Morning Constitutional

The Oregon Attorney General ruled unconstitutional a tax increase initiative from the Oregon Education Association. The proposed ballot measure comes on the heels of OEA’s failed Measure 97 campaign of 2016.

The initiative would have required a 22 percent hike in education spending, but the problem was that it also would have removed the requirement of a three-fifths majority in the legislature to raise business taxes. The attorney general ruled this violated the rule that ballot initiatives address only a single issue.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Education Association sued the superintendent of the Mobile County public schools for restricting the union’s access to school premises. The suit claims this action “constitutes an arbitrary and capricious restraint on the right of AEA, and the individual plaintiffs, to exercise their constitutional right to association.”

Should AEA emerge victorious, I would expect Mobile’s schools to be inundated by others who also want to associate on school premises: insurance agents, used car salesmen, time-share owners, beer distributors…


“Maybe I’m Too Generous of Spirit”

This Salon interview with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten reads like a parody of a Salon interview, but it’s especially pungent because of this quote:

I do not believe that people are inherently bigoted in the United States of America. Maybe I’m crazy or I’m too generous of spirit, maybe I’m just too spiritual, but I do believe in the inherent good of people.

She then spends the rest of the interview demonizing her opponents and accusing them of trying to take democracy apart.

The interviewer is right out of central casting. Here are three of the questions he asked Weingarten:

* “A healthy public is economically productive. Having an educated public helps the economy. Yet there is a constant assault on teachers unions, any effort to make college accessible, and on our health care system by Republicans, conservatives and neoliberal policymakers.”

* “How did teachers become the enemy in this country?”

* “Who wouldn’t want ‘choice’? Who wouldn’t want ‘freedom’? Who wouldn’t want ‘efficiency’? Who wouldn’t want ‘opportunity’? What should the communication strategy be to reach out to parents and others who are being sold this false bill of goods and going along with it?”

It may be warm where you live, but it’s an especially hot summer in the fever swamp.


Massachusetts Teachers Association Preparing For Post-Agency Fee World

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is looking to hire nine temporary organizers to recruit “member leaders” in advance of the possible loss of agency fee next year.

Those member leaders will then conduct four one-on-one conversations with every member in certain targeted locals in an effort to get them to sign “commitment cards” to remain members should the U.S. Supreme Court rule they no longer have any financial obligation to the union.

This is the latest in a series of actions some affiliates are taking to ready themselves for a world in which teacher unions in every state will have to recruit members to maintain their current budgets. Other affiliates (New Jersey, Illinois) seem to be standing pat, or their efforts aren’t readily apparent.


Pickets Greet Weingarten in Florida

Employees of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association set up an informational picket Saturday outside of a union event attended by American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. The Pinellas Staff Organization is in the midst of contract negotiations with PCTA management.

Among other demands, the staff union wants PCTA to “show good faith and release their audits.” I don’t know what audits they mean, but PCTA’s IRS returns, filed last December, show an organization with just short of $1 million in annual revenue that managed to cut staff compensation by almost 28 percent – probably because it appears to have reduced its staff from 11 to 8.

The return shows nothing particularly unusual, other than a debt to the Florida Education Association and NEA of $363,000, but that may be just a matter of the return’s timing.

There is nothing obvious that stands in the way of a settlement, but as we have seen elsewhere in the state, union employees aren’t getting along very well with management.


Staff Union Unrest Reaches East Coast

Employees of the California Teachers Association have been picketing union events to draw attention to their fight for a new contract. The tactic seems to have caught on.

Employees of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association in Florida will picket a union training conference tomorrow to protest union managers’ failure to address their contract demands. Among the claims made by the Pinellas Staff Organization are:

* “PCTA has failed to bargain in good faith and refused to provide requested financial documents as required by the National Labor Relations Act.”

* “PCTA leadership has retaliated against both PSO and its members.”

* “PCTA has made proposals that seek to destabilize the retirement plan for PSO staff and create separate tiers among employees so new hires see inferior benefits compared to that of existing employees.”

The staff union says starting salaries have been frozen for more than 10 years.

PCTA has about 4,700 members, making it one of NEA’s larger local affiliates.