Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Your Mom’s Union

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 11•14

In a new report for the Manhattan Institute, Daniel DiSalvo asks “Are Unions Democratic?” Well, let the argument begin, but putting the thesis aside, DiSalvo does highlight something that rarely gets attention. Here is the clip from his Investor’s Business Daily op-ed derived from the report:

The vast majority of current workers have never been asked to vote on whether they want union representation.

Although statutes require a “certification” election to set up a union, some 93% of public sector union members today belong to unions that were organized before they were hired.

I’ll go one further: A lot of union members today belong to unions that held a single representation election before they were born.

There isn’t anyone still working in the New York City Public Schools who voted to make the United Federation of Teachers the exclusive bargaining representative in 1961.

Maybe you still live in the house you bought in 1961. Maybe you love it. Maybe your children love it, too. But maybe it’s showing wear around the edges and you would like a new one.

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Things Are Going South in Alabama

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 10•14

Paul Hubbert ran the Alabama Education Association for decades before retiring in 2011. Now it appears some of the AEA staff have enlisted his help in blowing the whistle on the mess the union has become.

Hubbert sent a letter to members of the AEA board of directors informing them of the “immediate danger, in fact crisis, in which our association finds itself.” Utilizing a mix of workplace scuttlebutt and public records, Hubbert criticizes everything from membership losses to the lighting in his successor’s office.

It’s an unusual missive for a lot of reasons, not the least of which that he assumes the board members have no clue what’s going on in their own union. But perhaps he’s right. He claims the AEA officers are investing reserves in “high risk stock market ventures.” This is the sort of thing that destroyed the Indiana State Teachers Association and, if true, should be taken very seriously by the members and board.

This broadside coming from Hubbert will carry a lot more weight than when it comes from someone else, but he’s a late convert to the virtues of fiscal prudence. Hubbert made headlines in 1998 when he received a 79% pay increase – to almost $305,000. “I make no apologies. I’ve been at it 31 years,” he said.

In fact, contributing to AEA’s 2012-13 debt was $119,729 in deferred salary paid to Hubbert himself.

AEA’s finances aren’t nearly as bad as some other NEA state affiliates. At least AEA has some reserves to draw on. Others have negative net worth.

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Georgia on My Mind

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 09•14

I’m on standby for jury duty this week (yippee) so I send you to the Atlanta Journal Constitution for your daily dose of teacher union investigations. The red ink of the Georgia Association of Educators, and one of its locals in particular, is getting some ink.

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How Arne Duncan Exposed the NEA

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 08•14

Click here to read.

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Those Who Remember the Past Are Condemned to Repeat It

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 08•14

I’ve revised Santayana’s trademark quote because certain topics appear in stories and are treated as new phenomena, and I feel obligated condemned to point out that we have seen this before, with exactly the same interpretations, and the results were not as predicted.

The occasion for this latest repetition on my part is an Education Week story headlined “Calif. Teachers’ Union Sets Sights on Charters.” The occasion for the article was the visit of the new NEA president to a unionized charter school campus.

To her credit, reporter Arianna Prothero includes a section sub-headed “Earlier Efforts,” and tells us that “the number of charters unionizing each year seems to remain at a relative trickle.” But she buries the lede, which actually appears in the 10th paragraph: “Nationally, the percentage of unionized charter schools has dropped from 12 percent in 2009 to 7 percent in 2012, according to an annual survey by the Center for Education Reform, a Washington-based research and advocacy group.”

The reason for this is obvious: The number of new, non-union charter schools opening each year far exceeds the rare instances of a charter school unionizing. The unions can’t even hope to gain ground unless they can enforce caps on the number of charter schools.

So go ahead and read about the push to unionize charters from last week, or from last April, or from May 2013, or from April 2013, or from April 2011, or from May 2006, or from November 2000.

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Michigan EA Loses 5K Members in One Month, Declares Victory

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 05•14

Now that Michigan is a right-to-work state, public school teachers no longer are required to belong to the teachers’ union, nor support it financially through agency fees. Of course, a large number are still tied to the old law because their school district contracts were quickly ratified before the new law took effect.

August was opt-out month (another union practice that may soon fall by the wayside) and the Michigan Education Association was proud to announce that a mere 5,000 members left the union.

Since the union admitted to having “about 110,000 active members” beforehand, that might not seem like a lot, but it is the equivalent of the total number of teachers in MEA’s five largest locals.

MEA was already in financial difficulties before the right-to-work law, and the cumulative effect of membership losses is significant. In 2008-09, the union had 129,000 active members. The latest loss brings that number down to 106,000 – a drop of almost 18 percent.

While MEA might be glad the situation isn’t worse, more and more members will be eligible to drop over the next few years, and there certainly isn’t any sign of a reversal of fortunes. Some NEA state affiliates will rebound as the economy improves, but there will be a widening gap between the haves and have-nots.

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Gallup Poll Shows Public Doesn’t Buy Unions’ “Fair Share” Argument

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 04•14

For each Labor Day, Gallup runs a poll on Americans’ attitude towards labor unions. This year’s edition didn’t supply any surprises, except this time Gallup asked specifically about right-to-work laws.

Most pollsters would stop right there, but Gallup also tested the arguments of both sides about right-to-work laws.

The popularity of right-to-work laws may be a result of Americans’ greater agreement with a major argument put forth by right-to-work proponents than by one of the main arguments put forth by opponents of such laws. The poll finds 82% of Americans agreeing that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will,” a position advanced by right-to-work proponents. Pro-union forces partly oppose right-to-work laws because of the “free-rider” problem, with non-union workers benefitting as much as union workers when unions negotiate pay and benefit increases with employers. But by 64% to 32%, Americans disagree that workers should “have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support” because “all workers share the gains won by the labor union.”

When your cornerstone argument is failing by a two-to-one margin, it probably is time to consider contingencies.

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