Updates from Florida and Nevada

The Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association in Florida and its staff ratified a new three-year contract, putting an end to a dispute that dragged on through pickets, protests and unfair labor practice complaints.

Also, I’m told that the 8th District Court in Nevada granted the Clark County School District’s motion to dismiss in the Nevada State Education Association’s lawsuit against its Clark County local affiliate. The district is required to deduct union dues from teachers’ paychecks and pass the money along to the local affiliate, which it continues to do. What happens after that is out of the district’s hands, and the court apparently agreed. The dueling lawsuits between the two unions will continue, however.

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Just Say It: Dues Money Is Used for Political Activities

NJTV News is New Jersey’s public broadcasting news show, partially underwritten by the New Jersey Education Association, so it was particularly gratifying to read its story “NJEA spent $5.7M in union dues on recent election.”

Reporter Leah Mishkin discovered that activists attending the NJEA convention in Atlantic City were utterly, but mistakenly, convinced that the union had spent no dues money on the 2017 state legislative and gubernatorial campaigns.

“Those millions of dollars are voluntary donations by members, called PAC donations. So, it’s not like it’s money that comes out of dues dollars. So I’m perfectly fine,” said NJEA member Robert Scardino.

“Too many people just don’t understand the PAC system. All the money that went to support our candidates along the way, we were very foolish not to publicize the fact that it was PAC money,” said NJEA member Barbara Toczko. “It differs because it’s not dues money. … Dues goes for everything else but it doesn’t go for political.”

Let’s explain one more time: Federal law prohibits unions from sending dues money to political candidates or parties. That money has to come from PACS, which collect their funds through voluntary donations. ALL OTHER POLITICAL SPENDING is made with dues money. In NJEA’s case, that spending is seven times larger than its PAC spending.

The reason so many union members are confused about this is because the union wants them to be confused. NJEA president Marie Blistan wouldn’t even answer Mishkin’s direct question about member dues for political activities, saying instead that dues are spent “for the purpose of advocating on behalf of them, wherever that has to be.”

Most of that “advocating on behalf of them” this year went toward attack ads and mailers against NJ Senate president Steve Sweeney, who was endorsed by AFT New Jersey and ended winning his largest victory ever. Every NJEA member contributed. Acceptance is the first step to recovery.

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Former “Teachers Union Gone Wild” Target Turns Up in the Middle of Addiction Treatment Scam of Union Members

Reporters for STAT and the Boston Globe teamed up for an investigation of the Recovery Institute of South Florida, an addiction treatment center that catered to union members. They found that many of the patients were given inadequate treatment in shoddy facilities, apparently in an effort to maximize insurance payments.

They explain how the scam worked:

In pursuit of union workers, treatment providers and brokers frequently wine and dine labor officials and those who work in union employee assistance programs, creating an environment where referrals can go to operators more interested in getting rich than helping workers get better. Brokers and consultants are also often paid to send union members to particular centers; and some treatment centers hire family members of union workers to ensure referrals.

Many of the patients were referred by the New Jersey Education Association to a consultant from Health Care Assistance with Member Support (HCAMS), who is supposed to help them choose the proper facility and services for their needs. They weren’t told that the CEO of HCAMS also owned the Recovery Institute of South Florida.

The reporters noted that union members were made to feel at ease because the HCAMS director of member services was “the former chief lobbyist of the New Jersey Education Association.”

Although he is not mentioned by name in the article, that person is Wayne Dibofsky, who had a previous stint in the media spotlight as the subject of one of Project Veritas’ “Teachers Union Gone Wild” videos.

Dibofsky was surreptitiously recorded in 2010 describing voter fraud that allegedly occurred during the 1997 Jersey City mayoral race.

Sometime after the video, Dibofsky left NJEA to join HCAMS. He also became chief of staff to NJ Assemblyman Joe Danielsen.

NJEA distanced itself from HCAMS.

“NJEA does not have a business relationship with HCAMS and HCAMS was never an endorsed NJEA service provider,” an NJEA spokesman told NJ Advance Media. “In the past, HCAMS served as one of several companies that offered referral services to members in need of certain types of care.”

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Nevada State Education Association Says It Has No Obligation to Provide Financial Information to Affiliates

The dispute between the Nevada State Education Association and its largest local affiliate, the Clark County Education Association (background here) continues on two fronts – litigation and communications. The latest development shows how an advance on one front could lead to defeat on the other.

NSEA responded to CCEA’s lawsuit with a motion to dismiss. The state union argued that “nowhere in the Bylaws is there any provision establishing a duty on the part of NSEA to provide any specific financial information to local affiliates or to respond to requests from them for any such information.”

Additionally, NSEA stated its policies do not constitute a contractual agreement between itself and affiliates, and even if they did, neither do the policies require the state union to provide financial information to local affiliates.

NSEA went on to liken its bylaws to the U.S. Constitution and referenced a case in which a court ruled a homeowner had no contractual obligation to disclose water damage to a potential buyer – an argument that may have legal value but is not the kind of analogy you really want to make about yourself.

However NSEA’s motion plays in court, it already has played into CCEA’s hands on the communications front. The local quickly created another short video for its members, highlighting NSEA’s court declarations:

I’m constrained to point out that the phrase CCEA quotes from NSEA does not actually appear in the state union’s motion, but is instead CCEA’s interpretation of what the motion means.

If the court rules in favor of NSEA, it may only serve to strengthen CCEA’s communications message that dues money is being sent up the ladder with little or no accountability to members.

Again, the unique element in this feud is that CCEA constitutes almost half of NSEA’s entire membership. It is difficult for either side to conduct business as usual while this continues.

I will update this story as circumstances warrant, as long as my budget for court documents holds up.

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Veterans Day: My Students Could Have Killed Me

As has been my tradition for the past few years, I like to spend Veterans Day reminiscing about my eight years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

When I started writing about teacher unions, I was often asked if I had any teaching experience. I would reply, “Not the kind you mean.” I wasn’t entirely a stranger to the classroom. I was an instructor navigator for much of my time in the military, and this involved an academic setting as well as teaching in the aircraft.

It wasn’t to be compared with teaching children in a public school, but there were similar tasks (lesson plans, staff meetings) and similar gripes (unrealistic expectations from superiors, being evaluated as a teacher based on the performance of students). I freely admit I have neither the desire nor temperament to teach schoolchildren.

Being a military instructor had different pressures, of course. My students were highly motivated and intelligent young adults, who were also exactly the types who tend to wrap their sports cars around telephone poles. So checking your student’s math – when they were computing emergency safe altitudes and minimum required fuel – could end up being a matter of life or death. Letting them learn from their mistakes doesn’t apply when it involves flying into a mountain or North Korean airspace.

As you might imagine, military instruction is big on OBJECTIVES. When you were being evaluated on your instruction, the evaluator would sit in the back of the room with the list of OBJECTIVES for that particular class and check them off as you covered them. He would also have a stopwatch, but that’s another story.

Here are the OBJECTIVES for a single 50-minute class on aircraft performance. I should mention that aircraft performance was the responsibility of the pilots and the flight engineer, not the navigator. Nevertheless.

The primary method of gauging student performance was the flight evaluation – the “check ride.” But there were also standardized tests. Lots and lots of standardized tests. What exactly did we test students on? The OBJECTIVES.

So, was there “teaching to the test?” Absolutely! It was built into the structure.

Was there “drill and kill?” You bet! Particularly the “boldface,” which were emergency procedures you had to memorize verbatim. One word wrong and you would flunk a check ride. I was a little surprised to find the C-130 pilot boldface available on flash cards online.

I would never suggest replicating military instruction in civilian classrooms. I do think the clarity of having OBJECTIVES eliminated a lot of confusion. Yes, we often had arguments about whether particular OBJECTIVES were stupid or obsolete. But they were all achievable and no one ever said they didn’t know what the OBJECTIVES were.

I enjoyed teaching, but it had a major downside that wasn’t related to students or the classroom. As a highly experienced non-instructor navigator, I was assigned all sorts of exciting work. I twice spent a month in Thailand flying special ops training missions, and once deployed to Malaysia for three weeks. I did beacon, leaflet and HALO missions. My additional duty was as squadron tactics officer.

When I upgraded to instructor, that all went away. I had student overwater training missions, like flying out to Minami-Tori-shima and back. A lot.

I don’t consider my teaching experience relevant to the beat I cover. I did once belong to a labor union, though. That’s a story for a different time.

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