A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Memphis Holding Disaffiliation Vote This Week

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 17•15

The 138 site representatives of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA) are voting this week on the question of whether to remain affiliated with the Tennessee Education Association and NEA or to go their own way. Since the local’s constitution requires affiliation, it will take a two-thirds majority of those voting to disaffiliate.

While there are many issues causing the split between MSCEA and the state union, it is hard to ignore the racial component. Memphis is one of NEA’s largest urban locals, formed by the merger of black and white teachers associations in the 1970s. The by-laws used to require the union to alternate between black and white presidents, until the practice caused some controversy in 2008. MSCEA’s membership is more than three-quarters African-American. More than 100 of the site representatives voting this week are African-American.

It bears noting that the two Alabama Education Association directors who filed suit against NEA’s trusteeship are African-American, and they are supported by Joe L. Reed, the former AEA associate executive secretary, who accuses NEA of trying to undermine the merger agreement that brought together the white and black teachers associations in Alabama back in 1969.

I had not considered it before, but now I’m wondering about the racial/ethnic composition of the Education Support Employees Association in Nevada, which might be three weeks away from losing to the Teamsters.

It could all be coincidental, but it’s a factor to which I’ll pay closer attention when examining internal union issues.


Back to the Future With Members-Only Unions

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 16•15

Click here to read.


What, Again?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 16•15

A shame I missed this panel featuring Liz Shuler, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, and Andy Stern, former president of SEIU, on “Reinventing the Labor Union.”

I checked my calendar, and we were about due for another one of those.


CTA: Friedrichs Could Kill You

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 13•15

The California Teachers Association has a palm card with talking points about the Friedrichs case, and it’s good to see that things haven’t changed in the 22 years since the union raised the specter of witches and Branch Davidians opening voucher schools.

“Some states already have made fair share fees illegal, and workers there make lower wages, are much less likely to have health insurance, and have a 36% higher rate of workplace deaths,” the card reads.

What? You haven’t heard about the rash of Florida teacher workplace deaths?

I’m going to assume CTA’s numbers are accurate, but they are WAAAAAY out of context. If you want to delve into the world of workplace deaths and injuries, the AFL-CIO helpfully provides a 216-page report on the topic.

You will find that California, at 2.4 deaths per 100,000 workers, ranks 9th lowest on the list of workplace death rates, which is excellent, but only slightly ahead of that bastion of union power, North Carolina (2.5). Florida is 16th at 2.8.

There are about a million more holes I could punch in CTA’s palm card (public sector v. private sector, 93% of workplace fatalities are men, death rate for educators one of the lowest of all professions, 41% of fatalities occurring on roadways, and much, much more, none of which having anything to do with agency fees), but one ridiculous correlation deserves another.

The workplace death rate has fallen steadily nationwide since 1970, closely coinciding with the falling unionization rate.



Maybe avoiding union membership is saving lives! Now if I only had a multi-million dollar communication budget and a group of people who would believe anything…


Florida, Unions and Friedrichs

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 12•15

The unions are stepping up their public barrage against Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which could end the collection of agency fees by public sector unions nationwide. NEA, AFT, SEIU and AFSCME will formally complain to Senate Democrat staffers today, and we can expect more tales of woe like this one, claiming Friedrichs “threatens to make it even harder for working people to negotiate for wages, benefits and public services.”

Both sides seem to think the case will turn the rest of America into Wisconsin, where public sector union membership fell off a cliff. But they forget that Act 10 also restricted the scope of collective bargaining and required recertification of bargaining agents every year. Friedrichs would do none of that. The model for the short-term future is Florida.

Florida allows public sector collective bargaining and exclusive representation, but not agency fees. The Florida Education Association is, to my knowledge, the only union representing K-12 teachers and education support employees in the state. It lobbies, negotiates contracts, files grievances and practices political advocacy in a way indistinguishable from NEA and AFT affiliates in New York, Illinois or California.

In fact, the only way you would know that Florida’s law was different is by examining FEA’s membership “market share.”

Rounding numbers that were current as of August 31, 2015, there were 175,000 Florida K-12 teachers and 65,000 support employees eligible to become FEA members. Of these, 93,000 teachers and 23,000 support employees chose to do so. That’s slightly more than 48 percent. An examination of several FEA locals indicates that very few have a majority of the bargaining unit as members.

How can a union continue in such an environment? Simple. Exclusive representation is far more valuable than agency fees. Maybe 52 percent of K-12 education employees aren’t contributing financially to the union, but they are quiescent. Were they to organize, they have the numbers to replace FEA with another union, do without, or create some other means to interact with district management. In Nevada, the Education Support Employees Association is desperately hanging onto exclusive status even though it could muster only 1,500 votes in a bargaining unit of almost 11,000.

Imagine if there were competition in the teacher representation market. Maybe unions would be forced to improve productivity, cut waste, and provide better services than a rival. Wouldn’t that be terrible for working people.


Veterans Day: How to Throw People and Things Out of Airplanes

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 11•15

In what has become my Veterans Day tradition, I go through my box of old Military Airlift Command stuff and revisit my days as a C-130 navigator. The day-to-day work involved hauling cargo from one Pacific destination to another, but the primary mission of the aircraft is to drop people and equipment far above the earth to land (fingers crossed) safely.

As with most things military, airdrop requires exquisite planning and mounds of paperwork – most of which gets ditched in wartime in the name of concentrating on keeping yourself alive. I never faced combat, but you can get shot at – accidentally or not – in peacetime if you happen to stray into the wrong airspace. I found these handouts in my old checklist pages.

AAA card

SAM card

Whenever I meet another veteran I usually ask if they were Airborne. If they are, I apologize if I ever inadvertently tossed them from my aircraft into the trees, or a bog, or a swiftly moving stream. The forces of nature are sufficient to mess up any plans for where you wanted them to land – doubly so in those days without global positioning satellites to tell you within a few feet where you were when you let them go.

So the key is to direct the aircraft to a spot where the wind and the residual forward motion carry the paratrooper or supplies or vehicle to the point of impact (PI) on the ground you’re aiming at. That’s called the CARP, or computed air release point. Here’s the problem illustrated from the side and above.


The difficulty is magnified with a high-altitude, low-opening (HALO) jump, which you’ve probably seen many times in the movies. The amount of free fall and drift effect required a pre-flight computation with 62 steps.


We were evaluated on how close to the target the first jumper or piece of equipment landed. Anything within 25 yards was considered a bullseye. More than 300 yards and you failed.

I assume a computer does all this stuff now, and if I’m not mistaken, Air Force navigators have all but disappeared, having been transitioned into combat systems officers.

To all our military members, and to all those who came before them, Happy Veterans Day. See you at Red Robin.


Chicago Teachers Union Poll Shows 97% of Members Support Something They Weren’t Asked About

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Nov• 10•15

Here’s the ballot for the Chicago Teachers Union “practice strike vote.”

CTU needs to be congratulated because it has united a divided city by baffling everyone equally.

The Chicago Tribune reported, “CTU officials said an analysis of responses from the Nov. 5 vote led them to conclude that ’97 percent of CTU’s members say they will vote to authorize a strike, if needed’.”

The word “strike” does not appear on the page.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the polling strategy was the same one used in the runup to the 2012 teachers’ strike.

“In a nutshell, our legal counsel advised us to stay away from the word ‘strike’ in the practice poll, which is why we called it a ‘practice,’ ” Sharkey said.

Political reporter Rich Miller at asked, “Anybody ever seen a push poll that blatant?”

The pro-union Substance News reported the poll had the effect of “confusing voters and angering many in the high schools.”

A more pertinent question might be “How many paydays are you willing to miss to achieve these goals?” That would be useful information.