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November 19, 2007

1)  EIA Exclusive: Colorado Public Employees Unions' Secret Agreement. Colorado's largest public employees unions announced a historic agreement last Thursday to form one merged organization to represent state workers in accordance with the "partnership agreements" created by Gov. Bill Ritter's November 2 executive order.

In fact, the secret merger agreement, obtained by the Education Intelligence Agency, reveals the new organization, christened Colorado WINS, has one primary purpose: to create and enact a collective bargaining law for Colorado public employees, and then make Colorado WINS their exclusive representative.

The 26-page document, posted on the EIA web site at http://www.eiaonline.com/coloradowins.pdf, sheds light on a number of questions that have occupied Coloradans and their media outlets.

The agreement sets out goals, structures, finances and timetables for the achievement of the national unions' agenda for Colorado. Included are:

* "Unified Legislative Action. The parties pledge to work together to draft a comprehensive state employee collective bargaining bill and to jointly urge that it be enacted by the State Legislature and approved by the Governor."

* "Unified Organizing Campaign. The parties pledge to work together in a coordinated organizing campaign to seek joint certification as the exclusive representative of all state employees covered by this Agreement."

* "Unified Representation of State Employees." The parties pledge to establish the Colorado WINS as a unified structure with unified leadership representing all state employees. Colorado WINS will have the sole authority to advocate for legislation affecting state employees., including but not limited to legislation affecting PERA, the State Personnel System, employee accountability and state employee protections."

Job One is already underway. "As soon as practicable following the effective date of this Agreement, the parties shall reach final agreement on the specifics of comprehensive collective bargaining legislation for Colorado state employees which shall be endorsed and supported by the three unions," the agreement states.

Colorado WINS seeks to eliminate all other representatives of public employees, with the exception of the state Enforcement and Protective Services Unit. The new organization will seek to represent all of those employees other than the 500 state troopers, who will remain under the jurisdiction of the Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals.

Funding responsibilities and dues income (including PAC money) will be divided among the three national unions – 50% for SEIU, and 25% each for AFT and AFSCME. The organization will also belong to the AFL-CIO. No mention is made of the Change to Win federation, despite the signature of CTW co-founder Andrew Stern on the document.

In the first phase of the plan, which runs from the present to August 2008, current Colorado local unions will remain autonomous, but will have to enter into a servicing agreement with Colorado WINS. Assuming a collective bargaining law is passed, those locals will then be incorporated into Colorado WINS by July 1, 2009. At that point, the new union will hold a constitutional convention and elect officers.

The agreement runs until December 30, 2012, but if there were any remaining doubt as to the overriding purpose of the organization and the transitory role of Gov. Ritter's partnership agreements, it is erased by the provision that allows the member unions to terminate the merger and dissolve Colorado WINS "in the event that no state employee collective bargaining legislation is in effect by July 1, 2009."

There is also a hint that Colorado WINS hopes to establish an agency fee requirement for state employees who choose not to join. "Colorado WINS shall establish a dues trust fund and shall make arrangements to have employer-withheld membership dues and agency fees (if applicable) deposited directly into the trust account," the document states.

The organization will be run by a four-member Permanent Coordinating Committee, consisting of SEIU's Robert Lawson and Eliseo Medina, AFSCME's Paul Booth, and AFT's Phil Kugler. Lawson was named Campaign Director, and AFSCME's Steve Kreisberg was named Chief Negotiator.

Union involvement in the crafting of Gov. Ritter's executive order has been a matter of some controversy for months – from the public records release of September 4 to questions about the Ury memo. Nevertheless, the governor's issuance of the executive order in the afternoon of Friday, November 2, generated surprise and outrage and a page one editorial excoriating the move in the Denver Post.

But it's obvious the executive order didn't surprise the unions.

Though the formation of Colorado WINS wasn't publicly announced until November 15, the final agreement had already been signed by November 6, a mere four days after the executive order, belying claims that this was cobbled together last week and is still being worked out.

Additionally, the creation of the document not only pre-dates the attempt of the Colorado Federation of Public Employees (CFPE) to disaffiliate from the American Federation of Teachers, it appears to be the cause of it. The merger document is an agreement between the national SEIU, AFSCME and AFT. Neither AFT Colorado nor CFPE are signatories. The agreement specifically states its provisions are "intended to be binding on the three International Unions and on all of their subordinate bodies and affiliates" and that "Colorado WINS is the lawful successor to their existing local unions with respect to representing Colorado state employees covered by this Agreement."

2)  Share It Fairly But Don't Take a Slice of My Pie. Proposition 92, which will be on the California ballot in February 2008, would guarantee state funding for community colleges. On one side is the California Federation of Teachers, a large part of whose membership includes community college faculty. On the other is the California Teachers Association, the K-12 juggernaut, who worry that elementary and secondary school funding could be adversely affected by the initiative.

According to the Sacramento Bee, CTA has already contributed $290,000 to defeat the initiative. Additionally, the California Faculty Association, which represents employees of the state university system, opposes Prop 92. But CTA is far from united on the issue.

The CTA-affiliated Community College Association broke ranks to support the measure, as did the independent California School Employees Association. But the biggest blow to CTA came when its largest local affiliate – United Teachers Los Angeles – voted "overwhelmingly" to endorse Prop 92.

There's no one to root for here, but I am very curious to see what campaign tactics will be unleashed with teachers' unions on both sides. Will they pull punches? Or will they be especially brutal, knowing so well the capabilities of the other side? Get your popcorn ready.

3)  On the Docket. It was a busy week in court for NEA affiliates:

* Claraliene Gordon, the former president of the Camden Education Association in New Jersey was indicted for using her union credit card to pay for $15,000 in personal expenses. She faces up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine for each offense.

* Ohio Education Association UniServ director John Avouris was charged with lying to police about a picket line altercation. He faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

* Maine Education Association staffer Joan Morin is suing the union for gender discrimination, imposition of a hostile work environment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision. Morin claims MEA communications director Keith Harvie repeatedly "cast derogatory statements as to her work and her gender" and that MEA executives did nothing about it. The union claims Morin's charges were internally investigated and "found to be without merit."

4)  Three Headlines, One Newspaper, Same Day. "Audit of Albuquerque Public Schools shows errors plague district" – Albuquerque Tribune, November 13.

"New Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent to be paid $260,000 annually" – Albuquerque Tribune, November 13.

"New Mexico task force proposes school funding boost" – Albuquerque Tribune, November 13.

5)  Two Million Teachers Update. Last week's story on the need for two million new teachers in the next ten years reminded University of Missouri economics professor Michael Podgursky that he debunked Hussar's study more than five years ago. Read it here.

6)  Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 12-19:

* Tony Soprano, Pat Tornillo or Napoleon Bonaparte? Do members want enlightened despots to run their unions?

* Potter or Pantsless? Magic.

* Not That There's Anything Wrong With That. The mental image we could live without.

* Save Our Failing Teachers. Subtle, but effective.

7)  Quote of the Week #1. "The fact that you can do something awesome with $15 million does not mean that you could do something super-awesome with $150 million." – Megan McArdle, discussing the problem of scaling, particularly in public education. Read it, now. (November 14 The Atlantic.com)

Quote of the Week #2. "There's an awful lot to be said about not being in the bubble. In the bubble, your world is aides and speeches, and you're not living a real life, and it's very hard to understand how real people feel about things. I've yet to find a single person, from a busboy to a janitor to a middle manager to a partner in a law firm to a CEO, who wants to give Sacramento disposable income. Not one human being." – former California Gov. Gray Davis, the latest in a series of retired career politicians who finally learn about life on the other side of government. November 15 Sacramento Bee)

 

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