A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

Why Iannuzzi Is Toast

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 03•14

More than two months ago I posted my thoughts on the New York State United Teachers election headlined “Iannuzzi Is Toast.” My conclusion had nothing to do with the policies of the incumbent NYSUT president or his slate, nor did it take into account the policies of his challengers, Revive NYSUT. I simply took a look at the number of delegates and the locals pledged to the challengers, particularly the largest teachers’ union local in the nation, the United Federation of Teachers.

In recent weeks Iannuzzi’s slate, named Stronger Together, has trumpeted its growing list of endorsements by NYSUT local presidents and boards. We started to see graphs like this one.

That’s an impressive show of strength and it would be decisive if the NYSUT Representative Assembly assigned a single vote to each local. But the votes are weighted according to the size of the local, and that’s where Stronger Together gets a lot Smaller Together.

I don’t have a list of delegates and I have no special insight into how individuals might vote on the open floor (no secret ballot in NYSUT). But the two slates are using local endorsements as a proxy for voting power and I will, too. I know how many teachers are in each district they represent and can usually add pretty well.

I took a look at the list of 300 or so local presidents on the Stronger Together web site and discovered: a) there was some double-counting of locals; and b) the total number of teachers those locals represented came to about 60,000.

UFT by itself has 64,000 active full-time K-12 teachers.

So if UFT stood alone, Stronger Together would have a fighting chance to pick up votes from the rest of the delegation. But the Revive slate also boasts the endorsement of virtually all of the largest locals in NYSUT: the Professional Staff Congress, the United University Professions, and the K-12 unions in Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers and Syracuse. Stronger’s largest declared local is the Brentwood Teachers Association, representing about 1,100 teachers.

My unscientific extrapolation estimates Revive NYSUT holds about 56 percent of the delegates, Stronger Together 24 percent, and 20 percent are unknown or undecided. Iannuzzi’s slate would have to capture all of the undecideds and peel off about 11 percent of Revive’s delegates while holding on to all of its own.

My prediction: Revive NYSUT picks up at least 60 percent of the vote. If it climbs to 70 percent, I would not be surprised.


NYSUT Election Will Be Held Saturday Evening

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 02•14

The incumbent has the support of more than 300 locals, and the challenger has the support of all the largest ones. Barring something utterly extraordinary, Karen Magee will become the new president of New York State United Teachers, but by a less-than-impressive margin.

Almost all of the union’s business will be conducted prior to the election on Saturday evening, and it will be interesting to see how much the battle between the two caucuses affects other areas.

Former NYSUT president Tom Hobart will be receiving an award. He has endorsed incumbent president Richard Iannuzzi. AFT president Randi Weingarten will address the delegates. Her local, the United Federation of Teachers, is the driving force behind the challenger. John Stocks, the executive director of NEA, will also speak. The national union has little influence on NYSUT, and its staunch support of Common Core has hit swirling rapids in New York.

It will be even more interesting to see how the election results affect the delegates and the union. Will they all close ranks behind the next regime? Or will the divisions opened up during the campaign linger on?


Union Campaign Contributions May Help Fund Yee’s Defense

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Apr• 01•14

I don’t know if the FBI got back the envelope of cash it used to bribe California state senator Leland Yee, but hundreds of people and organizations won’t get back the money they donated to Yee’s campaign for Secretary of State. The law allows such contributions to be used for a legal defense fund. This is bad news for a whole lot of California unions, such as:

California Federation of Teachers

California School Employees Association

California Faculty Association

United Domestic Workers of America

California Nurses Association

AFSCME Local 3299

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 16

Teamsters Local 665

Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 467

District Council of Iron Workers

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 6

Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties Building Construction Trades Council

San Francisco Fire Fighters

International Union of Painters and Allied Trades

Operating Engineers Local 3

Amalgamated Transit Union

But unions aren’t the only ones who will see their money paying for Yee’s lawyers. He also received contributions from Facebook and the Hustler Casino.


California Teachers Association State Council At Work

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 31•14

Click here to read.


Awkward Non-Gun-Related Leland Yee Tweets

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 31•14

   …and one from the California Teachers Association.


Local Union Treasurer Arrested

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 28•14

Everyone was being coy about who the culprit was when the Guilderland Teachers Association in New York discovered more than $100,000 missing from its accounts. But since the treasurer post was vacant, it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure it out.

Confirmation arrived with the arrest of Brenda McClaine, the former union treasurer. She was charged with felony larceny and released on $15,000 bail. The school district placed her on paid administrative leave.


We Hardly Knew Yee

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Mar• 27•14

The Capitol here in Sacramento was rocked by the news that State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was indicted on arms trafficking and corruption charges after a lengthy sting operation by the FBI.

The wall-to-wall news coverage naturally focuses on the illegal arms deals and the murder-for-hire charges against Yee’s campaign fundraiser, Keith Jackson. But there are broader implications about the way Yee did business as a legislator.

The FBI affidavit summarizes well a host of incidents in this way: “Senator Yee would engage in official acts… in exchange for campaign donations and money.”

During the sting, Yee told one confidential source, “By helping me get elected means I’m gonna take actions on your behalf. That’s one thing you gotta understand.”

That’s the illegal form of “pay for play.” A campaign donor receives specific legislative action or inside influence in exchange for cash. But our entire political system exists on a structure in which campaign donors hope or expect specific legislative action or inside influence in exchange for cash. Otherwise, why contribute?

There is an incident described in Yee’s  indictment that shows how even legal and above board campaigns can be tainted by the corruption of others. In October 2011, an undercover FBI agent asked Yee if there were a way to contribute money outside of his campaign for mayor of San Francisco. Yee told him he could “contribute unlimited sums to a committee supporting a ballot measure for school funding that Senator Yee also supported. Senator Yee explained that the ads for the measure would feature Senator Yee in a positive piece supporting schools and education.”

There were no statewide school funding ballot measures in California in 2011, so I assume Yee was referring to San Francisco’s Proposition A, which passed.

Yee has always been well liked within the education establishment, primarily for sponsoring friendly bills. The Community College Association, the higher education affiliate of the California Teachers Association, named Yee its “Legislator of the Year” in 2012. CTA itself endorsed Yee in his 2010 state senate campaign. Here is a campaign ad they helped create.

I feel fairly confident that Yee is the only gun-runner in the California Senate. I’m much less confident that he’s the only one carrying bills for pay.