Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Let’s Review

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 19•14

Here are three things we previously learned that were reinforced for us this week:

1) Most people know nothing, or very little, about Common Core. (February 2014 and last Monday, about a poll of California voters)

2) Compiling teacher union campaign spending is tricky, since “member communications” is a gray area. (October 2010, last Friday, and yesterday, about a Pennsylvania State Education Association election mailer sent to the spouse of a PSEA member)

3) Despite the establishment of “new financial safeguards,” embezzlement by local union officers continues to occur. (March 2014, last Friday in New Jersey, and today in New York)

Be ready for a pop quiz.

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Have a Coke and a Smile

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 18•14

Thanks to this press release from Corporate Campaign, Inc. and the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, I learned that the American Federation of Teachers banned all Coca-Cola products from its facilities and events because of Coke’s “dismal human rights record and long-standing allegations of violence against union leaders in Colombia and Guatemala.”

“AFT’s actions to hold The Coca-Cola Company accountable for what we see as its reprehensible practices worldwide, can only have a positive impact on society and the daily lives of countless endangered children and workers, who are now trapped in poverty and despair,” said Ray Rogers, director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. “I hope and expect that the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) will take similar action to protect the well-being of children and advance human rights everywhere.”

The AFT resolution also encourages union affiliates “to participate in campaigns to remove Coca-Cola products from their schools, colleges, hospitals and other places in which they work.”

Fair enough. I’m sure AFT simply switched to Pepsi products. But wait.

What about Pepsi’s anti-union actions in India? What about the list of abuses on the “Pepsi Smash” Facebook page? And then there are the land grabs for sugar by both Coke and Pepsi.

Drat! I guess that leaves the Dr Pepper Snapple Group. But Coke distributes Dr Pepper products in parts of the world, the company was once cited for 12 violations of the Clean Water Act, has a poor record on post-consumer packaging, had a low score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, and has had its own battles with labor unions.

What’s a socially conscious union to do? I guess AFT will have to stick to tap water… as long as there is no fracking nearby.

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Former High-Ranking NEA Staffer Speaks Out on Union’s Direction

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 17•14

Click here to read.

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Subtle

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 17•14

Mike Gipson, local politician and former organizer for United Teachers Los Angeles, just won a seat in the state Assembly. Here’s one of his mailers:

A couple of problems with the photos: Gipson PhotoShopped his face onto the body of a police officer, and his opponent’s face onto the body of an armed, hooded thug.

“Putting a young black man in a hoodie with a gun in your face is about the most stereotypically racist move I’ve ever seen from any campaign,” said SEIU spokesman Mike Roth. SEIU backed Walker.

Other Gipson material classified Walker as “Ex-con. Education Extremist.” Here’s Walker getting set to mug Chelsea Clinton.

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And here is his education platform. Read through it and see if you can identify the sentence that brands him as an extremist.

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Good News! NEA Says It Wasted Only $40 Million

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 14•14

Politico reports:

The National Education Association is still tallying its campaign spending but it’s safe to say the union didn’t come close to the $60 million figure that officials floated as an upper limit. The union estimates its expenditures on the midterms at $34 million to $40 million. About a third of that went to support field efforts in battleground states nationwide.

As I’ve explained to quite a few people through e-mail and over the phone, this means nothing and the original estimate meant nothing, because we don’t know what NEA categorizes as “campaign spending.” We don’t know what the affiliates spent. We don’t know how much was spent on “member communications” and “community outreach.” We don’t know how much money contributed by the union to like-minded advocacy groups ended up as campaign spending, etc.

I direct you to this 2010 communiqué on the enigma of NEA political spending.

There is another problem. Prior to the election, the union wants to show off its strength, so it might exaggerate the amount of money it is spending. In the wake of dramatic losses across the board, its motivation is to minimize the amount it spent.

So I’m afraid we can only be certain about certain spending. We know what the NEA PAC contributed to candidates. We know what the NEA Advocacy Fund used for independent expenditures in specific races. But we can’t reliably add it all up, tie it in a nice bow, and present it as total campaign spending.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 13•14

A tip of the hat to the Auburn Teachers Association in New York. You may recall that the late former president of the 390-member union, Sally Jo Widmer, stole at least $800,000 in dues over a six-year period.

While the other union officers can be faulted for failing in their oversight responsibilities, the new regime is to be applauded for doing something uncommon – refunding overpaid dues to members. Each member received a lump sum payment for the excess amount they were charged under Widmer’s tenure from 2009 to 2013.

“I’m just so glad we came to a fair resolution and we can put this money back in the hands of the people from whom it was taken,” said Cheryl Miskell, the current ATA president.

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Palm Beach Pickets

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 12•14

We thought that finally electing a new president (Kathi Gundlach) would ease the strife within the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association.

Nope.

The union that represents the county’s 12,000-plus teachers met with a picket of its own Monday afternoon, from another union representing 11 employees in the Classroom Teachers Association’s administrative offices.

The Palm Beach Staff Organization, affiliated with the United Auto Workers union, handed out fliers as some of the two dozen CTA board members headed inside West Palm Beach headquarters for a budget meeting.

The staff union is alleging that the local CTA has violated its contract and committed “a number” of unfair labor practices, including moving to end one position and failing to advertise another position that has been filled, said the union’s representative, Tony Hernandez.

The local apparently fired a communications staffer, covered under the contract, with about 15 minutes notice, then hired former president Theo Harris as an assistant executive director without advertising the position. Gundlach was Harris’ vice president during his tenure. Harris currently sits on the local’s board of directors, representing retired members.

Not only did the new hire not sit well with the staff union, leading to the pickets, but it really didn’t sit well with executive director Lynn Cavall, who resigned immediately.

Amid all the infighting, the union is running a budget deficit. We’ll keep you posted as more details emerge.

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