A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Wicomico President-in-Exile Speaks

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 23•14

Having lost control of the web site, the president and board members of the Wicomico County Education Association still retain the union’s Facebook page, and issued this statement:

Since April 16th, the duly elected WCEA officers and Board of Directors have been bombarded with phone calls and messages from members about the recall petition. Many have stated they were misled in regards to the meaning of the petition, were “bullied” into signing, and were unaware there were actually two petitions circulating with two separate meanings. Many individuals were led to believe they were signing a petition against disaffiliation, not a petition to oust the current WCEA leadership. In addition, these petitions hardly contained 700 valid signatures as many of the signatures came from non-members and some individuals signed the same petition multiple times.

This petition, which has not been authenticated, was used by these so called “Interim Managers” under the direction of MSEA, to enter the WCEA office after hours. They changed the locks, disabled the alarm system, impersonated a WCEA officer in an attempt to cancel insurance policies, changed approved signatures on bank accounts, changed logins and passwords on computers, and illegally fired the WCEA Office Manager. ALL OF THIS WAS DONE WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND APPROVAL! Despite these attempts, the Wicomico County Board of Education continues to recognize the elected WCEA Officers and Board of Director members, NOT the “Interim Managers”!

Over the past few weeks, MSEA has used scare tactics in its efforts to stop WCEA members from having a choice. Under the auspices of MSEA, a group of MSEA supporters visited schools and misinformed school staff about what disaffiliation would mean for members, all the while discrediting the current WCEA leadership, whose only goal has been to provide members with a choice. WCEA leadership has consistently stated WCEA would honor the outcome of the vote which would reflect the wishes of the membership. It is outrageous and appalling that these “Interim Managers”, as well as MSEA, would go to such lengths to prevent the membership from having their voice heard. Obviously MSEA is afraid of a WCEA all member vote….which will take place.

I’ll have much, much more on this story – including an account of the seizing of the WCEA headquarters building – as the details are streaming in. And just for reference, remember this little newspaper ad from Hawaii


Indiana’s Eternal Special Dues Assessment

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 23•14

In an effort to deal with its massive debt after the collapse of its insurance trust, the Indiana State Teachers Association instituted a $40 per member special dues assessment in 2009. It was expected that the additional funds would go a long way in making the NEA state affiliate solvent again, albeit in 2027.

But here we are in 2014 and despite a real estate bailout from NEA, ISTA is in as deep a financial hole as ever. This is starting to wear on the members, so the union’s board of directors has proposed a change to the by-laws.

If adopted, beginning in 2015-16 the assessment will be lowered by $10 for every 750 additional members above 33,000 (full-time equivalent). That appears to be good news for members, and an incentive to recruit new ones. But there’s a catch. It would have the effect of making the special dues assessment permanent until the debt obligation owed to those who held long-term disability insurance from the trust is eliminated.

The recruitment incentive remains, but it leaves unanswered why a new teacher would join an organization that would immediately extract $40 from her to help pay for the past mishandling of union dues.


Wicomico Junta Digs In

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 22•14

The Salisbury News has published a new communiqué from Generalissimo Hammer about his plans for the Wicomico County Education Association in Maryland. Hammer and his associates seized power after the union’s elected leadership scheduled a vote to disaffiliate from the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) and the National Education Association.

In this message, Hammer and his “interim managers” state that the district superintendent and the administration have “recognized the interim managers of WCEA, which is a big step in the right direction!”

They also have these instructions for the rank-and-file:

It appears that Ms. Stephenson, despite her suspended status, will attempt to conduct a vote on April 28-29 regarding disaffiliation. Please be aware that, this vote has absolutely no validity. The March 19, 2014 Representative Assembly—the governing body of the organization—voted overwhelmingly to not take any actions to amend the Bylaws prior to the end of the 2014-15 school year. Therefore, Ms. Stephenson’s proposed vote is out of order and is not binding on the Association.

Regardless, we encourage you to vote “NO” to accepting the proposed bylaw amendments to send a clear message that we are ready to put divisive tactics behind us and renew our focus on building a stronger association that leads to better working conditions, contracts, and schools.

Our understanding is that the vote will be conducted on an online platform with no ability to ensure that the vote will be limited to members or that members may only vote once. Rest assured that any votes overseen by the interim managers will have far greater security and will be respectful of the Association’s Bylaws and policies.

So just to be clear: The vote “has no absolutely validity,” vote “NO” anyway, and by the way, the vote isn’t guaranteed to be free from fraud. This is pretty ballsy, considering Hammer’s unverified petitions and his lack of authority to do anything approaching this.

But I repeat what I wrote yesterday. This is no longer about legality, validity or by-laws. If WCEA’s elected officers won’t fight fire with fire, they are already irrelevant.


Building Rep Launches Coup at Maryland NEA Local

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 21•14

Click here to read.


In Wisconsin, It’s All Over But the Shouting

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 21•14

It would have been hard to picture in early 2011 that this is what the political situation would be in Wisconsin in early 2014. But here you have it, in two stories.

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s public union restrictions, dealing another loss to unions trying to overturn the Republican governor’s signature legislation that led to massive protests at the Wisconsin Capitol three years ago.

…U.S. District Judge William Conley found the restrictions constitutional in September. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed Conley’s ruling Friday, saying the U.S. Constitution doesn’t require the state to maintain policies that allow certain associations to thrive.

In its ruling, the appeals court said the law known as Act 10 does not infringe on the constitutional rights of government workers to freedom of speech and association and equal protection under the law.

The ruling said the law “does not proscribe any conduct by the unions themselves. It does not prohibit the unions from forming. It does not forbid them from meeting. Nor does it prevent the unions from advocating on behalf of their members in any way they see fit.”

* Both sides seem to have concluded that the union law is off the agenda. Even the very unions hurt most by Walker’s reforms are making their case against the governor based on other factors.

…Democrats learned from the recall that they can’t win on the union issue alone. In fact, the recall candidate who promised to veto any state budget that did not undo the law could not even win the Democratic primary that year.

Burke, who declined to comment for this story, has been careful to articulate her support for collective bargaining and opposition to Act 10, but she won’t promise to work on repealing it.

Burke’s campaign web site does not even mention her position on the union law, instead touting her jobs plan, her support for gay marriage and her opposition to school vouchers. A news release announcing her endorsement by the unions representing Wisconsin teachers, state employees and others failed to mention her view on the law known as Act 10.

“As a whole, we believe she wants what we want,” said Betsy Kippers, president of the state teachers union. “There are many issues that are important to our members, not just Act 10.”

That’s a different set of sheet music from 2011, no doubt about it.


Support Media Matters for America!

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 18•14

According to its own mission statement, Media Matters for America is “a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

As such, the organization has received financial support from labor unions such as the National Education Association and SEIU ($100,000 each in 2012). Nevertheless, it appears that MMA has been running a non-union shop all these years.

The Washington Examiner reports that MMA staffers have filed for a representation election with the National Labor Relations Board. The employees seek to have SEIU Local 500 as their collective bargaining agent. Because Maryland is a card check state, the Examiner reports this as evidence that MMA refuses to recognize the wishes of its employees and insists on a secret ballot election.

That’s possible, but there is another explanation. The union needs 50% + 1 of the proposed bargaining unit members to receive recognition with a card check. It needs only 30% of them to file for an election.

MMA reported having 96 employees and a $9.6 million budget in 2012 (it still ran a deficit, however). Its chairman, David Brock, received a salary of $273,954 for 22.5 hours of work per week, which sounds like reason enough for a union organizing campaign.

MMA management retained attorneys from Perkins Coie to represent it before the NLRB. The firm is well-known in Democratic circles and describes its labor services this way:

As the Obama NLRB continues to issue union-friendly decisions, we understand the attendant challenges that employers face in developing and maintaining productive employee relations and economic sustainability.

Perkins Coie focuses on keeping employers at the forefront of emerging issues in the areas of social media, union organization campaigns and responses to strikes and picketing. We also serve as effective negotiators of labor agreements.

Sure, it’s fun to ridicule MMA about all this, but just as employees have the right to form a union, management has the right to protect its interests. If MMA believes it can perform its mission better with a non-union staff, it should be able to make that case. A secret ballot election is the best way to protect workers from coercion from both sides, since they vote alone, and anonymously.

So have a laugh, then root for a fair and balanced debate between the sides, after which the staffers will exercise a free choice about their relationship with their employers. It could happen, you know.


Run for the Border

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 17•14

Real Clear Politics picked up this September 2013 video of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Columbus, New Mexico, in order to make a point about immigration. But I think it illustrates a different irony.

I’m not sure Secretary Duncan would find it inspiring or courageous if he watched kids crossing the border into the Berkeley School District, or Arlington (scroll to the bottom of this interview).

This comes on the heels of Alexander Russo’s post about U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Massachusetts) staunch opposition to what he calls the “current zip code-based system of allocating scarce quality schooling.”

Maybe there’s a Left-Right coalition for this, similar to the opposition to Common Core.