A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

The Limits of Poll Questions About Unions

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 06•16

With Labor Day in the rear-view mirror and the 2016 campaign approaching the final lap, it’s time to look at what information we have on unions and their effect on public opinion.

I would like to begin with what I believe, so you may judge my analysis accordingly.

1) Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States, winning by a substantial margin.

2) I find this preferable to a victory by Donald Trump, whom I like to compare with the drunk at the end of the bar who has a solution to all the world’s problems, and knowledge of none of them.

3) Trump will outperform his pre-election polling.

4) I will be voting for Gary Johnson, as I did in 2012.

The unions, of course, are all-in for Clinton, though Trump is said to have made some inroads among blue-collar workers. Polling suggests Trump’s support among union households is about the same as previous GOP nominees, while Clinton’s support is somewhat lower.

The Detroit Free Press reported “a poll conducted about a month ago by EPIC-MRA of Lansing revealed that about 30% of those who said there is a union member in their household plan to vote for Trump compared with 49% who plan to vote for Clinton. Another poll released last week by Suffolk University in Boston and provided to USA Today and the Free Press also showed Trump with the support of about 30% of union households compared with 57% for Clinton.

Polling requires lumping together groups of people who might not really belong in the same category. For example, citing a candidate’s polling numbers among Catholics makes the implicit assumption that an Irish Catholic male from Boston has the same voting concerns as a Catholic Filipina from Los Angeles. This is also true of the category of “union households.” It shouldn’t be shocking to learn that union members sometimes have political opinions different from their spouses and other members of their family.

“Are you a member of a union?” without reference to households will require more work by pollsters to get a proper sample size, but it will also give us a more accurate picture of the effect of unions on their members’ political views. But we shouldn’t stop there, especially in 2016.

Gallup’s annual Labor Day poll showed “a slim majority of Americans, 52%, say labor unions mostly help the U.S. economy, while 41% believe unions mostly hurt it,” which is “essentially back to what it was before the recession.”

But if you are going to ask about labor unions and their effect on the economy, why wouldn’t you differentiate between public-sector and private-sector unions? We all just had a three-day bombardment reminding us of all the things unions gave us – weekends, vacations, 40-hour work week, etc. How many of those things were the result of having government worker unions?

Perhaps Americans would say that public- and private-sector unions have an equal effect on the U.S. economy, for good or for ill. But maybe their answer would differ depending on which was discussed. Gallup also published a historical graph charting support for unions since 1936.

Looks to me like unions were riding pretty high until about 1965, then declined precipitously, hitting bottom in 1980. What happened during those years? Oh yeah, membership in public-sector unions more than quadrupled.

If polling the public about both public- and private-sector unions might yield interesting results, polling union members themselves about other unions might be even more fascinating. What does your average Teamster or United Auto Worker think about AFSCME or NEA? And vice versa. Considering the amount of money being thrown around on campaigns, it would be nice to know.


Labor Resurgence Just a Little Overdue

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 05•16

A reaction appears to have set in and it is probable that for some time to come the power of organized labor will decrease; but a change will again come, and the unions and various associations will once more report an increasing membership. The progress of the labor movement may be compared to the incoming tide. Each wave advances a little further than the previous one; and he is the merest tyro in social science, and an ignoramus in the history of his country, who imagines that a permanent decline has overtaken organized labor, whatever his talents or acquisitions may be in other respects.

Richard T. Ely, economist and Progressive leader, in “The Labor Movement in America,” July 1886.


Something for Teachers’ Unions to Ponder Over Labor Day Weekend

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 02•16

Teachers’ unions were very excited by two National Labor Relations Board rulings last month. The board concluded in both cases that charter schools were not “political subdivisions” and were thus subject to the National Labor Relations Act. In plain English, it means that unions and unionization efforts in charter schools are regulated by the federal law that oversees private-sector unions, and not the state laws that govern unions in the public sector.

These rulings weren’t necessarily to the unions’ advantage when it comes to organizing charter school employees, but they did fit well with their current public relations stance that charters are “private corporations, not public schools.” However, a short-term PR victory might lead to long-term administrative headaches for the teachers’ unions, NEA in particular.

You see, if charter schools are private entities and subject to the NLRA, then any charter school employees represented by a union would make that union a labor organization “engaged in an industry affecting commerce.” Those unions would then be subject to the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act.

Simply put, any union that represents only public-sector workers is not regulated by LMRDA. If it represents even one private-sector worker, then it must file annually a financial disclosure report called an LM-2 and abide by the law’s other provisions. Currently only about 10 NEA state affiliates are covered by LMRDA, and since the members in those affiliates are also NEA members, NEA national headquarters is also covered by the law, which is how members and the public are able to track NEA expenditures. (AFT also files an LM-2.)

If charter school teachers are private-sector employees, then the California Teachers Association, the New Jersey Education Association and a host of other NEA state affiliates would have to start disclosing their expenditures to the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition, NEA trusteeships – like the ones the national union placed in recent years over its affiliates in Indiana, South Carolina and Alabama – might be subject to more stringent LMRDA regulation and reporting, rather than the unregulated trusteeships the union instituted.

If you think this would be a small price to pay, remember that when the Bush Administration’s Labor Department tried to reinterpret the LMRDA to include 32 NEA state affiliates, the union filed suit, calling the revision “unfair” and “motivated by an ill-will toward unions in general, and NEA and its affiliates in particular.” (See item #3, here.) The ruling was held up in court until the results of the 2008 presidential election made it go away entirely.

So if the unions insist that charter schools are private schools, let’s run with it and demand detailed financial disclosures from the unions representing charter school teachers. It’s the law.


NYSUT Heads Off Threatened Staff Strike

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Sep• 01•16

Employees of New York State United Teachers prepared for a strike last night because union managers wanted to link their contract talks with negotiations over pension, er, adjustments.

While decrying such efforts by cities and state governments, teachers’ unions have their own pension and post-retirement health care cost crisis, which in NYSUT’s case adds up to liabilities of $400 million.

As bad as the situation is, the last thing NYSUT needed was its own employees walking a picket line around its headquarters. So it reached a last-minute deal with the staff union. The tentative agreement is for a three-year deal, details as yet unavailable.


When NEA Fights With Its Own Breakaway Locals

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 31•16

Click here to read.


“How Disturbing!”

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 30•16

Nothing Diane Ravitch says or does will adversely affect her image in the eyes of her acolytes, but for an academic historian she seems incurious about information that doesn’t fit with her worldview.

Case in point: Yesterday Ravitch trumpeted the opposition of the Massachusetts NAACP to Question 2, a ballot measure that would allow the expansion of charter schools in the state by 12 per year. She reprinted a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe from John L. Reed, chairman of the education committee of the NAACP’s New England Conference.

Commenter Stephen B. Ronan pointed out that before becoming the chairman of the education committee of the NAACP’s New England Conference, John L. Reed was once an officer of the Barnstable Teachers Association, a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association board of directors, a member of the National Education Association board of directors, and chairman of NEA’s Black Caucus. He also was “instrumental” in promoting a partnership between the New England NAACP and MTA.

Ravitch’s response to Ronan was: “Stephen, you discovered that the president of the New England NAACP is or was a teacher! How disturbing! That discredits him in your eyes but not in the eyes of this readers of this blog. Surely, we should listen to billionaires and hedge fund managers. They must know better than teachers what children need. Of course, I am being sarcastic. Mr. Reed heads a membership organization, and he speaks on their behalf. Why do you trust DFER, which speaks for a small number of rich white hedge funders, rather than the NAACP? If Mr. Reed is or was a teacher, he is very well informed about the dangers of privatization.”

I suspect Ravitch was not only being sarcastic, but deliberately obtuse. There are a lot of teachers and former teachers in Massachusetts, but few with Reed’s connections to the teachers’ union, which is funding and manning the opposition to Question 2. Perhaps not many people would find this “disturbing,” but everyone should find it relevant.


Five Offbeat Back-to-School Stories

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 29•16

Yes, it’s back-to-school time, and amid all the safety suggestions and fashion tips come these five unconventional stories.

1) “Boys get back-to-school buzz cuts aboard the Battleship New Jersey” Because, why not?

2) Twentieth Century Fox created a press mailer to promote the Blu-Ray release of X-Men Apocalypse made out like an admissions folder to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

3) This bro’ doesn’t give a damn about your kids going back to school!!!

4) Speaking of which, here’s one mom’s back-to-school photo.

5) But here’s my favorite: “Back to school snacks: Turn a Twinkie into an edible school bus