1) AFT Loses in Puerto Rico's Courts
and Ballots. The hopes of the American Federation
of Teachers of regaining its affiliate in Puerto Rico were hit with two
fatal blows last week.
In the first, U.S. District Court Judge
Jay Garcia-Gregory ruled that the court has no jurisdiction to decide AFT's
lawsuit intended to enforce its administratorship over the Federación de
Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR), its local that disaffiliated in September
2004. FMPR is subject to the collective bargaining law of Puerto Rico (Law
45) and not the National Labor Relations Act. Thus, the AFT suit was
dismissed without its arguments being considered.
The AFT administrator, Felix Rodriguez,
said AFT would evaluate its legal alternatives. He also announced plans to
establish regional offices and to undertake a bus tour of the country's
schools to organize opposition to FMPR and garner support for the
administratorship. AFT supporters also called for a boycott of the August 18
referendum on the organization's future, called by FMPR President Rafael
Feliciano to put an end to the question once and for all.
If the numbers are to be believed, both
the boycott and the referendum were a disaster for AFT.
With an 84 percent turnout among the
island's 32,616 FMPR members, disaffiliation defeated affiliation by a
margin of more than 3 to 1. Rodriguez called the referendum "a vile and
fraudulent effort to deceive."
AFT has lost in every venue in Puerto
Rico, but it clearly isn't giving up. With no legal or practical way to
exercise authority over FMPR, its operations, facilities or finances, AFT is
left with only alternative: creating a rival union. Early signs indicate AFT
is considering just such a step.
In the organizing game "Survivor: Puerto
Rico," AFT has been unable to outwit and outplay its FMPR opponents. It
remains to be seen if AFT can outlast them.
2) Globe, AP Teacher Union
Stories Miss the Mark. Press coverage of teachers'
unions is vastly improved over just five years ago, but sometimes there is
backsliding, and we have two examples from the just the past two weeks.
On August 10, the Boston Globe
published a story by Anand Vaishnav headlined "Some
charter teachers join union," about a concerted effort by the
Massachusetts Federation of Teachers (MFT) to organize the state's 2,000
charter school teachers. MFT has an associate member category, which for $58
provides liability insurance, newsletters, and participation in MFT member
benefits such as a credit card and "statewide discounts on theme parks,
museums, entertainment, and more." More to the point, MFT is looking for
charter school teachers who will act as an organizing cadre within their
In two months, MFT got 48 charter school
teachers to sign up.
In other words, 97.6 percent of them
weren't interested. But the Globe story isn't about a spectacular
failure. Instead, it called the results "giving the labor group a foothold
in schools that have operated free of union influence for a decade."
Michael Goldstein, founder of the MATCH
charter school in Boston, summed up the situation brilliantly. "Forty-eight
out of 2,000 Massachusetts charter school teachers (spread over 12 schools)
got a new 'associate membership,' which means they get a monthly magazine
and discounted liability insurance and some pizza coupons, and the union
gets a nice newspaper headline,"
Meanwhile in California, the Associated
Press published a August 20 story by political writer Beth Fouhy headlined,
labor money largely absent from California election," which asserts,
"Campaign reports filed earlier this month show that just one national union
has made a significant investment in the campaign to defeat initiatives by
Schwarzenegger and others seen as anti-union. The American Federation of
State, County and Municipal Employees gave $500,000 to the Alliance for a
Better California, the labor coalition."
That statement is true only if you don't
follow the union money trail properly. The Alliance for a Better California
received more than $4.3 million from the California Teachers Association
Issues PAC. On April 19, the National Education Association Ballot
Measure/Legislative Crises Fund sent $2.5 million to the CTA Issues PAC.
What for? According to NEA, the grant was "funds for Phase I of efforts to
oppose ballot initiatives on merit pay, teacher tenure, retirement changes
and paycheck protection."
Coincidentally, the same CTA Issues PAC
made a $50,000 donation to Communities for Quality Education (CQE) a mere
two days later. CQE is the NEA-created front group to lead "independent"
opposition to the No Child Left Behind Act.
The other big recipient of NEA ballot
fund largesse this year was the New Jersey Education Association. NJEA also
made a contribution to CQE this summer.
3) Markets Beat Ideology, Even in
Oakland. Observation #1. A recent study by the Bay
Area Center for Voting Research found Oakland, California, to be the 5th
most liberal city in America -- more liberal than San Francisco, Boston and
New York and only slightly less liberal than DC and Berkeley.
Observation #2. The union campaign
against Wal-Mart has been especially well-funded and visible in California,
particularly in areas of the state where unions still tend to have a great
deal of influence.
Observation #3. On Wednesday, Wal-Mart
will open a new store in Oakland, for which it had 400 job openings.
Observation #4. More than 11,000 people
applied for those 400 openings.
Capsule Analysis. The Change to
Win/AFL-CIO arguments over organizing vs. politics are irrelevant. Anyone
with a sober view of the situation – who in organized labor is successful
and who is not – must come to the conclusion that unionism is today almost
entirely a public sector phenomenon. Unions themselves have trouble
finding (and paying for) union hotels, union printers and union contractors.
In the public sector, on the other hand, union growth is only limited by the
growth of government, which is no limit at all.
4) Connecticut Files NCLB Lawsuit.
The state of Connecticut sued the federal government today over the No Child
Left Behind Act, using many of the same arguments present in NEA's lawsuit
against NCLB. That's good news for NEA, but why didn't Connecticut simply
join the NEA lawsuit, as the union has been begging state governments to do
for two years?
EIA already answered that question in
June 2004. Both the states and the NEA want more federal money and fewer
federal strings. But the states know that the unions will use the very same
arguments against state funding policies. Better to keep your distance and
seek to cut a deal with the feds.
5) Release Time Debated in Des
Moines. Here's a public discussion you don't see
every day. The Des Moines, Iowa
school board is questioning whether a full-time release for the
president of the Des Moines Education Association (DMEA) is actually a good
DMEA President Alan Young currently is
released half-time from his middle school teaching position to perform union
work. He wants to be a full-time union president. The district would
continue to pay his $68,000 salary and benefit package to him, while the
union picks up the $44,000 cost of his replacement.
"Young argued that the situation doesn't
allow him to do his union job effectively," reports the Des Moines
And get this: DMEA will receive a grant
from its parent affiliates, the Iowa State Education Association and the
National Education Association, to help pay the $44,000. Why the taxpayers
should shell out $68,000 and receive a teacher the union salary scale tells
us is only worth $44,000 is left unanswered. I guess that differential pay
thing is only a bad idea if the teacher wants to work at a high-poverty
school, instead of at union headquarters.
6) Public Education Policy World May
Solve Nation's Energy Crisis. The Associated Press
reports that rising oil prices are leading researchers and investors in
Texas to devote money and resources to the conversion of bovine excrement
into clean-burning fuel. The people involved are under the impression that
Texas cattle herds are the best source for the raw material, but EIA knows
the nation's leading producers of such raw material can be found in the
public education establishment and policy world.
For example, the light bulbs in the EIA
offices are powered exclusively from the gas generated by
this single web page.
7) EIA Blog Now Has RSS Feed.
It has been a busy couple of weeks in the sprawling complex at the EIA
Operations Center. The new web site is up and running, the blog updates are
going smoothly, and the dead drop is filled regularly. But was that enough
for the Internet generation? No! Immediate requests arrived for an RSS feed
for the blog, something with which EIA had only a marginal familiarity.
Nevertheless, at EIA the market rules! So, after a crash course over the
weekend, the feed is operational. Just click on the XML link at
http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts.htm to subscribe.
Also, for those of you who enjoy the
"Contract Hits" feature, the plan is to add a new hit each Thursday.
8) Quote of the Week #1.
"I'm not in favor of charters. As far as I'm concerned, they
are just private schools in a different suit or a fancy dress." – United
Teachers Los Angeles President A. J. Duffy. (August 11 Los Angeles Times)
Quote of the Week #2.
"The [union] movement has about as much chance of organizing
workers at Wal-Mart stores as the FBI has at finding Jimmy Hoffa or O.J. has
trying to locate his wife's killer." – Wesley Brown, business editor for the
Arkansas News Bureau. (August 20 Arkansas News Bureau)
Quote of the
"Politics are saturated with gratuitous, disingenuous,
symbolic and intellectually dishonest actions. The lawsuit that the
California Teachers Association, state schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell
and others filed against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on [August 9] embraces
all of those dubious tendencies." – Sacramento Bee columnist Dan
Walters, writing about a CTA lawsuit that claims the governor violated the
law when he failed to appropriate the full Proposition 98 guarantees for
education. The state legislature is not named in the suit, even though it
approved the budget with the reduced amount, fulfilling the requirements of
California law – making the suit frivolous on its face. (August 12