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August 8, 2005

1)  Union Members Pay $2.1 Million for Dropped CTA Initiative. Who benefits the most from teachers' unions? Depending on whom you ask, the answers will be the schools, the teachers, the members, the union officers, the Democrats, et al. But surprisingly, the true answer to that question is Fred Kimball.

Who is Fred Kimball? He's the president of Kimball Petition Management in California, and every night he must say a prayer for the continued existence of the California Teachers Association. CTA keeps paying Kimball's firm to go out and gather signatures for the same ballot initiative, which it then drops once the signatures are gathered.

For the second time in 16 months, CTA spent millions in member money for signatures on a petition to place a commercial property tax hike on the state ballot – this time for June 2006 – only to ditch the idea with a lame cover story.

CTA President Barbara Kerr appeared at a news conference with representatives of the California Business Properties Association (CBPA) and the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, who were opponents of the tax initiative. Kerr said these associations would work with CTA to lobby for more school funding, making the ballot initiative unnecessary.

Leave aside for a moment the fact that CBPA represents, among others, a little company known as Wal-Mart.

In April 2004, CTA dropped the same initiative after spending $3.4 million to qualify it for the ballot -- $1 million of which came from NEA's ballot initiative fund to which every NEA member in the country contributes. Most of that money went to 13 signature-gathering firms, with Kimball receiving the most -- $741,000.

This time, CTA spent $2.1 million to gather signatures, plus the contributions of the correctional officers' union and others. Kimball ended up with $2.3 million. How much of this came from NEA is an impossible question to answer. NEA donated $2.5 million to CTA's initiative fund, and CTA paid for signatures out of the same fund. But CTA also has its campaign against the governor's initiatives and the paycheck protection measure, so it's all mixed together.

The end result is that NEA members in California and across the nation have spent $5.5 million for signatures on petitions which were then thrown in the trash (state law does not allow the signatures on ballot initiatives to be used for any other purpose). And the stated reasons for doing so were a) the ballot was too crowded; and b) the representative of the Big Box companies promised to lobby the legislature for more school money.

If CTA wants to cut deals with CBPA and redistribute teachers' dues money to Fred Kimball, that's its business. The rest of us, however, can now feel free to ignore union talking points on the evils of Wal-Mart and the shame of underpaid teachers.

2)  AFT Loses First Two Skirmishes in Puerto Rico. AFT's first efforts to enforce its administratorship over the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) were dealt a double blow last week. Federal magistrate Gustavo Gelpi ruled that FMPR is no longer subject to the National Labor Relations Act and so AFT cannot sue under the act's provisions. FMPR hailed the decision, while AFT's response was to refer to Gelpi as “the equivalent of a judge's assistant," noting the final decision belongs to U.S. District Court Judge Jay Garcia-Gregory. Both sides will submit their replies today to Gelpi's ruling, and Judge Garcia-Gregory is expected to make his own ruling on August 22.

Meanwhile, AFT Administrator Felix Rodriguez met with the Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Rafael Aragunde, in an effort to have the agency recognize the AFT administratorship as the true representative of Puerto Rico's teachers. However, Aragunde said he will follow a neutral line in the dispute and that FMPR remains empowered "until a court says the opposite."

3)  AFT Sends a Message Via Different Carrier. I never thought I would find an interesting national scoop in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier, but here it is:

The Iowa paper reports that the American Federation of Teachers has instructed its national and regional offices to use the U.S. Postal Service for delivery services and not the United Parcel Service. Why? Because the postal workers union remains in the AFL-CIO and the UPS workers belong to the Teamsters, who left the labor federation last month. The Courier quotes Teamster spokeswoman Leigh Strope calling AFT's decision "a cheap shot at thousands of hard-working Americans." She also said the Teamsters have not decided what action to take in return.

Well, they could try to take their kids out of AFT schools and put them in NEA schools, but they would soon learn that even that simple choice is unavailable to most parents without uprooting their entire family. It must be nice for AFT officials to take advantage of a market system that allows them to take their business elsewhere simply by issuing a memo, even if their choice is based on something petty.

4)  EIA Supports Beleaguered Union Against Evil Management Practices. Thanks to the Working Life web site, EIA has become aware of a besieged group of workers who are being laid off en masse regardless of their seniority and being forced to reapply for "new" staff positions. The union views this as a management attempt to circumvent the seniority system and get rid of higher-paid workers in favor of lower-paid ones.

In response, the union has disseminated a bill of rights for those who are interviewing for those "new" jobs. The bill of rights includes a call for respect and dignity, consistent standards, relevant questioning, reasonable requests, and union representation during the process. Apparently the union is concerned that the employer is failing to meet the basic threshold of fairness and respect regarding the workers.

Oh, I almost forgot. The workers are field staffers and their employer is the AFL-CIO.

5)  California District Opens Release Time Can of Worms. The Vista Unified School District in California is asking questions about its collective bargaining agreement that could cause some serious discomfort in teachers' union offices around the country.

The North County Times reports that district lawyers believe the contract's release time provision for the president of the Vista Teachers Association (VTA) may be illegal. The VTA president receives full salary and benefits while conducting union business 100 percent of the time. The union reimburses the district only for "the salary of a near entry-level employee."

The district's legal counsel opined that a reasonable amount of release time may be used for collective bargaining or grievance processing, but, "To the extent that it can be determined that the VTA president is using his time for internal union business, it would be a violation (of state law) were the district to subsidize such activities."

The counsel's reading of the law may be entirely wrong, but there isn't a shadow of a doubt that most, if not all, release time teacher union officials are spending time on internal union business, and that many of them are being subsidized (to various extents) to do so by the taxpayers.

6)  EIA Web Site Refurbishment and Scheduling Note. Over the next few weeks, EIA will be conducting an overhaul of its web site. When completed, it will contain some new features and will hopefully improve your experience while maintaining the simplicity of the current site. In the meantime, you may encounter brief periods when the site is inaccessible or missing pages. EIA asks for your patience during this transition.

The most immediate change may require some of you to update your bookmarks or web links to EIA. If they point to http://www.eiaonline.com you need do nothing. If, however, you are linked to http://members.aol.com/educationintel/ you need to update that link. AOL will no longer be the host of the site, though visitors to that link will soon find a page redirecting them to http://www.eiaonline.com.

Additionally, putting on my tech hat will require me to remove my writer hat. So there will be no newsletter next week. The EIA Communiqué will return on Monday, August 22.

7)  Quote of the Week. "Informáte, no te dejes confundir, lee para que no te cuenten...." – roughly translated "Get informed, don't let yourself be tricked, read what they don't tell you." Ironic advice from AFT in Puerto Rico about the claims of FMPR. AFT has yet to inform its members or the American public of its actions in Puerto Rico.

   

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