1) Searching for the Real Union Candidate.
Yesterday the Associated Press ran a story by Ron Fournier headlined "Democrats
Preach Virtue of Labor Unions." The candidates were speaking at an Iowa
labor forum. Organized labor is one of the mainstays of the Democratic
Party's political ground operations, and it isn't surprising to find the
candidates fiercely competing for its support.
The story included Sen. Chris Dodd's oft-cited
declaration, "I'm a union guy!" But how many presidential candidates are, in
fact, "union guys?" These are people who mention their humble origins, and
are now vying for the most powerful position on the planet. How did they get
There are often stories about politicians who preach
the virtue of public schools, but send their own children to private
schools. It made me wonder how many candidates preaching the virtue of labor
unions are speaking from first-hand experience. How many ever had union dues
taken from their paycheck? How many had to visit the union hiring hall to
get a job?
I don't want to give the impression that my research
was exhaustive or conclusive, but I can find only one major candidate who
undoubtedly has belonged to a union. Ever. More on that shortly.
Hillary? Nonprofit, Congressional and private law work.
Obama? Editor for the Business International
Corporation, nonprofit director, and private law.
Richardson? Straight into the federal government from
Biden? Private law and politics.
Union guy Dodd? Peace Corps, military, private law,
Kucinich? Straight into politics.
Certainly John Edwards, son of a mill worker? Well, it
was North Carolina, so it was probably non-union, but nevertheless, Edwards'
mill worker dad was a supervisor at the textile plant by the time John was
12, so he was management, not labor. John? Private law and politics.
How about the Republicans? Giuliani? No. Huckabee? No.
Romney? No. McCain? No. The one and only presidential candidate who holds a
union card is Fred Thompson, member of the Screen Actors Guild, bringing to
mind the only union president ever to win the highest office in the land:
former SAG President Ronald Reagan.
Now it's possible that one or more of the candidates
have held jobs with union membership, and it just isn't obvious without
their specific job titles and working situations at that particular time.
But it's clear that their personal road to prominence wasn't open to union
vehicles. When next we hear these folks preach, remember what they
2) NEA Slated to Send $3 Million to Utah for
Anti-Voucher Campaign. The National Education Association board of
directors held an urgent meeting via conference call last Friday concerning
the upcoming referendum on school vouchers in Utah.
The NEA Executive Committee has the authority to
unilaterally approve affiliate requests for money from the union's national
ballot measure fund up to $500,000. But the request from the Utah Education
Association was for $3 million, and required the sanction of the NEA board
Union officials felt the decision was too
time-sensitive to wait for the board's regularly scheduled meeting of
September 28, hence the conference call. The Utah campaign was discussed and
board members voted electronically via a secure website.
EIA has not yet heard the official results of the vote,
but feels confident stating the request was approved.
3) Minority Rules. It hasn't generated much
comment of which I'm aware, but seven unions have petitioned the National
Labor Relations Board to order employers to bargain with unions,
even if they do not represent a majority of workers. Their petition was
supported by 25 law professors.
So, let's see if I have this straight: If there is a
representation election, the employer is prevented by law from taking sides.
To avoid the possibility that some employers might break the law, we replace
elections with card checks, which can install unions but cannot remove them.
If the union fails to achieve majority support, the employer must still
bargain with the minority union. If the union achieves majority support,
other individuals or representatives are excluded from bargaining their own
terms and conditions with employers.
You will own a buggy whip.
4) Austin City Limits. You may have seen a
headline in your local newspaper the same or similar to the one in the
Washington Post. It accompanies a story from the Associated Press and it
Say Yes to Pay Tied to Scores." And since the function of any good
headline is to get you to read the story, this one served its purpose. Alas,
the picture on the box doesn't match what's inside.
It turns out the teachers in the headline are teachers
at nine schools in Austin, Texas, who are part of a pilot program involving
Education Austin, the merged NEA-AFT local. Great, where else? Uh, Denver
and Minnesota, whose programs are two years old and
not exactly praised within the union.
The story mentions Education Austin receiving help from
national AFT, but fails to mention that national NEA is
barred from helping because of its resolutions.
This is not meant to belittle the absolute fact that
there are district and unions working together in places to try new things.
But for every Toledo or Columbus peer review program, for every Rochester
"living contract," for every Denver or Austin performance pay project, for
every New York City union-run charter school, there are literally thousands
of school districts and local unions that won't touch any of them with a
5) 100% - 50% = 76%, or Something. I came
across a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined "For
many teachers, the job's too much." And for once, I'm not going to rant
about phony teacher turnover data. Actually, I need math help.
The story contains two distinct statistics. In the
space of three sentences, the reporter cites a) "as many as half of new
teachers in public schools leave before they hit the five-year mark"; and b)
"about 24 percent of teachers nationwide have five or fewer years of
I'm having trouble constructing an example where both
of those statements are true. My first problem is that the first statistic
describes a ratio of new teachers only, while the second refers to a ratio
of all teachers. My second problem is computing a scenario that is not only
mathematically true, but historically true, based on the knowledge that the
teacher force is roughly five percent larger than it was five years ago. My
third problem is dealing with percentage over time, and a cumulative
percentage at that.
So, help me out, math teachers. Here we have a real
world mathematics word problem. I'm reasonably good at math, but it's
possible I'm simply missing the obvious equation that accounts for all the
variables I've mentioned. If you can't help me figure it out, I'm going to
have to ask
6) A Whiter Shade of Pale. 1994 – The
Burlington, Vermont, school system decides that a concerted effort must be
made "to attract and retain a diverse staff in order to assume the highest
possible level of professional excellence in our schools."
2007 – The number of African-Americans among
Burlington's 337 teachers:
7) NEA Affiliate Personnel Moves. * Vince
Giordano takes over as executive director of the New Jersey Education
Association, succeeding Robert Bonazzi. Giordano has been an NJEA staffer
for 37 years.
* Ray James, a member of the South Carolina Education
Association board of directors, was appointed to the SCEA vice president
position, replacing the late Judy Fair.
* Former Vermont Press Bureau chief Darren Allen is the
new Vermont NEA communications director, replacing Laurie Huse, who retired
after 30 years.
* North Carolina Association of Educators President
(and former NEA Executive Committee member) Eddie Davis is toying with the
idea of running for state superintendent of public instruction.
8) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog,
Intercepts, covered these topics from August 13-20:
The Mystery of the Missing Link. Is NEA proud of its NCLB conspiracy
flow chart, or not?
NEA, AFT and Wikipedia. Yes, NEA has edited its own Wikipedia entry, but
it isn't censoring criticism.
Mrs. Miguel, However, Cannot Get Her Job Back. You murdered someone?!
Oh, it was only your wife.
Quote of the Week.
"We used to march in it every year, but nobody showed up. Now the union
makes going to it mandatory." – Bob Burgie, sheet metal worker and members
of Teamsters Local 137, discussing the Labor Day Parade, which the New York
City Central Labor Council decided to cancel this year. (August 16
New York Daily News)