1) In Puerto Rico, It's the American
Federation of "Dues-Suckers." In his keynote
speech to the AFT QuEST conference on July 7, AFT President Edward McElroy
mentioned John Kerry, CAFTA, NCLB, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings, merit pay, membership numbers, lobbying, and the current
dissension in the AFL-CIO. He didn't mention that the day before, AFT
established an administratorship over a 32,000-member union that had seceded
from AFT in September 2004, or that there were protesters outside with signs
reading "AFL-CIO, Out of Puerto Rico" and "Chupa Cuotas" or "Dues-Suckers."
AFT completed its Puerto Rico adventure
by stripping of power the elected leadership of the Federación de Maestros
de Puerto Rico (FMPR) and naming former FMPR President Felix Rodriguez
Hernandez as AFT's Temporary Administrator. Current FMPR President Rafael
Feliciano Hernandez (no relation) promises not to go quietly.
Incendiary accusations are being tossed
back and forth in this ugly dispute, but the key legal issue will be whether
AFT can apply its rules and administratorship over a union that seceded –
regardless of whether AFT believes the secession vote met its standards.
According to AFT, "there is no doubt
that an AFT administratorship is necessary both to correct the systematic
repression of democratic rights that has occurred and to restore fiscal
responsibility to the FMPR." The union accuses Feliciano of a "pattern of
discrimination based on political orientation," "financial malpractice" and
a "carefully orchestrated campaign of intimidation, interference and
Additionally, AFT asserts that Feliciano
failed to abide by the FMPR Constitution in conducting the disaffiliation
vote and in budget approval matters. LaborNotes reports that AFT's
complaint about the disaffiliation vote was dismissed by Puerto Rico's labor
Feliciano has no shortage of fiery
rhetoric either. He has consistently argued that he and his slate were
elected on a platform of disaffiliation, that the FMPR delegates made their
desires known with their vote on the issue last September, and that the AFT
no longer has any type of legal authority over FMPR. "Its imposition of an
administratorship has as much substance as the wind," he said.
In his statement to the AFT
investigative panel on June 7, Feliciano stated, "The illegal and arbitrary
investigation that this panel has been charged with undertaking is only
dressing for the AFT's plans to stage a coup and destroy our union's
precious democracy, trampling over the FMPR's Constitution and bylaws with
the goal of recovering their millionaire sweetheart deal and lost power." He
referred to AFT's notion of justice and democracy as "little less than
medieval." (I have posted a couple of photos from the June 7 protest on the
EIA web site. Many FMPR supporters wore yellow shirts.)
Feliciano has for a long time claimed
that AFT was
creating a parallel structure in Puerto Rico in an effort to head off
disaffiliation. Now they have one. The two competing administrations now
operate out of separate offices in San Juan, and have separate web sites (http://www.fmprlucha.org
There are more than a few ironies here.
In it stated purpose to protect the FMPR Constitution, the AFT has suspended
it "to the extent necessary to allow the administrator to perform his/her
duties." FMPR has rallied and picketed at AFT hearings and events. Some of
the most avid labor activists and leftists are denouncing AFT for its "labor
After turning a blind eye to the
activities of Barbara Bullock in DC and Pat Tornillo in Miami for so many
years, AFT is sensitive to accusations of union presidents running roughshod
over members' rights and dues money. But the national union's actions in
Puerto Rico have the distinct
smell of United Fruit.
2) NEA to Grade GOP Lawmakers on a
Curve. Last May, NEA hired Valis Associates, a DC
government relations firm, for the specific task of lobbying key Republicans
in support of the union's agenda. The first signs of Valis' work appeared
last week, when the union's PAC, the NEA Fund for Children & Public
Education, held a lunch briefing for GOP House members and their key
staffers. The purpose of the briefing was to announce "significant changes
in the way in which congressional education records will be rated in NEA's
Legislative Report Card."
As is the practice with many other
advocacy groups, NEA rates lawmakers on their votes on key legislation. And
as you might expect, Democrats tend to get very high ratings while
Republicans get very low ratings. This makes the union's much-touted
bipartisanship a little difficult to defend. But NEA has a solution!
Noting that it is "increasingly
problematic to construct voting records that reveal accurately an elected
official's views and record on public education and employee issues of
importance to NEA," the union has decided to grade on a curve.
The NEA Legislative Report Card will now
rate lawmakers not only on votes, but on co-sponsorhip of key bills,
committee work, "behind the scenes/caucus work," and "accessibility to NEA
Members' scores in these areas will be
added together to produce a composite score, which will then be converted to
a letter grade and posted on the NEA website.
Political observers will have their own
angles on this, but what strikes EIA as funny is the idea that NEA believes
that it is possible – and desirable – to rate lawmakers by subjective
standards, to assign a numerical value to their observed accomplishments,
and then judge whether these men and women should be rewarded with financial
contributions and other tangible benefits on an individual basis. And don't
forget the high-stakes standardized test; you can fail the NEA candidate
questionnaire with one or more "wrong" answers.
Won't this NEA "merit pay" destroy the
collegiality of the House and Senate? Won't lawmakers refuse to share their
"staff accessibility" tips with each other? Is NEA prepared to "fully fund"
its PAC commitments as Republicans fall over themselves to get a higher
rating? Don't all of our lawmakers deserve a high NEA PAC rating?
You're right. Those are lousy
3) Madison Local Wins Court Appeal
Against Wisconsin NEA Affiliate. The Wisconsin
District 1 Court of Appeals ruled that the affiliation dispute between
Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) and the Wisconsin Education Association Council
(WEAC) must proceed to arbitration, granting a long-sought victory to the
MTI sued WEAC in
June 2003 over the interpretation of its 1978 affiliation agreement. The
agreement allows MTI "complete and full autonomy" and provides for "binding
arbitration in case of dispute." In 2002, the unions had a dispute over
legal fee reimbursement and jurisdictional issues, but the agreement
specifically calls for the arbitration services of Ronald W. Haughton. Mr.
Haughton was too infirm to mediate this dispute and, in fact, passed away
two weeks ago.
WEAC had claimed Haughton's services
were essential to the agreement and so unilaterally severed its affiliation
agreement with MTI, prompting the suit. You can read EIA's updates of the
WEAC has not stated its intentions and,
as is the usual case, has not made a public statement or a rank-and-file
communication (to EIA's knowledge) about the dispute with MTI during its
three-year duration. Evidently lawsuits by affiliates,
lawsuits against staff unions, and national takeovers of seceded
affiliates are none of the members' business.
4) Communicating with a Big Hammer.
Speaking of WEAC, the
Wisconsin State Journal is a little upset with the state teachers'
union. WEAC was one of the sponsors of the Badger State Games, a sports
event for about 11,000 amateur athletes.
As is the norm at such events, sponsors
provided a goody bag for the participants. According to the Journal,
the bag included a mini-soccer ball, a key chain, a water bottle, coupons,
and an eight-page glossy pamphlet titled: "Wisconsin's Great Schools: UNDER
SIEGE." Yep, the union put its standard political literature in a goody bag
"No matter what you think about teachers
or the vital and difficult job they do, the point is this: They shouldn't
beat us over the head with their political agenda at benign events involving
our kids," the Journal commented, adding, "Suppose Pro-Life Wisconsin
had put in a pamphlet that screamed: 'Every kid deserves to be born!'"
EIA has often noted the
lack of subtlety in the union's message, and it raises a question about
why the unions don't let actual teachers help craft it. In the classroom,
when Johnny doesn't get it, you don't scream at him until he does, do you?
5) Union Membership Growth Sector?
At next year's NEA Representative Assembly, delegates will decide whether to
add a membership category for "friends of education" – which is a lot easier
to print on a form than "people who will actually shell out cash money to
read the union's party line advertising." This measure could increase NEA
membership, but the union is bringing up the global rear in this field.
In the Punjab, there exists an
Unemployed Elementary Teachers Union. Many members were arrested at a rally
in Ludhiana last week. I'm guessing the rally was not about working
This is a real growth opportunity for
teachers' unions. After all, you need a college degree, a teaching license
and a job to become a working teacher. But anyone can be an unemployed
teacher! It's a huge market!
6) Students Unruly While You're
Away? Call Out the National Guard. Richland County
School District 1 in South Carolina has a chronic shortage of substitute
teachers, but help is on the way. The local Air National Guard unit is
developing a community service project that would allow up to 50 Guard
members to work as substitute teachers.
"We do hope to go into the schools and
be role models – not as military members but just as hardworking citizens in
the community," said spokesman Lt. Col. Les Carroll. For those of you who
worry about such things, the airmen will not be allowed to recruit students.
This could be a benefit to teachers
everywhere, who will now be able to add "calling in an air strike" to their
classroom management toolkit.
7) New EIA Slogan?
Hat tip to blogger
Daryl Cobranchi, who headlined his posting of EIA's coverage of the NEA
convention, "Torturing Himself So You Won't Have To."
8) Quote of
"He said, 'The teachers union is really, really strong here,
but I'm willing to stand up to the teachers union if necessary.'" – Greg
Nelson, general manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for
the city of Los Angeles, describing the words of L.A. Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa in a July 11 meeting with city officials. (July 12 Daily