council.
* December 2002: “[W]e
must do something about the problems that are creating the frightening
teacher shortage.” – CTA President Wayne Johnson in his column in the
* June 5, 2003: “If you
don’t care where you’ll go, you can find a job.” – CTA President Wayne
Johnson to the Sacramento Bee.
4) Miami Recovery
Plan Leaves More Questions Than Answers.
The AFT-appointed administrator of the United Teachers of Dade unveiled a
10-point plan to create “A New UTD” in the wake of union’s financial
scandal. In a major press conference last Friday, Mark Richard announced a
layoff of more than a third of the UTD staff, a cut in salaries and benefits
for those who remain, $1.7 million in new financial assistance from AFT, and
a 10 percent reduction in dues. In addition, NEA and AFT will fund a
forensic audit of the Miami local, as soon as the FBI investigators return
financial records they seized during the April 29 raid of UTD headquarters.
Richard also told reporters that all UTD credit cards were cancelled and the
locks were changed on the doors.
The measures taken in
Miami are much more drastic than those instituted in Washington DC, where
the AFT local had a similar scandal. “We are literally taking back our
union,” said Richard. “There are no kings, and there is no kingdom.”
Who’s taking back whose
union from whom?
Former UTD President
Pat Tornillo is the obvious and appropriate villain of this performance, but
AFT seems happy to link his alleged misappropriations to UTD’s financial
state, while at the same time claiming the FBI investigation has nothing to
do with UTD’s finances. It is a tap dance worthy of Bill “Bojangles”
straits, Richard needed to cut staff, executives and salaries. He needed an
AFT bailout, and to stop the hemorrhaging of members, he needed to cut dues.
But what happens when equilibrium is restored?
If UTD Acting President
Shirley Johnson can do the job for $89,500 – less than the $122,070 she was
making, and far less than the $243,000 Tornillo was making, why shouldn’t
all AFT local presidents, especially with those with fewer members than
Miami and in lower cost-of-living regions of the country, also make $89,500?
Richard laid off 24 of
UTD’s 68 employees. Most of these were from the financial and legal
departments, which AFT is now handling. Was UTD overstaffed, or were the
layoffs merely a transfer of costs to AFT?
Richard reduced dues by
10 percent. Was UTD overcharging on dues, or will the dues level be restored
when AFT leaves?
These are not idle
questions. If Tornillo’s sole offense was stealing $300,000 in union dues
for his personal benefit, then the salaries, staffing and dues levels
instituted under his reign have relatively little to do with it. If, on the
other hand, the AFT takeover was prompted by overstaffing, inflated
salaries, building overruns, and dues set too high, why aren’t other locals
attracting the same scrutiny?
Or AFT itself. During
the 2001-02 school year, AFT President Sandra Feldman received $328,941 in
salary, $50,900 in allowances, $57,820 in disbursements for official
business, and $48,325 in other disbursements, for a grand total of $485,986.
Twenty AFT locals were listed as overdue in repaying loans to the national
headquarters, for a total of more than $850,000. How is it that AFT can
afford to administer UTD, plus shell out $1.7 million in grants and
taking-back-our-union thing could get to be contagious.
5) Stand By Me… But
Not Too Close. EIA strongly
encourages you to read the report Stand By Me: What Teachers Really Think
About Unions, Merit Pay and Other Professional Matters by Public Agenda
It’s one of those “pick and choose” studies, by which I mean advocates and
critics of unions can each select interesting data to support their points
of view. There aren’t too many surprises, though it is nice to see empirical
evidence to support the existence of the vastly differing opinions of new
teachers versus those of veteran teachers. I won’t comment further, because
I don’t want to scoop myself. The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation
will soon publish a piece I wrote on this very issue, tentatively titled
“The Tao of Teachers’ Unions.” The Public Agenda report strongly supports
this clip from it, and I suspect both the unions and their critics will
agree: “What teachers’ unions can sell to every teacher, however, is
security. Even the best teachers desire protection from arbitrary
administrators, litigious parents and unruly students.”
6) AFT Sets Late
Payment Notification Rules for Locals.
“Here’s a suggestion: When a local is more than one month delinquent in its
dues payments to the state and national affiliates, notify the members of
that local.” – May 5, 2003 EIA Communiqué.
“Under the new
procedures, affiliates that are two months behind in per-capita payments
will receive notification in writing, along with a request for full payment.
Failure to remedy the arrearage within 30 days ‘shall precipitate direct
communication within two weeks from the AFT to the affiliate’s executive
board and its state affiliate.’ If dues are not paid within 30 days of that
communication, the AFT will communicate directly with the affiliate’s
members within three weeks, informing them of the arrearage and how it
affects their local and their rights and status as AFT members.” – June 2,
2003 Inside AFT.
Quote of the Week.
“As with many state education associations, we need to enhance some of our
systems for communicating and delivering services to our members. The fact
is, our system sometimes exhibits some significant disconnects; too often
there are disconnects between VEA headquarters and field; too often there
are disconnects between UniServ staff and local leaders; too often there are
disconnects between local leaders and the worksite association
representatives.” – Virginia Education Association Executive Director Jerry
Carruthers, in remarks made at the union’s April 2003 Delegate Assembly.