Who’s Most Worried About Janus? NEA Employees

If the U.S. Supreme Court eliminates agency fees from the public sector in Janus v. AFSCME the workers most directly and immediately affected won’t be teachers or municipal employees, it will be the staffers who work for public sector unions.

The National Staff Organization, which is the umbrella group for unions representing employees of the National Education Association and its state affiliates, is dispensing advice to its members about what to do in case of an adverse Janus ruling.

NSO warns that staff unions will be “under assault as NEA and State Affiliates attempt to cut back and restructure in the face of the Janus threat.”

It tells staff unions “Don’t let managers use these crises to pick and choose staff, allowing them to reshape your union in their image” and to “Keep management’s ability to RIF, Transfer, or Reassign as narrow in scope as possible.”

What I find most interesting is NSO’s lack of trust in NEA’s accounting. It suggests staffers should use “verifiable financial figures (e.g. from the LM Report or the IRS 990) rather than membership reports, since those can be easily manipulated.”

NSO advises an examination of union finances, to include recent audits, reserve fund balances, pension funding ratio, membership trends, and prior year surpluses and losses.

Sounds like a good plan. Here’s the best place to start your research.


NEA’s Presidential Endorsement Process May Get an Overhaul

The National Education Association Representative Assembly will meet in Minneapolis this July. The delegates will debate and vote on a host of proposed amendments to the union’s constitution, one of which would give the delegates themselves the sole responsibility for endorsing candidates for President of the United States.

Under the current process, the NEA president alone puts forth the name of a candidate for recommendation. It then has to be approved by the union’s PAC Council, made up of representatives of state affiliates and special interest caucuses, and then finally by the union’s board of directors. The board’s decision then goes to the RA for ratification.

A significant number of NEA activists felt the endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination was unfair to her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. They had good reason to be skeptical.

As revealed by the e-mails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, leaked by Wikileaks, the NEA brass was lobbying its own activists on behalf of Clinton long before the union’s formal recommendation process had even begun.

NEA constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority of delegates present to pass. This is a difficult hurdle to clear, but the vote is conducted by secret ballot, so pressure to vote one way or the other is greatly mitigated.

This could be a big deal for NEA, not just in the wake of a Janus ruling, but because the 2020 Democratic presidential field doesn’t (yet) seem to have a consensus pick. An open selection process would be something quite new for NEA.


Montana Union Merger Approved

MEA-MFT, the product of a merger between the NEA and AFT affiliates in Montana, will merge yet again, this time with the Montana Public Employees Association. A joint session of delegates approved the constitution of the newly merged union, to be called the Montana Federation of Public Employees.

MPEA has 7,000 members. The merger will bring more than 80 percent of the state’s public employees under the wing of one union.

NEA and AFT will each add 7,000 members to their numbers, although the national dues from these new members will be split 50-50 between them.


Explained: The Unexplained Disappearance of 69,000 AFT Members

In yesterday’s column on local government union membership numbers, I referenced a column of mine from January 2017 titled “The Strange Disappearance of 69,000 AFT Members.” It boiled down to this sentence: “AFT reached a record-high 1,613,448 members in 2015, but last year the union reported 1,544,143 members, according to Department of Labor filings.” I couldn’t determine a reason for the loss.

AFT contacted me yesterday to tell me the explanation was simple: “In 2016 the Dept of Labor required updated reporting so fee payers were reported separately as opposed to included in the full membership numbers.” AFT had filed a revised report, showing an increase of 20,000 members, but removing the 89,000 fee-payers, which accounted for the missing 69,000.

I messed up. It’s something I should have checked. So last night I did what I should have done last year. I examined all of AFT’s LM-2 disclosure reports since the more detailed requirements went into effect in 2004-05. I learned a few things:

* The reporting of agency fee-payers in a separate category has always been required. Each LM-2 form contains the same footnote – “*Agency Fee Payers are not considered members of the labor organization.”

* AFT acknowledged this from the very beginning. Its 2004-05 LM-2 reported 32,747 fee-payers.

* In 2005-06, AFT reported zero fee-payers.

* For the next three years, it reported its fee-payers again – 36,575 in 2006-07, then 38,883 in 2007-08, and 27,877 in 2008-09.

* From 2008-09 to 2013-14 AFT again reported zero fee-payers.

* In 2014-15, the union reported one fee-payer. It then filed an updated form a full year later, reporting 88,835 fee-payers. AFT reduced its member categories total by an equal amount.

* The last two years AFT reported 89,375 fee-payers and 93,844 fee-payers.

* The 2015-16 report was also updated a year later, but this time the number of fee-payers wasn’t adjusted. Liabilities were increased, however, by more than $15.5 million.

So the missing 69,000 wasn’t a mystery after all. I did report, however, that “AFT’s membership accounting has some anomalies.” That much appears to be accurate.


Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing

AB 1478 is a bill that was stalled in the California Assembly for eight months before being revived last week. Co-sponsored by the California Teachers Association, it “requires charter school governing bodies to file statements of economic interest according to the Political Reform Act; specifies that charter school governing body members may not be financially interested in any decision made by the governing body; requires charter schools to comply with the California Public Records Act; and, requires charter school governing bodies to abide by the Brown Act or the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act.”

These might all be good things, but the bill also “expressly authorizes charter school employees to serve on a charter school governing body.”

This is an interesting addendum, since employees of traditional public schools are prohibited from serving on the school board in the district in which they work. The idea, it seems, is to open the door to placing unionized charter school employees on charter governing boards.

Anyway, CTA is very eager to get this through the Assembly and Senate and onto the governor’s desk. It is not coincidental that on Sunday dozens of similarly worded tweets began to appear under the hashtag #ab1478. That’s because they were crafted by the CTA communications shop.

It’s true: The public’s business should be conducted in public. Unless of course that business involves collective bargaining, which should be shielded from the public’s gaze until an agreement between labor and management is reached, and the public is presented with the invoice.


What We Need Is An Even BIGGER Hammer

From the January 19, 2018 Politico:

The massive pro-Democratic political group created by a coalition of labor unions in 2016 is planning a comeback for 2018’s midterm elections, and it’s hoping to make even bigger investment this time around.

For Our Future is aiming to raise at least $70 million to support organizing efforts in at least six battleground states, the group’s new leader told POLITICO.

…The group was formed and funded in 2016 by the labor giants the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association — as well as NextGen America, Democratic mega-donor and activist Tom Steyer’s political outfit.

From the October 8, 2016 Daily Caller:

Labor unions have spent close to $110 million on the elections from January 2015 through the end of August, which is close to 40 percent more than the $78 million spent at the same point in 2012, according to The Wall Street Journal.

…The Center for Responsive Politics found the National Education Association (NEA) has spent $14.1 million so far in 2016, which is up from the $7.7 million that the powerful teachers union spent at this point in 2012.

From the October 14, 2014 Time:

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers union, is on track to spend between $40 million and $60 million this election cycle, while the smaller American Federation of Teachers (AFT) plans to pony up an additional $20 million—more than the organization has spent on any other past cycle, including high-spending presidential election years.

…NEA National Political Director Karen White called this election cycle “a perfect storm” for voters concerned with opportunities available to the next generation. “Public education has become a top-tier national issue for so many,” White said Tuesday. Meanwhile, AFT President Randi Weingarten said that she sees this year’s midterms as “the most important” in recent memory, and described a handful of state and local races as among the most “vicious” and “disingenuous” she’s seen.

From the November 10, 2014 Intercepts:

Usually if you spend $60 million with such paltry results there isn’t a new pot of cash waiting to be handed to the same people who engineered the debacle. Teachers’ unions aren’t usual. No one at NEA or AFT will lose a job or be demoted. And there will be at least $60 million – probably more – in their war chests in 2016.

When the union hammer doesn’t work, they don’t find another tool. They go out and buy a bigger hammer.

Common sense suggests that this is a losing strategy in the long term. But the alternatives require an admission of error, and I don’t see that level of introspection from NEA or AFT.

…The teachers’ unions cannot reverse this decline, but as long as they can collect enormous sums of money and spend it without any sort of internal accountability, they can succeed in putting off the day of reckoning.