CTA Prepping Charter School Moratorium Resolutions for Local School Boards

The California Teachers Association approved a new business item that reads:

CTA will develop and promote resolutions that local associations can introduce at school board meetings calling for county-wide and statewide moratoriums on new charter school authorizations.

The union has promoted limits on the number of charter schools since the charter law was passed in 1992 but I believe this is the first time it will formally call for a moratorium.

Some unions love moratoriums, but they are rarely put into effect.


PAC Panic?

The National Education Association is a political heavy hitter in every state in the Union, but its federal political action committee is underpowered. Though NEA is the largest union in the United States, its PAC was only the 8th largest donor to Democratic candidates during the 2016 election cycle.

The lion’s share of its PAC funds comes from the delegates to the union’s representative assembly, where each of the roughly 7,000 delegates is expected to come up with $185 in contributions. Still, NEA seems worried this year about its war chest. It sent out a fundraising report to each of its state affiliates depicting its contributions for the last 10 years. Here is the one for California:

“Fundraising for the NEA Fund has been on a steady decline,” it says. That does appear to be the case since 2010, according to this graph from OpenSecrets.org.

Because federal PAC donations are voluntary, NEA will struggle to raise those funds. But independent expenditures of all types, which are funded with dues money, will continue to be the backbone of the union’s political power.


NEA Sitting on $49 Million in Ballot Initiative Funds

Each year, each active member of the National Education Association contributes $12 directly to the union’s Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund (another $8 goes to a national media fund). The money is then disbursed to state affiliates that either want to place an initiative on the ballot, or to fight one they oppose.

This is a pretty good chunk of change, but the union doesn’t create or face major ballot initiatives every year, and so the money rolls over. For the 2017-18 school year, NEA will have $49.1 million available to distribute.

Some of it will go to the Oregon Education Association for its second crack at a corporate tax initiative. The California Teachers Association might also want to help sponsor a property tax initiative in 2018. But however it is parceled out, it’s enough money to tip the scales in the union’s favor in key campaigns.


Is Janus the End of the Battle or the Start of a Guerrilla War?

This week I wrote about the filing of Janus v AFSCME and the efforts of teacher unions to prepare for the loss of agency fees. Most of those preparations involve cost-cutting and warnings of staff reductions. But I suspect there are other plans in the works as well.

The first clue is the union legal strategy to battle right-to-work laws by claiming they are unconstitutional takings under the Fifth Amendment. The idea that unions have property rights over a member’s money is a novel one, but it does require a pivot in legal strategy for those assigned to defend those laws in court.

Similar strategies could be pending if the Supreme Court outlaws agency fees for public sector unions. The California Teachers Association already crafted a bill that would have required districts to allow the union to deliver a 30-minute sales pitch to teachers about the benefits of membership. Attendance would have been mandatory.

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew told his executive board this week that the state union had already created a “waiver bill” in case Janus was decided against the unions. He provided no further details.

It’s also possible that the unions will run with a scheme suggested by – of all people – Justice Sonia Sotomayor during the Friedrichs oral arguments.

Justice Sotomayor claimed that the California Teachers Association was “a state entity,” which puzzled the attorneys and at least one of the other justices. She continued:

“When recognized as the exclusive bargaining representative, a union assumes an official position in the operational structure of a school.” So it seems to me that ­­– and California tells the union what topics it can negotiate on, it requires them to do training, and in the end it accepts their recommendations with respect to the issues of employment at its own will, meaning the State is creating the union as part of the employment training and other responsibilities…. Why can’t they assess all of their employees a tax for that contribution?

In other words, since the union would no longer be able to charge agency fees, why not have a government agency do it under its power to tax, and then pass the money to the union?

I’m not a constitutional scholar, but it seems to me this would actually run afoul of the Fifth Amendment, and put the union on both sides of the argument.

The immediate post-Janus future of public sector unions will certainly contain retrenchment and a marshalling of resources, but we will also see a barrage of litigation and unusual legislative workarounds in states where union power is still formidable. Keep your powder dry.


The Countdown Begins: Janus Files For Supreme Court Cert

Everyone and his brother in the education policy world seems to be watching U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. But while that is going on, attorneys for the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME made it official and filed for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If, as widely expected, the Court rules in favor of Janus, it would put an end to the practice of public sector unions charging agency fees to non-members.

Since only four Justices are required to grant a writ of certiorari, it is virtually certain the case will be accepted for the Court’s next session, beginning in October. Barring unforeseen delays, oral arguments would be heard in the winter and a ruling issued by June 2018.


California Teachers Association Employees Say CTA “Buries Union Values”

The California Teachers Association held a regularly scheduled meeting of its State Council this weekend, and the California Staff Organization, the union representing CTA’s professional employees, decided to draw the attention of the elected delegates to the status of contract negotiations with CTA management.

Wearing t-shirts reading “No Contract, No Work,” a group of staffers were led into the hall by a bagpiper. They carried a casket. Interrupting the proceedings, one staffer read a statement to the assembly.

“CTA buries union values when they ask for takebacks, offer low salary increases, refuse to settle the pension trust even after CSO gives up permanent benefits, refuses to address workload issues, requesting in advance a loss of staff as we face life without agency fee,” the staffer said.

CTA staffer Andrew Oman posted video of the funeral on his Facebook page.

CTA and CSO have scheduled a bargaining session for tomorrow.